By John Basher
Days before the 2010 Supercross series was set to kick off at Anaheim 1, Red Bull invited the media on a special trip to introduce their sponsored athletes. The energy drink powerhouse is known for throwing unique events and launch parties. Back in 2009, they brought a ton of their moto athletes out to the top-secret Wyvern facility in Piru, California. Robbie Maddison was launching into a foam pit for photographers, while Davi Millsaps and Ivan Tedesco was getting unhinged off a metal ramp located on the practice Supercross track. So, the next year when I received the invitation to a meet and greet on January 6th, 2010, I was all in.
Red Bull asked the media to meet at a specific address in Long Beach, California. Normally I research where I’m going. That’s probably because in the past I’ve ventured to unwelcome locations (Compton) because I made a wrong turn. However, I didn’t think twice about seeing where I was going. I was a hamster in the Red Bull wheel. It didn’t matter where I was going, because I knew that I was going to be in good hands.
I pulled up to a nondescript building on the outskirts of Long Beach. A helicopter sat idly, and a signed welcomed me that said, “See Catalina Island now. Just a short flight away!” That’s when I realized something super awesome was going down. A helicopter plus a camera plus Supercross riders at Catalina Island? Sweet! I figured that we were going to race scooters through Avalon. Only instead of scooters, guys like James Stewart, Cole Seely and Davi Millsaps were going to ride a small track built by freestyle course builder, Dane Herron.
“NOT TO BE OUTDONE, JAMES STEWART CURLED THE NOSE OF HIS SAN MANUEL YAMAHA YZ450F OVER. HE WAS NEARLY UPSIDE-DOWN BEFORE LONG. MINDS WERE BLOWN, THAT RED NUMBER ONE PLATE STREAKING THROUGH THE SKY IN A TRAJECTORY THAT DEFIED THE LAWS OF PHYSICS.”
Red Bull had gone to the effort of sending the rider’s bikes across the channel on a boat beforehand. They flew the riders and media on the 29-mile journey in helicopters. It took 15 minutes, give or take, to make the trip. Upon landing, we were whisked to the makeshift track in utility vehicles. Before us sat a few piles of dirt and two metal freestyle ramps. The riders scoped the jumps and started launching over the 70-foot gaps. A step-down double was particularly hairy, but not for the masters of moto. Seely started cracking off whips. Not to be outdone, James Stewart curled the nose of his San Manuel Yamaha YZ450F over. He was nearly upside-down before long. Minds were blown, that red number one plate streaking through the sky in a trajectory that defied the laws of physics.
James Stewart has wowed crowds since the time he was riding for Team Green on a mini cycle. I still remember the first time I saw him race. It was way back in the mid-1990s, and Bubba was lapping the field during amateur day at High Point. I had seen Stewart in magazine advertisements, but pictures didn’t reveal his true talents. Watching him hang off the back of that KX80 was unreal, especially to a kid like me. Of course you know the rest of the Stewart saga. He was a 125 prodigy, had some bumps and bruises when transitioning to the 450 class, went 24-0 during the 2008 Nationals, won several championships, and then made a few poor decisions in racing and his personal life. Bubba hit the ultimate low when he was busted for performance-enhancing drugs. Now he’s set to return to action once again, and he looks better than ever. That’s scary, because a determined Stewart is a dangerous Stewart.
On that day in 2010, James Stewart was the best Supercross racer on Earth. This photo reminds me of how good he was, and serves as a reminder that his talents on a motorcycle are second-to-none. I can’t wait to see James Stewart back on the track, but also back on track. I’m rooting for him. Are you?