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Running on Fumes

James Stewart’s Meaningless Daytona Lap

Tuesday, March 8, 2011
James Stewart logged a memorable performance at the Daytona Supercross. Once again the two-time champ proved he’s the fastest Supercross rider on the planet. He also revealed his critical flaw, as Stewart’s blistering pace can lead to spectacular crashes.
Prepare for impact... James Stewart goes end over end on the San Manuel Yamaha at Daytona.
As a trailing group of riders starts brushes through the foreground  Stewart starts crawling off the racing line and toward his bike - Daytona Supercross
James Stewart recovered from a terrible tumble at Daytona.

Stewart exhibited game-changing speed at Daytona. His ability to navigate through a particular track section, just skimming over an imposing mid-sequence obstacle, saw Stewart shred more than a second off his nearest rivals with every single lap. Not the backmarkers. Not the journeymen vets. More than a second faster than his four main championship rivals. But it wasn’t hubris cutting through jumps that saw Stewart hit the dirt, it was a simple technical error that resulted in a nasty end-over-end crash while running away with the victory.

The image of Stewart’s crash was frightening, and so were his movements post crash. Crawling off the track on all fours, his bell clearly rung, Stewart fell to the ground on his first attempt at a remount. It’s a miracle that he escaped serious injury. It’s perhaps an oversight that he was able to return to the race without some medical clearance. But return he did and Stewart mustered an impressive ninth-place finish.

By all rights, San Manuel Yamaha ace should have left Daytona with zero points. Instead he snared 12 and maintains second place in the championship, trailing Ryan Villopoto by 23, but leading his nemesis Chad Reed by one. The ninth-place result may prove pivotal in Stewart’s championship hopes.

But Stewart proved something more at Daytona. Heading into the season, there seemed to be ambivalence regarding J Stew’s commitment to racing. He carried baggage from a disappointing, injury-plagued ’10 Supercross campaign, as well as controversy from a messy end to the outdoor season and a Motocross of Nations roster snub. Expressing doubts about racing on his reality television show, though perhaps manufactured for the “reality” camera, certainly didn’t help matters.

There didn’t seem to be any lack of heart at Daytona.

As Ryan Villopoto cut through lapped traffic on the final lap, the last rider was James Stewart. It would have been easier to pull off and let Villopoto pass ahead, thus sparing the two-time champ from having to log a final lap. Considering the possible injuries he risked hopping back on the bike after his nasty get-off, the wiser course would be forgoing the extra pounding on the deteriorating Daytona circuit. Instead Stewart kept Villopoto behind him, staying on the lead lap and crossing the start-finish more than 15 seconds behind the eighth-placed rider, Ken Roczen. The effort didn’t go unnoticed by the Daytona crowd, who cheered on the final rider on the course.

Now James has won scores of Supercross races in his career. But how many wins do fans remember in detail? It’s gut-check moments like Daytona that define character. James’ lonesome 20th lap at Daytona may not have made any difference in the points, but was far from meaningless.
Post Tags: James Stewart, Daytona Supercross
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Comments
Oliver March 9, 2011 07:49 AM
James showed a lot of heart and grit. It was good to see. I agree that his determination won him a lot of fans that night. In reviewing the video of him trying to get back on the bike, although I agree that he likely had his bell rung, he was also trying to get back onto a bike on the side of a hill with a damaged upswept rear fender. When he swung his leg over the rear fender, his leg hit the fender because it had been bent way up in the crash. It looks like it was that bent-up fender which caused him to lose his balance and fall. From years of repeating the same movement of swinging the right leg to a certain height to clear the fender, in the heat of that moment, James repeated that movement without consideration for the damages raised fender. I believe it was that more than anything that caused him to fall down.