James Stewart clinche the 125 regional supercross title
Even sore ribs and a sore hip didn’t slow down supercross series leader Chad Reed, who won again at St Louis in front of about 49,000 fans at the Edward James Dome. Reed gained 3 points on Kevin Windham, who had an off-night. He is now 32 points ahead for the championship with 5 rounds to go.
Team Chevy Trucks Kawasaki’s James “Bubba” Stewart won at St Louis and clinched the 125 regional supercross title 2 races early and became the second-ever rider to win 125 championships on both coasts. Stewart has won every race this season and has 2 more to go, and if he wins both of those, he would be the second ever to accomplish that. The first was Ricky Carmichael in 1998.
Reed was only partially recovered from his hard crash at Daytona the previous week, then he fell again in the first practice on Friday and skipped the second practice. He tipped over in his heat race while going after Grant Langston and finished second. Langston won the heat.
Travis Pastrana was back in his first stadium event of the year. Pastrana has missed a lot of racing due to injuries, but fans haven’t forgotten him. Just like a week ago at Daytona, he had a close heat race battle with Windham that had the fans on their feet and cheering, but this time Windham won.
In the main, Nathan Ramsey took the holeshot on his Honda CRF450R, with Pastrana, Langston and Reed right behind him. Going into the third turn on the first lap, Pastrana fell and Langston ran over his ankle, ending his night.
Reed passed Ramsey for the lead on lap three, and checked out. Windham finished the first lap in 5th, and wasn’t in second until lap 5. He was close enough to make a charge for the lead and challenge Reed, but after a few laps Windham started dropping back a little, handing Reed an easy win.
Ramsey held on for third, finishing ahead of Mike LaRocco who was riding with hurt ribs himself, and Reed’s teammate David Vuillemin. For part of the main THQ World Supercross GP points leader Damon Huffman was second, then third, but he fell back to 8th when he suddenly lost several places on lap 15.
Ramsey started his season racing the 125 west regional championship, and just races the 250 class in the east. “I just knew that if I could keep the intensity level that I have during the week and in the heat races that I could be up there,” he said. It doesn’t hurt that Ramsey and Reed are neighbors and good friends, even though they are on opposing teams.
“My speed was good,” said Windham, “I know I turned a low 49 (lap time) I believe, but I wasn’t so concerned about the lap times as I was about the whoops. I wasn’t entering them fast enough. Its struggling and upsetting because I know I am better than what I did tonight.”
“It was a great weekend,” said the sore but happy Reed, “I am real happy to come out of the race and win again. Its the first time I have been able to put three together and I am really looking forward to the rest of the season and for sure our weekend off.”
Reed was asked about the heat race when he fell while chasing Langston, and if he was nervous racing close to him since Langston has been in a few bumping incidents in the recent past. “Grant is a great rider and his supercross riding gets better and better each week,” said Reed. ”He was able to be fast and win a heat race and not to many people can do that. I wasn’t afraid of being around him at all.”
When asked if he paced himself during the main and poured in on later, Reed said “People play the games more than we do. It was just a matter of riding into my pace. I was stiff and solid. I had 10 good laps under my belt and was a little warmed up, I was able to let loose a little bit and that was pretty much what it took this weekend. We take every weekend as a new weekend and make the best of every situation, that’s all you can do.”
Earlier in the program, Windham’s teammate Mike LaRocco was recognized for finishing his 200th 250 supercross. His gear sponsor Oneal brought him a specially painted helmet and a gold and platinum ring. Clear Channel gave him and his family a Hawaiian vacation, and with the help of Honda, his best gift was a new Caterpiller dozer to work on his own track with at home.
THQ World Supercross Series/THQ AMA Supercross Series Event Results, St. Louis
1. Chad Reed, Dade City, Fla., Yamaha
2. Kevin Windham, Centerville, Miss., Honda
3. Nathan Ramsey, Menifee, Calif., Honda
4. Mike LaRocco, Corona, Calif., Honda
5. David Vuillemin, Murrieta, Calif., Yamaha
6. Andrew Short, Colorado Springs, Colo., Suzuki
7. Michael Byrne, Temecula, Calif., Kawasaki
8. Heath Voss, Mico, Texas, Yamaha
9. Nick Wey, Dewitt, Mich., Suzuki
10. Sean Hamblin, Murrieta, Calif., Suzuki
THQ AMA Supercross Series Season Standings
1. Chad Reed, Dade City, Fla., Yamaha, 266
2. Kevin Windham, Centerville, Miss., Honda, 234
3. Mike LaRocco, Corona, Calif., Honda, 167
4. David Vuillemin, Murrieta, Calif., Yamaha, 205
5. Michael Byrne, Temecula, Calif., Kawasaki, 150
6. Nick Wey, Dewitt, Mich., Suzuki, 133
7. Heath Voss, Mico, Texas, Yamaha, 122
8. Damon Huffman, Valencia, Calif., Honda, 120
9. Sean Hamblin, Murrieta, Calif., Suzuki, 99
10. Grant Langston, Lake Elsinore, Calif., KTM, 98
THQ World Supercross GP Season Standings
1. Damon Huffman, Valencia, Calif., Honda, 239
2. Heath Voss, Mico, Texas, Yamaha, 224
3. Grant Langston, Temecula, Calif., KTM, 208
4. Tyler Evans, Canyon Lake, Calif., Suzuki, 198
5. Ryan Clark, Albuquerque, N.M., Yamaha, 145
6. Keith Johnson, Albuquerque, N.M., Yamaha, 124
7. Andrew Short, Colorado Springs, Colo., Suzuki, 113
8. Erick Vallejo, Dallas, Texas, Yamaha, 110
9. Mike Brown, Johnson City, Tenn., Yamaha, 95
10. Jason Thomas, Melrose, Fla., Honda, 88
“This championship might be the sweetest one yet,” said Stewart. “I’ve been very consistent this year, something that hasn’t been the case throughout my career. I’ve been fast before, but there’s always been a crash here or there that has kept me from being this consistent. ” Stewart has come under a little fire from fans who wanted him to move to the premier 250 class in 2004, but he said, “One of the main reasons for me staying in this class and not moving up to the 250s was to get another full season under my belt. My main goal is to continue to mature and get better and stronger every week. This championship feels really good.”
Stewart spent the week in Florida with his teammates Paul Carpenter and Michael Byrne, and Pro Circuit’s Eric Sorby. The time with Carpenter paid off, because he made the podium at St Louis too and shared the spotlight. Unfortunately, Sorby came up short on a triple in a heat and broke his sternum, ending his supercross season.
The series got some news faces due to the National Arenacross series wrapping up previous to this event. The new arena cross champion, Darcy Lange and his teammate Jeff Northrup joined the series for team Green/Richmond Kawasaki. Also, Juston Brayton was added for three races by the Amsoil/Chaparral team. Tommy Hofmaster, who was second for the series in Arenacross, also raced at St Louis but he rode the 250 class.
In the main, Stewart made a move under Carpenter and stole the holeshot, and after that he just checked out. No one in the race was running his pace, so the battle was for second, just like every other east race this year.
The race for second was between Josh Hansen, Kelly Smith, Carpenter and Tiger Lacey, who had an excellent start and ran in 5th for much of the race.
Carpenter moved into third by the second lap, but he wasn‘t able to make a pass on Hansen. He had to settle for third. Just missing the podium were Kelly Smith and Ryan Mills, finishing 4th and fifth, respectively.
“I have been working really hard during the week and trying to improve my speed in the whoops and this track kind of suited me a little better,” said Carpenter, “I didn’t know if this was going to be my night or not. I just came in and tried to ride the best I could and try to ride smooth and not get tight. I thought I rode pretty decent in my heat. I was kind of disappointed that Millsaps got me (in a heat race) but I rode well and was happy where I am.”
“I was thinking when I went in I had enough speed to get a podium so I was just trying to get a good start,” said Carpenter, “Icame out really good and James snuck under me in the first turn I figured I could just follow him but when I saw josh pass me I knew those two guys were going to be on the podium so I just pushed forward and try to run with them guys and run the pace and I actually felt really strong and confident with the pace I had going. I was catching him a little bit, but once I caught him, I started riding behind him a little bit. I think I should of tried to pass a little earlier on, maybe ninth or tenth lap. After I got behind him I just followed his pace and he was riding great, he is not an easy guy to pass and I don’t think anybody out there is. I could have been a little more aggressive in the whoops and tried to have put something together.
Hansen didn’t seem too disappointed finishing behind Stewart, and mentioned that he didn’t want to see Suzuki’s fast rookies ahead of him too. “I think Davi Millsaps and Broc Hepler have a lot of hype and those are 2 guys that I don’t want to beat me,” he said. “Tonight I kind of tightened up a little bit. I don’t like getting beat by 30 seconds by James,” said Hansen.
Hansen started his season racing 125 west, so he can race 125 east but doesn‘t earn points. He switched to east because he injured his hand early on and wasn‘t able to race at 100%. “Being at the test track everyday with someone like Chad I knew I had the speed it’s just all about putting it together and being healthy, being hurt can definitely set you back,” he said, “I can really step it up if I am healthy and put it up on the podium. I think the tougher sections of the track where people have problems, I shine, especially the whoops after the finish line I thought I was making up pretty good time there.”
“I was just going to go out there and have a smart race and a good time,” said Stewart, “I got the holeshot and put some laps together and had fun. I was pretty pumped. After the first triple, I was going triple triple triple thru the rhythm section and I knew that if I got a good start that is what I needed to do the first couple laps and I would build a gap and not have to ride those consistent lines to block people. I had a good feeling out there and one I got the pit board I was kind of bummed just to know that I only got 3 more races on the 125 in supercross and 3 years in it, its been a great time. I am looking forward to next year.” Stewart will race 250s full time in 2005.
After winning the 125 regional championship 2 races early, Stewart’s gear sponsor Fox Racing passed out championship t-shirts, and Kawasaki unrolled a large banner for him, but the AMA was caught unprepared. They didn’t think anyone would win a championship this early and didn’t have the traditional AMA #1 plate ready for him. He gets that next week at Indianapolis.
Sorby was second in points but his injury in his heat race made it impossible to keep Stewart from taking the title so early. Lange pulled out of the weekend after hurting his knee in practice, and his teammate Northrup was on the ground in the first turn of the main with Daniel Blair. Brayton made the main too, and finished 15th in his first supercross.
THQ AMA Supercross Series 125cc Eastern Regional Event Results, St. Louis
1. James Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Kawasaki
2. Josh Hansen, Elbert, Colo., Yamaha
3. Paul Carpenter, Ithaca, N.Y., Kawasaki
4. Kelly Smith, Ludington, Mich., Yamaha
5. Ryan Mills, Clintondale, N.Y., Honda
6. David Millsaps, Cairo, Ga., Suzuki
7. Danny Smith, Middleton, Idaho, Yamaha
8. Broc Hepler, Kittanning, Pa., Suzuki
9. Steve Boniface, Murrieta, Calif., Suzuki
10. Steve Lamson, Camino, Calif., Honda
THQ AMA Supercross Series 125cc Eastern Regional Season Standings
1. James Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Kawasaki, 125
2. Broc Hepler, Kittanning, Pa., Suzuki, 70
3. Kelly Smith, Ludington, Mich., Yamaha, 61
4. Danny Smith, Middleton, Idaho, Yamaha, 60
5. Eric Sorby, Murrieta, Calif., Kawasaki, 59
6. Ryan Mills, Clintondale, N.Y., Honda, 59
7. Steve Lamson, Camino, Calif., Honda, 57
8. Paul Carpenter, Ithaca, N.Y., Kawasaki, 55
9. David Millsaps, Cairo, Ga., Suzuki, 44
10. Bret Metcalfe, Murrieta, Calif., KTM, 41
Texts and photos by Steve Bruhn