AMA

Houston: Round seven preview

PICKERINGTON, Ohio (Feb. 12, 2004) -- Kawasaki's James "Bubba" Stewart will open his third season of AMA professional racing this weekend in Houston. He is hoping to follow up his AMA 125 West Supercross title of last season with the 125 East ...

PICKERINGTON, Ohio (Feb. 12, 2004) -- Kawasaki's James "Bubba" Stewart will open his third season of AMA professional racing this weekend in Houston. He is hoping to follow up his AMA 125 West Supercross title of last season with the 125 East crown. The Houston event is the opening round of the AMA 125 East Region Supercross Series. While Stewart's debut in the 125 East Series temporarily takes the spotlight this Saturday, Feb. 14, in Reliant Stadium, also on the docket is round seven of the 16-race THQ AMA Supercross Series where Chad Reed, of the Yamaha factory team, owns a 22-point mid-season lead over Honda's Kevin Windham.

Stewart, 18, from Haines City, Fla., has already put his mark on the AMA record books after only two full seasons of racing. He's already rocketed to fourth on the all-time AMA 125 Motocross wins list with 17-career wins. It's possible that he could eclipse Ricky Carmichael's record of 26-career AMA 125 Motocross wins later this season. On the eve of Stewart's third year in AMA 125 Supercross he starts the year with 11-career AMA 125 Supercross wins. He only needs two victories to tie the legendary Jeremy McGrath's all-time AMA record of 13-career 125 Supercross wins.

In addition to chasing win records Stewart is also trying to become only the second rider in AMA Supercross to win both the West and East Regions of 125 Supercross. Stewart is coming off a dominating championship campaign in the West Region last year. If he manages to win the Eastern title this year he will follow in the footsteps of Ernesto Fonseca as the only other winner of both championships.

"I like trying to go for records," said Stewart, who has been twice nominated for AMA Speed Channel Pro Athlete of the Year Award. "It gives me extra incentive to go out and do my best every race. There's going to be a lot of talent in 125 East this year and I'm looking forward to the start of the season. I'd like to set as many records as I can in the 125s before I move on to the 250 class."

As Stewart mentioned, the talent level is deep in the 125 East ranks. Challenging the heavily favored Stewart will be riders like Suzuki's Branden Jesseman, the defending champion in the AMA 125 East class. Jesseman may not be 100 percent however in Houston since he's still recovering from an injury received in pre-season testing. Others to watch for in the class include veterans like Steve Lamson and Larry Ward. Pro Circuit Kawasaki's Eric Sorby could also be a leading challenger.

While much of the attention will turn to the 125 East opener this weekend, the main 250 class is quickly turning critical for anyone hoping to chase down series leader Chad Reed. Reed has won four races in six starts so far and shows no sign of letting up. One more piece of bad news for Reed's competitors is that the 21-year-old Aussie is the defending winner in Houston.

Factory Connection Honda's Kevin Windham has been the only rider to give Reed a serious challenge so far this year, but last week he hurt his cause when he crashed early in the San Francisco final. Windham has two race wins so far this year and with Tuesday's announcement that an appeals board overturned Windham's 10-point penalty, it may breath new life into Windham's title hopes. The appeal was filed by his team on the points penalty he received for on overly aggressive pass at Phoenix. Despite the results of the appeal, Windham knows he has to start winning more races if he is to have any chance of chasing down rival Reed.

With the appeal ruling, David Vuillemin moved back into third place in the standings. The Frenchman comes into Houston on a high note after matching his season's best with a runner-up result in San Francisco last weekend. Vuillemin is still looking for his first AMA Supercross win since mid-way through the 2002 season. Vuillemin feels confident that the progress he's making under new coach, from former AMA champ David Bailey, will put him atop the podium soon.

The Houston race is slated to receive next-day coverage on ESPN2 starting at 5 p.m. Eastern. For additional information on the race call (630) 566-6100 or visit www.tickets.com.

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Series AMA
Drivers David Vuillemin , Kevin Windham , Jeremy McGrath , Ernesto Fonseca , Chad Reed , Branden Jesseman