In the hours leading up to the Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, race from Atlanta’s Georgia Dome, there was a lot of activity and buzz surrounding a cordial exchange between formal bitter rivals James Stewart and Chad Reed.
Two years after their memorable championship duel and just one year following one of the most memorable on and off-track exchanges the sport has ever seen, the pair of riders that seemingly would never see eye-to-eye were actually burying the hatchet and becoming acquaintances. With Reed entering the world of team ownership with TwoTwo Motorsports/Bel-Ray Racing for 2011 and Stewart looking to embark on a similar venture, the two riders met to discuss business and possibly move forward in their strained competitive relationship.
By the time the lights went out inside the Georgia Dome last Saturday night, all of the work and discussion between the two most successful athletes currently competing in Monster Energy Supercross had vanished. A truly electric main event pitted the old foes against one another in almost poetic fashion after the preceding encounter. Both riders gave it their all, riding at levels that have never been seen before in the sport. It was as if the clock had been turned back and the classic 7 versus 22 battle was in full effect.
The racing was clean and competitive throughout 18 laps, and then things changed. A savvy and aggressive move by Stewart in which he used his slower San Manuel Yamaha teammate Kyle Regal as a pick, put him back in the lead after pursuing Reed for nearly the entire race. He took the white flag and appeared to be headed to victory. However, Reed wasn’t finished and waited to set up his response to Stewart in hopes to re-taking the lead and a win that he felt was rightfully his.
As the duo entered the whoops, Reed rode his bike to the inside as deep as possible, losing traction and heading straight for his rival. The two collided and fell to the ground, allowing a surprised points leader in the Supercross class, Ryan Villopoto, to slip by and grab his third win of the season for Monster Energy Kawasaki.
“It was a gift and I’ll take it,” said Villopoto. “Adding more points to the list is awesome. The tracks have been difficult, which makes it hard to separate each other. It was a blessing for sure, but it’s racing, and sometimes it comes in disguises.”
As they remounted and re-entered the race, both Stewart and Reed were presented with an additional challenge from defending champion Ryan Dungey and his Rockstar/Makita Suzuki in fourth place. The three riders followed fender-to-fender on the way to the checkered flag, when Stewart saw Reed looking to his inside yet again as they approached the final corner. He made a move to his right, blocking Reed, and they met again, allowing Dungey to slip by on the outside and steal his third straight runner-up finish.
The contact helped Reed get back by Stewart and as they rode back towards the podium, the heated exchanges had already begun. Reed expressed his own displeasure towards the tactics of his longtime rival on the podium while Stewart promptly returned to his pit to process what had just occurred.
“In the end, 25 points were on the line,” explained Reed. “I was expecting James [Stewart] to put it up the inside of me as I would put it up the inside of him, through it all we both went down on the final turn. It hurts and it’s gratifying to know that I rode a solid 20 laps. I felt like it was a good race. We all made our own mistakes, but we all recovered and were fighting till the end. I’m just happy to be on the podium.”
“Obviously, you know it’s a tough incident,” stated Stewart, adding his thoughts on the incident. “I race different than most competitors. I try not going into lanes like the way Reed did. I didn’t see it coming and I certainly didn’t expect for him to go a runway down the track and take me out. I seem to always get the short end of the stick. It’s one of things where anything goes now, moving forward, we’ll continue on with the team and try to win the championship.”
Stewart versus Reed has long been one of the most intense rivalries in all of motorsports. Respect for one another’s ability is possibly the most positive thing either has to say about his counterpart and after lying dormant for 13 months, their perceived animosity towards one another has returned. They appear to be back at square one, ready to go toe-to-toe and bar-to-bar for the rest of the 2011 Monster Energy Supercross season.
Photo Credit: Hoppenworld.com