Stewart Wins Round One

Kit Palmer | October 10, 2008

James Stewart avoided crashes, pile ups and many other hazards that claimed a number of his competitors at the opening night of racing at the Rockstar Energy Drink U.S. Open in the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas to score a big win in his Yamaha debut. Stewart avoided a first-turn pile up, got in the lead early and rode off to victory, twice. Stewart, as did everyone else in the race, was given the white flag a second time when he should’ve taken the checkered flag on the 20th lap. Stewart pulled off his victory whip over the finish line on the 21st lap, but the race was officially scored after the scheduled 20th lap.

Stewart actually played a part in the first-turn mêlée. He admitted afterwards that he and Ryan Dungey touched (his back wheel taking out Dungey’s front wheel), which resulted in the Rockstar/Makita Suzuki rider going down, taking nearly half the pack with him, including Andrew Short, Dan Reardon, Michael Byrne, Broc Hepler and others.

“I snuck around on the inside, and I think I might’ve hit Dungey , he was coming,” Stewart said.

Stewart wasn’t the only rider who got through the first turn on two wheels – so did Chad Reed, who was making his U.S. debut for his new Rockstar/Makita Suzuki team. Unfortunately for the 2008 Supercross Champion, though, Reed went down in the second turn and then pulled out of the race with a broken rear-brake caliper (which most likely was damaged in the crowded first turn, causing him to fall later), leaving Stewart out in front and all alone.

Caption: Stewart (7) grabs the holeshot with Reed (8) on his inside. Behind Stewart is Dungey falling. Reed was wearing the number-8 in honor of last year’s U.S. Open winner Grant Langston, who was unable to ride.

With each passing lap, Stewart extended his lead over Honda Red Bull’s Ivan Tedesco, who found himself in second after the first lap. Tedesco was having a quiet race until the 16th lap when his teammate, Short, came calling.

Short was on the move after crashing on the first lap and was pressuring Tedesco for second when Short got slammed by Tedesco in a turn as they battled side by side. Short retaliated a turn later, only this time, both riders went down in a heap, taking with them fourth-place rider, MDK/KTM’s Justin Brayton. Short and Tedesco were stacked on top of each other, and Tedesco was able to get away first, barely holding on to his second-place position over Josh Hill, but Short lost many places and eventually pulled out of the race.

“It got a little dirty,” said Tedesco, “but that’s Las Vegas.”

Tedesco held on to finish second, while Yamaha’s Hill claimed third. Brayton, who had earlier won his heat race, managed to keep fourth, while Dungey, riding one of the few 250Fs in the race, worked his way back up through the pack to finish sixth. Hepler finished seventh, followed by Byrne, Tommy Hahn, Nicco Izzi and Kyle Chisholm.

Since Stewart won the earlier Super Pole, grabbed the holeshot in the main, and won the main, he is eligible to win the Trifcta if he can repeat this same sequence tomorrow night. The Trifecta is worth $250,000.

In the Legends race, Damon Bradshaw outdueled long-time rival Jeff Matiasevich. The two will go at it again tomorrow night.

Kit Palmer | Off-Road Editor

Kit Palmer started his career at Cycle News in 1984 and he’s been testing dirt and streetbikes every since – plus covering any event that uses some form of a knobby tire. He’s also our resident motorcycle mileage man with a commute of 120 miles a day.