Monday Conversation: James Stewart

Monday Conversation: James Stewart

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After tying Ricky Carmichael for second all-time in supercross wins last weekend in Detroit, everyone figured James Stewart was going to get another win and break that tie soon. But after he started 14th in the Monster Energy Supercross main event in Toronto, Saturday night didn’t look like that night. But oh, it was. Here are two conversations with James from what turned out to be a memorable event.

By Chase Stallo and Steve Matthes

Racer X: Where do you think you were making up the most time on the track? What was your best section?
James Stewart: Honestly, I don’t know. The whoops… We had a little issue with the bike in the heat race. Obviously you guys saw that—I almost went over the handlebars first lap. That triple-triple…It was a tough track. Even I felt it. I think I just had a little bit left for the end and I was able to get around those guys and not give it away. Really smooth, just kind of picked my way. I almost went down a couple times first lap, with guys going everywhere. Fourteenth to first, can’t beat that.

You gained some points tonight, too.
The points are one thing. I’ve been trying to race to win races and ride good and to break the record [pass Ricky Carmichael for second all time]. To ride like that, I think that’s one of probably the best rides I had for sure this year; I’ve had probably in the last four years, for a long time. It’s a momentum builder and we’ll see if we can go for more next weekend—just have some fun. Points are points and you’ve got to give Ryan [Villopoto] a lot of credit. He had to qualify for the main event not riding the track. You guys all know I’ve done that a few times and it’s tough. So he’s a champion. That’s why he’s won it three times. You can’t overlook that. But I’m going to celebrate with the family tonight, so it’s nice.

James Stewart (7) had to come through traffic to secure his fourth win of the season. Photo: Simon Cudby
James Stewart (7) had to come through traffic to secure his fourth win of the season. Photo: Simon Cudby

I’ve never seen you speechless on a podium.
I’ve been speechless a couple times but not like that. It hasn’t even sunk in. What I’m thinking about is when I was a kid I used to watch racing and used to watch McGrath, get those old Fox tapes. Then a couple weeks afterwards trying to find old Cycle News’ and all that stuff, to see him winning 13 out of 14 races. To see Ricky come out here and win these things, and to have my chance to get to second all-time, and to not only do it, but do it like I just did it. I’m excited for the record but I’m also excited for how I rode. I’ve got to give a lot of credit to my team. We had an issue with the bike in-between the heat race and the main event. They figured out what it was and we got it done.

Yeah, I heard you say “way better” on the podium.
It was. We had a malfunction, but that’s why they get paid the big bucks. They’ll figure it out. I tell them every weekend if we have a bike that’s good, which we do, I feel like I can win races. I feel like I can do it comfortably, smoothly… Tonight was a little more hectic; there was a lot of stuff. But I still got the win and was able to get it done.

When you say you haven’t had a race like that in a few years, is it just the feeling on the bike? Is it how far you came from? What is it?
I think a little bit of everything. To come from that far back… And it wasn’t like those guys were right in front of me; I had to run them down. And to be able to pass them, get a gap and be strong, that’s the whole package. To have that and know I have it and to know I have to work hard to get there and still have enough to keep fighting and go around them and still have enough to pull away, it just means more to myself. Those guys ride great. Maybe they had issues or whatnot. Tonight we came out lucky and it was a good way to cap off the weekend.

It seemed like you were really soaking things in there at the end when you came across the finish. What was going through your mind at that point?
Surreal, I won, I got to second all-time in wins, how I won, fitness, just everything. As I finished racing it kind of just all hit. I’m in the race, I’m focused. I’m looking at a pit board, keeping checks on those guys so I don’t have a lot of time to think of what I just did. When I crossed the finish line and I started thinking, I’m like, dude, I came from way back and won this race. That’s when it sunk in.

James lets it all sink in. Photo: Simon Cudby
James lets it all sink in. Photo: Simon Cudby

Later, our Steve Matthes found James in the pits

There it is. That was a great ride. Terrible start, but from there you really killed it.
I got a horrible start. I got a pretty decent jump but I spun on the plastic. I got pinched off. I think I landed on somebody’s fender. Everybody was going back and forth in that rhythm section. I seriously hate it when they put jumps right out of the first corner. It’s dangerous. We had it this weekend and it’s tough gauging which guy is going to jump which one. But I was so far back I didn’t even think I had a chance to win. All the top guys were in front of me. I just kind of started picking my way up. At that point I saw Ryan and I tried to get some points on him, but I saw Barcia, Ken, and Dungey; I thought they were gone. It kind of clicked, and I won. I got up and then I kind of stalled out for about a lap and then I just started clicking them off. It was a lot of work getting up to them, trying to get around. I was pumped to still have more, have energy to fight with those guys and be able to pull away and get a little gap. So it was special.

You got the three-three before the finish you got the quad in the rhythm section. Clearly you were looking at that stuff all day. I don’t think you did it until the main event. Did you plan on it? Talk about the difficulty of those two jumps.
The three-three I had planned all day. I did it like lap five or something in the main event. The quad actually they were jumping it in practice so I thought everybody would do it, but it got really gnarly. Got a lot of ruts in it. I was seat bouncing it sometimes, standing up, almost landed on lappers. This track for some reason was tough. But I won, I don’t know what else to say.

Stewart is now second all-time in supercross wins.  Photo: Simon Cudby
Stewart is now second all-time in supercross wins.  Photo: Simon Cudby

The rollers, the wheel tap, and then three… Just killing it, old-school James Stewart stuff. Finding ways to make up time.
I guess I was really happy. I don’t know where it happened but I found ways to win. My corner speed was actually really good in certain parts. I was able to cut down. That’s how I passed Justin I believe. I had a couple spots I just kind of chilled. I sucked all day through the whoops and all of a sudden in the main event I got through them. We had a little malfunction with the motorcycle with the forks. Just something went a little wrong in the heat race, almost threw it away. They went back, changed the part out, fixed it, and all of a sudden I was going through the whoops again, so it was good.

One more win than Ricky in one less career start. I guess that’s kind of cool.
It is. I don’t ever take, well, at one point I did, take winning for granted, because it was happening every week. But out of all the races this year that was probably the best one, the toughest one. And to have the speed like that and to be able to pull things out… I rode really good at Anaheim. I rode good at a lot of races, but that particular one was, all right, I’ve got to find speed. I didn’t just get out front, just get set on the pace and make people chase me. I had to chase those guys down and found a way to win.

James shares the moment with his father, Big James.  Photo: Simon Cudby
James shares the moment with his father, Big James.  Photo: Simon Cudby

Great crowd response for you in Toronto. They were really pumped on you in opening ceremonies and very excited for the main.
I don’t know why, they probably knew you were Canadian and know we got a great relationship! But I honestly don’t know why. It felt like a hometown race. I sucked here last year. I think maybe where I would be coming from [come-from-behind] the crowd would be into it, but not like that. They were into it!

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