BREA, CA (Oct 12, 2015) – It was a memorable day for Suzuki racing on Saturday at the Fairplex in Pomona, California, site of the second running of the Red Bull Straight Rhythm. The merging of a Supercross track and a drag strip make this competition one of the most unique in all of motorsports, and the tension in the air was thick, not only because of a bigger and more challenging track than ever, but also for the return of James Stewart.
Suzuki highlights for this weekend’s racing at the Red Bull Straight Rhythm included:
Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing’s James Stewart made a successful comeback to competition by winning the event for the second straight time.
RCH Suzuki Factory Racing’s Ken Roczen taking second in the premier 450 class after qualifying first for the event.
Suzuki RM-Z450 riders running first and second in the 2015 Red Bull Straight Rhythm.
Stewart Wins a Thrilling Semifinal
James Stewart admitted to being a bit anxious in his return to competition after a 16-month suspension, but he quickly shook off the cobwebs and found the speed that has earned him so many wins and championships.
Things were fairly routine for Stewart in the first two rounds of the Straight Rhythm bracket. The event’s defending champ took victory in the first two rounds over fellow Suzuki rider, Nick Schmidt, and Josh Hansen.
It was in the Semifinal where Stewart had to pull out something special. Facing defending AMA Supercross and Motocross champ Ryan Dungey, the two split wins in the best-of-three format, setting up a riveting third and final race that would determine who would make the final. In the deciding race, Stewart fell behind early. It appeared for a moment like he would be eliminated, but he attacked the whoop section aboard his powerful Yoshimura Suzuki RM-Z450 and managed to not only make up ground on Dungey, but actually made the pass. Stewart held on over the two finishing jumps to take a thrilling victory by the narrowest of margins.
Roczen’s Path to the Final
The 2015 Straight Rhythm track was longer, tougher and flat out more challenging than ever before, but it was RCH Suzuki’s Ken Roczen who mastered the tricky layout faster than anyone else. He topped Open Class timed qualifying with an excellent 42.336-second run.
In his first matchup, Roczen took the win over Tevin Tapia. Then in the Quarterfinals, Roczen faced his racing buddy Andrew Short and once again it was the RCH Suzuki RM-Z450 rider powering Roczen across the line first.
In the Semifinal, Roczen faced a red hot Justin Brayton, and while Brayton put in a solid showing, Roczen was nearly flawless and seemingly on a glide path on his way to the final.
Victorious runs for Stewart and Roczen in the earlier rounds set up an all-Suzuki final in the 2015 Red Bull Straight Rhythm Final. Roczen was flawless coming into the final. Besides being the top qualifier, he hadn’t lost a single race all day. His confidence was high. For Stewart’s part, he’d quickly found his race pace after his long layoff and gained his own confidence after surviving a solid challenge by Dungey in the Semi.
The stage was set for a great final.
In the first run, it was Stewart nipping Roczen, his mastery of the whoop section giving him the advantage he needed for the win. Tension was still high in the second run. Stewart won the first, but barely. Roczen simply needed to find the speed he’d displayed all day to force a third winner-take-all showdown race, but it was not to be. Roczen made a minor error shortly after the gate drop and crossed over the center line. Figuring he was already disqualified, Roczen checked up, handing the race win and the championship to Stewart, who cruised home for his second straight Red Bull Straight Rhythm title.
Fans gave Stewart a standing ovation for his victory. He conveyed his gratitude for their support in the post-race interview. He was doubly thrilled that his younger brother took the win in the Lites Class.
“I appreciate everybody that’s been supportive of me while I was off,” Stewart said. “You don’t understand how good this feels, I’m just stoked right now. And congratulations to my brother for stepping up and winning his class. There was a lot of pressure on me. When I won that first race and I heard these guys cheering for me… it’s been over a year since I’ve had that. It’s just unbelievable. I thank everyone so much.”
Roczen went away with a smile on his face even though he didn’t win.
“We had a really close race in the first one,” he said. “In the second run I made a little mistake up front and crossed the line and that automatically disqualified me. But overall I had a great time. I love entertaining people and I think all the riders had a lot of fun. It’s an awesome event and I’m looking forward to next year.”