One Down, 71 To GO

Dog-ear the record books. The 2005 Dallas Supercross marked the arrival of James “Bubba” Stewart to the 250cc class. For most, the surprise wasn’t in him becoming the first rookie to win a 250cc Supercross since Nathan Ramsey (Pontiac, 2002), but it was that it took him until round 12 to do it. Having been sidelined since breaking his arm in a practice crash at round two in Phoenix, the reality is that it was actually only his third 250cc main-event start. His first 250cc main event was at the muddy Anaheim I, where he finished fifth after falling more times than could be counted. After regaining his health, Stewart returned for the Orlando round, and he quickly turned the 250cc class upside-down when he ran away to an insurmountable lead before going down in the whoops and handing the win to Chad Reed.

Enter Dallas. After once again grabbing the holeshot, Bubba checked out and never looked back. “This place has been weird for me,” Stewart said. “The first time I ever came here, I fell four times in one lap and lost the championship. Then last year I came back here, and won the championship. It was a great celebration. Tonight, I got a holeshot and I didn’t fall. I felt fairly comfortable all night. I was a little nervous being out there because I haven’t been out there for 20 laps like that, but I felt great. I felt strong. I lost my front brake about seven laps in, so halfway through the race, these guys started catching me. But then I got accustomed to it and gapped them again. It was a great race. I’m so happy, I don’t know what to say.”

During the first few laps, Stewart laid down the flat-out fastest laps of the day, bottoming out at a 52.046-second lap before his front-brake lever began to cause him problems. “When you tend to fall a lot, your mechanic leaves your front brake a little loose,” Bubba said jokingly. “I hit it a few times because I felt like it was a little low in the beginning, but I think I knocked it loose. I think it was actually my fault. It was a silly thing. All of the pressure’s off now, though. It took me three races to do it, and I’m a happy man.”

For comparison’s sake, around the midway point of the race, Reed ran his fastest laptime in second place of 52.319-seconds, and Ricky Carmichael’s fastest of 52.705 came late in the race as he attempted to run down Reed.

Bubba actually credited his time out front in Orlando as a lesson learned, which helped him hold it together for 20 laps in Dallas. “I think just experience and confidence (made the difference),” Stewart said. “I felt really strong all weekend. Ricky said he was struggling, and I felt like this was one of my best weekends. I wasn’t pushing. I was definitely in control. I just think being up there in Orlando, I got a taste of being out front, and I also got the feeling of going down. I liked the feeling of leading, and I knew I could do well.”Bubba’s return to the series gave a much-needed shot in the arm to the THQ/AMA Supercross Series, as Carmichael had put a sizeable gap on Reed for the championship, and there was really no one who could possibly finish between those two to make the championship interesting. The problem for Reed is that Bubba has no plans of finishing between anyone.

While Bubba did his best to make the race as boring as possible, Carmichael lost ground to Reed-at least initially. In RC’s defense, however, is that he was riding injured in Dallas. “It was a slow weekend for me,” RC said. “Monday I fell and took a handlebar to the gut, and had to go to the hospital. I thought I busted out my stomach. That’s no excuse, but when stuff like that happens at this level, it makes it tough, and it can make you gun-shy. I’m just pumped that I was okay from the week, and I’m glad that I slowly got better as the weekend went out.”

In the first turn, Reed made an aggressive pass on Carmichael right away, shoving his YZ250 inside the points leader for second place. It made Carmichael even more gun-shy, as a couple of laps in, Carmichael got back around Reed, but then blatantly let the defending champ back by-fearing a take-out move from the Aussie was in store. And let’s face it, RC does have a points lead to protect. “They try to do everything they can, and that’s no problem,” Carmichael said. “I would probably do the same thing. That’s the way it goes. He got a little aggressive in the start, and I can understand that. He’s trying everything he can. So the bummer part is that now I just have to watch my back. I can’t really race. I just have to protect my inside line and not put myself in a position where things could go wrong. I’d like to get up and race Bubba, but I don’t think either of us had anything for him tonight. He gets out (quickly), and he was gone the first couple laps. Credit to him.”

As Carmichael began to bear down on Reed, the white flag came out. As Reed tried to lap Travis Preston (who was running ninth), he turned too sharply underneath Presto and hung up his front tire on Preston’s rear tire, resulting in a crash and RC passing him for second. “It was the last lap, and I just felt like I had to do whatever I had to do to stay there. I came up on Travis Preston, and he kind of went into the berm in the middle. I was expecting him to go to the outside, and he just kind of came to a stop as I went to turn underneath him, so I just hit his back wheel,” Reed said. “There was kind of nothing I could do. That was a tough one to swallow because it was the last lap, and I felt like I could hold onto second, but I crashed.”

Preston wasn’t exactly apologetic. “You know what I told him?” Preston joked. “I said, ‘Slow down! I don’t have to worry about lappers! If you’re going to go that fast, you’d better watch out for lappers! I don’t have that problem!'” There was no word as to whether Reed saw the humor in the remark, but nonetheless, Stewart scored his first win, and the first win for Team Kawasaki since Ezra Lusk won in Phoenix in 2003. Before Ezra, it was RC, when he won his final Supercross for the team at Las Vegas in 2001. “I wish I could get that feeling and win a race, but the way the weekend was going for me, and as good as I was riding for myself at the end of the race, I’ll take a second place,” Carmichael said.

In a rather surreal moment, as Stewart celebrated his first 250cc Supercross win, longtime friend and Fox teammate Carmichael rode up and raised Stewart’s hand into the air. “At that time, I had my face in the ground,” Stewart said. “I thought it was one of my team members picking me up, but when he picked me up, I looked back, and it was him. Ricky’s a great champion, and he’s won a lot of races, so if you’re going to be picked up by somebody like that after winning your first race… This dude seems like he’s got 400 race wins. It was cool. I really appreciate him coming over to me. It’s an honor. It was great.””I saw him laying there, and I picked him up and put his hand up,” Carmichael said. “It’s a great feeling to win a race, and I just wanted to give him credit where credit’s due.”

Stewart’s first 250cc win will be remembered as one of total dominance.”I won my first-ever race in San Diego on a 125, and that didn’t even compare to this,” Stewart said. “It just felt like it was something people have been talking about the last two or three years, and I’ve finally done it. I felt like I had a little help tonight; it was good. I felt comfortable, but taking that checkered flag-that’s the first race I’ve won in like seven or eight months-since Glen Helen. It’s been a long time.”

It’s not likely to be that long before his next one.