The AMA brought Supercross back to Salt Lake City, thank heaven. My life is complete again.
We sat on about the third row right in front of the most critical rhythm section of the track – a series of seven jumps, increasing in size to the fourth (where the tunnel is), then symmetrically decreasing on the back half. K-Dub (pictured) and Stewart both were able to do this section 2-3-2 in practice, but nobody else could do it. Reed tried and failed a couple of times before giving up. Most fast guys went 1-2-3-1.
When the main event began, Reed grabbed the holeshot, and within a few turns Stewart was right behind him. It went like this for a good 12-14 laps or so, I can’t remember exactly. Stewart passed Reed on the rhythm section shown above by going 2-3-2 through it while Reed went 1-2-3-1. Reed passed him back a few seconds later, and on the next lap Reed suddenly started going 2-3-2 through this section as well – and doing it better than Stewart could. It was awesome to see him just start doing that in the main event, and watching that happen about 50 feet away from me was really cool.
Some of the racing got pretty close and aggressive. Stewart took issue with it, because he doesn’t think people should be able to race him the same way he races other people. Reed passed him pretty hard on one occasion; it reminded me quite a bit of a number of passes Stewart has put on Reed. Usually when this happens to Reed he just takes it in stride, and usually when this happens to James he takes the liberty of pointing out what a dirty rider he thinks Reed is. Stewart is a flat-out hypocrite, but I can cut him a break I guess, because that’s not his biggest flaw.
Everything fell apart for Reed, though, when they caught up to Stewart’s teammate, Kyle Chisholm. At this point Stewart was barely leading with Reed catching up again. Chisholm was given the blue flag as the leaders came by. Chisholm was not racing anyone else for position at the time. Expected behavior in this case is for the lapper to pull off while the leaders pass, then continue. Chisholm did this as Stewart passed, but then inexplicably started racing Reed as though they were competing for a position, running him high into one turn, taking the racing line through the next rhythm section, and finally attempting an obvious t-bone takeout move in the next 180 degree turn. There was no way Chisholm would have made the turn with the line he was taking. He was obviously trying to take Reed out of the race.
He failed, but by this point the damage was done. He had taken almost two seconds off of Reed’s lap time, putting Reed that far behind Stewart. With each rider running within one or two tenths of each other on lap times, there was no way to make that up in the few remaining laps. So instead of having a chance to win the race and go into Vegas tied in points, Reed had to settle for second and go to Vegas six points down. Stewart only needs a podium finish in Vegas to take the championship; he doesn’t need to win. Chisholm’s riding tactics likely cost Reed a meaningful shot at defending his title.
Chisholm was black-flagged a couple of laps later and rode off the track in deserved shame.
If Chisholm always rode this way we might be able to attribute this behavior to his riding style, like Eric Sorby, who was an idiot who tried to take anyone out just for the fun of it. (He’s retired now, and I say good riddance.) But Chisholm isn’t usually like this, he’s always seemed to be a pretty decent guy and a talented rider. Having watched it live and again on TV, I have to think that he was intentionally trying to take Reed out. And since he doesn’t normally do that, I have to figure he did it in this case because L&M/San Manuel Yamaha told him to do it.
I can’t be convinced that this was anything other than team tactics. Stewart claims he doesn’t need help to beat Reed, but there’s a lot of evidence to the contrary this season. Stewart, along with his team manager and anyone else who gets asked, claims there were no team tactics and they don’t know what Chisholm was thinking. What else will they say? There’s no hard evidence of team tactics, it’s just the most logical explanation for what happened.
Part of me wishes the AMA would penalize the team, take points away from both riders or something. Since I’m pretty convinced there were team tactics I think that is appropriate. Some say Stewart wasn’t involved, but he’s on the team, and he should be standing up for a fair race. But the other part of me doesn’t want the AMA giving out penalties without proof.
Regardless of what happens, I think this taints Stewarts championship, assuming he wins, which is likely at this point. His 2009 championship will always have a little asterisk by it, where the footnote reads “He secured the championship by cheating.”