17-year-old captures crowd in Anaheim with come-from-behind second-place finish
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Team Chevy Trucks Kawasaki’s James Stewart picked up where he left off last season with a crowd-pleasing come-from-behind charge that resulted in a second place finish in the 125cc main event at Edison Field in Anaheim, Calif. Saturday night’s event was the opening round of the THQ AMA Supercross Series and was played before a sold out crowd of 45,505, most of them apparent James Stewart fans.
As the defending 125 AMA Motocross Champion, Stewart entered the opener with a great deal of momentum, having won 10 out of 12 outdoor races including the last eight in a row. He narrowly missed winning the 125 Western Region Championship a year ago, winning four races on the season, but none of the three held in Anaheim.
Stewart was focused to start the season off on a good note. The 17-year-old rode flawlessly all evening and easily qualified from his heat race with a convincing 24-second victory. At the start of the 15-lap main event, he found himself behind a group of tangled riders in the first turn that dropped Stewart to the back of the pack. At the end of the first lap, he was picking his way through a crowded track and had his Kawasaki KX125 into the 13th position, nearly 30-seconds behind the leaders.
At the halfway mark, Stewart had rocketed all the way up to fourth and had cleared himself of the field as Travis Preston was running a solid race up front. The gap on Preston was 10 seconds and despite a heroic charge that saw Stewart turning laps that were two to three seconds faster than that of Preston, his charge came up a little short as Preston took the checkered flag four seconds ahead of Stewart, who actually slowed in the last turn once defeat was imminent.
“I want to win Anaheim, more than any other race on our schedule,” said Stewart while signing autographs in the pits after the races. “Maybe its because I try too hard or bad luck or whatever, but it just hasn’t worked out.
“The fans are behind me and I can hear them rooting me on as I’m coming through the pack. I have two more chances this season and I’m not going down without a fight.”
Team Pro Circuit/Kawasaki/Chevy Trucks rider Matt Walker finished second behind Stewart in the heat race and figured to be a contender in the main but fell victim to the group of congested riders in the first turn. Walker escaped in better shape than Kawasaki teammate Stewart and was running in 10th place after the first lap. Walker would eventually move up a couple more positions to finish in seventh place.
In the premier 250 class, Team Pro Circuit/Kawasaki/Chevy Trucks’ Mike Brown and Team Chevy Trucks Kawasaki rider Ezra Lusk qualified from the semi final and last chance qualifier, respectively, setting the table for the 250 main event.
The 20-lap feature began with Brown grabbing the holeshot while Lusk got held up in the back after a slow start. The main was a crash-filled event that saw only one rider, Chad Reed, escape early-race mayhem that jumbled the field several times. Lusk battled the entire race and finished a respectable eighth place. Brown, who experienced agonizing arm pump near the six or seventh lap, ended up finishing 15th.
The THQ AMA Supercross Series makes its lone visit to Arizona for next Saturday’s second round event at Bank One Ballpark, where Stewart will look to duplicate last year’s win at the popular Phoenix stadium.