Top Riders Reed, Stewart, Windham and Villopoto Speak at Anaheim 1 Pre-race Press Conference
AURORA, Ill. (January 2, 2009) -- With the opening race of Monster Energy® Supercross, an FIM World Championship, just one day away, reigning AMA Supercross champion Chad Reed, former AMA Supercross champion James Stewart, 2008 AMA Supercross class runner-up Kevin Windham and former AMA Supercross Lites champion Ryan Villopoto spoke today at the pre-race press conference to the local, national and industry media about the 2009 season.
Reed, who is third on the all-time AMA Supercross win list with 35, has two AMA Supercross class championships ('04 & '07). A veteran in the class, Reed will compete in his eighth AMA Supercross class championship. The 2009 season presents an opportunity for Reed to win back-to-back championships. Not since five-time AMA Supercross champion Ricky Carmichael left the sport in 2006 has a rider defended their title. Tomorrow will be Reed's first Monster Energy® Supercross race aboard the Rockstar/Makita Suzuki team.
"It was awesome to win the championship," said Reed. "It's been four years to be exact. It was a tough road, and I just tried to believe and stay at it and never give up and we got another one. I'm real excited to start a new season. Since May, it seems like it has been forever and these last few weeks have been slowly ticking by. I'm just ready to get this season under way and have some fun. I feel like I'm really motivated.
"It's a new challenge and I'm ready. It helps to have the US Open and Australian Supercross races under my belt. After such a long off season, you're definitely a little rusty coming back. I never really knew that before. I used to think you could just step away, have a good time and come back to have things be just the way they were. It takes a lot of work to do what these guys do and I underestimated the challenge ahead. Since then I've been working."
With 25 career wins, Stewart is currently sixth on the all-time AMA Supercross win list. Entering his fifth year of racing in the premier class, Stewart makes his Monster Energy® Supercross debut with Team San Manuel Yamaha. In 2007, Stewart handily won his first AMA Supercross title but was unable to defend it last year because of a knee injury that sidelined him for 15 of the 17 races. He returned to racing and rode to a perfect 24-0 AMA Motocross championship.
"This offseason has been really good," said Stewart. "I've had two races on the Yamaha, and I was lucky enough to win those. I feel good. Everything is going according to plan, so we will see what happens. Switching to Yamaha has been a good change. It's something that's a little spiced up. Larry Brooks and the guys have been working really hard and making me really comfortable. To be honest, the change has been easy. Everybody has to have that inner peace. It all starts there.
"After getting hurt, sitting back and watching Chad (Reed) win the championship and to see Kevin (Windham) have a great season helped me find how much I love (riding). I have the attitude where I don't really mind what happens. I just want to race and have a good time. Once you get to that point in your career and find that, then nothing really bothers you. With everything that's been going on, I haven't let it get to me. For me that helps with my focus on the track and my focus in training. Hopefully you guys will see that too."
If championships were measured by raw talent, Windham would have re-written the record books during his 15 years of AMA professional racing. The Centerville, Miss., native has come as close as second -- twice -- to winning the coveted AMA Supercross title but hasn't put together a championship-winning season. He enters his 16th year of professional racing with 16 AMA Supercross wins and will compete for the GEICO Powersports Honda team.
"Its been a nice off-season, but for me it's been long and it just increases the hunger when you get to A1," said Windham. "I'm at an anxious stage and just ready to go to battle. It was an optimistic year last season and following the '07 season it filled me with ambition -- with things to come. I want to get the old off. Everyone thinks I'm the old guy, but I'm trying to use all of it to my advantage and use what I've learned to come with my A-game. People come and they go, but I'm still here and feeling good.
"The reality is there is a lot of guys hunting for three spots and the podium isn't getting any bigger. It's going to be tough, but I think with obvious love you have to have for a sport after being here for so long and seeing the same faces on both sides of the microphone, it gets to the point where you hope we can do battle and you don't shy away from it. You know the guys are going to be tough and you don't worry about it anymore because it's just reality. Just being able to be one of those guys (up front) is what it's about. That's the motivation that keeps you driving."
He's been labeled the next big thing since his rookie AMA Supercross Lites debut in 2006, but Ryan Villopoto is unproven in the AMA Supercross class. That will all change in 2009 when he makes the move to the premier class and sets his sights on the championship. Legends are made in the AMA Supercross class, and if Villopoto wants to be recognized with the elite of Monster Energy® Supercross, he will need to show up prepared to face the world's best. Villopoto will race for the Monster Energy® Kawasaki race team.
"I can't say I'll be up front just yet," said Villopoto. "We'll find out tomorrow night and see what it's all about. Hopefully everything goes smoothly and as planned. I think when you step into the AMA Supercross Lites class, the big picture is the AMA Supercross class. You kind of look forward to that working on little and new stuff every year.
"This last year I really started looking forward to the premier class and pinpointed what I needed to do. I did as much as I could and people ask me if I'm ready. I tell them I'm as ready as I can be till I go racing and figure out what I need to work on. Most of the pressure this year doesn't come from anyone but myself."