Ever since James Stewart entered the 450 class in 2005 (at that time called the 250
class), the Floridian had a bull’s-eye
on his back. That was mostly due to
his incredibly successful 125 career,
where he racked up a record-setting
28 National wins and 18 regional
Supercross victories in three seasons.
Surprisingly, however, Stewart struggled in his rookie 450 Supercross season. He crashed during practice at
the second Supercross of the year in
Phoenix and broke his left forearm.
The injury put Bubba out of action
for two months. He made his comeback in Orlando and finished third at
his home race. Stewart proceeded to
win in Dallas, Seattle and Houston.
At that time most of the major players in the 2005 Supercross series
were racing on two-strokes.
Once the riders went outdoors,
however, the vast majority chose to
pilot four-strokes, including Ricky
Carmichael. RC had joined Suzuki
that year after a tenure with Honda.
He was rewarded handsomely by
Suzuki. Along with a high salary
and huge win bonuses came the
ability to race a works RM-Z450 in
the Nationals, thanks to Suzuki exercising its one-time AMA works bike
exemption. Meanwhile, Kawasaki
had yet to produce a 450 four-stroke.
James Stewart would be relegated
to a KX250 two-stroke—a bike he
would later blame for his lackluster
results against the more powerful
The Hangtown opener was a sign
of how the series would eventually
play out. Ricky Carmichael dominated in both motos. Meanwhile,
James Stewart struggled with a
mysterious illness in his first 450
National. After finishing sixth in the
first moto, Bubba pulled out of the
second moto; however, Stewart was
on his game at the next round in
High Point. He passed Carmichael in
the first moto but couldn’t shake free
of the defending champ and settled
for second. James led half of the
final moto, but again Carmichael was
too much. Regardless, Stewart was
the first rider in years to put serious
pressure on Carmichael. It seemed
certain that James would have
Ricky’s number before too long.
Only that didn’t happen in the
summer of 2005. In fact, James
didn’t steal a single moto victory
from the defending 450 Champion.
Ricky Carmichael won 22 of 24
motos, losing only the first moto
at Southwick to Chad Reed and
the first moto at Unadilla to Kevin
Windham. Carmichael’s Southwick
loss was of his own doing. RC hit a
downhill kicker and was shot over
the handlebars in a freak crash. The
Unadilla loss, however, shall forever
live on in racing lore.
Ricky Carmichael took control of
the first 450 moto at Unadilla and
immediately gapped the field; however, destiny intervened. RC crashed
in a high-speed section beyond the
mechanic’s area on the second lap
Ricky Carmichael ( 4)
and James Stewart
(259) came together at
Unadilla in 2005.
CARMICHAEL & STEWART COLLIDE IN 2005
and dropped to fifth place. He clawed
his way back to the front while a
hard-charging James Stewart led
the way. It took 11 laps for Ricky to
catch James. As the two drag-raced
up a hill in the back section of the
track, Carmichael held the throttle on
around the outside of a left-hand turn.
Stewart protected the inside line, but
Ricky had momentum on his side. As
they charged toward the downhill
ski jump, Carmichael edged himself
in front of Stewart. Then, disaster
struck. Over the next fly-away jump
Carmichael drifted to the middle of
the track while Stewart cut inside.
Their lines converged and James
landed on Ricky’s back. Both riders
slammed into the ground. Stewart got
the worst of it, as he lay unconscious
on the edge of the track. Carmichael
threw his hands up at Stewart in
anger while running over to his bike.
He pushed Stewart’s bike away from
his and remounted as Kevin Windham
rode by. Ricky settled for second,
while Stewart’s day was done.
Ricky Carmichael went on to win
his sixth consecutive 450 National
title, while James Stewart only raced
one more National in 2005 before
bowing out. However, on that warm
summer day in upstate New York,
one of the most celebrated motocross
racers ever and the most exciting
450 rookie in decades came together.
Ricky Carmichael and James Stewart
provided one of the most memorable
moments in American motocross