Stewart Proves Himself Again in Texas
If there was any question about whether James Stewart’s Hangtown win was a fluke, he eased any and all doubt in Texas. Stewart emerged victorious at Freestone County Raceway with a 1-1 finish for the second-straight race over closest competitor Ryan Dungey, and now has people whispering about whether he can repeat the 24-0 success he celebrated in 2008. It may seem too early to make those claims, but one thing is clear, Stewart is hungry for a championship.
As we saw in 2011, it’s a little early to be making championship predictions. For Ryan Villopoto, the opening rounds of 2011 didn’t have many looking to him as the season’s victor, but after 24 grueling motos, he captured his first 450 class championship. One rider that isn’t going to make Stewart’s dream of another championship any easier, is Dungey, who kept Stewart honest in both motos at Freestone. Dungey looks to be the most consistent rider behind Stewart, and after getting roosted for two 30-minute motos, he’s sounds more motivated than ever to see his No. 5 machine out front.
To prove that Stewart might only have to worry about Dungey, we take a look at third place overall finisher Mike Alessi. He may have found himself on the podium again, but he was no where near Dungey or Stewart when he crossed the line in third during Moto 2. He was over a minute back from the top-two finishers, which doesn’t make him a solid candidate to challenge for the lead, but he has shown some consistency and finds himself third in points.
The shock of the day came before the first moto had started as the JGRMX Yamaha team announced that Davi Millsaps would be sitting out the race in Texas. A practice crash left Millsaps with severe bruising, and after attempting to ride both practices, it was decided that it was best to heal up for Round 3 in Colorado.
Unlike the 450 class, the 250 class saw a different rider dominate at Freestone. Eli Tomac started the day by setting the fastest lap in practice -a time that would have placed him sixth in the 450 class qualifying- then went on to dominate both motos. He needed the points after a tough race at Hangtown, and sits third in the championship standings, 15 points down from points leader Blake Baggett. El Chupacabra (aka Baggett) didn’t make it easy on himself in either moto, getting terrible starts, which forced him to battle through the pack in both motos instead of hunting down Tomac. Baggett had comparable times to Tomac in each moto, which could have made for a much different race if his starts on par.
Third overall rider Ken Roczen didn’t have a spectacular day, but still put in two solid motos, moving him into second in the championship standings. Many had predicted more out of Roczen considering his success in Europe, but its taking him some time for him to adjust to the heat and shorter race-day schedule in the U.S. After a little more time to become accustom to the tracks in the U.S., Roczen could very well find himself on top of the podium. One final mention from Texas is for the hometown boy Blake Wharton, from Pilot Point, Texas, who led Moto 2 for six laps before Tomac got by. He finished the day fourth overall and moved up to fifth in the points standings.
A few things to watch for next week as the series heads to Thunder Valley MX Park in Lakewood, Colo. The 250 class is up for grabs as last year’s winner Baggett takes on Colorado native Tomac, The real spoiler of the day could be Roczen, who learned the Thunder Valley track back at the Motocross of Nations in 2010. All eyes will be on James Stewart in the 450 class. Fans will be waiting to see if anyone can put and end to his win-streak.