James ‘Bubba’ Stewart interview
RJ: James, I’ve been trying to track you down for an interview for some time now, and I want to say ‘thanks’ that we could finally get together. Before we get started, I also want to say congratulations on how you’ve started your professional motocross career. When you started as a pro in January 2002, you surprised so many people with your style, speed, and knowledge of the sport. It feels good to watch a guy like you race with such speed and enthusiasm and determination.
I took the input from our viewers at Supercross.com, and have come up with a series of questions for you. Are you ready?
RJ: Can you win this year’s 125 National Championship?
James: I think so. I’m feeling pretty good right now. I’ve won all the motos I’ve been able to ride so far this season. I think I can do it. I just have to go out and do my best, win as many motos as possible, and maybe have a little luck on my side too. If not, I still want to have pride in what I’ve done in winning races.
RJ: Have you been spending any time on the 250 yet, or are you just concentrating on the 125 right now?
James: Right now I’m concentrating on the 125. I did ride a stock 250 for a magazine, but my main focus is the 125.
I think if I start spending time on the 250, I’ll get very good with it. I think I’ll be fine on a 250 whenever I start racing it, be it next year or beyond.
RJ: I saw some video of you and Brian Lopes down at your place riding KLX 110’s. You look very fast thru the whoops on that – faster than 90% of all the other riders. Any chance of you riding that in the nationals or supercross? (Laughs)
James: (Laughing) I might bring it out! My friends at Two Brothers Racing hooked me up with that.
RJ: Seriously, how much time do you spend during the week on a mini?
James: I actually spend a lot of time on the mini’s. I like to reward myself at the end of a day of training by riding the minis. I love ’em. We’ve got a full-blown supercross track – it’s a lot of fun!
RJ: Will you ride a 250 in 2004?
James: I don’t know yet. We are going to be doing some testing very soon on the 250, and we’ll just have to wait and see how it goes. Once the outdoor season ends, and we get into the off-season testing, we’ll find out.
RJ: Can you beat RC in supercross?
James: I’d like to think I can. All competitors think that way don’t they? I think I can. Don’t get me wrong though – I think RC is a great rider. I think I have more skill in supercross compared to outdoors. The thing about RC is he knows how to push. He pushes hard, and is a tough racer. RC has been in it a few years, and is a great champion as well.
There are other guys too that are a challenge, such as Chad Reed and Kevin Windham. Both should be primed and ready to go in ’04. I’d like to think that if I do ride a 250, I’ll come in with an edge, and get some wins.
RJ: What do you do during the week? What’s your schedule like during race season?
James: My week consists of a lot of things. A lot of practicing obviously. Whenever I feel tired, I try to relax and take it easy – recovery time is important too. You can’t push yourself all day every day because when you get to the races you’ll be lacking for energy.
RJ: Did the crash in Las Vegas make you think any differently about injuries?
James: No. I still have my confidence. (Laughs) I was just looking at a video tape of that crash. I don’t know exactly what happened – I wasn’t out of control.
RJ: Being a past champion, I know of the pressure that comes from the manufacturer, friends, family, sponsors, … they all want you to win all the time. On top of that, I’m guessing you have additional pressures, some of which I don’t even know about. Do you feel any pressure being the first ‘African American’ motocross rider to set such a high standard on the track?
James: Rick, the honest truth is I feel no pressure what-so-ever. I’m no different than anyone else, and I certainly don’t feel any different out on the race track – I just push as hard as I can. Hopefully I can bring more fans into the sport, and make it bigger, but I feel no pressure at all.
RJ: I know you don’t have much of it, but what do you do in your ‘spare’ time?
James: I like to ride mini bikes really. And I got into surfing recently. Black people still don’t surf ya’ know (Laughs) I can get up, but I’m still having a problem on the turns, and I go back over the other side of the wave.
RJ: Hey man, I’m one of the defending champions in the SurferCross! I had this surgery on my shoulder, otherwise I’d be competing with you man! (Laughs)
James: I’m lucky then. (Laughs) I think I still have a shot on the motocross part of it though. (Laughs)
RJ: I was talking to David Bailey about this – you are a real student of the sport. You study other riders, their tendencies, their styles, and you know about the history of the sport. Who are some of the young up-and-coming riders you like?
James: Right now, Broc Hepler impresses me a lot. Overall, there is a lot of talent on the horizon. Hepler and Millsaps being the top two.
With the little that I’ve seen, everyone that’s coming up will need to work on some things – but I’m certainly not going to be the guy to help them out. (Laughs) I might have to be racing against these guys soon!
RJ: Lots of fans wrote from Australia. And they want to know – would you ever go down there to race?
James: Yes. Definitely. I’d love to go. I’ve talked to Chad Reed and Michael Byrne about Australia too. I wouldn’t mind going sometime.
RJ: The main thought I had while racing is ‘I hate losing’. Some people love winning. But some people hate losing more. When I won, I enjoyed it. What motivated me even more was that losing would give someone else the chance to celebrate. What motivates you? Is it winning? Money? Fame? Fear of losing? Knowing you kicked every man’s butt on the track?
James: Rick, I honestly don’t know. I don’t know what motivates me at this point. I just go.
I do know that I put in a lot of hard work, especially during the week. I train. I study. I workout. I try to do the things during the week that a champion does. I try to always keep learning and getting better.
RJ: The four-stroke revolution is in full swing. Do you look forward to riding four-strokes in the future, or do you want to stay on the two-stroke?
James: Yeah, there are a lot more four-strokes on the track now-a-days. I’m scared! The roost hurts from those! (Laughs)
Right now, I’m liking the two-strokes better.
I have ridden a four-stroke a few times. I didn’t really ride them hard, just kinda’ cruising around. I like the torque of the motors. And I know Kawasaki is coming out with a new bike – I’m going to have to ride it and let you know about that down the road.
RJ: Do you have a favorite track, either in supercross or outdoor motocross?
James: In supercross, I really like tracks with big jumps. I like doing things that other people won’t try. I like being different. That’s why I wear pink riding gear – and the ladies like it too.
RJ: Wait a minute – I was wearing pink gear back in the day dude!
James: I know. I guess you got me on that one bro. But I do like to be different, and try different things.
On the outdoor tracks, the rougher the better. I like tracks that separate the men from the boys.
RJ: What do you do before a race? Listen to music? Take a nap? Eat? Play videos?
James: I do whatever comes to me – nothing special. I dance to Michael Jackson in my rig, … whatever makes me happy and allows me to concentrate on the task at hand. No worries though.
RJ: You told me you’re a rapper, a baller, and a breaker. I’ve seen some Michael Jackson moves come out of you, but I haven’t seen any breakin’ yet, and I haven’t seen any pop rockin’ out of you. Describe for us Caucasian folks what a baller is (Laughs).
James: “Baller”, I believe it’s a noun. (Laughs) A baller is someone that can do whatever they want. A baller is someone people can look up to. A baller is someone with style. A baller is someone who wears nice jewelry and has lots of ladies around them (Laughing).
For me, in my category, a baller is someone who hauls @#$ on a motorcycle. (Both bust up laughing)
RJ: Tell me about your friendship with Tony Haynes.
James: I was just talking to Tony before you got here. Tony and me are just great friends. We’ve been friends my whole life. We hang out, and talk about a lot of things. We are just like any two great friends.
RJ: Your little brother – how fast is he? And does he want to follow in your footsteps?
James: For sure he wants to go professional, and he has a lot more talent that I do. I’ve never let him beat me though, ’cause I have more determination. (Laughs)
RJ: My oldest son wants to race. My middle child wants to be a fisherman. Go figure. What music you listening to these days?
James: I listen to a lot of rap. Snoop Dog, Ice Cube. I was listening to some crack metal, and before that I was into country for a while. I’m all rap now.
RJ: This could get sensitive, and I want you to tell the truth. If you were sitting at home, using your computer, what web-sites would you be checking out?
James: I check out everything. I read everything that’s online about myself (Laughing). I give props to everyone out there that writes and does a good job. I’ve never seen your site though (Laughs).
RJ: If you could pick one word to describe yourself to your fans, what would it be?
James: ‘Baller’ dude! Where have you been??? (Laughs)
RJ: We are going to have to talk to Fox to get that on your riding gear! How about ‘Straight Baller’?
James: Yeah, now you’re talking!
RJ: How did you get the nick-name ‘Bubba’?
James: I have no idea. People just started calling me that, and it caught on. I want to say this old lady gave me the name, … but I’m not 100% sure – it was a long time ago.
RJ: With such great success already at a young age, where do you see yourself eight years from now at age 25? Will you get bored with winning?
James: No. I think winning would never get boring. You know, there’s nothing like being out front by yourself, and hearing people cheering for you. I think the people that get bored with winning are the people that can’t win.
RJ: Do you consider yourself the best rider in the world right now?
James: That’s a hard one to answer. You putting me on the spot? Man, there are a lot of good guys right now. For a person that took off a year from racing, how about Kevin Windham? He’s looking really good and I consider him one of the best riders in the world right now. RC, he’s won everything. Those are the best guys in the 250 class.
I consider myself the best rider in the 125 class. I don’t want to say I’m the best rider in the world and then go out and get beat. But I’ll race against anyone anytime that wants to challenge me.
Maybe I’m not the ‘best rider in the world’, but I consider myself the best 125 rider.
RJ: Would you ever go contest the World Motocross Championships? Is that something that’s even on your radar, or do you just want to keep setting records here in America?
James: I think I would like racing in Europe, but only occasionally. I don’t think I’d like it for an entire season.
I hope I can win a lot of races here, and break a lot of records. When I’m done with motocross, maybe I’ll do something like Jeremy McGrath is doing right now – SuperMoto. Maybe.
Rick, I also have a desire to do some of the things you did after motocross – like truck racing and cars. That is one of my lifetime goals to do something like that after motocross.
RJ: Here’s another question from one of the Supercross.com viewers: When you are on the starting gate, do you think about God? If not, what do you focus on?
James: I do actually focus on God, and on myself and the race at hand. So I focus on both.
I don’t know if it’s right or not, but I do ask Jesus to keep me and all the competitors safe. I pray for myself, all the competitors, fans, technicians, my family, and everyone, especially to be safe.
RJ: Will you run a number one plate in the future?
James: The whole superstitious thing in Las Vegas about the #1W plate … I’ll run any number – one, two … wait a minute, … I’ll run the #1, and the #259. (Laughs)
I do like my number 259. Maybe later in my career, if I can, I’ll run the #1 plate.
RJ: What kinda’ rig you runnin? Escalade? You runnin’ 23’s? 24’s? You got spinners? What’s the deal?
James: Well, of course, I have my 2003 Chevy truck. I’m runnin’ two set’s of 23’s, 20’s at my house, and a pair of 18’s on my Hummer. I’ve got a Hummer, a Lexus, an Escalade, and a Chevy truck.
You know me man, a ‘baller’ has to have his nice vehicles! (Both laugh)
RJ: James, I want to thank you for taking the time with me here today. As someone from the media, I dig watching what you do. As a racer, I love your determination. As a father and a fan, I appreciate your class. You are a great role model for my kids, and kids everywhere.
Plus, you are a ‘baller’ straight up. ; )
James: Hey Ricky, I just want to say to kids out there, you can follow your dreams.
I race for a lot of reasons – for the fans, for the media, for my family, and for myself. I don’t want to give up, and I want to be the best. That’s why I give it 100% all the time, no matter what.
To all the kids out there – you can do it. Pursue those dreams. You could be a champion too. Heck, look at me. I was just a kid in the ghetto. Now I have an 18-wheeler carrying my bikes across the country. I’ve got a motorhome for the races. I have a great family. Never give up on what you want. Anything is possible. Set your goals, and go after them.
I want to thank you Rick for allowing me to share with people what I’m about. Lots of people can see the ‘James Stewart’ on the track, but not everyone gets the chance to know ‘James Stewart’ the person.