Sunday, October 11, 2009

James Stewart takes U.S. Open of Supercross

By Anthony Fenech (contact)

Sunday, Oct. 11, 2009 | 3:33 a.m.

After a back-and-forth battle in the 2009 Rockstar Energy Drink U.S. Open of Supercross, Ryan Villopoto and James Stewart talked briefly and then exchanged a respect-filled embrace.

It was a fitting end to Saturday night’s main event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena that saw Stewart edge out Villopoto for the checkered flag. It was a two-man race from start to finish, not unlike the last time they dueled in the desert.

“It kind of reminded me about Vegas last year, with me and Ryan battling it out,” Stewart said on the victory podium afterward.

The battle broke out on the 10th lap of the 20-lap race, when Stewart, the sport’s highest-profile star, finally caught up with Villopoto, who had led the race up to that point.

The two traded places at the top during the early parts of the lap, Stewart passing Villopoto at one turn, Villapoto returning the favor on the next. The defending Supercross series champion Stewart took the lead seconds later, landing to the right of Villopoto off a jump and accelerating past him for good.

“I wish I could have held strong,” the 21-year-old Villapoto said.

It was the first race for both competitors since meeting at Sam Boyd Stadium in May. Villopoto missed nearly four months after ACL surgery, and Stewart took time off to promote the sport in commercials, photo shoots and a reality show.

For Stewart, it was just another trip to Victory Circle at the U.S. Open, an event he has won in back-to-back years and three times overall, the other win coming in 2006.

“This is awesome,” he said. “I guess it’s a good way to come out of semi-retirement.”

Stewart finished in first place overall with 53 points, posting a repeat of his dominant performance on Friday night with a victory of 9.8 seconds over Villopoto in the main event. He credited the victory in part to his new 2010 Yamaha 4Z450F.

“It’s just an awesome bike and an awesome team,” he said. “All my guys on the Yamaha team work so hard, and I always have fun with these guys.”

Villopoto finished fourth overall, behind Honda’s Davi Millsaps and Dan Reardon, who finished with 44 and 40 points, respectively.

“This is great event,” Stewart said. “I always have fun when I come here. This has been just a great night.”

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