Welcome to our weekly web-exclusive column, Transmoto USA Insider Presented By Lucas Oil. Penned each week by our man on the ground, Transmoto's US Correspondent, Jason Weigandt, USA Insider presents the story-behind-the-stories of the AMA supercross and motocross scene.
Well, the James Stewart/Suzuki experiment is now on hold, as Bubba's attempt to fight through a hand injury suffered last week fizzled this weekend at High Point. While Stewart's hand was not broken in the crash, he's definitely jacked up. His team manager, Mike Webb, explained that this is the same hand Stewart broke in a supercross crash on his old JGR Yamaha back in March, and he also has a screw inside that right wrist from his big crash at the Phoenix Supercross in 2010 (that injury, a broken navicular, cost him basically the entire season). In general, everything is beat up in there, so it's hard to determine what is really wrong.
I expect Stewart will sit out of this weekend's Budds Creek National. From there the series takes two weekends off, so Stewart will have a month from his crash to be healed up by then. I think he'll return, even though he'll have no shot at the title by then. Stewart has said all along that he's here for the fans and to learn about his Suzuki for 2013 - and while surely he also wanted to win the championship, he can still race for the fans and learn about the bike in the second half of the season. If he didn't care about that, he wouldn't have shown up and tried racing a moto over the weekend at High Point.
How hard is Stewart working to make his Suzuki deal a success? Webb told me that every Sunday morning, he and Stewart watch the TV broadcast of the race together over the phone. Webb is at his place in California, and Stewart is in his house in Florida, and they watch every minute together, often pausing and reviewing to watch how their bike performs, as well as others. In fact, even though Stewart wasn't able to do much riding before High Point, the team still came up with a new shock setting based on what he saw on the TV footage from the previous race. It's this type of video breakdown - which has always been a cornerstone of Stewart's development as a rider - that will help make this Suzuki/Stewart combo a winner again sometime soon.
Meanwhile Ryan Dungey and Red Bull KTM keep on winning, and with Stewart (and Ryan Villopoto, Chad Reed and Trey Canard) out things seem to be coming easy. The wins make it easy to forget that this is a new bike, and KTM has never had this sort of success before in the U.S. But some still see it as a new effort. While Dungey said his bike was so on par at High Point that he changed nothing more than a few suspension clicks and went with harder-pack tires for moto two, some other highly-respected racers are whispering behind the scenes that his bike doesn't look so good. Hard to imagine the bike that is winning races doesn't look spot on, especially when Dungey was also right on Stewart's tail through the first two rounds. But, some trackside watchers really see room for improvement in Dungey's program. That either means he's going to get way, way better, or, he's going to have his hands full whenever he faces the best of the best somewhere down the road.
But remember, both Dungey and Stewart have stated the real fruits of their 2012 labor will be felt in 2013. We'll see.