James Stewart took victory in California on Saturday night as Anaheim's Angel Stadium played host to the opening round of the 2010 AMA Supercross championship.
With reigning title holder Stewart and Australian Chad Reed the only active former champions in the series, the pre-race story was all about the continuation of their rivalry, but a couple of promising youngsters in the form of Ryan Villopoto and Ryan Dungey were all primed to make an impact.
Right from the start of the main event, Dungey fired out ahead of Villopoto and Stewart into the first corner, but Stewart carried more speed out and went straight past Villopoto into second through the whoops and into turn two.
Further back, however, Reed was in serious trouble - making his American debut for his new Monster Energy Kawasaki team, Reed found Suzuki-mounted youngster Austin Stroupe charging across in front of him away from the start, Stroupe's footpeg slamming into Reed's front wheel and causing terminal damage to the spokes. A furious Reed could only coast back to the pits and into retirement, his only consolation being that Stewart DNF'd the same, opening fixture last year and came back to win the title.
Up front, Stewart was right with Dungey, Villopoto holding a watching brief in third, and it looked like a three-way battle was in the offing, but the leading duo began to slowly edge away from Villopoto and it looked like Stewart was just biding his time before making a move.
Villopoto seemed to be struggling as a duo of Honda riders lined up behind him, Andrew Short ahead of veteran Kevin Windham, whilst up front, Dungey seemed to be anything but struggling, Stewart slowly but surely dropping away from his tail. It seemed like there might be a major upset on the cards, with Stewart riding within himself, seemingly unable to lift the pace to close Dungey down, but as the raced reached three-quarter distance, Stewart suddenly seemed to come alive, finding outrageous amounts of pace and gobbling up Dungey's five second lead in barely a couple of laps.
Stewart fired his L&M Racing Yamaha inside a visibly-tense Dungey and got great drive out, powering through into the lead and starting to pull away, and it seemed the battle might be won with three laps left - but no-one had told Dungey that the race was supposed to be over.
The Makita-Suzuki-mounted 20-year-old regrouped and charged back hard onto the tail of a Stewart who clearly thought he'd got the win in the bag - with the crowd on it's feet for a grandstand finish, Stewart was forced into taking defensive lines to protect himself, but with half a lap to go, Dungey pushed just too far as he tried to turn inside Stewart, his bike spinning up sliding wide.
Dungey stayed on to cross the line second, but the 3.5 second gap belied just how hard he'd pushed Stewart to the finish - the leading pair crossed the line almost thirty seconds ahead of the battle for third, which popularly went to Windham in the Geico Powersports Honda, ahead of Short and a disappointing Villopoto, on the comeback trail from a 2009 season hit by injury.