Stewart Takes Momentum To St. Louis

James Stewart, shown earlier this season, will miss the final three AMA Supercross events in order to recover from a wrist injury. (Feld Entertainment photo)
James Stewart, shown earlier this season, won the last Monster Energy Supercross race at the Georgia Dome. (Feld Entertainment photo)

AURORA, Ill. – Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, will travel to the Midwest on Saturday with its annual visit to St. Louis’ Edward Jones Dome. One week ago, Team Yoshimura Suzuki’s James Stewart became the fifth different winner in eight races this season.

However, it will be Rockstar Energy Racing’s Davi Millsaps who leads the field into action tomorrow night as the 450SX Class points leader.

After arguably his worst Main-Event start of the season in his hometown race at the Georgia Dome, Millsaps managed to battle his way into a podium position. The two-time winner this season asserted himself in third place and stayed there to claim his seventh podium finish in eight races, albeit losing a little ground in the championship. The result was even more impressive considering Millsaps is enduring an illness.

“I’m feeling a little better this week, [but] I still have sinus problems,” said Millsaps. “I don’t know what it is. It’s pretty bad and I’ve been taking medicine for it. It gets to the point where I can’t see very well, and I’m definitely having trouble breathing. All in all, the cold is gone but these symptoms are just lingering. I’m pretty over it and I’m not going to let it hold me back anymore. [James] Stewart and [Ryan] Villopoto just rode a really good race and I didn’t get the best start. I was trying, [but] I was just making little mistakes everywhere. I was worried about them and [Justin] Barcia. I need to quit doing that and just worry about myself. I’m just pumped to be on the box again and go into St. Louis.”

After an up and down season littered with misfortune, Stewart definitely needed the kind of performance he provided in Atlanta. The Georgia race tends to serve as Stewart’s adopted hometown event, so he had the privilege of winning in front of a lot of family and friends. After capturing the holeshot, Stewart dominated en route to a wire-to-wire win and his 45th career 450SX Class victory. Stewart reclaimed seventh in the championship standings and has his sights set on a continued upward climb.

“What can I say, we won,” said Stewart. “I felt good and I was just trying to stay in my head and focus. I have to give it up to the Yoshimura Suzuki team. They’ve been working so hard and they’ve stood by me [during] this up-and-down year. Now I’m looking forward to building on this momentum and heading to St. Louis.”

Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto shed two points off his deficit to Millsaps in the championship, thanks to a strong runner-up finish in Atlanta. Villopoto was the only rider to stay within striking distance of Stewart throughout the Main Event and ultimately moved into second in the standings. With three wins this season, Villopoto leads all riders and heads to a venue where he is the defending race winner.

“We moved into second in the standings last week,” said Villopoto. “And now I just need to keep doing what I can to score as many points as possible. The field is really deep with talent so I know I have my work cut out for me to get another title. I won in St. Louis last year, so I hope I can get back on top of the box again.”

Fellow Monster Energy Kawasaki rider Jake Weimer made his return to competition last weekend after suffering broken ribs several races ago. Weimer posted a solid top-10 finish in eighth and began his process of climbing back up the championship standings, where he currently sits 12th. With another week of rest under his belt, Weimer will look to improve his results in St. Louis.

“Last week I wasn’t 100% but I knew I could finish the 20 laps,” said Weimer. “Now I’ll have another week of recovery, and I think I will be close to or even at full strength for the race. I’m glad we are in domes right now so we don’t have to worry about weather as much.”

Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey had a four-race podium streak entering Atlanta and was in possession of second place in the championship. However, Dungey did not get good starts in either his Heat Race or the Main Event and was forced to battle from behind all evening long. Despite starting outside the top 10 in the Main Event, Dungey fought his way to a solid sixth-place finish but fell to third in the championship and now has a deficit to Millsaps that goes beyond one race.

Team Honda Muscle Milk’s Trey Canard is still looking for the speed that made him a title contender in the early portion of the season. Since his last podium finish at the second race in Anaheim in January, Canard is averaging just over a sixth-place finish, which has, in turn, forced him to lose ground in the standings. However, he still maintains possession of fourth place as he looks to establish some consistency on the heels of a fifth-place effort in Atlanta, where he also needed to qualify for the Main Event through the LCQ.

Fellow Team Honda Muscle Milk rider Justin Barcia continued his recent string of strong results with a fourth-place finish at his home race in Atlanta. Barcia pressured Millsaps for third for a good portion of the Main Event, but rather than risk losing positions, he took the points and now continues his upward progress in the championship, sitting in sixth place, 11 points behind Chad Reed for fifth.

“Overall the night went okay,” stated Barcia, who had won the last two seasons in Atlanta as a 250SX Class rider. “This is basically my home race so I was really hoping for a podium finish, but it is an improvement from last weekend. I felt good in the main and stayed close to [Davi] Millsaps, but was never able to make a solid attempt at a pass. I know what we need to work on, and I am ready to head to St. Louis.”

TwoTwo Motorsports Honda rider Reed suffered one of his worst outings of the season in Atlanta, finishing ninth. Reed wasn’t able to get a good start and had difficulty making passes in his quest to move forward through the talented field. Reed is still winless in 2013 and is in the midst of a 22-race winless streak that dates back to Los Angeles last season.