Supercross Las Vegas Insider

May 4, 2009
Coverage provided by Vital MX

James Stewart shows his fat check and his new number one plate - 2009 AMA Supercross - Las Vegas
“It’s so emotional. There is so much hard work that went into this, and honestly I’m exhausted right now because it’s been the toughest year for me.” – James Stewart

After a whole season’s worth of racing, James Stewart clinched the 2009 Monster Energy Supercross title in Las Vegas with a safe and smart third-place finish. Heading into the final race he had a six- point advantage and looked to be the fastest guy on the track, though he claimed that he was struggling in practice. Stewart took 11 wins during the season, but his 2009 campaign had also been punctuated by the unknown, with crashes in the main events at Anaheim 1, Indy, Daytona, and St. Louis. Add in some conflict with contact James and Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Chad Reed over the find few races, and it made the title chase a cliffhanger until the very end. But with the FIM World Championship medal around his neck, and a number one AMA plate in hand, and the weight of the title chase off his shoulders, he had a lot to say.

The first topic was how James dealt with the pressure heading into the final race. He explained, “It was a lot of pressure, but the biggest thing was, I believe in my training, and I believe in myself. I was actually riding really good this week, probably the best I’d ridden for a while. During the heat race it was tough, because Ryan (Villopoto) was riding probably the best he did all year long. Obviously I had to get a third if Chad was going to win. He (Villopoto) got around me and it was on from there. “

“I definitely didn’t want to race with Ryan. I didn’t have anything to prove. The way he was riding in the heat race, I could tell he was trying to make a point, probably going into next year. I just didn’t want anything to do with it.”

“I made a couple mistakes, but pretty much other than that, I was just riding pretty slow. Once I looked and saw who it was, I thought he best scenario was to let Ryan by and let him go. Instead of us battling and slowing each other down, because obviously he was going a little faster than I was then. I thought the best thing that could happen is he could run away with it, and I figured Chad ain’t gonna pass me clean, so we’ll end up slowing each other down and let Ryan go. I think it worked out. I had no point to prove, except to get that red number one plate that’s sitting on my motorcycle right now. That’s all I wanted.”

Stewart  7  holds off Reed  1  - 2009 AMA Supercross - Las Vegas
Chad Reed follows James Stewart closely, looking for a mistake.

At the midpoint of the main event, it became apparent that Reed was reeling in Stewart. But following a couple tense rounds and on-track contact between the two in Jacksonville and Salt Lake City, along with some strong hints of retaliation from Reed, you had to wonder how clean the race would be. While in second spot, Stewart knew that Reed was behind him, and actually slowed a lot, trying to let Reed go by… but Reed slowed and continued his plan to pressure the points leader. Stewart recounted what was going on at that point. “I was trying to let Chad by, and once I looked back and he rolled behind me, I knew what was coming. It was just a matter of what time. I had to prepare myself for it. He got me good. He did what he said he was going to do, but I didn’t fall.“

So where does he rank this championship rank among his other titles?

“This is the best championship I’ve ever won. That 24-0 is very special to me, and the first one’s special…I have a lot of special ones. But this one was so much controversy. Going into Anaheim and losing that one, Daytona, and having that. Having St. Louis won and having that (crash). That’s what made Vegas so nervous. Everybody knows it’s not over until it’s over, I’ll always believe in that. It was tough because I knew at any moment, shit could hit the fan. It didn’t, and I’m the champion, so it’s definitely at the top of my list.”

The final podium of the season looks a little bit off with James Stewart in third with the biggest trophy and the biggest check - 2009 AMA Supercross - Las Vegas
Stewart holds his new number one plate with pride as he becomes the new Supercross Champion.

It was obvious what winning this title meant to him, as he had a big display of emotion on the podium. “Yeah, I was crying for getting third place tonight I was so happy. This season’s been hard for me, and I’m so exhausted right now. It’s been a tough year and it’s been worth it. I have busted my chops all year long. From that DNF at Anaheim 1, to coming back and getting the points lead and crashing at Daytona. It was hard. Then hearing everybody bash us and say this and say that, it’s mentally tough. I’ve always said I want the best man to win the championship. That best man was me.”

“I about popped both my shoulders out trying to celebrate so hard. It was just so special. I couldn’t believe it. It didn’t really sink in until I was on the podium and actually started crying. That’s when it really sunk in. I’m just so happy for my team Oscar, Paul, those guys are the best mechanics. It’s definitely been a gnarly transition. It’s been a complete opposite to what I’ve been through before, and these guys race here and they’re racers. They come to work on Sundays because they love to race. I just want to give a shout out to Larry Brooks. That guy’s taken a lot of crap all year long, but he’s been behind me and I love that guy. I saw him cry tonight, and I never thought Larry Brooks would cry. It’s been special.”

“Another couple shout-outs I want to give are to the Dirt Wurx guys, they did a great job this year. And Doug Schopinsky from Bridgestone, I think this is his last Supercross season. That guy has done a lot for me and my career. Bridgestone tires have been very special to me, I just want to say I’m thinking of him, and I’m sure a lot of guys would say the same thing.”

James Stewart wins the 2009 AMA Supercross Championship - 2009 AMA Supercross - Las Vegas
“I won this championship, and my team won this championship, and I won it fair and square. I had the most race wins, and I had the most points. I won’t take anything away from Chad. Hat’s off to him, he rode great this year, but the number-one plate’s mine now.” -James Stewart

One big change that winning the title will bring to James Stewart is a switch from his usual number 7, to a number one for the ’10 Supercross season. “It’s going to be a big change. Hopefully I have a little better luck than I had here in Vegas. Vegas has been tough for me. I’ve knocked myself out a couple times here. This track, I just don’t like it. I don’t like anything about it, but it’s nice to come home with a championship, I’ll tell you that.”

I worked hard for it all year long. I had a big switch from Kawasaki to Yamaha. There was a lot of testing involved, and luckily I made that switch pretty good. To come on a new bike and struggle in the beginning part of the year, and still win, and win the races that I had to win shows what kind of person I am and what kind of dedication I’ve got. When things were tough I let it hang out anyway, because I knew what I had to do. People don’t understand. Imagine sitting at home after Anaheim 1 and saying, ‘You have to win seven races in a row before you become the points leader.’ Then after (the crash at) Daytona to tell, ‘All right, now you have to win the next five races to win the championship.’ That’s a lot of stress and a lot of pressure. I didn’t have to win all of them, but I won the ones that counted, and rode the best when it came down to it. Obviously, if Chad rode like he did tonight, it’d be a different story. But when he was in the championship lead, he didn’t seize the opportunity like I think I would have, and I was able to win.”

When we asked James what was next for him, he said, “I got $50,000 in cash here that I said I’m blowing it tonight, but it won’t happen because I’m cheap. I can’t lose fifteen bucks without being pissed.”

He also added in some info about the 2009 outdoor season. “Honestly, it’s not looking good for outdoors. We tried. It’s not looking good for that. I’m sorry, I know I’m letting down people. All this, ‘Yamaha gave me offers,’ and all this blah, blah, blah, it’s not happening. Because if I got an offer, I would have ridden outdoors. But honestly, I’m so tired right now. Honestly I just don’t want to ride it because I’m tired. It’s been a lot of hard work in this season. Right now I’m going to enjoy this, and take my team out and celebrate because the guys behind the scenes, all these guys, the guys that don’t get the glory, and some of the fans out there were bashing saying these guys suck and what kind of team they are, these guys are bringing home the 2009 championship.”

Chad Reed and Mike Alessi ride hard to dominate their heat race - 2009 AMA Supercross - Las Vegas
“It’s hard to swallow, to have to give up that one. I feel like I worked really hard for this championship and to be so close really hurts.” – Chad Reed

For his part, Chad Reed was pretty gracious, considering that he’d just given up his number one plate. Following the race he said, “It’s tough. You always want to be the champ, and I fought all the way to the end. I’m proud of myself for that. We had a great team, a great bike. At the beginning of the year we were good and strong. Then we weren’t as strong in the middle, and I think each and every year, and each and every day you learn something new. James rode great. It got heated at times, and it’s one of those things. We all love to win and we all want to be the champ. Sometimes someone’s got to be second. Unfortunately I’m that guy this year. But I feel good with our effort and it’s going to be a good season next year I think.”

So how did the race play out for him? “I was in a position where I needed a win, and he needed to be fourth, or I needed to somehow gain seven points. So I just had to try and sit there and hope for a mistake or whatever. So I just tried to do that. Ryan rode awesome. I think he was in a perfect position to get out front and we just played cat and mouse. There was nothing we could do. You just look forward to regrouping and see what happens.”

During the main it was pretty apparent that when Reed caught Stewart, James wanted to let him by. “I knew he just wanted me to go by, and I didn’t want to go by. I just wanted to try and make something happen. I talked to Roger before the race and he just said give it everything you’ve got, and what’s meant to be, will be. He just said he’s real proud of me this year and he had a lot of fun. That meant a lot to me. It’s a lot of pressure coming to a team that the GOAT was on, and I came in with high hopes and I’m just really excited to be a part of that team. I’ve learned a lot and I’m real thankful for that and looking forward to renewing my deal and moving on to try and fight for that championship next year.”

Of course we had to ask Chad about the on-track contact during his pass of Stewart. “He left the inside open and I just didn’t want to go on by. I wanted to fight for it, and I went in there pretty aggressive. There was plenty of track left. I left him enough room that he didn’t crash. I feel like it was fair. If I was in that position, and he was the guy who was six points down, I believe he would have done the same thing.”

So what’s next for the speedy Australian? “Tomorrow night I’m going back home to Australia. I’ve got a bunch of meetings to try and get my Australian Supercross thing all sorted out. Then see what happens. I feel like I’ve got a lot of racing in me and the last few weeks have looked promising for me. I’ve felt better and physically stronger. So we’ll see. We’ve got a lot of kids going for this outdoor title. Maybe we’ll throw an old guy in there and bust out the outdoor thing and see if I’ve still got it. I think there’s a good chance you’ll see me at outdoors. We’ll see what happens.”

Ryan Villopoto takes his second win of the season - 2009 AMA Supercross - Las Vegas
Ryan Villopoto celebrates his second win of the season.

Maybe the biggest surprise was that Monster Energy Kawasaki ‘s Ryan Villopoto was atop the podium, the second time he’d pulled off that feat in his rookie season. Following the podium celebration, he told us, “The win here I think was definitely harder. In Seattle Chad fell in the first turn and James was a ways back. Here it was the other way around now. James was in the lead and I was able to pass him when he made a mistake (casing in the rhythm section) and just try to get that gap on him. James is very quick on coming back and making that pass back. He definitely had some stuff on his mind (the championship chase) that made it better for me. I was able to pass him with him leading and get away.”

So did it feel good to be back at the front of the pack again? Ryan smiled and said, “For sure. I don’t want to say I was always up there in the Lites class, but I was up there a lot. I got used to it, and moving up was tough and a big transition.”

With all the surprises we’ve seen in ’09, we can’t wait to see the ’10 edition.

Trey Canard  39  leading Christophe Pourcel and Ryan Dungey - 2009 AMA Supercross - Las Vegas
Trey Canard (39) attempts to hold off the two red plated champions.

In the Dave Coombs Sr. East/West Shootout for the Lites bikes, it was a three-way battle for the win. At first it looked like Geico Powersports Honda’s Trey Canard would take home the Toyota Tundra available to the winner, but a slight miscue in a 180 corner while trying to avoid a lapped rider left him in third spot instead of atop the podium. Instead, the win went to the Lites East champ, Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Christophe Pourcel, who was able to hold off the Lites West champ, Ryan Dungey at the finish.

Christophe was plenty excited about the win, saying, “That was pretty exciting, and I’ve been waiting for this race all year long. I was ready for a really good race and I got it, so I’m really happy. I had Dungey behind me, and that was a pretty good race, and I love the race like that.”

When we asked Christophe if he thought he’d be able to chase down Trey Canard for the win without his mistake, he said, “You never know what’s going to happen in the race. He made a mistake and then Ryan was trying to catch me, and it wasn’t easy for me to stay in the first place, but I just gave all I’ve got on the track.”

After a mid-pack start, Dungey did close considerably in the late stages of the main, and Christophe knew where he was giving up time.

Christophe Pourcel takes a close win over rival Ryan Dungey - 2009 AMA Supercross - Las Vegas
East Lites Champion Christophe Pourcel takes a very close win over Supercross Lites West Champion Ryan Dungey.

“I was slow on the big long turn, and the big jump, and then just before the finish line. I was really slow over there. I don’t know why… I didn’t want to crash maybe. It was really slippery and I had a 120 tire and I don’t think it was a good way for that, but it was a good way for the rest of the track, and the tire was good for the whoops, and that was the best section for me.”Now we can’t wait to see how Pourcel (and the rest of the Lites guys) do during the outdoor season.

Well, that’s a wrap for the 2009 Monster Energy Supercross season. We hope you’ve enjoyed the inside look at the events and if you’re anything like us, you’re already looking forward to the 2010 season. 

2009 Monster Energy Supercross Results
Las Vegas, NV

Supercross Lites Heat 1
1. Ryan Dungey
2. Trey Canard
3. Jake Weimer
4. Justin Brayton
5. Ryan Morais
6. Jake Moss
7. P. J. Larsen
8. Ben Evans
9. Sean Borkenhagen

Supercross Lites Heat 2
1. Austin Stroupe
2. Christophe Pourcel
3. Matt Lemoine
4. Blake Wharton
5. Broc Tickle
6. Matt Goerke
7. Wil Hahn
8. Jimmy Albertson
9. Vince Friese

Supercross Heat 1
1. Chad Reed
2. Kevin Windham
3. Davi Millsaps
4. Andrew Short
5. Nate Ramsey
6. Mike Alessi
7. Tommy Hahn
8. Tyler Bowers
9. Nick Wey

Supercross Heat 2
1. James Stewart
2. Ryan Villopoto
3. Josh Grant
4. Ivan Tedesco
5. Heath Voss
6. Matt Boni
7. Jesse Casillas
8. Paul Carpenter
9. Jason Thomas

Supercross Lites LCQ
1. Robert Kiniry
2. Kyle Partridge

Supercross LCQ
1. Daniel Blair
2. Chris Blose

Supercross Lites Main Event
1. Christophe Pourcel (Kawasaki)
2. Ryan Dungey (Suzuki)
3. Trey Canard (Honda)
4. Jake Weimer (Kawasaki)
5. Austin Stroupe (Kawasaki)
6. Ryan Morais (Kawasaki)
7. Justin Brayton (KTM)
8. Jake Moss (Honda)
9. Wil Hahn (KTM)
10. Broc Tickle (Yamaha)
11. Blake Wharton (Honda)
12. Daniel Blair (Honda)
13. Chris Blose (Honda)
14. P. J. Larsen (Kawasaki)
15. Jimmy Albertson (Honda)
16. Ben Evans (Honda)
17. Sean Borkenhagen (Honda)
18. Vince Friese (Honda)
19. Matt Lemoine (Yamaha)
20. Matt Goerke (Suzuki)

Supercross Main Event
1. Ryan Villopoto (Kawasaki)
2. Chad Reed (Suzuki)
3. James Stewart (Yamaha)
4. Kevin Windham (Honda)
5. Ivan Tedesco (Honda)
6. Mike Alessi (Suzuki)
7. Josh Grant (Yamaha)
8. Andrew Short (Honda)
9. Nate Ramsey (Yamaha)
10. Davi Millsaps (Honda)
11. Jason Thomas (Honda)
12. Nick Wey (Yamaha)
13. Paul Carpenter (Kawasaki)
14. Matt Boni (Honda)
15. Jesse Casillas (KTM)
16. Robert Kiniry (Kawasaki)
17. Kyle Partridge (Honda)
18. Tommy Hahn (Kawasaki)
19. Tyler Bowers (Honda)
20. Heath Voss (Honda)

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