Sunday, January 20

The Missing Man Formation

Your heart just has to go out for James Stewart. Retro night, 80’s night, whatever you want to call it marked a celebration for supercross, a first-time ever realization that the sport, on a grand scale, has produced enough memories, heroes, drama and stories to build an event around the past. And as much as we super-core fans understand the history of supercross, you have to think really hard to remember just how small the sport was way back when, just how insignificant it was to mainstream America, just how much more popular it is now. Oh yeah, the old-schoolers can point to the “golden era” and wax on about multiple winners and deep competition in the 1980’s, or millions of bike sales every year in the 1970s. But supercross in the current era can point out 50,000 fans per race, next day coverage on network television and consistent reminders in the mainstream press—like USA Today, or ESPN the Magazine—that supercross is very close to reaching the nation’s collective conscience.

So it’s a real shame that on a night when everyone who was anyone along the road to success for supercross, namely 37 past legends and champions in this sport, gathered for one supercross race, one of the best, perhaps the fastest, most talented, most popular and mainstream of them all, couldn’t be out there. Oh yeah, RJ and Bailey were there, so were Wardy and Glover and O’Mara and Stanton and Lechien, and even the OGs, like Brad Lackey, Marty Smith and Marty Tripes. RC and MC were there and even did some riding. Missing? Well, the exceptions to every SX rule, Jean-Michel Bayle and Damon Bradshaw. That’s about it. As far as riding talent goes, Anaheim 2, retro night, was a who’s who for this sport.

Except for that one missing person, the one who bridges the gap between supercross’ past and present, and supercross’ future. The one who broke down barriers (you know what I mean), introduced the next generation of skills and may possibly boost this sport to bigger heights than all that came before him. Hey folks, the rider is James Stewart. He was supposed to be racing and winning here. He was supposed to tame this ’86 replica track and carry the torch for the new school. He was supposed to show respect to the stars of the past, and get respect from them in return—you could almost hear all of those legends ready to praise James for his amazing skills on the bike, and hold him up as the example of how far supercross has come.

But now James has a bad knee. The injury didn’t happen due to the retro track, it happened on December 20th when James crashed on his practice track. He tried to tough it out, but after a month of basically not riding and training, the knee only got worse and not better. One great improvement, though: James and the Monster Kawasaki team held a press conference in the factory semi, and James looked every media member right in the eye and told the truth about his injury. It’s a whole lot better than the mystery injury that followed Washougal.

But the knee isn’t going to get better, and James ended the PC with “The next time you’ll see me is probably Glen Helen in May.” And that was it for him on the evening. Yes, Chas Reed was there, as was RJ and Bailey, Wardy and Glover and O’Mara and Stanton and Lechien, and even Brad Lackey, Marty Smith and Marty Tripes. RC and MC, too. But during those opening ceremonies, James Stewart wasn’t there. He was handing over another championship on this night. Is he injured? Yes. Is he hurt? More than you could possibly imagine.

31 Comments:

Capaianc said...

Jeez, did you forget Mark Barnett, the 1981 Supercross champion? I don't think anyone mentioned him being there

SleekPelt said...

Great post, Weege. What a shame.

scrubbin said...

After listening to the race last night it sounds like the spectacle of Supercross was the winner. As a fan I would be thrilled to see all the past heroes of the sport and to see David Bailey ride around the outside of the track. But in the end I'm always hoping for good racing action and with James out it wasn't to be. And the reason we remember the 86 race wasn't because of the spectacle but because of the great racing action. Even in the lites class stalled 4 stroke bikes that wouldn't restart spoiled what could have been a race to remember. Hint- fix the problem or go back to 2 strokes. The one saving grace was that it happened in CA home of Hollywood where the show is bigger than real life anyways. The sport has grown but with 15 min. mains and boring races maybe we should try to make a track of the future where lead changes take place. I see on the Barrett-Jackson auction that the robo car crusher is for sale. Maybe we could have that in the next race reaching down on the race track trying to grab the riders as they race around the track that would be a spectacle to see. Please run that past the people at Live Nation for me would you. Oh get well soon James Stewart we need you.

Anonymous said...

Where was Bob Hannah?

Anonymous said...

I heard he tried jumping from the 180 bowl turn after the finish to the tabletop leading into the start straight. He did not make the gap, cased it and then pulled off of the track.
If his knee was hurt so badly why would he try such an insane jump? But I agree, James appears to have the potential to take the sport another step higher and the season will not be as exciting without him.

Anonymous said...

Retro Day was a blast!!! I finally got some 8X10 black and white pics of Lackey, Tripes, Smith signed!!!
Tripes wants copies of them. Smith was amazed that I had pics of him on a Monarch!!!
As for James, we all thought it was a joke, then realized it was a real bad deal. My heart dropped and I was really sad he would not be racing for the rest of the series. I hope to see him at Glen Helen and win the #1 plate for the outddoor series. I admire him for wanting an outdoor title before he wears the #1 plate!!!

Not Matthes said...

I feel for Stewie for sure but one question that I think YOU (not me) need to ask Stewie, or more specifically Beeker.
Why would he just get his knee cleaned up after last years mx crash? Why not just bite the bullet and get it fixed right. According to sources, he's been riding without an ACL for years (thats not that big of a deal) but if you start having problems with your knee and do not have an ACL, it's a bad deal.
But then again, if I had bought Google stock yrs ago, I would be getting my assistant to type this for me while I ride my golden raft down my chocolate river.

Other important questions after that thrilling podcast interview...

Want me to arrange a meeting with Carsten?
You realize that going to the mx races and not knowing ANYONE is weird right?
Do you think you will ever get into the Flagman Hall Of Fame?

Joey said...

Excellent post Jason.

Well written and you are exactly right about James.

rock on.

Ben Trujillo said...

Great Blog Weege. Thanks so much for ruuning this. I would have to somewhat disagree about Stewart. I was at practice yesterday at A2. I am sure he hurt his knee in Dec 20, but I was watching him in practice and he looked just as fast as the stewart of old. But there was a tricky section just before the mechanics area and the the start straight. Stewart tried to do some crazy jump off a whoop onto a table top, cased it hard and I am sure that was the final blow to his knee because he soon after pulled off the track. Why must he try these crazy jump lines? Why can't he just do "enough to win the race"? Well it was a bummer, I could have left right after that since it was a guaranteed win for Reed, but I wanted to watch the Lites race. But I do agree 100% he handed over the Championship to Reed Which I HATE to see. (And did I call the Lawrence race or what? He must have kicked his bike over 50 times)

Straight^ said...

other than the multiple murders of my family members this is the worst news I've heard today. Ultimate disappointment now sets in, and all Stewart fans can do now is take refuge in the fact that Reed has never beaten Stewart straight up. Yes, haters will hate, but in the minds of the unbiased Stewart is still the fastest SX rider in the world.

Clash said...

Well said, JW.

As a fan, it’s sometimes difficult to set aside our own selfish desires for a season long battle when a soldier is fallen with an injury, but James must be devastated. I truly feel for him after seeing his desire at the start of the season as he looked for some redemption in the shadow of a disappointing outdoor season.

These guys all have heart and none bigger than James, but it hurts that much worse when a stake is driven through it.

Anonymous said...

I can't help but admire RC more and more. Travis Pastrana was amazingly fast, but crash/injury prone letting it all hang out. Now James Stewart seems to be having the same type of problems. RC was amazingly fast, but still managed to have a mostly injury free career. He is definately the GOAT

garyd said...

Thanks for the info Weegee, when Bubba is on it he is 120% and the best ever t o watch on a SX track but it all comes with a risk. I hope he is back soon

Gazer fron the UK

motozoos said...

I got home from my 24hr shift at the firehouse this morning, grabbed a cup of hot coffee fired up the PC to check the results on RacerX to see who won last nite. I was super stoked to see my fellow Honda Red Rider Windham on the podium again. I was really happy to see Hill on the podium as well he looks so comfortable on the 450, but I really wish the factory Honda techs would get those bikes dialed in, the guys really look like they are fighting the heck out of those bikes.

vintageracer said...

Handing over another championship! Are you for real? Thanks for cheapening the rest of the SX series and degrading the other racers. So when RC beat Stewart the championship was handed to him? Staying healthy is part of winning a championship. Stewart crashes a lot, and gets hurt a lot. Ride over your head and you crash. Stewart is a great racer but don't make excuses for him. If Stewurt can't keep it together for a entire series He does not deserve to win the championship. Please don't take anything away from the racers that are fast and consistent, thats what wins chamionships.

fastdjg said...

bad news that Stewart is out of action...sounds like we'll have to look toward someone else to step up and put Mr. Reed in his place. on a more personal note, I'm heading to SF next weekend from SoOre to celebrate my 50th birthday at the race and was ready to watch James and Chad go for it -- bummer. just a shout out to our local boy; GO KEVIN ROOKSTOOL #94! Klamath Falls is proud of ya man!!

crack said...

stewart is a pusssy, suck it up biaaaaaaaatch & race...........

Anonymous said...

with stewart supposedly out for all but one national, could reed possibly go after that elusive outdoor title he never had a chance at?

Hank said...

Thanks for the write up. Too bad for Bubba. He cant seem to get a break. Some may say the racing will be better but man, that dood is great on a bike and its a shame we wont get to see the combos he can do. The ones no one else would even try. GET WELL JS!

MIKE D said...

The Fastest man on the Planet needs to grab a break. I feel for James.

"...like two Pit bulls in Michael Vick's backyard"

Dude Larry H. must have been proud!

Anonymous said...

We have a new china doll in the sport JBS not Pastrana

Moto 101

Anonymous said...

Well maybe JS is hurt so much because he rides so fast. And often out of control. I have raced for a long while and there is always someone who is very fast for a certain period of time. Then fairly soon, he crashes out. The best racers are those who go fast AND under control. ( Did someone say MC ?) I have a hard time feeling sorry for someone who rides so out of control and crashes so much. Look at Jason L in the lites. He may be the fastest rider in the class but where is he in the points?

Anonymous said...

Saw this on some message board.....(how quick people want to add thier own drama to this situation, geez.)

Allegedly James and his dad where in Monsters offices this week trying to sort out their contract...James wanted 1.4 million for the season or he was going to walk from supercross and let Chad, who is no longer on unbound who is owned by monster, win...totally pissing off monster so they don’t have a sponsorship on the champion of the “Monster Energy Supercross”, In theory a nice bargaining chip, Monster told James 1.2 million or forget it...

James and His dad reportedly told the VP of Marketing at Monster to go F$%k himself. He told them where to stick it and no we get to A2...

He showed up late for the show, didnt do the press conference on Thursday, didn’t do more than two laps in each practice, and he developed a "knee injury" that took him out of the Supercross season...

Is this what racing has become?

He took a Bentley from redbull as a signing bonus last year and still walked on his contract and didn’t give the car back and now this with monster over 200K...

I don’t get it at all.

This of course is totally unconfirmed and only Monsters side of the story and was straight from the mouth of a unnamed monster execuitive in the Monster suite after a few beers... but I will call Aldon this week and see what the Stewart camp has to say. Maybe its all just all coincidence...

Monster was also pissed off about Stewart drinking a combination of Monavie, Water and Cytomax on the podium, He reportedly told them, "Im not going to pretend I drink that crap on the podium when I don’t"

Maybe Monsters full of crap? What do you all think?

Ill see what I can find out….

Daniel said...

I feel bad James. It isn't that I want him to blow everyone away and win 13 or more races again. But I tend to like all the riders anymore. I didn't always watch the races on TV. In fact I didn't really start until 2000. I have paid so much attention to it since then that I've picked up on a lot of the old school stuff too. I'm always reading about it and listening to things like DMXS so I have a pretty broad familiarity to the whole sport. And with all the records James has, there is another on that he might be working on right now. He has lost several championships already do to season ending injurys. For a guy who is given the label as the "fastest" etc, he is a guy who has had many injurys too. Just like you said, that has to weigh on one's mind. I don't want James to blow the SX championship away by winning everything. But I sure do like seeing him out that trying to do that.

The riders who are almost fast enough to get on the podium but just can't quite make it.... well they have a better chance now. Hopefully it will tighten up the racing just like the MX season of
'07. It just stinks it has to come at the expense of another rider.

Anonymous said...

I was suprised by the news. James had been saying he was in the best shape of his life and was ready to battle. Just think, RC could have had two other titles (MX & Supercross)handed to him if he would have continued to race.

Anonymous said...

Jason,

I'm probably too darn old to reply or post on a blog...but what the heck. Although I agree that James is disappointed...I think that this move may have sealed his fate. From last to 2nd and A1 and a "W" in Phoenix, with no mention of any nagging problems? Honestly, if this guy was being paid to race instead of being paid to be James Stewart, he would have been out there.

Is he the most talented rider we've seen to date? Probably. But is he the best SX rider? He's not even in my top ten. There are many, many other guys out there who don't get the press and accolades who would have soldiered on...if not for anything else but the love of the sport. RC, Ryno, GL, Larocco, Stanton and even Reed have put in inspiring rides while hurt (and I'm sure there are privateers with injuries that are still out there).

I feel more sorry for Kawasaki then I do for James. You know he's getting paid. Sorry to go all "Hannah" on you....but that's the way quite a few people are looking at this.

Thanks...

Mark from Michigan

Jason Weigandt said...

Capaianc,
Believe it or not Barnett wasn't there, even though he's still connected to the sport as the "track builder to the stars."

Sleek,
Thanks for the plug.

Scrubbin,
Totally agree that Anaheim '86 was a big deal because of the race, but I don't blame the tracks or the four-strokes for the lack of action nowadays. In fact, it's just the way the sport works, from the amateur local ranks all the way to the top. Good riders rise to the top, and right now Chad is better than everyone else out there. I'd love longer mains, though....

Mr. Anonymous,
Yeah, no Hurricane, but technically he was a '70's champ. I bet he won't show unless they stinkin pay him.

Another Mr. Anonymouses,
Yeah, jumping crazy stuff with a bad knee is crazy, but that's just James being James. Consider that a test for the knee. And it failed the test. And for the other guy, glad you had a good time.


Not Matthes,
Good point Steve, er, some other guy. Although Stewie said his knee was 100 percent again before he hurt it. But if he didn't have an ACL, I guess it wasn't.
I'll meet Carsten only if we can do it under comedic circumstances.

Vintage Racer,
By handed, I mean relinquishing his #1 plate without a fight. The riders won't have to beat him to win the title. I do agree though that if you give a guy too much leeway for an injury, you just open the door up to a slippery slope of excuses, and then you tag everything with an asterisk. But don't worry. Whoever wins the title this year will be listed as champion, not champion*.

Anonymous said...

Being a former employee of the motorcycle industry (I saw first hand how the corporate ya-hoo's spin stories)I DO NOT believe for a moment Stewart's story. I have heard rumors long before this that the love between KX and Stewart's camp is gone. Like the song says . . believe half of what you see, some or none of what you hear . . . it will be interesting what the future holds for the parties involved.

Anonymous said...

Nice post. I've been a supercross/motocross fan for many years. It was nice to see some of the greats on hand. It never ceases to amaze me how people can can claim to be so open minded and and so ignorance at the same time. James is not the ONLY rider to have issues in the elite class early. RC had the same issue, and they call him the GOAT. Regardless of how you want to look at it or furthermore, whether or not you want to accept it. The guy is the star of the class regardless of the outside issues. On the track, he leads the pack. And thats not taking anything from the OTHER rides. THEY STATED THAT FACT THEMSELVES. Get well soon JB. Good luck and best wishes to the fellow riders on the remainder of the season.

Anonymous said...

"Jamestrana" Unlimited potential, limited championships. No one should ever want to see a rider injured, any rider, anytime. Is Stewart faking it? Only time will tell, cause the truth always come out. But, is he the Heir to the Throne like most people try to give him, I say no. The accolades of Best Ever, Great, one of the greats, must be earned. James has the potential, but he is becoming our "Jamestrana". Unlimited potential, limited championships. Greatness is earned, by winning multiple championships over multiple years, in multiple classes. Rick Johnson, Jeff Ward, Jeff Stanton, MC, RC and others we call Great won indoors, outdoors, 125`s, 250`s, 500`s...Versatill, many classes, many years, many titles. Jamestrana dominated the amateur races, but has not dominated the big leagues. Now, he is still young, and has the potential, No doubt, but he is not the Man of our time, yet, he has the Potential to be the man.

Anonymous said...

I hate to hear of any athlete, especially one of Stewart's talent being injured. I am sure I will get hammered for saying this, but I feel as bad for Reed as I do Stewart. Reed has been working hard to get to Bubba's level. It looked like he may have gotten closer this year. Now we have to wait until next year to find out!