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Gary Bailey Trackside - Analysis of Stewart's Daytona Crash

by The "Professor" Gary Bailey


Well, this week I have heard it all about why James Stewart crashed during the Daytona SX.  Some have said Stewart was riding over his head. Another theory is that he was on his arches and that if he were on the balls of his feet he would not have crashed.  I don’t think Stewart was riding over his head or out of control.  And, I think his position in or out of his arches is irrelevant to the crash as well.

The simple fact is, Stewart is sometimes in a league of his own. Stewart has gone to a level of riding that most don’t know and aren’t even willing to try. Whether you are a Stewart fan or not, you cannot watch Stewart without being amazed at how he is always finding unique ways to finesse the track to go faster.

Stewart was doing just that at Daytona, finessing the track to gain speed. Stewart was doing a small wheelie onto the face of the takeoff ramp, so he could get a little more compression and rebound to clear the center jump and land on the back side of the third one.

When you do this, it is very important you set the front wheel on the face of the jump, about a foot or two from the top. The front wheel touching the top of the jump helps get more lift and keeps the front end a little higher as you leave the jump.

To understand, picture this. It’s a little like going over a log. If the front wheel touches the log, it helps keep the front wheel up. But, if the front wheel does not touch the log, then when the rear wheel hits, it throws the front end down and this makes the rear of the bike come up.

Now that you understand the strategy, here is where it went wrong for Stewart at Daytona (in my opinion).  As James came out of the turn, he got a little too much traction (a small miscalculation).  As a result, the front wheel came up too high and missed the top of the jump. This may have been okay if the takeoff jump were smoother or flatter.  But because the jumps at Daytona seem to get ruts and a little cupped, it causes a kicker, so it was not smooth or flat enough to allow Stewart to get by with this small miscalculation.

So Stewart was not over his head or out of control, he knew exactly what he was trying to do in using the compression and rebound to land further on the backside of the third jump. He just got a little too much traction and at that speed a little mistake can be costly.

You cannot go as fast as Stewart does without commitment on a level that most of us are too scared to even think about. At least Stewart has the confidence to try to get every ounce he can out of the bike and the track.  If you ask me that level of commitment takes courage when Stewart is smart enough to know that at his speed even a small miscalculation can put him on the ground.  If you question Stewart’s level of commitment, why did no other rider even try that hop over that big wall he was jumping at Daytona?

Here is a wide look at the triple jump Stewart had the crash on.

photo: Gary Bailey
In this photo James is doing the jump early in the day when they where doing double, single. At this time it is not important to do a loft or a wheelie onto the face.

photo: Gary Bailey
At this speed and only doubling, it’s easy to keep the bike flat just by having the right body position.

photo: Gary Bailey
When you see this shot of RV you can see that you need a lot more drive and a lot more lift to do the triple. With the corner all the way to the face of the jump you can only go so fast. Here is where technique and commitment becomes every important.

photo: Gary Bailey

Here is a clip from the big screen showing two different angles. Watch both and you will see the front is too high and misses the jump, so the front end cannot get rebound to keep the front light. As Paul Harvey would say, AND THAT’S THE REST OF THE STORY.

It's really interesting to listen to Emig at the very end of the Speed broadcast clip. He reiterates exactly what Gary is talking about - Virtual Trainer

Thank you for checking out this article. Other similar articles can be found in the archive section. I hope all of my articles help you become a better, safer rider no matter what your skill level. Because I am in semi retirement after 43-years teaching full-time, I only do private one-on-one coaching or with a small group of riders. Most of my time is spent in Virginia, however, if you are on the west coast I do spend some of the winter months in California visiting my kids and grandkids. If you are interested in scheduling a coaching session shoot me an email or go to my website. You can come to the mountain or the mountain will come to you!

That's it for now, until next time, good luck with your training and remember, if you have a question, log on to the Virtual Trainer Expert Forum and have your question answered by a panel of experts. In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section. Your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness. VT Signature

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  1. Gravatar
    RV2 Fan March 12, 2011 at 11:18 am

    Well done! You couldnt have said it any better... JS7 is in another league. I would have liked to see another full outdoor season of JS7 and the GOAT. They put on a show!

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    blknite March 12, 2011 at 11:34 am

    for the most part this is somewhat correct...but i believe his bike was set-up improperly with the rear shock a tad too stiff! if you watch the whole race you`ll see he struggles with it kicking and almost crashes a few times before this! it looks as if the ride hieght was too much and the rebound a lilttle too fast! it looks as if he adapted to it and tried to ride as he knows how with it that way! take a second look and respond!

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    mx_tech March 12, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    blknite: Improper bike suspension set-up? Don't think so pal. Post & Pre-race checks for sag are a "basic no-brainer" for any mechanic/rider combo. All pro- caliber riders/mechanics know that the Daytona SX track conditions change drastically from early practice and qualifying sessions. There is no way to pre-"dial in" compression & rebound settings to compensate for ongoing track deterioration during the race. Take a close look at the race-line groove exiting that corner, and notice the acceleration bumps and holes approaching the face of that single. Bailey hit it 100% spot on...he got too much traction exiting that turn which caused JS7 to miscalculate his pre-loading of the front end. This is why Gary Bailey is a "Professional analyst" and the rest of us are Sunday morning arm-chair idiots. Pops to Fro for his real-time analysis as well. Great job Jeffro.

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    OrganDoner March 12, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    they should have never let him ride the rest of that race. he was OUT!!!

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    Dean March 12, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    Mr. Bailey is totally right, but I know when I trained with Bailey back in the day he showed me the proper way to use the clutch. I think that strategy would have favored James in a big way..

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    Mxman March 12, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    Def was not the bike setup! He def did not set the front forks by missing the top of the first jump...also James makes no secret about liking his suspension as stiff as he can...that's no secret. At the speeds he rides and his aggressive riding style, he has to have it stiff

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    mxfan March 12, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    Absolutely correct..... js7 takes chances, sometimes it does not work out but he is still the fastest mx/sx rider ever, ever, ever. Haters get a life

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    dave March 12, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    i agree with this analysis 100% ... and will add that if the jump take off wasnt so cupped out he would not have lost that precious bit of drive that might have saved the nasty ending even if it meant only doubling jump... as for him being KOed from what ive seen i dont think he hit his head real hard he did quite a graceful forward roll & got up straight away & basically ran to his bike .... try doing that when your KOed ... he landed pretty much flat on his back & was probably winded more then anything

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    Dono35 March 12, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    Great article! More Mr Bailey please....................

  10. Gravatar
    gary bailey March 13, 2011 at 9:26 am

    Keep an eye out for the next why to, soon, I am going a little deeper into James Stewart just to give you all something more to think about. AS for the setup?
    And for whitey, I admire anyone that is the best at what they do.

  11. Gravatar
    Wannabe March 13, 2011 at 9:43 am

    RC and Fro made the exact same call when it happened live. Gary Bailey is a genius and great moto mind, but this time he is only stating the obvious and repeating what the booth announcers saw live.

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    Racer X Virtual Trainer March 13, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    Thanks for the insight Wannabe. Very constructive comment. Since Fro and RC already pointed this out during the broadcast, there was no need for Gary to take time out of his busy day and elaborate on the topic. You would think the guy would know better since he gets paid so much to write these articles for VT. Maybe I should just delete this article. Gary, next time I see you I'm going to take the ruler and crack your knuckles.

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    gary bailey March 13, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    You are right wannabe. However when I wrote this I had not seen this show, so they saw the same thing I did. As this was being posted I then saw the clip from the speed show and it was added as well. So I still posted, while I had it done. If you did not see the show then this will help someone understand.

  14. Gravatar
    smp283 March 13, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    why you you ever make a comment like that about Mr. Bailey, one of, if not the greatest motocross mind ever. Any bit of advice he gives is awesome to hear. Yes he may have repeated some of what they said on the air, but if he was like most of us he was probably there in person and did not hear the broadcast. We should be thankful he takes time from his busy schedule to do such things as analyze incidents in racing and then walk us through them so we may learn something to help other riders down the road. I would like to say thank you Mr. Bailey and can not wait to hear fom you again. I was lucky enough to be present at Broome-Tioga one day that he was present and I learned more in that few hours than I have in being around any other instructors or other pro's. Didn't your mother ever teach you if you have nothing nice to say then don't say anything at all. Thanks again Mr. Bailey and hopefully we will see you again in upstate at Broome or Unadilla.

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    Josh March 13, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    I agree with the arcticle. But I do not understand why Stewart would actually HAVE to wheelie into the face to clear the triple. I saw many other riders make that triple, with what looked like a standard seat bounce.

    I love these articles Mr. Bailey. I hope you have more on the pretty basic (for most people) stuff. It really helps the novice riders like myself, learn to do the basics correctly

  17. Gravatar
    werewolfracing March 15, 2011 at 9:03 am

    James Stewart is exactly what MX needs. Off the bike he has personality, is intelligent, well-spoken, has a great sense of humor. People whine about a possible lack of focus with his T.V. show and whatever, but how many other racers have ever transcended the sport the way Bubba has? How many fans and money has he brought into the sport because he has the ability to entertain (on MTV!!!)? I'd say, almost-un-arguably, more then any other rider in the history of the sport ...

    And on the bike?!? Talk about entertainment!! He has one speed: WFO!! He's gonna leave it all out on the track even if he's up by twenty seconds, always pushing 100%. Whether any one likes it on not (even him), he's wired to go as fast as he can every time he's on the bike and he does that better then anyone ever has. How can anyone not like this kid? So he's botched a few championships ... best thing ever for the sport.

  18. Gravatar
    KG March 15, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    Thanks, Professor.

    Really insightful commentary, Sir. Especially for those with little or no riding/racing experience..., especially on a track (design) that requires professional level skills to get around at even a modest rate of speed.

    Your ability to break it down and make it a teachable moment is appreciated by veteran and beginning riders/racers alike.

    Keep up the great doses of insight.

  19. Gravatar
    BIll March 15, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    James is the kind of guy that would make the bike kick on purpose just to see how much he can panic rev coming out of it. I guess this one went to far but he demonstrated a perfect dismount from an endo.

  20. Gravatar
    KG March 19, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    Professor Bailey:
    If a severe crash happens, at what point should a Brain Injury Specialist be consulted (post-race Assessment?) as a health and precautionary measure for the rider & everyone else's safety?

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    Racer X Virtual Trainer March 20, 2011 at 11:46 am

    KG, that is a call for the AMA to make. It is up to them as the governing body to decide (or is that MX Sports' job now). Either way, there needs to be a clearly defined standard regarding head injuries and return to battle.

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