From the moment he started quading through rhythm sections in his heat race, it was clear that no one had anything for James Stewart at Anaheim II. The L&M Racing San Manuel rider had the slippery and technical track dialed, and in the main event he proceeded to grab the holeshot and run away with the lead. Just when we all started to think he might just be human after all, James Stewart reminded everyone of his ability to transcend the entire field, which he did at Angel Stadium.Congratulations on a flawless win.
Tonight was fantastic. I just had a great heat race, great practices so it just worked out. The main event felt comfortable; I got a great start and just put my head down and just rode from there.You were the only rider to quad through that second rhythm section. You weren’t even practicing that during the day. Did you just start doing it in the heat race?
I did it once in practice and then I just started doing it in the heat race and I was pretty comfortable doing it. The first lap [of the main] I didn’t do it, but 19 out of 20 laps I did it. It was tough for sure, but the Yamaha was running fantastic and I was glad to get it done.Looked like you took off with the lead, opened up a gap and then just did what you needed to do to maintain a solid lead.
For sure. I felt comfortable tonight. I’m getting better each race, for sure. I just wanted to put some decent laps in. In the past I didn’t really get going in the beginning and that gave everybody the chance to get in there, and you know how it is, start battling. But tonight I just wanted to ride my own race. It felt comfortable from the beginning. The guys here at San Manuel had the bike working awesome so it made it easy.Tonight you were looking like the James Stewart we remember – dominating from flag to flag. Do you feel like you’re getting into your groove?
Yeah, I think my biggest thing is trying to find my rhythm. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in my race form. It’s taken me five races to start getting that close and I’m starting to get there. I’m going to go to Houston and continue to keep the ball rolling. We got two in a row so we’ll see about next week; I just want to play it as it comes. I want to be there in the end for the championship and you just gotta be on the box each weekend and try to limit the damages. Obviously for me it was a great win but next week we’ll just see what we have to do – whatever it takes to win the race and get on the podium.You didn’t ride the second practice session, which raised some questions. Why did you sit that one out?
I’m still just sore [from crashing at the Oakland Supercross the weekend prior]. I jammed my back pretty good and hurt my shoulders and my neck. With racing you got a long season and every chance you get to just recover a bit, I do it. To me, I learn the track pretty quick. The track was tough tonight so I felt good and confident to go sit [the second practice session out] and let my back rest. It worked out.Being out most of last year you didn’t get much time to race against guys you’re battling with now like Trey Canard and Ryan Dungey. Are you still getting familiar with those guys?
Yeah, for sure. Last year although I wasn’t racing I was watching a lot of videos and I see Trey – he’s a fantastic rider. I only really rode with Dungey a couple times last year. So that’s kinda new. Unfortunately for him he had a bike malfunction with the chain breaking. That sucks, for sure.
What sort of advice would you have for Dungey, who must be feeling pretty discouraged right now?
Yeah, that’s tough. I was there my first year on Yamahas. I guess just try to keep pushing. He knows what to do. He’s a champion. I’ve been there before, like I said. It’s a long season and you just gotta keep it moving.By the way, it was really exciting to see the sprinkler again!
[laughs] Thank you! I pulled it out, and like, stalled on it but it’s all good. We’ll start getting tricky if I start winning some more. It feels good!Chad ReedHe’s not on top yet, but Chad Reed is on the move. In the typical “Reedy” style, he’s showing consistency and gaining momentum in the early rounds, and looking to really turn it on as the series prepares to head back east. Reed talked about his second podium finish in a row, where he’s at with testing, and what it’s going to take to get some wins this season.Are you happy with the way your night went?
Overall I felt like it was a really positive day, a really positive night. I learned a lot. I think in past weeks I’ve always come off the track thinking, ‘Okay we need to work on the bike here, here and here,’ and we’ve gone to work during the week. Tonight I came off the track thinking, ‘Okay, I gotta get faster!’ I think the bike’s awesome; I think we’re solid with that and now it’s up to me to go home and not think about testing – just think about getting after my motos and getting faster.What did you think of the track tonight?
I don’t think anyone likes when it’s that slick, but I actually didn’t mind the track. You gotta be real cautious and be gentle on the throttle and brakes and pick your lines really well. It’s an element that you need to work out and makes you think a little bit.Talk about how your season has been so far.
We’ve made a lot of progress over the last four weeks and we’ve made good decisions and good choices. Honda was amazing this week and helped us out with some direction. It was a real positive first few races, I think. From where we were at Anaheim one, the result was good. [At Anaheim one] It was a distant top-five and then from there we just built, built and built. I feel that it’s time to go to Florida and get back into my normal program of riding my tracks and doing some motos. I haven’t been to Florida since September so I’m sure excited and happy to go home and not have to be living out of a suitcase. With a nine-month old, that’s challenging. I think the wife was about to divorce me if we didn’t go home this week! [laughs] Overall I think we have a good positive vibe. I’m looking forward to going back home and doing some work back there and trying to work on my race pace.How is the little man? Is he walking yet?
He stands and he crawls around and he can walk with a walker. He’s taken a few steps here and there but he’s a little sketchy on his feet. He’s not there yet but I’d say in the next couple weeks he’ll be walking, which is crazy! It’s awesome; I love being a father. After the race I’m always thinking about what I need to work on and as soon as I see Ellie and Tate, I just forget about everything. I’m just happy I’m on the podium and that I got my whole team there.It seems like you’re really in a good place, mentally, right now.
I’m happy and I really, truly feel like we’re focused. I have goals and the guys on the team have goals and I think that when their leader is excited and wanting to push forward and not willing to settle for seconds or thirds or fourths, I think it motivates them. I put everything into it and they do in return. I’m so happy and so proud of my guys. I feel that we have the happiest and the most fun group of people in the pits. And I think we were the best dressed today for sure! It’s a real blast. From where we’ve come in a short amount of time, I think it’s rewarding to get podiums and to work with some amazing people.
In tonight’s main, aside from the first two laps it looked like kind of a lonely race for you.
I was riding with Ryan [Villopoto] and I was watching his times close to mine. There were a couple sections of the racetrack that he was really, really strong on. After the finish and up underneath the tunnel and into the first turn he would just kill me right there on the flat stuff. It’s nice to recognize that and know that we have some work to do right there. We’ll get to work. This is not my first time in this position where I need to find some speed. We’re going back to the East Coast, which is familiar territory and it’s always treated me really good so we’re going to get after it.Ken RoczenThe rookie teenager who everyone has their eye on – Ken Roczen – finally arrived on the podium at Anaheim II. The Red Bull KTM rider got off to a great start and ran inside the top-three with Josh Hansen and Eli Tomac in the Lites main. The trio dazzled the Anaheim crowd with a relentless three-way battle throughout the 15 laps, and though Roczen made a few last-lap efforts to get by Tomac, he had to settle for third. It still marked a career-best for Roczen, who was excited to end his night on the podium.We’ve known you were capable of getting on the podium for a while now, and tonight it finally happened! How does it feel?
It’s amazing! I didn’t know how tonight was going to be because I was sick this week and I crashed on Thursday and hit my heel again so I don’t know… it was mixed feelings. I came here not with the fastest lap times but I felt really good. I didn’t have arm pump for the whole day. I felt great so I feel like I can actually win one race. That’s actually what I will go for at the next race is the win.You had some really great battles in the main. Tell me about that.
They were awesome. I think it was good for the crowd. I felt good in the whoops. On the last lap I almost passed Eli [Tomac] there but I was on the outside and I couldn’t make it. But it just feels good to be on the podium. I definitely needed that.It looked like the last few whoops were starting to break down and you were almost bobbling on the last few laps.
They were big, actually! They were bigger than the other ones. The hard thing is that if there’s someone right in front of you, it’s easy to lose concentration. I gotta work on that.Did you like the track tonight?
Yeah. It was really technical. The rhythm sections were tricky. The moisture was coming up so it got really slick, but I went my first main event without crashing so I’m happy! [laughs]You finally got a good start and it looked like that was a big factor tonight.
Well, the last starts have been really good but this was probably one of the best. I was really good in the first corner but [Josh] Hansen took me high so I lost a couple positions there.It looked like he stood you up a little in that first turn.
Exactly.In that second rhythm section, you were the only rider to quad through and backside that table. That seemed to help you out, too.
I think it was good. I could gain speed there and come a bit closer. [The split seconds are] what counts. That’s what makes closing the gap possible.