Stewart Picks Up Where He Left Off
It’s been some time since James Stewart competed in the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship Series. With the exception of one moto raced at Unadilla in 2010, its been three whole season’s since we’ve seen the No. 7 race during the summer months. Stewart made his exit from the series in 2008 with a perfect 24-0 season under his belt and at the Hangtown Classic, Stewart started the streak once again.
While Stewart’s 1-1 finish on Saturday spoke volumes, the riders battling behind him were proving that they could be worthy challengers in the future. Former champion Ryan Dungey should never be counted out, especially at the end of a moto. He was the one competitor that forced Stewart to push harder than he had all day in the second moto. If it wasn’t for a few lapped racers, the final few laps could have been a bit more interesting. Another rider that stood out was Jake Weimer, who came around on the first lap of the first moto in 40th and used the entire 35 minutes to race up to 10th place. It makes you wonder that if he had been inside the top 10 at the start, if he would have been able to fight for the lead. After earning second place in the opening moto, Davi Millsaps also had to come-from-behind after going down in the second moto. On an even rougher Hangtown track, Millsaps came from 38th to 14th with a hurt elbow, making up valuable points.
One thing that doesn’t happen too often is a three-way tie for an overall finishing position. After the second moto concluded, Mike Alessi, Andrew Short, and Brett Metcalfe all accumulated 34 points, putting them in a tie for third overall. Alessi finished the second moto with the better finishing position of third, which awarded him his first podium finish since the MotoX-338 National in 2010.
We can’t start talking about the 250 class without first mentioning two words that described the first moto: El Chupacabra. The Spanish nickname was given to Blake Baggett last year after he repeatedly won motos after starting from unfavorable positions that seemed impossible to win races from. No one was safe from the El Chpacabra and once again, Baggett lived up to the name. During the first moto, he started in sixth and slowly used every lap of the moto to finally have both first and second place in his sights as the riders were given the white flag. Amazingly, Baggett passed both Ken Roczen and Justin Barcia just moments before the checkered flag waved. Baggett then went on to win the second moto by 8.8 seconds, giving him a perfect 1-1 score to start out the season.
While Baggett was putting on a show for the spectators of the Hangtown Classic in Moto 1, reigning 250 class champion Dean Wilson was sitting in the pits talking to TV cameras. During the moto, Wilson’s shoulder, the same one he injured during the Seattle Supercross, had given him enough trouble that he knew that racing less than 100 percent was going to get him even more hurt. Wilson made the difficult decision to bow out and get the necessary surgery needed to get him back to 100 percent.
Despite losing one of the series favorites, the 250 class is stacked with talent. Ken Roczen led the majority of the first moto before being overtaken by Baggett, and Justin Barcia led four laps in each moto. Also, Eli Tomac was quick in the first moto, along with Ivan Tedesco, who raced his first 250 event since winning the title in 2005. While the opening round showed spectators where riders were at, there are 11 more rounds to shake things up, including the always-scorching Freestone National this weekend.