Kawasaki Riders Hot Going Into Anaheim 2Tuesday, January 16, 2007 | 11:13 AM
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Stewart, who won Anaheim I earlier this month, brings a six-point lead over Ricky Carmichael into Anaheim II, but since Carmichael, who is transitioning into a NASCAR racing career, is not slated to race this weekend his real competition is coming from third-ranked Chad Reed of L&M Racing Yamaha. Reed, who is riding with injuries suffered in pre-season testing, is 10 points behind Stewart.
While Stewart has always had the speed in years past, over the course of a season he’s sometimes lapsed into mistakes that have led to crashes and injury. This year Stewart, the 21year-old from Haines City, Fla., seems to be riding with newfound confidence and calmness. He points to his ultimate goal of winning his first AMA Supercross Series championship as his guiding light this year.
“I have to be smart out there,” Stewart said in the post-race press conference in Phoenix this past weekend. “I know what my goals are. Things just aren’t bothering me. I’m so focused on what I’m doing that even when I have problems with lappers it’s not rattling me. I’ve always had fun racing, but the difference this year is that I’m a lot stronger. Riding against Ricky I’ve learned a lot. It’s also been a lot of hard work.”
Stewart is coming off an impressive win last weekend in Phoenix, where he recovered from a poor start and passed Carmichael, then went on to a 1.227-second margin of victory.
Stewart’s Phoenix victory was his 13th AMA Supercross Series win and it placed him 11th on the all-time wins list. He’s three victories away from breaking into the top-10 on the all-time list.
Reed is simply trying to stay close as he recovers from his injuries. So far a pair of hard-earned third-place finishes have kept the Australian close in the championship battle.
“I think it’s more work to get healed than to maintain fitness from week to week,” Reed said. “My main concern is to prevent too much damage [in the point standings]. What I’m doing now is trying to minimize that and I’m doing all I can.”
Sobe/No Fear/Samsung Honda’s Travis Preston is fourth in the standings coming into Anaheim II. A good race this weekend could result in a podium finish for Preston and move him into a solid third in the standings. Preston is seeking to get back on the AMA Supercross podium for the first time in six years.
Tim Ferry, like Preston, is another rider making a solid comeback in this year’s series. The Kawasaki factory rider is fifth in the standings and is on track to have his best Supercross season ever.
The story of the AMA Supercross Lites West Series so far this year is the emergence of French motocross world champion Christophe Pourcel. Pourcel led a team sweep of the Lites podium in Phoenix last week with Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki teammates Ryan Villopoto and Christopher Gosselaar finishing second and third. It marked a rare podium sweep for a single manufacturer in the Supercross Lites class. The last time that happened was in Irving, Texas, in April of 2002.
Pourcel’s unexpected victory last week puts the young Frenchman and Kawasaki in a difficult position of having to decide if Pourcel, who is now tied with Villopoto for the lead in the Lites West standings, will continue to race in America the rest of the Supercross season. He was slated to head back to Europe to prepare for world championship motocross, but now says he may stay in the U.S. “We’ll make a decision after Anaheim II,” Pourcel explained through an interpreter in Phoenix.
Anaheim II will receive next-day coverage on CBS starting at 12:00 pm eastern. This is the second of three AMA Supercross races to be held in Anaheim this year.
Anaheim II is presented by Hahm Motorsports, Big-O Tires and AMPM. Gates will open at 12:30 pm for fans to take part in the Anaheim II Pit Party. Tickets are available at the Box Office, all Ticketmaster outlets, all participating Yamaha dealers or you can charge by phone at 213-480-3232 or 714-740-2000. A special Family Section is also available for non-alcoholic family fun. When ordering tickets through Ticketmaster, request Family Section for an alcohol-free family atmosphere.