“YOU JUST MAD ‘CAUSE YOU AIN’T GOT ONE!”
This was the response from James Stewart when I told him that his Mercedes G-wagon SUV looked like one of those old metal Disney lunch boxes (look it up and tell me I’m lying). Up until that point, I had never even seen a G-wagon, but I did hear all the rappers on the Billboard Top 100 promoting them in their music.
You see, I was formerly a practice and race technician in our crazy little sport. At the time that I decided to give the former FMOTP (Fastest Man on the Planet) some grief about his method of transportation, I was spinning wrenches for his extremely fast and talented little brother, Malcolm, as his practice mechanic.
My time working with the Stewarts in 2013/2014 was one that I will always hold dear to my heart. I am so grateful for them not only trusting me with their lives, but also allowing me to have exposure to places and experiences that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Like the time James flew a few of us home on Christmas Eve on a private jet so that we could spend time with our families on Christmas.
I want to go ahead and address the invisible elephant in the room (because you may not know what I look like), by making you aware that I am black. I know it doesn’t matter to most of you, but it does mean something to me. Although I’ve often experienced racism in the sport of motocross, I’ve always made the effort to live my life not focusing on the things that divide us as humans. I will be completely transparent though: being black, and working with the Stewarts made me feel powerful. I’m black, and at the top of my game, spinning wrenches for another black family at the top of their game… in a predominately white sport.
I was proud and grateful, and I was working with the family that inspired me to pursue a career in the motocross industry.
Being able to witness these brothers and their family up close, watching their habits, being a part of the highs and lows, and even flying in a private jet that was catered with brick oven pizza was the most incredible experience in my career (besides my 2012 win with Andrew Short in Seattle).
Let me give you an example: Once on a Wednesday in 2013, the week of Atlanta Supercross, I was watching James prepare for the upcoming race on one of the Big James-prepped supercross tracks at their compound in Haines City, Florida. I remember watching James effortlessly pilot his Yoshimura Suzuki around the “north” track.
And then it happened.
As James was flowing through a long rhythm section, his chain snapped on the face of the second triple, and he was thrown off the front of his Suzuki into the face of the next triple. Everyone dropped EVERYTHING and ran to check on him. As I rushed over to help, Dave Kelly (James’ practice mechanic) was there, along with Big James and his Kawasaki Mule. It was clear that James was banged up, but he was completely aware of what happened (I also want to say that the mechanical was no fault of Dave’s).
James obviously spent the rest of the week recovering from his mishap during practice. I honestly don’t remember how everyone else felt about James racing that weekend, but I didn’t think that he would feel good enough to line up. If he did attempt to race, I wasn’t expecting a victory.
However, in typical Stew fashion, he not only did he line up for the Atlanta Supercross, but got the holeshot and won wire-to-wire en route to a 1.4 second victory over a hard charging Ryan Villopoto.
Being able to witness experiences like these were the reason that I was so proud to be a part of that camp. I saw the resilience of this entire family up close, and that inspired me to do my best every single day.
Honestly, at the time when I worked with the Stewarts, I was hyper focused on doing my job as efficiently as possible. It was difficult to truly take in the magnitude of the opportunity that I had. So many people would kill to be able to have a chance to step foot on the Steward Compound….
…and there I was, eating Reese Cups with Big James in his fully stocked car garage, and partying with Malcolm at the disco after an off-season race in Geneva, Switzerland.
Now that I’m older and have had more time to reflect, I think often about my career in motocross. Every moment with every rider and team member was so precious, and I even found my soul mate during that time which made it worth all of the struggles. So to my amazing wife, thank you for supporting me now, and through all of the traveling and long days of testing.
To the Stewarts, thank you for the opportunity. I appreciate you.
Brandon spent 12 years in the motocross industry as a technician for riders such as: Malcolm Stewart, Adam Cianciarulo, and Blake Baggett. At Round 15 of the 2012 Monster Energy Supercross Championship, Brandon won his sole race in the premier class as a technician for Andrew Short. Since leaving the industry in 2018, his primary focus has been spending time with his wife and son, helping others through his bi-weekly podcast, and traveling as often as possible with his family.