James Stewart, winner of 42 supercross races and more outdoor and amateur titles than we care to count, has made it official. He will be racing dirt bikes next year and he will be doing it under the Joe Gibbs Racing umbrella. So, what's to be made from all of this? Allow us to give our two cents.
The good thing is that James Stewart is still probably the fastest man on the planet. Sorry, RV but it's true. It's also good that the Gibbs crew has the technology from their NASCAR program to help push James towards his goal of breaking Jeremy McGrath's Supercross record of 72 wins (he currently has 42). He's signed with the Gibbs team for a minimum of three years, which means he'll have to average just over 10 wins per season if he wants to break the record. Needless to say he's got his work cut out for him.
Stewart had a tough time in 2011 being the same James Stewart that we all fell in love with when he rode for Kawasaki. Obviously he had trouble adapting to the Yamaha, which makes the fact that he signed with another Yamaha backed team for 2012 and beyond a bit peculiar. However, here's the difference. JGR isn't Yamaha. True, they ride blue bikes and yes out of the box it is Yamaha's technology that makes them run, but JGR has NASCAR on its side. And believe us when we say, Yamaha doesn't have anything on the technology these guys are pushing out. Custom built suspension tested on their own personal dyno. Custom motors built in house by their own technicians. A 66 acre training facility complete with a supercross and outdoor track. A personal gym that makes Gold Gym look like a set of monkey bars and a few random dumb bells. They have it all and now they have a rider that can take full advantage of it. Twenty twelve may prove to be the year JGR has been waiting for since 2008.
We wouldn't necessarily call it "the bad" but there are some questions that still linger. And yes, most of them have to do with Yamaha. True, JGR probably has the sickest Yamaha's on the planet, but they are still Yamaha's, a bike Stewart noticeably struggled with in 2011. It was rumored that Stewart was hoping to ride Suzuki's in 2012 but when the deal between Suzuki and JGR didn't pan out, he was faced with a decision. Go with Suzuki and risk joining a program with an unknown future or join JGR and ride a bike that might not be your first choice but is still a step up from what he was on last year. In the end his signing with JGR relied on two factors. One, he is now working with a top notch team that is willing to put in the same amount of work that he is to win championships and two, they have a NASCAR team that he hopes to drive for one day. The decision for James to ride for JGR was as much about racing supercross as it was to one day race NASCAR.
The Bottom Line:
James Stewart and JGR will have a lot of pressure on their shoulders heading into Anaheim 1. James also announced at the press conference that they will be going racing outdoors this year as well, which will put even more pressure on their shoulders. Ryan Villopoto may be the defending supercross and outdoor champions heading into 2012, but all eyes will be on James Stewart and JGR. Can they handle it?