After suffering through a rough day at last week’s Daytona round of the series, where he finished an uncharacteristic seventh, James Stewart returned to form tonight in New Orleans’ Superdome by winning his eighth race of the 2009 Monster Energy AMA Supercross season.
At Daytona, Stewart fell behind early after a first-turn crash at the start of the main event. However, he avoided that problem in tonight’s race by grabbing a clean holeshot on his San Manuel Yamaha and then fended off an early challenge by Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Chad Reed before pulling away to an easy win.
“I had to win tonight – point blank. I had to win,” said Stewart. “This is what I needed heading into the race next weekend in St. Louis.”
Reed spent the 20-lap race chasing Stewart and eventually settled for a safe second, knowing the finish would leave him eight points in front of Stewart in the series standings heading into next week’s race in St. Louis.
Team Yamaha’s Broc Hepler capitalized on a good start to pick up his first podium of the season, running solo in third for most of the race before coming under the attack of GEICO Powersports Honda’s Kevin Windham during the final two laps. Windham’s charge was cut short by the checkered flag, however he ended up with one of his best finishes of the year in fourth.
Fifth went to Andrew Short, who worked his way up as high as fourth after starting the race in ninth, but the Red Bull Honda rider eventually gave way to Windham’s charge.
In the Lites division, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Austin Stroupe picked up his second win of the year, this one a flag-to-flag affair which saw him top Canidae Kawasaki’s Branden Jesseman by just over three seconds.
Third went to GEICO Powersports Honda’s Blake Wharton, who claimed his first-ever heat race win earlier in the evening.
Current Lites class points leader Christophe Pourcel started the main event in 12th place and moved into the fourth-place position on the last lap.
Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Nico Izzi, who came into the race sitting second in the series standings, failed to qualify for the main event after crashing in his heat race and then suffering a bad start in the LCQ. Izzi left New Orleans third in the standings, falling behind Stroupe, who moved up to second with his win.
“It was a technical track tonight, so I had to ride smart,” said Stroupe. “It was important to get the holeshot because I was able to get out front and ride my own race.”
AMA Supercross Class Results
1. James Stewart (Yam); 2. Chad Reed (Suz); 3. Broc Hepler (Yam); 4. Kevin Windham (Hon); 5. Andrew Short (Hon); 6. Mike Alessi (Suz); 7. Josh Grant (Yam); 8. Justin Brayton (KTM); 9. Ryan Villopoto (Kaw); 10. Matt Boni (Hon).
Eastern Regional AMA Supercross Lites Class Results
1. Austin Stroupe (Kaw); 2. Brandon Jesseman (Kaw); 3. Blake Wharton (Hon); 4. Christophe Pourcel (Kaw); 5. Wil Hahn (KTM); 6. Darryn Durham (Yam); 7. Daniel Blair (Hon); 8. Broc Tickle (Yam); 9. Matt Goerke (Suz); 10. Steven Clarke (Suz).