Post-Dallas Interview with James Stewart

February 19, 2013
By Steve Cox

Yoshimura Suzuki’s James Stewart has had a trying season so far. Heading into Dallas Supercross – Round 7 of the 2013 Monster Energy/AMA Supercross Series – he had yet to stand on the podium a single time. The prior two rounds were both steps in the right direction, though, as Stewart battled inside the top three for much of both main events and finished fourth both times Things got simultaneously better and worse for Stewart in Dallas. With his dad, James Sr., on the line to help him with his starts, Stewart grabbed the holeshot in his heat race and battled with – and beat – defending champ Ryan Villopoto for the win. That was the part that was better. The worse came prior to the start of the 450cc main when his bike broke, forcing him to miss the race entirely. We caught up with Stewart after the race.

Motorcycle-USA: Do you know what happened on the bike?

James Stewart: I just know the clutch went out. That’s all I know. Obviously something on the inside. I looked down and the [cable] was off. So, something happened on the inside that broke off the tension and that thing had no play. So it was internal.

So the cable just came out?

James Stewart: Yeah, something broke inside. We tried to put it back on there, but when that happens… I don’t know exactly what happened, they’ll tell me. But obviously something went wrong on the inside. 

And even if you could get the cable back on, that would probably be a little dangerous knowing that it just popped off like that.

James Stewart: Yeah, I wouldn’t have rode like I did in the heat race, I’ll tell you that! I would have been a little more cautious for a few laps. But it’s definitely a bummer. Leroy [mechanic Lee McCollum] was crying. He was bummed out. Because for him, a mechanic, people look at him like it’s his fault. I told him, “Dude, you don’t build the engines. We need to talk to the engine department,” but he was bummed just like we were. But I told him, these last six weeks, we’ve been getting better and better each week. It started off really bad [with James injuring his knee in practice at Round 1] and I said, “You guys didn’t sway on me.” The championship was pretty much gone anyway, so at the end of the day, I’d rather it happen now than us get 100% healthy and end up sitting on the gate at Hangtown and have the thing happen there. So, it’s a bummer, but it’s not their fault. It’s not his fault and that’s the way I look at it. We’ll keep moving.

So you’re saying they stood behind you when you hurt your knee and all that. Is that what you’re talking about?

James Stewart: Yeah, I mean these guys were so positive. Just one practice session at a time. We’re just getting better each week. Even when the whole “Josh Grant” deal happened, they were still positive. And that means a lot to me. This team, to be honest with you, they haven’t swayed whether we won the heat race like we did tonight, or DNF’d, or got 12th, they’ve been good. So, to me, it’s a really confident thing and like I told him [McCollum] this thing could happen a few more times and I’ll still love this team, the effort that they keep putting into me means a lot.

Think about how you would have acted, say, five years ago if something like this went on. Do you feel that you’ve grown as a person? Is it easier to sort of see the big picture in this stuff now?

James Stewart: Well I think you definitely grow up. But I think it’s also the people you hang around with. If you lose and the team is weird, or you win and the team is like this, or if  you have flip-floppers and some people are cool and some people are not, it weighs on your attitude. You start wondering what’s going on. Everybody should be bummed when we lose, because it sucks, but we shouldn’t disappear. And sometimes in the past it happened like that, and it’s a bummer. But like I said, these guys still put the work in here. We went down and I’m the only racer here on the Yoshimura [team]. Luckily Davi [Millsaps] is winning the Championship and he’s doing a good job, but it’s a lot of work and it’s a lot of effort to go in here and have what happened at the first race and not give it a shot. They’ve been cool about it, so that’s what means a lot.

That heat race was definitely a bright spot.
James Stewart: Yeah, the heat race was good. I mean, all day was good. I had some weird crashes, but all day actually felt really good. It was a confidence builder. I went into the heat race planning on winning it and went to the main event planning on winning that. And I haven’t had that the previous six weeks. I just think now, being back at home, being able to do my work, how I felt going into the season, this is how I felt. Now things have changed for me a little bit. I don’t go to the gate hoping just to survive, I go to the gate hoping to win. I think tonight, although it sucked, and we had some weird things happen, it’s actually a big positive to me. 

In the practice crash, I saw you caught your foot trying to step over the handlebar and you went down hard. Obviously, it took you a while to get up, but you got up. Talk about what hurt there.

James Stewart: Yeah, it was just the way I slammed. It kind of reminded me, when I saw it on TV, of when [Ryan] Villopoto jumped off and got spun around [in St. Louis in 2010], because I jumped and caught the handlebar. But I jacked it up before that. I landed off that thing and kind of got hit in the butt and landed on the brake, so everything kind of stopped. So, it was either just take it and look like my brother when he got pile-driven in A3, or try to get off. I tried getting off and it didn’t work. I landed on my back and it knocked the wind out of me, so I was just sitting there trying to get that. It was weird because I didn’t bend the bike up, but they changed the handlebars. And then in the second practice, I went out and the handlebars were too low, so when I was in that rhythm section I didn’t have any leverage and my hand blew off on that. So it was just kind of a weird day.

But you felt good anyway?

James Stewart: I felt great all day!

You changed up and went a little old school with pops up there on the gate. Can you talk about that?
James Stewart: Yeah, that was nice. It really came down to, when these guys are traveling, my dad’s with me every day at the track. He’s always doing starts with me. So, we were kind of searching a little bit, trying to figure out what was going on. So when we were at the house and I’m trying to explain to him what happened and how the gate was packed and all that, I just asked [team manager] Mike [Webb] if he could just step in this week. So, at least if he can see what’s going on, we can work on it. We’ve got our starts down pat at the house and then we get to the race and things are different. So, we just switched him in. Leroy [McCollum] was super-cool with it. I just told him I wanted to have him pack the gate, but I still want you to be my mechanic. And we did it and we go out and pull the holeshot [in the heat race]… And like I said, just sitting there I felt confident. It’s my dad, I started with him, so it was different from you and your mechanic. It’s more father-son stuff. It was cool.