Photography by Kit Palmer
ANAHEIM, CA, JAN. 2 – James Stewart didn’t get knee surgery during the off-season, instead opting to put in the work needed to strengthen the knee. And it seems to have worked.
Stewart has spent the last three weeks testing and testing hard, his Yoshimura Suzuki team manager Mike Webb says - the Floridian having been in California almost exclusively of late with the exception of a trip back for the holidays.
Now it’s just a matter of going racing against the deepest 450 Supercross field in recent memory.
“Last year was deep… you know with both Ryans [Villopoto and Dungey], Chad [Reed], myself, Justin [Barcia] and now Ken [Roczen] and Eli [Tomac] are in it,” Stewart said today at the pre-Anaheim Supercross press conference. “And even other guys that are coming back from injury, Davi [Millsaps] and Trey [Canard]. So there’s a lot of wins, there’s a lot of championships. Everybody up on here has won a championship. So I think that says a lot and I think it’s pretty special to be a part of and I’m excited.”
As for Anaheim… well, it’s all about the hype. Everyone comes in thinking they have a a chance and everyone hopes to get out of here a winner. Or at least with a bundle of points.
“I think the hype… I mean when we go to the press days they’re never like this so I think the hype around A1 is a big one, but when you’ve been here a lot you get used to it,” Stewart said. “For me I think it’s easier than the middle part of the months… I think it’s easier, but I don’t think it really matters much. I think the biggest thing is to getting out of here safe and with some points and go from there.”
Stewart is honest in his assessment of the much talked about changes to the program with this year’s 450 class to feature semi finals as well as heat races, the LCQ and the main event. Basically, he has no idea because he’s never had to worry about semis.
“With the changes and stuff… To be honest I won so many heat races then [the last time they had this format] I don’t even remember ever going to a semi. I can’t remember what year they changed it… I think it’s cool. I think the track will deteriorate a little bit more. I think it gives the guys a better chance cause even sometimes I’ve been to an LCQ and it’s nerve wrecking.”
Like the rest, Stewart says he’s ready. Like the rest, only time will tell.
“I feel good. I feel good,” Stewart said. “We had a great off season. The healthiest I’ve been in a long time. I feel good. I think me and the team… we’ve got a lot of work to just build off the [Monster] Cup, from that victory and we’re really looking forward to racing on Saturday.”
Stewart was told by the host of the press conference that he was a good sprint racer with a lot of heat race victories. But, he asked, what about laps 10 through 20?
“I’m a good racer,” Stewart responded. “I’m a good racer. I’ve won championships. I’ve won races. So we’ll see.”
Stewart looks lean and mean heading into Saturday night. He says that’s a byproduct of being healthy.
“I’ve been healthy,” he said. “I haven’t had any injuries or setbacks. So that definitely helps. I took that month off right after outdoors and really got a chance to kind of relax. And then, obviously, we went into Vegas and won that one. So like I said, I feel good. I think that all accounts to just being healthy and preparing for the UFC fight. It’s going to be a fight this year so you gotta to be ready for it.”