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.
Of course, the crazy James Stewart rumours always pop up. The day before Hangtown, people were buzzing that Stewart was about to pull out of the race, saying he had not have enough time to get his new bike ready. I seriously heard this from another rider, but not one who competes in James' class, so he had no reason to make stuff up. These crazy rumours just seem to follow Stewart.
Well, it wasn't true. If anything, Stewart looked more ready than ever, saying he actually felt more prepared now than he did at the start of the 2008 Motocross season, when he won all 24 motos (that year, he began the year coming back from ACL surgery, so he had very little riding time leading to the race). But, after saying that, he quickly shut down any talk of going 24-0 again. "That's not going to happen," he said.
Indeed, with Ryan Dungey out there, it's a stretch to think James could do it again, plus, we have yet to see James adapt to different conditions on his new machine. Also, his fitness, if it's at all in question after so many years away from 30-minute plus two lap motos, will be tested even harder in the heat and humidity of, well, this weekend's race in Texas, for starters.
But. James implied things would be better for him once he got off of that Yamaha. "It just wasn't working for me," was the go-to phrase for James after the breakup with JGR/Toyota Yamaha, and he was even sure to thank them on the podium after his win at Hangtown.
But, he did go out and win his very first race on the Suzuki, and it was a solid of a win as we have seen James have in a long, long time. The Suzuki works for him, and he made the right decision to make a change. Those doubts are gone. The JGR people would like to believe he would have won the same way on his old Yamaha, but the bottom line is he looks really, really good on the Suzuki. For Stewart, his complaint on the Yamaha was that he couldn't really push, but at Hangtown, he never really needed to. It's amazing to say that someone could win a race at the absolute highest level of racing without pushing, but his performance in each race seemed calm and easy. He never looked panicked or out of control. Or maybe the bike just allowed him to ride that way even when he had to up the pace.
Stewart would rather not compare his old bike and his new one. He just wants to move on, enjoy himself at the races and take the high road. Post race, a reporter asked Stewart about his relationship with Dungey, and he quickly removed any drama from that. "I think it's a racing rivalry," he said. "We definitely want to beat each other, but there's a lot of respect there. I feel like we race each other clean, sometimes we get close, but there's no me and Chad Reed rivalry there! We definitely respect each other, and may the best man win."
After Hangtown, the pressure shifts to Dungey to prove he can answer back. Both seemed to ride well in control at Hangtown and never pushed over the edge. It's just an opening round of a long season - like Stewart said, may the best man win.