With expectations high for the three-way battle that never materialized last season, dirt bike wunderkind James "Bubba" Stewart delivered a victory Saturday at a sold-out Angel Stadium as the Amp'd Mobile AMA Supercross Series ushered in the four-stroke era in American supercross.
Stewart, on a four-stroke Kawasaki KX450F, won two earlier races in Canada as part of the World GP, but most riders considered Anaheim the real start of the season, and the two men expected to deal with Stewart for the title, 2003 champion Chad Reed and four-time champion Ricky Carmichael, followed him to the finish line.
With Reed fifth, Carmichael eighth and Stewart 11th on the first lap, the three moved steadily toward the front. Reed, on a Yamaha YZ450F, took the lead from American Honda's Ernesto Fonseca on Lap 5. Carmichael, who had been passed by Stewart only to pass him back for seventh place earlier in the race, overtook Reed on Lap 7 but fell two turns later.
Reed was again in control, but Stewart emerged from contact with Reed on Lap 9 and pulled away. Carmichael, who dropped to eighth, still salvaged the night in the 20-lap main event. The margin of victory was 9.1 seconds.
"That was a shame, we had a good race going," Carmichael said. "I just wanted to get a good drive through the whoops, but unfortunately I missed one. I'm disappointed in myself."
Only four riders competed in the main event on two-stroke 250cc motorcycles, including Jeremy McGrath and David Vuillemin. They finished 11th and 10th.
Carmichael, who has never won an opening-round event at Anaheim, won his fourth Supercross title last season after missing all of 2004, which opened the door for Yamaha's Reed.
Stewart failed to make it a dogfight last season because he missed nine races because of a broken arm. Reed finished 16th in the opener and put himself in too deep a hole to emerge. He finished second overall, 25 points behind Carmichael.
"Hopefully, all of us can stay healthy," Carmichael said. "I'd love for it all to go down to the last lap of the last race and may the best man win."
Said Roger DeCoster, five-time world champion and team manager for Carmichael's Team Makita Suzuki: "For the championship, I think it's still between Ricky and Chad. Bubba is still going to win races, but I think it will take another year for him to win the championship."
The lower class, for 250cc four-strokes and 125cc four-strokes, is now called Supercross Lites. The 15-lap race was won by American Honda rider Andrew Short of Murrieta Valley.