At the season opener Stewart gave a perfect example of his sheer speed. He crashed out of the lead on the fifth lap of the 20-lap main event temporarily handing the lead to defending champ Makita Suzuki’s Ricky Carmichael. However, Stewart quickly remounted and two laps later chased down Carmichael and took back the lead. He pulled away to a convincing 10.173-second victory over Carmichael. Reed, who was riding with a fractured shoulder blade and a chipped collar bone from a practice crash, rode bravely to third.
“My Kawasaki was working awesome,” said Stewart after winning this past Saturday in Anaheim. “I’ve never felt so good on a motorcycle. Canada [referring to a crash he suffered in one of the Canadian World Supercross rounds] just sort of woke me up. I’m looking forward to Phoenix.”
Stewart is shooting for his first victory in the premier Supercross class at Phoenix. He finished third last year at Chase Field behind Carmichael and Reed. Stewart won the Supercross Lites class in Phoenix in 2002 and 2003.
Defending series champ and Phoenix Supercross winner Ricky Carmichael is winding down his motorcycle racing career and is preparing for a transition to NASCAR. This is likely to be the final appearance at the Phoenix Supercross for Carmichael. He is a four-time winner of the event.
“I was a little bit off,” Carmichael said after his runner-up finish in the opener. “James (Stewart) was riding good. At one point, he made a mistake, I got the lead and then he passed me right back. I was right on the edge. I’ve been doing this a long time and I know when I’m struggling. I’d hoped that I could be there at the end but I just wasn’t. I didn’t like the track tonight and I hope they’ll change some things for Phoenix next week and make it better.”
Reed rode Anaheim in spite of his injuries and he hopes things will continue to improve for him in Phoenix.
“My shoulder was painful,” Reed said last Saturday. “The worst part was that it was hard for me to breath. Hopefully come Vegas [the series finale in Las Vegas in May] I’ll be happy I rode tonight. My will and want to win the title is what is driving me right now. My team and fans are 100 percent behind me and I want to do everything possible to win back the championship. Third place never felt so good, that’s for sure.”
In addition to Carmichael, Honda’s Kevin Windham and David Vuillemin are also past Phoenix Supercross winners who will line up in Saturday’s race. Frenchman Vuillemin, who won Phoenix in 2000, was sixth in Anaheim. Windham, first at Phoenix in 2004, will be looking to make up for a sub-par ninth-place finish in the season opener.
Honda’s Travis Preston comes into Phoenix ranked fourth in the standings, while Kawasaki’s Tim Ferry is fifth. Both riders are trying to stage career comebacks and are sitting in the wings ready to shine should one of the Big Three slip in Phoenix.
It was a good start to the AMA Supercross Lites West Series for Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki. Team riders Ryan Villopoto and Christophe Pourcel finished one and two in Anaheim to take the early series lead. While Villopoto and Pourcel stole the show in Anaheim, Yamaha’s Jason Lawrence also broke through with a third in the Lites class proving true the promise he showed in his amateur career. This trio is hoping to form another ‘Big Three’ in the Supercross Lites class and the Phoenix race will go a long way in showing what direction the class will take in 2007.
The Phoenix Supercross from Chase Field will receive next day network television coverage. The race will be shown on CBS starting at 12:30 pm Eastern on Sunday, Jan. 14.
Gates will open at for the Phoenix Supercross at 12:30 pm. Fans can take part in a Pit Party from 12:30 to 5:30 on Saturday where they can meet the riders up close. Stop by your local Phoenix area Circuit City store to pick up your free pit pass. Passes will be available until Saturday, Jan.13, 2007. Tickets are available at the Box Office, all Ticketmaster outlets, all participating Yamaha dealers or you can charge by phone at 480-784-4444. A special Family Section is also available for non-alcoholic family fun. When ordering tickets through Ticketmaster, request Family Section for an alcohol-free family atmosphere.