Earlier this week we reported the Malcolm Stewart had been offered the chance to test with the AutoTrader/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing team and fill-in for the injured Justin Bogle in the 2018 Monster Energy Supercross Series, a deal that was confirmed on Wednesday afternoon.
On Thursday afternoon we caught up with Stewart and AutoTrader/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing Team Manager Jeremy Albrecht as the team put in a practice session at Milestone MX Park in Southern California. Between laps on the track, we were able to learn more about Stewart’s new deal, a full-factory Suzuki RM-Z450 for at least the next two rounds, which will give Bogle more time to recover from a concussion and allow Stewart the chance to show his talent in the 450 class. The ride begins this weekend in Houston, but there is a possibility that it continues much longer should the team deem it necessary.
During our interviews, we discussed Stewart’s initial plans to ride a privateer Kawasaki for the 2018 season, the reason he missed Anaheim One, and what it’s like to join the team. With Albrecht, we learned why the team went with Stewart, a timeline for Bogle’s return, and a recap of Anaheim One for all of JGRMX.
MALCOLM STEWART | FIRST WORD
This was a pretty big last few days, but prior to that, how was everything coming along with your privateer effort?
Everything was all last minute. It was the same thing as last year. We ran into some issues, you know how it is. That's one thing about this sport when Anaheim One is coming up, everybody is panicking, so if you're not on a factory team you get pushed behind. I understand it and I see it from both sides. I've been on a factory team and I've been on a privateer team, so I respect it from both sides. Obviously, everyone's panicking right after Thanksgiving and you don't really have that many weeks left, and you're trying to get suspension or motors like that, but it's all backed up from factory teams. You have to respect that. We've been putting it together and we weaved in Kissimmee Motorsports, they actually stepped up, so huge shout out to those guys. I thank them for giving me the opportunity to still ride the bike. The same goes for all of the other sponsors. Without Kissimmee Motorsports I wouldn't have been riding a Kawasaki. We started putting it together and were going to race Anaheim One, but we just didn't have enough time. There's more to it than just showing up in the back of your truck and going racing. You have to think about how you're going to get to the next race or how to get to the East Coast. Then this deal came up. J-Bone [Jeremy Albrecht] called me up on Monday actually and we weaved it in. I got a flight out and flew in Tuesday morning at LAX and drove all of the way up to Victorville because it was raining out here. I called them and I was like, 'You sure we're going to be able to ride?' He said they had a place so Roger [Larsen] picked me up, we drove up to Victorville, and next thing you know we're at Milestone now on a Thursday with two days before the race. So far, I love the bike. Obviously, it's completely different compared to what it was last year. Everyone says it's the same Suzuki, but no it's not, it's completely different. Plus, I jumped on a different bike before going to this. It's different, but it's a good team. I've been around and known these guys since I was nine years old with brother James. I've always seen these guys and there's nothing but good vibes here. I know it's only a two-race deal before we set ourselves up for Phoenix on the Kawasaki again. If anything, this helps my program a little and gives me a little more of a rest so I can get all of my other stuff ready. We're shooting for Phoenix back on a Kawi, but you never know. Things could change here. This sport is crazy. Unfortunately, this is a dangerous sport and riders get hurt, so another opportunity like this could come up and I could fill in for someone else next. Who knows? I may not be privateering it for the rest of the year, but you've got to set yourself up. You have to do it on your own and we haven't stopped our plan B for sure.
The original plan was Anaheim Two?
The original plan was Anaheim Two or Phoenix. Last week, we were like, 'Alright, we're going to go for Anaheim Two.' I want to do the triple crown. It's a different format and I think it's something different that nobody else has experienced, so why not jump into that? Nobody will really know what's going on [laughs]. It's the perfect race to come back. Obviously, filling in for JGR now, so me on my own going into the triple crown won't happen, but this is better for me anyways. I don't have to worry about anything else, the only thing I have to worry about is racing.
Had you ridden the new Suzuki at all prior to Tuesday?
No, that was the first time I've ever ridden that Suzuki. Like I said, I rode one last year for Ride365 and it's completely different. Comparing last year to this year, it's hard to compare because I went green between so it feels like a whole new bike to me. I'm enjoying it, I'm loving it, and like I said there's nothing but good vibes over here.
With you not having the things you needed right off the bat, you didn't blame the industry and you understand that there's a lot of things happening in those last six weeks of last year. That's something people can't afford to do because they might not get support in the future.
Yeah, I'm trying to be a role model here. I'm trying to give the kids something to look up to. If I start bashing people it's only going to make me look bad. It'd make me look like a coward. I'm bigger than that and better than that. Like I said, I understand it from both sides. If things aren't right and people don't want me there, that's it. I'll walk home and I'm not going to dwell on it. That's just not the way I want to do business. At the end of the day, I think I'm a likable person so I'm not sure if it's for personal reasons or whatever, I don't know, but my job is to go out there and race, shake everyone's hand who's helped me get to this point, and that's it.
How's the vibe within the team? As you said, you've known a lot of these guys for a while and James has quite a relationship there too.
When James was here, those guys used to come down to my house and I used to ride up there. Even before then, there was a lot of those people around. J-Bone's been there from the get-go. Obviously, Rene used to be Matt Boni's mechanic back in the day and I've known Rene since I was on the amateur tracks too. There's a lot of people in this JGR family that you grew up with. It's nothing but good vibes over here and everybody loves everybody. I'll just leave it at that.
What are your expectations heading into the weekend?
With two days on the bike, I'm just going to go out there and do the best that I can do. That's all we can do at this point. Everybody knows that there's not a lot of time and any time that you jump on a new motorcycle it's completely different. We're going to do the best that we can and I'll give it everything I've got for these two races. Maybe it can prolong for something longer and if not, I can get back on my bike that I was comfortable on and go from there. It's going to be fun jumping back and forth! Let's hope we stay on one, let's leave it at that, but if not, it is what it is and we'll keep moving forward.
JEREMY ALBRECHT | FIRST WORD
It's a big week. Give me a rundown on how this all happened. We caught wind of it on Monday afternoon and it's progressed pretty quickly since then.
Yeah, when I got the news about Bogle a week before Anaheim One, we knew it was possible, but we were hopeful that he was going to get cleared and be ready. He wasn't cleared to ride so we just went to Anaheim and I didn't really want to fill-in at that race. I wanted to go there and think about it more and have a better plan. If Bogle was going to miss more than one, I knew that we wanted to fill-in, but I thought Malcolm [Stewart] was coming to the race. I knew he had his own thing going so he was the first one I thought of. Last year, I called him first also. I didn't know if he'd do it and I figured I'd just talk to him at Anaheim, but then he wasn't there. When I was there at the race, I watched and there were a few people that were actually riding really good. Lamay and Bowers both rode good. Bowers I had heard was racing this Germany thing and I didn't want to screw that up because it's only for a couple of rounds, so it's not really worth it for him. I was trying to look for people that could really take advantage of this opportunity. I called Malcolm on Sunday and he told me, 'Give me until tomorrow, I just want to talk to my parents.' We talked on Monday and he said he was willing to do it. I told him it was for sure two races, but I don't know after that. It's hard to decide that you'll just do two, but I told him to look at it as saving him money because he's having to do this on his own, so let’s try to do this and make it positive for everybody and see where it goes. I was pumped that he was actually really cool and appreciative that I thought of him, and we made it happen. He flew out really early Tuesday morning, landed at LAX at like 9:20 AM, and met us at the track which is far even if you're here already, so to fly all of the way here and then go there, that showed me how badly he wanted to do it. It was raining so much here that I was hoping it wasn't going to be a waste of time, but we made it work. Now we're here at Milestone today and it's good for him to ride with all of these guys. He's been riding in Florida by himself. We're stoked. I called Bogle yesterday because I had to wait until Malcolm actually signed the deal, and I told him that he could take his time and when he's ready he can come back. I was putting a little pressure on him because I'm getting pressure. Now the pressure is off of him and he can take his time and when he's really ready he can come back and do what he was planning to do. I think in the end it works for all of us.
One thing I really want to highlight is that with all of the James Stewart stuff before this, this is a clean slate.
To be honest, I talked to him [Malcolm] last year for the fill-in deal. I'm not holding any of that over him. That's all his brother's deal, not him, and at this point, I'm fine with his brother too. I haven't talked to him in a long time, but I'm over that too. It just didn't work out and I'm over it. In this sport, you can't hold grudges. You need to get past it. I'm fine with it and if it's the best situation like this is, you've got to do it. It doesn't matter. I'm sure it's probably the same on their end. They could say, 'Oh that's the team that screwed my kid,' if they wanted to look at it like that, but it wasn't like that. When we talked about splitting, it started out okay and then it obviously didn't end up great, but I've got no hard feelings between all of them. We had a good career together when I worked with James and Big James and Sonya, and Malcolm was a little kid back then. I'm good with it.
Take me through the Bogle thing. It's been two pretty heavy concussions in a really short period of time. You can't be a doctor and say what he can and can't do, but does all of Malcolm's future ride on when Justin gets back?
Well, what I told Malcolm basically is that Bogle for sure is not going to race the next two. After that, we'll see. Just like Barcia going out and riding like that, that's what you've got to do.
Everything else has gone really well and Weston Peick's ride on Saturday night was great. That was his best Anaheim One finish ever. Give me a rundown of how everything else is going.
Overall, for me, the weekend went great except for being on the podium and winning the race. Other than that, everything went perfectly. Everyone really liked their bikes, I like how everything looked, we had Weston who came around in the main and rode really good, Hill rode really good early in the day so we know he can do it. He just got a little tight in the main, which is pretty awesome for him to tell us, 'Hey, it was me.' We definitely worked this week to make things better for Weston and Hill and even Jimmy Decotis. It's been a productive week out here for sure. We got Malcolm on the bike, tested with Jimmy before he headed home, and we're trying to get Weston and Hill more comfortable because no matter how much you ride, you get to watch other people's bikes and what they can do and what we can do. We're trying to learn there and after the first one, the good thing is we're really close, we just need to make a few minor tweaks. I'm excited to go to Houston and see these guys doing better than what we did last week.