Stewart out for Anaheim 2?

by Jon Row

Rumors are swirling after James Stewart was a no show at today's Anaheim 2 press conference. Because of injuries sustained in his heat and main event crashes at Phoenix last weekend, Stewart's status for Saturday's round of the 2010 Monster SX series is questionable. Team L & M Yamaha manager Larry Brooks said he didn't know if James would be able to ride A-2. The team would also not elaborate on the severity of the injuries although they acknowledged there is significant rib and shoulder trauma. Brooks and #2 L & M team rider Josh Hill attempted to placate some obviously irritated and chafed local newspaper media who had made a rain soaked drive to Anaheim Stadium specifically to interview Stewart. Brooks pointed out that a muddy or potentially rain-damaged Anaheim track would ordinarily play to Stewart's advantage and he was hopeful James would be able to ride. Stewart's ability to even ride the main event at Phoenix was impressive after the damage he and his bike sustained in a nasty heat race crash that left him shaken, wobbly and grimacing in pain as he was helped off the course. After being quickly evaluated by the highly skilled Asterisk medical team, Stewart was able to suck it up, start and win the Last Chance Qualifier within just minutes of the crash. Once on the track in the LCQ, without so much as even an aspirin to numb the pain, he endured added complications from internally damaged front forks that had looked OK externally and thus not been replaced by his crew.

Thanks to a broken hand experienced during the Phoenix main event tangle with Stewart, Chad Reed is expected to sit out this weekend as well. Stewart's questionable physical condition and Reed's back-to-back DNFs give plenty of opportunity to current points leaders Ryan Dungey, Ryan Villopoto, Josh Hill and the other top contenders ready to make their marks in the premier class. The question is: Can they stay consistent and uninjured for the remainder of a long season?

Racking up points on Stewart and Reed is never easy. Both have demonstrated the ability to ride through injuries and pain that would stop many riders in their tracks. Reed owes an SX Championship to his fortitude of riding 2008's final four races with a cracked collarbone and completely broken scapula. To ride a main event with those injuries is impressive. To do it the same day of the get off, after visiting a Detroit emergency room while you're coughing up blood, tests you in a way most of us hope to avoid.

Larry Brooks, then Reed's team manager, is no stranger to helping riders get through such issues, even while adjusting to a new machine. In this case the timing of Stewart's injury has the potential to delay the team's inevitable learning curve on the new Yamaha 450.

"We've had to throw out 30% of everything we knew about set up and tuning with this machine", Brooks told Bikeland

Although Brooks believes the new Yamaha will ultimately allow Stewart to ride to a higher potential, injuries can limit critically needed testing and development time. Brook's readily acknowledged Stewart is still adjusting to the unique characteristics of the machine. Not an ideal situation when you're hurting.

Although the AMA allows riders to use injectable pain killers such as Tordol etc., riding at Stewart's level requires one to be totally in touch with their machine and themselves. Regardless of how he feels this Saturday night, being down 16 points to Dungey after just two races means Stewart can't afford to risk missing an event.

Bet on him being there when the gate drops.

Crews attempt to protect the rain soaked Angel Stadium track

Photos: Justin Dawes

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