The Racer X staff talk about James Stewart’s supercross and motocross career

Jason Weigand: The weight of high expectations proved to be a blessing and a curse for James Stewart. From the start, everyone knew he had mind-boggling abilities and the potential to dominate at a higher level than anyone before him. Thus, it became the standard by which he would be judged: if he couldn’t break the McGrath or Carmichael records, was he a success?

It all seemed like fair and normal judgment at the time, but when viewed from a distance, it’s not very fair or normal. No other runner, ever, will be judged against this standard. James had to chase the ghosts and the record books, and although he was able to fight Carmichael one-on-one for a duration and RC still had the away advantage, I’m sure James has the felt like he would have finally solved it and got the wins and titles against RC the same way RC finally turned the tide on McGrath. This could be debated forever, but that shouldn’t be the point, though. It was important at one point, especially when they were lined up together on the same door. It doesn’t matter now. Judge James by the standard of any other runner, as in, did he win? He did it. He won a ton, the second most MX and SX wins combined. Second most wins in your sport? That makes him a hit by any normal standards. As the years fade, so has the need for comparison. Now we can just say that all of these legends are villains, superstars and heroes. We can leave it at that and enjoy the memories.

But during his career, it was his curse and also his blessing. While James was held to inflated expectations on and off the track (he was not expected to break racing records, but also launch the sport into mainstream popularity), those same standards have makes his star shine brighter. James wasn’t just the next big thing he was the thing. There will never be a rider entering the pro ranks with more hype than James, or entering the fat bike category with more hype than James. Already. He got the most attention, mostly for better but sometimes for worse. He was a super duper star in every sense of the word. While being held to such a high standard probably wasn’t fair to James, surely many other riders didn’t think it was fair that James was always more important than them. They could win races and titles, but they weren’t James Stewart.

There will only be one. It is his blessing and his curse. I’m glad we got to see him, and glad he’s back in the sport to add as much as he can, even without a bike. It helps the sport keep the James name alive and current because we won’t get anything like it again.

Main image: Stewart at the 2008 Phoenix Supercross, photo by Simon Cudby

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