After a disappointing opening round, James Stewart has been a steady contender in the supercross championship series, claiming back-to-back victories over the past few weeks and a pair of second place finishes last month. But until JUST this past weekend, it seemed that the media was shorting Stewart on the respect he’s deserved.
In winning the Monster Energy Cup this past October, JS7 made a statement to the motocross world that he was back on the top of his game. But somehow during this season, the announcers and live TV never really brought to attention on what Stewart was doing in the races. Even last week when Stewart won his first SX race of 2014, the live coverage was focused on the 3rd through 7th place spots almost the entire race, never really mentioning James after his early pass on Villopoto until he had crossed the finish line. He rode flawlessly, but was somehow an afterthought to the rest of the pack.
It’s understandable that there is a lot going on with a very deep field in the 450 class. Rookie Ken Roczen is turning heads with his ability to keep up with the best in the world, Chad Reed was (until last week’s injury) going into the biggest comeback run of his career, and Ryan Villopoto is of course having an interesting year as the 3-time defending champion who is all of a sudden not dominating as he used to. But those are not reasons to forget about James Stewart, who has quietly been moving up the points chase and is now within striking distance of a championship himself.
Over the past few years, Stewart has been prone to crashing often, and between injuries and unfortunate position drops due to his wrecks he has been held back from reaching the top of the final standings at season’s end in both MX and SX. His style has become reckless and even desperate, losing control of his bike from pushing it beyond it’s limits. But lately, Stewart has reeled in his focus and is riding much smarter, all while still not sacrificing his speed. He deserves more respect than he’s been given this season, and his confidence in himself has slowly but surely started to return.
When I watch him ride, I see something different in him than I’ve been used to. It’s been years since he won a title in professional motocross, and the fans have almost forgotten his dominating run from over half a decade ago. The circus of his success has died down, and the doubters have emerged in full force. The result is that Stewart now has regained what pushed him to win before: he has something to prove again.
I admit that I had often rooted against Stewart in years prior, wanting to see attention be granted to newer upcoming riders. But even as a fan, I feel that the Villopoto domination has become stale for the sport. I’ve become much more interested this season as a result of knowing that there are now a handful of riders who can consistently race and win, not just a couple named “Ryan.”
With Reed out of the picture, the next best comeback season could very well belong to Stewie. I never thought I’d say this, but I’m making it official now: I predict and hope for James Stewart to win this year’s SX title. And I hope to God I didn’t just jinx him.