Interview: James Stewart Orlando SX
By JC Hilderbrand
Kawasaki's James Stewart is a tough man to get ahold of. The 20-year-old title contender in the AMA Amp'd Mobile Supercross series is at the top of every journalist's interview list. Young, talented, and African American, James' story appeals to a wide variety of media outlets, not just moto-journalists. Battling with local TV crews and newspaper reporters we finally got a chance to sit down with Lucky 7 and run through some of the thoughts racing through his mind.
The SX series has returned to his home state of Florida for two rounds of action, one of which took place last weekend in Daytona where James crashed hard while leading the main event. He managed to salvage the outing by working up to sixth place, but it was another missed opportunity for the Supercross class sophomore. Currently in third place in the overall standings, Stewart has some serious ground to make up on his rival, Makita Suzuki's Ricky Carmichael, and runner-up, Chad Reed. Despite the dire situation, Stewart seemed relaxed and happy when we sat down with him in Orlando as he was preparing for his hometown race.
MotoUSA: It's busy, man. Everyone wants a piece of you today.
James Stewart: Yeah, it's all good though.
MotoUSA: I haven't talked to you before so tell me what's up. How's it going towards the end of the season coming into your home state?
: It's good you know? I felt like I've had a fairly decent year so far. I'm in third in the standings and I've won five races this year. I feel like I'm doing the right program. The last few weekends we've had a little battle. I've gone down in the first turn and come back up to second so I'm riding good this year. It feels good coming back to Orlando though. My house is only 30 minutes away so it's cool.
MotoUSA: That's been your Achilles Heel, man, that first turn. What's the deal with that?
: Yeah, I think the first time I was being too cautious and going in there trying not to fall. Last weekend, I actually pulled the holeshot so I was pumped on that, but the weekend before I hit a rock going in there and the weekend before that I tangled with somebody so it's just unfortunate that I keep having to deal with some small things.
MotoUSA: So you're in third place, 26 points down from first. Third place is great by anybody's standards, but you know that you should be up there winning these things. How's your focus and are you just trying to get up there in the points, or going for wins, or is it just about pride at this point? You still have six races so something could still happen.
: Yeah, we had a 25-point swing in one race so I always try to stay positive and think that things can happen. I don't feel like I'm out of it, I like to just go out there and have fun and do what I love to do and that's race motorcycles. I feel like that (racing) will take care of itself. I do my homework during the week and it's not a pride thing because I know I bust my behind every day of the week and I always walk off the track with my head up high saying I gave it everything.
MotoUSA: At least Byrner was filling in last week when you had some troubles so how's that going with him? You guys are doing pretty well as a duo.
: We're doing great. I was really stoked for Byrner last week and I wish I could have been up there with him, but I was pumped for him. He rode great and unfortunately I went down, but I was pumped for him. He stayed at my house this week and the week before that so we've got a good system going. We're great teammates.
MotoUSA: Did you guys just bust out lap after lap all week or did you go play around? Did you take him for a spin on that ZX-6 of yours?
: Well the week before we played around and had fun and stuff, but this week was actually riding all day. We had testing and then we had to do Supercross riding too. So we rode a lot.
MotoUSA: Are you guys doing any outdoor prep yet?
: Yeah, that's what we were doing; it was getting ready for outdoors. That season is coming up in the next eight weeks or so we're just getting ready for that (Editor's Note: The Hangtown opener is on May 21, 10 weeks away).
MotoUSA: So the 450, you've got to be stoked about going outdoors with that thing.
: Yeah, I was pumped racing last year and stuff, but I just got worn down. This year I'm really excited to start off the first race right and we'll just go from there.
MotoUSA: Back to Supercross then. I understand why you and Ricky follow each other to see each other's lines and then put a pass on at the end of the race. Has that been your strategy so far when you guys get in those battles because that's the way it looks from the stands?
: Yeah, a few races I thought the best thing to do was to try to stay behind and find some good lines, but a few races I tried jumping up front and then run my own thing. It works out sometimes and sometimes it don't. We go to every weekend and see how things play off, how the lap times are, how close we are and then we go from there.
MotoUSA: With that being the case, whether you're in front or he's in front, it's smart to wait to put your move on until the end so there's less of a chance to get passed back. I would love to see you guys duke it out, man, lap after lap and I think you guys can do that. Is it not in your game plan to get into that kind of battle?
: Maybe this weekend is the weekend we'll do it. At some of the races I've been a little faster where it wouldn't really make sense if I'd have just got out front. Maybe I'd have just pulled away. Sometimes he's been faster where it's the same for him. I think that until we get a dead even speed I don't think you'll get to see that. Every weekend either I'm better or he's better. We're always a little bit faster than each other every weekend. I think it's going to come down to one of these last six races. I think it would be great.
MotoUSA: Nice! I'm dying to see that. So do you get along well with Ricky?
: Yeah, we talk and I speak to him before we go out and race, but when we race we have respect for each other but also we're competition. I don't think you'll see us down at Starbucks together having lattes, but besides for that we're having fun.
MotoUSA: OK, to kind of get away from racing a little bit. It's got to be good to be in your home state of Florida. What do you do around here when you're not practice?
: Well when I'm here I ride a lot. I've got a track right out in front of me and I'm either riding my big bike or my 110s. I rode those yesterday actually, a little bit. I'm really excited just to keep riding and I have a practice facility here. Besides that, if I'm not riding then I'm driving my cars, for sure.
MotoUSA: I was actually going to ask you about your cars. Anything new in the stable?
: Naw, I've actually been kind of calm on it. I still got my Fox Hummer and stuff like that. I've got my Range Rover and then or course my Lamborghini. I just haven't really bought anything different since then.
MotoUSA: So what's your favorite then?
: Probably my Range Rover. It's the quietest, it looks good... I'm feelin' it.
MotoUSA: What about that ZX-6? I was at Two Bros awhile back doing some work there and I saw it. They talked to us about it a bit and said you've been ripping up and down on it, putting some miles in. Is that the case?
: That's the best thing about getting a present that those guys give you is that you can actually ride it. I was pumped when I got that thing and was like, "Hey, I'm going to go for it." That thing looks so good, everybody checks it out.
MotoUSA: You ever throw that thing in the back of your truck and roll around?
: Naw, but if I'm not going to ride it then that's what I'll start doing because it's not really street legal. I don't even have any license plates on it. It's a race bike.
MotoUSA: Alright, man, just one more thing if you would. This is my first time in Orlando and we're roughly the same age, what's the spot to be at? I've got some time to kill tomorrow.
: Yeah, I've got time to kill today and I was talking to my friend about that and I think the best place to go is the mall down there. Millennium Mall, that's the place to hang out at and it's spring break too, so it'll be good.
MotoUSA: Well I'll check it out. Thanks a lot James, good luck.
: Alright, thank you.