Stewart Thrills at Daytona Supercross

2011 AMA Supercross

Although he didn’t win the Daytona Supercross this year, San Manuel/Red Bull’s James Stewart showed fans at the speedway one of the greatest displays of determination in series history to finish ninth on Saturday night, March 5.

After a brutal crash stunned the Yamaha Supercross star and sent his YZ450F over a huge jump without him, Stewart limped to the bike, remounted in last place and clawed his way back to an incredible top-10 finish, setting one of the fastest race laps in the process.

By sheer force of will, Stewart thus maintains second in points being Supercross race winner Ryan Villopoto. Meanwhile JGR/Muscle Milk’s Davi Millsaps and Justin Brayton also put in strong rides, finishing fifth and sixth, respectively, on their own YZ450Fs. While in the Lites East main event, Ryan Sipes took his first podium of the season on his Star Racing/DNA Shred Stix YZ250F.

Daytona is unique in the 17-race AMA Supercross series. The track is longer than the others, the surface is tricky, and the lighting made reading some corners difficult. Stewart aced the afternoon practice with the fastest time, and then won his heat race over a fired-up Millsaps.

This year the Supercross track featured a clay starting area instead of the usual grass, and Stewart used the upgrade to his advantage in the main event, grabbing the holeshot and then simply disappearing ahead of the pack.

So fast was the Yamaha rider that he put an entire straightway on Villopoto, his nearest pursuer, after just two laps. Amazingly, Stewart even found a way to bypass a huge double jump by starting his leap on a smaller preliminary jump – and then clearing the entire double, takeoff ramp and all. No other Supercross rider would even attempt it.

Stewart’s drama happened on lap four. Way ahead and accelerating hard through a rhythm section, he misjudged a jump, pitching the front wheel down and slamming into the ground with incredible force. After doing a somersault, the YZ continued ahead, leaping the next jump by itself before landing on a tuff block and stopping, upside down.

In what might be the toughest restart in Stewart’s career, he hobbled off the track, staggered toward his bike, yanked it upright and struggled aboard. Re-entering the race well behind the field, he regrouped to set a spectacular 1 min. 17.9 sec. lap to go with his earlier pair of 1:15.6 scorchers – quicker than all but Villopoto’s best two early laps.

In the process he passed half the field and earned 12 valuable points in the process. Fortunately Stewart was only sore after his adventure, and should be ready for the next round in Indianapolis, Ind. on Saturday, March 12. Way to go JS7!

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