News 24 Apr 2024

The weekly progress that has Stewart energized

Malcolm Stewart has been building back from injury all year and is feeling more like himself.

Coming into the 2024 Monster Energy Supercross season, there was a lot of excitement around Malcolm Stewart as he made his return to Supercross after a knee injury sidelined him in 2023. Though things haven’t gone the way Stewart had hoped just yet, he continues to improve week after week, and he feels he’s been getting back to his normal self.

Image: Octopi Media.

The year started rough with Stewart crashing in the first corner of each of the first three rounds of the year. Since then, Stewart has not finished worse than 11th in any race and has consistently been battling in the P7 to P10 range. While it’s not quite the third place in the championship Stewart achieved in 2022, those results haven’t discouraged Stewart who realizes the heightened competition in the 450SX class in 2024.

“I would say we got off to a little bit of a slow start,” said Stewart. “But you can’t really ask for too much when you have a whole year off. These guys are going fast right now, and I thought things were going to go a little bit easier, but it’s racing. It’s definitely been up and down but we’ve gotten better. The team has been working really hard and I’ve just been trying to get a little bit more comfortable. I’m just trying to get off the gate and get in there and get in the mix. I feel like for me, I’ve been coming from the back and these guys are great. The 450 class is no joke right now and I love it. I always tell people, “If you ain’t winning, eighth place is just as hard as getting first place.” It’s tough out there! But that’s what’s been making it fun and we’re just going to keep trying and keep digging deep.”

Another thing that Stewart has been working through since the start of the season is Husqvarna’s switch to the new generation chassis. Every few years, the manufacturer will go through this change, but Husqvarna gave their team the unique ability to remain on last year’s frame if they wanted to. Stewart chose to go with the new frame when it was offered in November.

Image: Octopi Media.

Initially, things seemed to be going quite well in the offseason as rumors were flying that Stewart was back to his old self and consistently one of the fastest guys at the test track. Even speaking with him in December, Stewart had high hopes for how things would go once he got back racing again. But things didn’t translate from test track to race track the way he nor the team had hoped, and it left them scratching their heads at times. One thing that added to the struggle was that several of the first rounds of the year were mud races and nothing the team worked on during the week could really translate onto the weekend.

“A lot of it has to do with the fact that we’ve had so many mud races,” Stewart said of working through setup changes. “It’s like, “Alright, we made some gains this week and we go to the race and it’s raining and we’re thinking, well did it work?” We had a great offseason but a lot of it had to do more so with just getting back on the bike and things were clicking the way they should have been. We’re obviously trying to transfer that to the race, but racing and practicing is a lot different, right? You ride the bike totally different. The tracks have definitely been what felt like an outdoor National at half of them this year. But we’re learning and we keep moving forward. It’s not just challenging for me; it’s challenging for everybody. I’m just excited to be back racing.”

Image: Octopi Media.

Stewart would end up falling early in the main event in Nashville and slipped back to 15th, but he was able to climb all the way back to ninth place by the time the checkered flag waved. He’s also been right there week after week with close qualifying times, and his heat race in Nashville was really strong as he even passed Eli Tomac at one point and was all over Jett Lawrence, Cooper Webb, and Tomac for the duration of the race.

We haven’t yet seen what Stewart could do with a start in 2024, and that may not change in the final three races given that he still hasn’t found a consistent launch off the gate. But the signs are there that a start could be the only missing piece left for Stewart to actually dice it up in the top five again like he did on a regular basis prior to his injury.