James Stewart is an enigma, a freak on two wheels. The things he can do, the lines he chooses and the speed he can carry are seemingly unreal at times. It might be boring from a racing standpoint to see him destroy a field of the world’s best motocross racers and cruise around the track. But even then he’s a pure joy to watch.
Stewart broke down racial barriers by becoming the first black superstar in the sport. Often referred to as the "Tiger Woods of Motocross," Stewart’s speed, style and personality were just what the sport needed, and he has become the new spokesman for MX/SX. An 11-time National Amateur Champion at Loretta Lynn’s, Stewart turned pro in 2002 during the epic run of Ricky Carmichael. Many will still claim that JS was more fun to watch on the small-bore two-strokes, but all good things come to an end, and Bubba made the jump into the premier division with mixed results. Early on, he earned the right to be labeled the next face of the industry, seeing how he was the only man to consistently challenge Ricky Carmichael and eventually start beating him in races. Challenging the GOAT week in and week out was no small task during his heyday, but Bubba was always up to the task.
As with almost every rider, making the switch to the big bikes was rough at times. Stewart saw plenty of time headed different directions from his machine and he soon became known for his gnarly get-offs. That’s the problem with trying to race at Carmichael speeds, the consequences of a crash are so much higher. Eventually he got the hang of riding the big bikes and when Kawasaki finally released its KX450F, Stewart finally had a real shot at winning titles. When RC retired, a move that robbed fans of who knows how many epic battles, Stewart had a clear path to the checkered flag.
After missing the 2008 SX season with injury, Stew rebounded at the outdoors to pull off his own 24-for-24 win streak, something only Carmichael has achieved before. It seemed as though the 450 class was on the verge of falling into a boring rut, but with Chad Reed changing teams, it shook things up a bit. Then, with an open spot on the Yamaha L&M Racing team, Stewart left Kawasaki for a fresh start after riding green his entire professional career.
Bubba entered the 2010 outdoor season on the bench, recovering from a wrist injury sustained in the Supercross season. The San Manuel Yamaha rider had also missed the 2009 outdoor season and has been eager to get back to his 2008 form in the MX series. He made his long-awaited debut at Unadilla, finishing 3rd in the 1st moto, but pulling off the track in the 2nd moto. Between fatigue and having to fight a bike that wasn't set up properly, Stewart decided to play it safe and call it a day. It would be his last outdoor race until 2012.
After finishing 4th in 450SX points in 2011, Stewart chose not to compete in the Nationals that summer, citing the fact that he didn't believe he was where he needed to be competitively.
In 2012, James Stewart linked up with JGR in what looked to be a promising partnership. He racked up 2 victories and 5 podiums through the first ten races of the SX season, but things were derailed at the next stop in Indianapolis when he suffered a concussion and a broken hand and missed most of the remaining races. With things not working out for either party, Stewart and JGR agreed to part ways at the end of the season. Yoshimura Suzuki signed Stewart to a 2-year deal through 2014 and also gave him the option to race outdoors in 2012.
Stewart took advtange of the opportunity and lined up for the opening moto in Hangtown. He proceeded to win the first 4 motos of the season, despite some tough competition from Ryan Dungey, and looked to be on his way to a monster season. Stewart was unable to escape the injury bug though and broke his wrist at the season's third round. He'd make three attempts at returning to action, including one the following weekend at High Point, but couldn't find the same groove and didn't look to be the same rider he was before the injury.
Stewart launched his own clothing and gear line just before the start of the 2013 Supercross season, partnering with Troy Lee on a new brand simply called Seven.