James Stewart’s decision to race in this year’s Monster Energy Cup paid off big-time, as the Yoshimura Suzuki rider won two of the three main events Saturday night to capture the $100,000 dollar cash prize in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Unfortunately, Stewart’s shot at claiming the $1 million dollar prize – awarded to any rider who could win all three motos – was erased after 2011 Monster Energy Cup champ Ryan Villopoto won Main Event No. 1.
“The first race I rode really good,” said Stewart. “It’s funny… even with an eighth place in this three race format, you can still win [overall]. I knew I had to come out and do good.”
Villopoto nabbed the holeshot in the opening moto, jumped out to an early lead over the field and ultimately held off a hard-charging Ryan Dungey to claim the win. Dungey’s runner-up finish was erased when he forgot to take the mandatory Joker Lane, resulting in a five-position penalty.
“I was just trying to get a good start, keep the emotions down and go racing,” said Dungey. “I hate to say it, but I did forget [to take the joker lap]. I wasn’t looking at the pit board and I should’ve been.”
Main Event No. 2 saw Stewart blast out of the gates and into the lead, narrowly edging Villopoto for the holeshot. The two riders then waged war all race, banging bars and laying it all on the line in front of 33,845 screaming fans at Sam Boyd Stadium.
The two riders shot out of Monster Alley side-by-side on the final lap with both needing to take the Joker Lane. Stewart made a hard right into the joker section with Villopoto missing it entirely.
Stewart went on to take the checkered flag, moving him in to second in the overall standings, one point behind Roczen with just one race remaining. Dungey, Tomac and Justin Barcia were all tied with Stewart.
Main Event No. 3 saw Roczen take the holeshot, followed closely by Stewart and Dungey. Roczen’s lead was short-lived, as Stewart would make the pass for the lead on Lap 4. Stewart quickly gapped the field and would go on to win the race and event.
“You don’t understand how special this is for me,” said Stewart. “I am speechless right now. This is a huge win for me and I am pretty damn happy.
“I know we are making the right steps to get our [Yoshimura Suzuki] program to where it needs to be.”
Dungey finished second in the third moto and second overall, one point behind Stewart. Roczen finished third overall.