2011 AMA Supercross Atlanta Insider

February 28, 2011
JC Hilderbrand
JC Hilderbrand
Off-Road Editor|Articles|Articles RSS|Blog |Blog Posts |Blog RSS

Hilde is holding down the fort at MotoUSA's Southern Oregon HQ. With world-class dirt bike and ATV trails just minutes away, the hardest part is getting him to focus on the keyboard. Two wheels or four, it doesn't matter to our Off-Road Editor so long as it goes like hell in the dirt.

James Stewart  #7  beginning to catch Chad Reed in the final laps.
Chad Reed (#22) and James Stewart had a rough night in Atlanta where racing became physical in the final laps.

There’s one major story that came out of the Atlanta Supercross race on Saturday night and that’s the renewed rivalry between James Stewart and Chad Reed. The two riders chased each other all night in the main event with Reed leading the majority on his TwoTwo Motorsports Honda. Lappers started to play a role which saw the Yamaha of Stewart catch up and ultimately make an inside pass. Reed retaliated with his own inside move that saw both men hit the dirt. Read the 2011 AMA Supercross Atlanta Results for the full details about the rest of the night in the Georgia Dome.

Regardless of who was at fault (we want to hear reader arguments in the comment section) the Australian pulled a fast one on Stewart at the final jump by squeaking through and claiming the last podium spot. Stewart has been pretty quiet about the whole thing but was clearly pissed off at the checkered flag. The same goes for his dad, Big James, who was visibly upset about the result as JS7 made his way to the pits without stopping for any comments. After the race, James posted this tweet,

“Never saw it comin’, otherwise I would’ve let him get those 3 points and took 2nd. Just trying my best.”

Chad Reed: James [Stewart] put a hard pass on me earlier in the race  so I just put one right back on him.
Chad Reed: “James put a hard pass on me earlier in the race, so I just put one right back on him. I’m just happy to be up there racing for podiums and challenging for the lead.”

Just to stir the pot a little, it didn’t look that way to me. We’re talking about the last lap and a win on the line. After battling that hard there was no way Stewart would have simply let him take those extra points. He doesn’t like to lose and certainly not a close one to Reed of all people. But, that’s just speculation, we’ll have to take his word on it. During his post-race video, Stew avoided the subject altogether, saying:

“I made a mistake in the beginning and once in the middle but… I rode my best. At the end of the day that’s all I can do.”

Reed admits it was aggressive, but also contends that Stewart made a tough move on him earlier or could have shut off the throttle to avoid collision. Both of which are great points depending on who you ask. In post-race analysis on SPEED, Ricky Carmichael pointed out that Reed’s intentions certainly weren’t to take himself out. From the GOAT’s perspective it was simply an aggressive move that wound up unfavorably for both riders. From what we’ve seen so far out of both camps, neither side is playing up the incident. Reed was complimentary of Stewart’s efforts on several accounts and Stewart acknowledged that he needs to come to Daytona with his A-game. The San Manuel rider was slated for an interview on SPEED’s Wind Tunnel, so we’ll see if he loosens up a little in that. (Check out some comments from that interview here.)

Chad Reed and James Stewart came together during the race sending both to the dirt.
This isn’t the first time Reed and Stewart have been at odds. Last year in Phoenix the two also came together. 

After last year’s incident at Phoenix, both riders must be hyperaware of the consequences this could have had. Stewart is now 10 points behind Ryan Villopoto in the championship and Reed is another 11 points adrift in third. Reed has been successful in Daytona in the past, but JS7 is known for his motocross speed and this track is the most similar to an outdoor layout. Also, how will the absence of San Manuel Yamaha team manager, Larry Brooks, who is away on “family time,” affect Stewart’s program? We’ll have to see as the season continues, but one thing’s for sure, they aren’t going to back down anytime soon, and the fans are getting the best deal of all.

Well, Ryan Villopoto actually got the best deal after slipping past the turmoil to collect an important win. He was more than happy to keep his nose clean and play the standard PR line for guys who didn’t have the sheer speed but came out smelling like a rose. Patient… rode smart… thinking about the championship, etc.

“Sometimes it’s not about being the fastest. You’ve got to be smart too,” said Villopoto. “I figured (Stewart and Reed) would do that, but not with a lap-and-a-half left. We still have a lot of racing though. I’ll just go back home and keep my program going and take it one race at a time.”

Suzukis Ryan Dungey coasted into second following the aftermath between James Stewart and Chad Reed.
Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey coasted into second following the aftermath between James Stewart and Chad Reed.

And Ryan Dungey has to be thrilled with the end result as well.

“I was sitting in fourth most of the time but then was able to move my way into second at the end of the race, which is good,” said Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s reigning champion. “I’m right below the top step of the podium and consistent. I just ‘gotta keep my head down and keep plugging away. I’m looking forward to Daytona. I like Daytona; it’s always fun. It’s a tough track and it’s different – It’s Supercross, but it’s a bit rougher and the layout is different. I’m going to get back home, work on the track, and get ready for Daytona.”

Everyone was overshadowed by the 7/22 thing, but one man in particular had a respectable evening, all considered. Dungey’s teammate, Brett Metcalfe, took a major smash into the face of a jump during qualifying that left the Rockstar Makita Suzuki rider dazed. He was able to rebound for 10th in the main event.

“It was a long day,” said Metcalfe. “It had its really good points and its really low points… In the heat race, I got a great start and was in third, then I made a big mistake in the whoops and went down hard. I didn’t get up too quick from that one. Going into the LCQ, I was just trying to get out there and make it in and I was able to make a pass on the last lap and made it through. I wasn’t feeling well going into the Main Event.”

Kawasakis Dean Wilson scored his first Supercross victory and picked up the 200th team win for PC.
Kawasaki’s Dean Wilson scored his first Supercross victory and picked up the 200th team win for PC.

In the Lites class, Pro Circuit picked up another victory courtesy of Dean Wilson. It was the 200th win for PC.

“We definitely wanted to remember this accomplishment and it feels really special to get number 200,” said Team Owner Mitch Payton. “Everyone always says that getting to 100 wins is a big deal and we didn’t pay much attention to it, so we wanted to celebrate this time. We are very happy for Dean because he got his first win as we got our 200th. It’s a great night.”

There’s also some excitement in the Geico Powersports ranks as Honda gets ready to pull one of the West Coast riders into the factory tent to fill in for Josh Grant. Make no mistake, this is a major opportunity for whoever gets tapped – just look at how the same type of deal worked out for Trey Canard last year. Now he’s full-time factory and winning races in the big leagues.

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