Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing’s James Stewart made a triumphant return Saturday by winning the second running of the Red Bull Straight Rhythm at the Fairplex in Pomona, California. Stewart won the premier 450 event in a showdown with fellow Suzuki rider Ken Roczen. Stewart won two consecutive rounds in the final of the Straight Rhythm, eliminating the need for a third round in the best-of-three format.
It marked Stewart’s second win in the special Straight Rhythm competition, in the event’s second year. It was a memorable day for the Stewart family – James’ younger brother Malcolm won the 250 class of the event.
Stewart was a bit concerned after qualifying third on Friday with a time of 43:02 on the half-mile-long track that is essentially a hybrid of a Supercross track and a drag strip, or what many people call a Supercross with no turns. Stewart turned it around on Saturday.
“We found some speed,” Stewart said before adding. “I’ve got to clean up a couple of things, but overall it went pretty good. I think I can find a little bit more speed. The right lane is tougher that the left lane, so I think that’s why a lot of guys, including myself, messed up on that. Hopefully that will get worn down a little bit, but for now the left side is where you want to go right now. After yesterday I was down a little bit, but the guys on my team told me that when it came race time I would be there. I appreciated their belief in me.”
Stewart continued to get stronger as he progressed through the bracket on Saturday.
Perhaps the most exciting and competitive race of the day came in the Semifinal against rival Ryan Dungey. Dungey held the lead most of the way, but Stewart blitzed through the whoop section taking the lead and winning by a half-wheel length. The fans roared their approval as the two crossed the line nearly side by side with Stewart making it to the final.
It all came down to the championship round between two Suzuki RM-Z450-mounted riders in Stewart and Roczen.
In the first round Stewart was in the right lane, the one he said earlier was the tougher of the two. It didn’t matter though as Stewart powered through on his Yoshimura Suzuki, hit the jumps perfectly and bettered Roczen to take the early advantage.
There was still plenty of pressure in the second leg of the final. A victory would win it for Stewart, but a loss would mean an all-or-nothing final round. Fortunately for Stewart the race was over early. Roczen crossed over the white line, a disqualifying penalty, and knowing he’d done so pulled up and rolled to the finish. At one point Stewart looked over and realized he was clear of Roczen and he threw his fist up in celebration over the last couple of jumps. Fans gave Stewart a standing ovation for his victory. Stewart conveyed his gratitude for their support in the post-race interview.
“I appreciate everybody that’s been supportive of me while I was off,” Stewart said of his return after a 16-month suspension from competition. “You don’t understand how good this feels, I’m just stoked right now. And congratulations to my brother for stepping up and winning his class. There was a lot of pressure on me. When I won that first race and I heard these guys cheering for me… it’s been over a year since I’ve had that. It’s just unbelievable. I thank everyone so much.”
Yoshimura Suzuki will be back in action next Saturday, Oct. 17, at the Monster Energy Cup at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas.
Team Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing is grateful for the support of their sponsors: Yoshimura R&D, Suzuki Motor of America, Dunlop, Motorex, Showa, Renthal, Vortex, Shorai, Elf Racing Fuels, Seven, Hinson Clutch Components, RG3, Matrix, Works Connection, GET, Excel, NGK, D.I.D., Twin Air, Moto Tassinari, Roy’s Cyclery, Guts Racing Products, Mechanix Wear, Kokusan Denki, N-Style and Ogio.