James Stewart and Chad Reed clearly don't see eye to eye on what happened during the race.
The Monster Energy Supercross series made its first appearance in the home of the NFL’s Jaguars (Jacksonville Municipal Stadium in Jacksonville, FL) last weekend, and it shouldn’t be any surprise that there were some exposed claws as things start to get tense in the chase for the 2009 Monster Energy Supercross series title. If you caught the coverage from Jacksonville on Speed TV, you know all about the great battle between James Stewart (San Manuel / Yamaha / JSE) and Chad Reed (Rockstar Makita Suzuki).
If you haven’t seen it, here’s a bit of background on the day. The two riders had a bit of a bumping session in the second practice on Saturday, and were seen jawing at each other … all before the start of the actual racing. For his part, Chad said, “Yeah, it started in practice. We had words in practice, and it continued throughout the night, and I think it’s going to continue through the end of this championship. You’ve got two guys who want to win, and one who doesn’t have a whole lot of respect for the other, and I think I’m here and I’m ready to challenge him. I want to beat him and I’m not going to back down. He needs to realize that.”
When asked about it, Stewart commented, “Yeah, there was a lot of tension going on. If we kick dirt at each other something’s going to flare up. I think it’s just part of our mentality.”
Things also continued into the night, with each rider winning their respective heat races (though James had one minor washout crash en route to his victory), and things were tense as they lined up on the gate. That’s when a pair of Suzukis jumped out front. Chad’s Rockstar Makita Suzuki teammate, Mike Alessi, actually got to the holeshot line first, but Reed hugged the inside and had the lead as the pack exited the first turn. Reed was excited about his good start. “I was pumped from the drop of the gate. I finally got out front and got a holeshot, and when I was coming out of that turn I saw right to the right of me the big yellow 800. I knew he was going to be there and I was fighting for it, and just excited for that.”
Reed maintained a good lead for a solid eight laps.
Chad led pretty comfortably until about eight laps into the main, and Stewart got by Alessi on the first lap and slotted into second, not far behind Reed and appearing to check out his lines. Afterward, Chad commented on the early part of the race, saying, “It was good. He was there from the beginning and I just tried to get out front and ride my lines. It was difficult tonight. I had to protect the insides, and it was tough. I learned a lot from that. How you could just let the bike flow a little bit and still stay on the insides. The dirt was amazing tonight, and it was almost kind of each lap you’d test it out and see if it would hold you or not. So I was excited for that.”
Just before the halfway point of the main, that’s when things started getting interesting. Reed continued his race commentary, saying, “He made a pass, and I tried to sneak back up on the inside of him, and we just started playing cat and mouse.”
There was one moment where the two riders came together after a triple, and there was some contact that nearly caused both riders to go down, and that caused some additional tension. As Reed described it afterwards, “The cat and mouse I can deal with, and in the turns I can deal with that. He just tried to cut across right in front of me on the triple. How he didn’t crash and how I didn’t crash, I’ll never know. Somebody was looking out for the two of us. Obviously with the training that the two of us do we’re strong enough to hold on. I learned a lot from that. You just never know what to expect. I’ve seen him do some bonehead things, but never actually had it done to me. My dad would kick my ass if I ever raced like that, but I think if he was here tonight, he’d tell me I’ve got to roll like him.”
Stewart caught up and made the pass to take the lead.
For his part James thought it was a pretty clean race, though there was definitely an escalation of aggression out there. Stewart said, “There were a few times when I could have actually ran it in and hit him. Everything was clean, and I think he bumped me, and I bumped him back. I think at some point we said, ‘Hey, we’ve got to race, and this championship’s on the line. It got to maybe a lap-and-a-half almost two laps to where we weren’t even racing. We were just trying to hit each other and stuff. But I’m glad it all went down. Nobody went down, and the only time it got scary was after the triple. I can’t believe that almost happened. I landed off that thing and went to go to the inside. I was jumping off that next deal and the next thing I knew I was sideways going, ‘Oh my gosh.’ I heard the crowd go, ‘Ooooh,’ and I was like, ‘Man, I hope he didn’t go down right there, because that’s not a good place.’ I’d rather just him clean me out or I clean him out in a corner, not off a triple. But we saved it. He got back by me, and I was able to get back by him again. Then I threw the hammer down. I don’t know if he made a mistake or whatever, but I was able to pull away after that.”
Stewart was correct, he did pull away from Reed. Afterward, when asked if there was any damage to the bike other than the fork guard, Reed said, “We just collided and he just tweaked my front end and it ripped the fork guard off and it was dragging in the front wheel. I had to be careful with that, but I made a little mistake here on the triple, exactly the same thing that I did in the heat, and just jumped off the track. At that point I lost contact, and that was a bummer. I wanted to stay on him and have a shot at the end.”
Things got a bit interesting after the race, when Chad Reed pulled up next to Stewart in the first turn, and the two had their first post-race discussion. It continued on the podium out of the earshot of everyone, but it was clear that the two had a difference of opinion on how the main event had gone down.
When asked if they resolved anything afterwards, Reed said, “No, I don’t think so. I think he has one side of the story and I have another side. He thinks it’s coming from one direction, and I think it’s coming from another. It’s just normal. It’s life. Two people, two different opinions, and I think it’s great. Let’s makes this exciting, let’s make it fun, and we’re all here to win. I’ve got a five-point lead and three races to go. I’m ready.
Reed and Stewart once agian dominate the top two spots with Kevin Windham rounding out the top-3.
When asked if the gloves were off on the road to the end of the season, Stewart said, “There was a lot of tension on the line. I know Ralph (Shaheen) and Jeff (Emig) were screaming up there, and we could probably hear them from the track. Man, the fans were going wild. It was definitely a fun race for me. It was back and forth, a couple bumps here and there, but it was all good. Everything’s on the line now and I was able to squeak another win out. He rode great tonight and I can’t say enough about that.
“I mean honestly, I still think that was a clean race, from my standards. But at the end of the day I don’t ever want to knock anybody down for a race win. Even me, I’d rather lose the championship than take somebody out. At the end of the day I hope he feels like that, too. It’s a lot of tension, a lot of interviews getting done.
Magazines, newspapers, and a lot of people hyping it up, and I think they’re making us hate each other almost. ‘Cause I read stuff, and I’m sure he reads stuff, and it just pisses each other off. When we get here we look at each other and it’s crazy. But that’s what everybody wants. That’s what they got. But at the end of the day, it was still decent.”
For his part, Reed said, “Gloves are off. I really believe that this is a good thing. I needed that kick in the butt. This weekend off is at a great time, and I’m looking forward to it. I’ve got some things to work on and I’m going to have my head down starting when we walk out of this stadium. I know what I’ve got to work on the things I think I need to make better. We’ll see what we can do.”
We were curious what it came down to now for James … whether it was money or pride in the chase for the championship. He chuckled and said, “I think the money part’s out the door. I think it’s pride now. We’re just pissed. But at the end of the day I’ve got a lot of respect for Chad. He’s a great guy, he rides good, and I think right now it’s probably pride.”
Wil Hahn (50) made a suprise podium appearance and a solid end to the 2009 Eastern Lites season.
Like Reed mentioned, the series takes its first break since the start of the season next weekend in observance of Easter. But that just gives everyone an additional week to rest, heal, and prepare for the final three-race run to the championship’s conclusion in Las Vegas. With all three of the remaining stadiums on the schedule (Seattle, Salt Lake City, and Las Vegas) open to the elements, just about anything could happen over the next few weeks.
AMA Supercross Class Results, Jacksonville
1. James Stewart, Yamaha
2. Chad Reed, Suzuki
3. Kevin Windham, Honda
4. Josh Hill, Yamaha
5. Andrew Short, Honda
6. Mike Alessi, Suzuki
7. Thomas Hahn, Kawasaki
8. Kyle Chisholm, Yamaha
9. Heath Voss, Honda
10. Billy Laninovich, Kawasaki
AMA Supercross Class Season Standings
1. Chad Reed - 315
2. James Stewart - 310
3. Andrew Short - 225
4. Josh Grant - 193
5. Ivan Tedesco - 193
6. Kevin Windham - 193
7. Mike Alessi - 185
8. Davi Millsaps - 168
9. Ryan Villopoto - 165
10. Josh Hill - 146
Eastern Regional AMA Supercross Lites Class Results, Jacksonville
1. Christophe Pourcel, Kawasaki
2. Wil Hahn, KTM
3. Austin Stroupe, Kawasaki
4. Darryn Durham, Yamaha
5. Blake Wharton, Honda
6. Broc Tickle, Yamaha
7. Branden Jesseman, Kawasaki
8. Matt Lemoine, Yamaha
9. Matthew Goerke, Suzuki
10. Steven Clarke, Suzuki
Eastern Regional AMA Supercross Lites Class Season Standings
1. Christophe Pourcel - 181
2. Austin Stroupe - 148
3. Nico Izzi - 119
4. Blake Wharton -118
5. Branden Jesseman - 105
6. Wil Hahn - 105
7. Matt Lemoine - 95
8. Matthew Goerke - 94
9. Daniel Blair - 85
10. Steven Clarke - 82