After building a good lead in the first moto at the Unadilla National last Sunday, James Stewart raised his lap times so that Chad Reed (Yamaha) was two seconds a lap faster than he was, and Reed quickly closed the gap. Reed briefly passed Stewart, and Stewart immediately responded by re-passing Reed and motoring away to the victory. Although Stewart apparently claimed his slowing was due to “arm pump”, he also made a comment to a reporter that he wanted “TV time” by deliberately dropping back to battle with Reed.
If this was deliberate by Stewart, and I believe it was (Stewart has not displayed arm pump problems at other outdoor Nationals, and his “recovery” was too quick and dramatic), it demonstrates a cockiness or ego that could come back to haunt Stewart. Stewart is blazingly fast and talented (we have said so repeatedly here at MD). However, he lost the West Coast Supercross championship due to repeated poor judgment on his part (riding over his head and crashing when he didn’t need to). Ricky Carmichael and Travis Pastrana have shown similar speed on a 125, but they never pulled stunts like Stewart did at Unadilla. Not when they were 16 years old, and not later.
Stewart will undoubtedly be a great champion (he has yet to win his first championship as a pro), and his speed is self evident. Everyone knows he is fast, including his competitors — he doesn’t need to “rub their noses in it”. It is an unprofessional attitude, and indicates Stewart may have some psychological need that is not satisfied by merely winning (and winning by huge margins). In a very practical way, this attitude also introduces an element of uncertainty into James Stewart’s career.