James Stewart won the AMA Supercross season opener at Angel Stadium by chasing down rookie Ryan Dungey and winning by nearly 3.5 seconds in front of 43,841 on Saturday night.
Dungey led the first 17 laps of the 20-lap race. Stewart made his pass for the lead on Lap 18, erasing a nearly 4.5-second deficit. Dungey refused to give up, though, pulling even with Stewart on the last lap, but Stewart pulled away at the end and won the first race of the AMA Supercross season.
"The beginning part of the race he was out really good," Stewart said. "We stayed pretty much consistent. He was riding good. I was able to catch him. We battled to the end. That's what racing's about. When you get that close, you battle to the end. He's a great competitor."
Kevin Windham finished third, followed by Andrew Short in fourth and Ryan Villopoto in fifth.
"I had it going and a little bobble cost me. That's why we are here: to learn," Dungey said. "It was fun out there. It was a fun day and I really look forward to being up in this class. It's enjoyable."
It was a much different start to the AMA Supercross season for Stewart, the reigning champion in the series. He crashed in the season opener in Anaheim last year and did not finish the race.
Josh Grant, the surprise winner in last year's season opener, did not get a chance to repeat his winning performance.
He has been recovering from injuries he sustained when he crashed while practicing on a private track near his home in Riverside on Tuesday. He hit his head, injured his shoulder and broke his nose in the crash.
Grant practiced and finished ninth in his heat race on Saturday night. He qualified for the main event but did not start. He pulled out of the race just before it began.
Chad Reed, the runner-up in the AMA Supercross standings last year and a two-time Supercross champion, broke a spoke on his bike in the second lap. He withdrew from the race and finished 19th.
Davi Millsaps, the top qualifier in the race, faded quickly and finished ninth.
Jake Weimer won the Supercross Lites West race, leading all 15 laps from start to finish. Trey Canard was second, followed by Ryan Morais of Murrieta in third.
Weimer, the fastest qualifier and a rider from Rupert, Idaho, won by 4.391 seconds over Canard.
"It feels good to come away with a win," Weimer said.
Blake Wharton finished fourth, rallying through the field after qualifying and starting 17th in the 20-rider field. Wil Hahn finished fifth.