I think it is safe to say that it is generally assumed that Kawasaki’s James Stewart will be the rider to beat both indoors and outdoors after the retirement of Suzuki’s Ricky Carmichael this year. It is hard to argue with this, and I think I have to agree with the general consensus here.
Although Stewart still crashes too often, and this has contributed to his loss of several championships to Carmichael, he has matured as a 450-class rider, and he should be able to put together championship winning performances next year with more consistency and fewer crashes. Carmichael will not be there to push him quite as hard, particularly outdoors. Stewart should be able to “throttle back” a bit, and avoid crashing quite so often.
Could someone upset Stewart and take the Supercross crown next year? Certainly. Although Stewart would have to be a heavy favorite, both Chad Reed (Yamaha) and David Millsaps (Honda) will not go quietly. Reed is a former champ who is very consistent and very smart. If he finds just a bit more speed next year, he could be just as painful a thorn in Stewart’s side as Carmichael proved to be. Millsaps seems to love his Honda 450, and he is an natural at Supercross. We can’t wait to see how fast he is next year, and nothing would really surprise us.
Outdoors is another story. With Carmichael gone, Stewart will have everyone covered rather easily (Reed is not racing outdoors next year). Until a new generation arrives in the 450 class (Ryan Villopoto?), Stewart should take the title on cruise control.