James Stewart was back to action for the 2015 Red Bull Straight Rhythm event in Pomona, California and hungrier than ever, losing just one race on his way to the win in the second annual event. Ken Roczen had a perfect record coming into the final but lost both times out against Stewart to finish in second-place. Ryan Dungey beat Justin Brayton in the consolation race for third overall.
The rapid fire format of Straight Rhythm had riders running every few minutes, and each matchup was a best of three races to determine which rider moved on to the next round. Roczen was the fastest rider coming into the main event and handily beat Tevin Tapia, 2-0. In fact, all the winning riders of the first round in the Open class went 2-0. Andrew Short faced Vince Friese and was given an easy roll to the checkers after Friese made a mistake and slammed his face on his handlebars. He was able to line up for the next time out, but Short beat him to the checkers a second time and move to the quarter finals.
Justin Brayton beat Adam Enticknap and Dean Wilson took out Thomas Ramette. Dungey defeated Deven Raper while Kyle Partridge eliminated Kyle Chisholm in two of the closest races of the opening rounds in the class. Stewart defeated Nick Schmidt while Josh Hansen took out Mike Alessi.
In the quarter finals, Roczen went 2-0 against Short while Brayton, last year’s second-place finisher eliminated Wilson. Dungey moved past Partridge and Stewart took out Hansen.
The semi-finals were a bit more exciting, especially the match-up between Stewart and Dungey. The KTM rider was somehow able to claw back to take a win against Stewart in the first run of the semis, outpacing Stewart in the final section. It’s the first time Stewart has lost a race in Straight Rhythm. Dungey kept Stewart honest in the following two races, but wasn’t able to dethrone the defending champion. Roczen had a stout competitor in Brayton, but was able to defeat him 2-0 to reach the finals.
Stewart and Roczen gave fans the show they’d hoped for in the first race of the finals, the two riders nose to nose all the way down the stretch. Stewart barely edged ahead of Roczen, taking the win by a wheel length. The second race was primed to be a good one, but early in the run Roczen checked up and rolled off the throttle, handing the win over to Stewart. He later announced on Twitter that he’d accidentally crossed the center line, an immediate disqualification according to the rules.
Here’s what Stewart had to say afterwards in a Red Bull press release: “I could have quit this year, I could have retired. There’s not really much for me to prove in the record books, but I love racing and I want to continue to get better. I still feel I’ve got a lot left. I didn’t race all year, I’m pretty much coming off the couch, so to come out here and perform, it’s awesome.”
In the Lites class, Malcolm Stewart prevailed against Shane McElrath in the final for the win, going 2-0. Jordon Smith beat out Jessy Nelson to take third-place.
“My brother was pushing me more than anything, because he hasn’t raced the entire season,” said Malcolm Stewart. “It was a good day for both of us, and I’m glad we both made history, you definitely see both of us back next year.”