11-Point Margin Separates Stewart and Reed.
Following his disappointing 19th place finish at the opening race of the 2009 Monster Energy® AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, James Stewart put his season back on track. Albeit a fast track, winning seven consecutive races and erasing the points lead established by Rockstar/Makita Suzuki’s Chad Reed as the championship left San Diego.
As the championship left the West Coast and headed to Atlanta’s Georgia Dome, Stewart established his first points lead of the season as he dominated all 20 laps before a near capacity crowd. It was not only Stewart’s seventh consecutive win; Reed had finished in second place in each race that Stewart won.
"The start was great," said Stewart after the race inside the Georgia Dome. "The San Manuel Yamaha pulled another holeshot. It was a good race for me. The track was tough but we came out on top. I’ve always liked the ‘ATL’ and I’m glad we could do well here. I want to thank all the fans and all the motivation they give me. It feels good to have the points lead but there is a long way to go."
The points lead wouldn’t stay under the Stewart tent for long as the championship made its debut at Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium. Winless in eight races, Reed finally broke the streak and tied the points race once again.
"I knew that if I had a good start, I could give myself a chance," said Reed atop the podium in Indianapolis. "James (Stewart) has been riding awesome, and I want to take that next step. James made a mistake and I snuck around to get the win. This Indianapolis crowd made me feel like I was in front of my hometown crowd back in Australia because they were so loud and supportive."
Stewart suffered a major setback at the Daytona stop, crashing in the first turn and finishing seventh. This gave Reed his second win and an 11-point lead in the championship. The points lead was cut to eight after Stewart claimed victory inside New Orleans’ Superdome.
Last Saturday night in St. Louis, Stewart secured the lead over Reed before lap five but crashed on lap 14, handing the lead to Reed and losing another valuable three points heading into Toronto. With an 11-point lead in the championship, Reed looks forward to racing in Toronto.
"Toronto will be interesting," said Reed. "The dirt always plays a huge factor there — it’s like it’s from another planet," said Reed. "There are rocks and it has a weird texture. Last year, it was brought in frozen, so throughout the weekend it thawed out and became very muddy and wet. Those are tough conditions for racing, so I’m looking forward to what Toronto has to offer this year."
Reed’s teammate Mike Alessi picked up his best results of the 2009 season at the recent Indianapolis race. His third-place finish was his first-ever AMA Supercross class podium. He is currently in seventh place in the overall championship standings.
"I’ve never been to Toronto but from what I hear, the track’s going to have different dirt," said Alessi. "I’m just going to play it by ear and see how it is. I’m looking forward to the race. I think it’s going to be good and I just need to go into it feeling confident and hopefully get another holeshot and run up front."
Rounding out the podium last week was JGRMX/Toyota’s Josh Grant, who scored the third AMA Supercross class podium of his career. He opened the season with an impressive win at Anaheim 1 and followed up with a podium in Phoenix. Throughout the year, the rookie AMA Supercross class rider has struggled with injuries but put it together in St. Louis.
"It’s about time I get back up here," said Grant during his podium interview in St. Louis. "I was feeling it out there today in practice and then in the main event. I actually made a mistake early on in the main event where I bent my shifter. I had to ride the entire race in third gear, so I am pumped on winning despite that happening."
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Christophe Pourcel is looking to lock up the 2009 Eastern Region AMA Supercross Lites championship at the Rogers Centre in Toronto this weekend. All the French rider has to do to clinch the title is finish ahead of his teammate Austin Stroupe and Nicco Izzi.
"The championship is in the back of my mind," said Pourcel. "First I want to win the race and if I do that I will win the championship as well. We worked on the bike this week to make it better and I’m happy to have a chance to win the championship."
Stroupe is looking to get his third win of the season and push the champion’s coronation to the final east coast race in Jacksonville. Stroupe is currently second in the points standings, 25 markers behind Pourcel.
"I want to win this weekend," said Stroupe. "You never know what can happen in a race so I just want to keep my title hopes alive this weekend by winning. I know it is a tough challenge to make up the points I need to, but I want to try."
This season Rockstar/Makita Suzuki’s Nico Izzi has been on the podium at every round of AMA Supercross Lites except New Orleans. He is currently third in the overall championship points standings.
"I’m really excited about Toronto," said Izzi. "I went up there to watch the race one year because it’s only a few hours from my house in Michigan. I thought it was really cool and the city is really great. Now that we’re not racing in Detroit anymore, this race is almost like a hometown race for me. I have a lot of family and friends coming to the race so I’m really looking forward to it."
With one race under his belt for the Monster Energy Kawasaki team, Billy Laninovich is looking to improve upon his 18th place result in St. Louis. With another week of training and riding under his belt, Laninovich is hoping to crack into the top 10 in the AMA Supercross class.
"This is a great team," said Laninovich. "Everyone fits together really well and they are all helping me get back into a racing mindset. I was pretty sore on Monday, but I was in the gym working on my fitness. I’m going to keep riding and working hard to get the best results possible."
The Muscle Milk/MDK/KTM Factory Team will be represented by only one rider in Toronto. Wil Hahn, who rides in the Eastern regional AMA Supercross Lites class, will be solo in Toronto as his teammate Martin Davalos is still out with a broken fibula suffered in the New Orleans AMA Supercross Lites class main event.
Hahn, however, has not been without an injury plagued season. Hahn, who originally intended to race the Western Regional AMA Supercross Lites class, was hurt just weeks before the opening race and switched places with teammate Ryan Sipes in order to allow a few more weeks of recovery time. Last weekend in St. Louis, Hahn took a hard hit after he crashed in his heat resulting in a minor concussion. "I feel a lot better this week. I just tried riding yesterday and I don’t feel 100% but I am slowly getting back there," replied Hahn.
While Hahn heads to Toronto to compete in the Lites class, his West teammates Sipes and Justin Brayton are back to their hometowns preparing for the next West round in just two weeks. "Riding the 450 has definitely helped my training and I am really excited for the next West round," commented Sipes.
Jagermeister/MDK/KTM riders Travis Preston and Josh Summey are still sidelined due to injury, but it looks like Summey might return as early as Jacksonville. "I injured my hand and it is slowly healing. This is my first week riding since the injury and it is still painful, but if I can continue to ride over the next week I think I might be able to return to the Jacksonville race," said Summey.
After an amazing amateur career GEICO Powersports Honda’s Blake Wharton proved he can win on the professional level as he picked up the first win of his career in St. Louis. The rookie AMA Supercross Lites class racer led all 15 laps of the main event.
"Last week’s win was definitely the way you always hope that if you’re going to win – leading from start to finish," said Wharton. "It has sunk in now and it’s really awesome. I’m really happy. I’ve proven to myself that I have what it takes to win and my goal now is to be consistent. I want to get another good start in Toronto and race my own race."
Daniel Blair spent the first half of the Monster Energy® Supercross season as a journeyman privateer traveling the country on a near-stock bike packed inside his white Econoline Van. When GEICO Powersports Honda’s starter Bret Metcalfe suffered an injury, Blair was offered his ride and has been living a dream.
"Having the opportunity to ride for the GEICO Powersports Honda team is awesome," said Blair. "It’s a new experience for me; something I’ve always dreamt of. The team is awesome and everyone’s been so supportive. I feel like I have built up a good base over the past three races, familiarizing myself with the bike, and I am riding better and better every week."
Not comfortable with running up front, Blair needs to settle in and keep the pace and look for his first podium finish.
"At the first two races I got great starts and was running up front, which I just wasn’t used to. I’d ride fairly cautiously-trying to put myself and stay in good, comfortable positions," added Blair. "The bike is amazing-there’s no question about that-but I’ve just been shocked to find myself up amongst the lead guys that I tend to tense up a bit. This week though, I’m going to hold nothing back and make the absolute most of the opportunity I have been given. It’s truly an honor to work with the team and I have become a better rider for the whole experience."
Andrew Short is enjoying the best AMA Supercross class season of his career, sitting in third place as the championship heads to Toronto.
"I’m really excited with where I am positioned in the championship points right now (3rd) and I think that defines how my season has gone so far," said Short. I really want to be back on the podium this weekend after finishing one place shy of the podium last week. I want to capitalize on every opportunity this week and put Honda Red Bull Racing on the box."
Short’s Honda Red Bull Racing teammate Davi Millsaps picked up a podium finish in Toronto last year and hopes to repeat that performance tomorrow night.
"I finished third at Toronto last year and I really want to get back on the box," said Millsaps. "It feels great to be back home in Florida this week, training and preparing for this race. I want to come out strong and get a good start this week."
The AMA Supercross class race from Toronto will air on CBS Sports Sunday, March 29 at Noon EST. The Eastern regional AMA Supercross Lites class race will air on SPEED Sunday, March 29 at 3:00 p.m. EST.
Tickets are available at www.SupercrossOnline.com.