James Stewart said his move to Joe Gibbs Racing to race on Yamaha through 2014, officially announced Tuesday, is like the Beatles "getting the band back together."
With JGRMX, Stewart will rejoin familiar company from his Kawaskai days; former mechanic Jeremy Albrecht, who now is the team manager; engine builder Dean Baker and Spencer Bloomer, JGR's R&D technician who was a support tech at Team Green when Stewart was an amateur.
Stewart, who finished fourth in the 2011 AMA Supercross series and then sat out the AMA Pro Motocross Championship for the third consecutive year, said he never stopped riding over the summer. Instead, he was pounding laps with his brother Malcolm while also trying to figure out what brand and team he wanted to ride for in 2012. He tested on all five brands and fielded offers from many teams before ultimately settling on JGRMX in a deal that also will give him future opportunities to race with four wheels for the team's NASCAR operation. He has a test scheduled in a few weeks in a late model car, he said.
First though, Stewart, a five time AMA Supercross/Motocross champion, said he has two goals: to win both titles in the same year and to beat Jeremy McGrath's career supercross win record, which stands at 72. He currently has 42 wins.
Stewart talked with ESPN.com about his deal with JGRMX before the announcement.
ESPN.com: When did this process begin?
James Stewart: I want to say around Millville [July], so it's been a while. I came up and checked out the facility and kind of knew. I was in a position this year where we just couldn't find the setup we needed and I was looking for a change. With the team based around me, we just didn't have the resources to figure it out. It made sense to go this route.
It took this long, too -- up until last week. That's when I made my decision because I couldn't sleep anymore. I was having issues sleeping, trying to figure out which brand and what opportunity I was going to take.
You're James Stewart. How could you not have the resources available to you?
JGR is different. If you don't like the cut of the seat they'll cut it down and make four of them. Before, [I would get] 'We don't have an extra seat as an option'. JGR opens it up to the NASCAR side of things where they have CNC machines and they can build stuff and really make the Yamahas fit for me.
To put it in perspective, it would be like [being] a football coach and [being] told you could only recruit from Texas and Alabama, as opposed to the whole country. That was the biggest difference for us. Over there [L&M] we didn't have everything, especially with the times being the way they are. We didn't have the resources to say 'All right, let's build a new side plate, let's build new suspension'. We just didn't have that. Here we do: We can see what we're doing instead of shooting in the dark.
What happened at L&M?
There were so many negative things going on that it put me in a spot where I wasn't enjoying what I was doing. It was more drama, and I didn't want to do that again next year. It wasn't like I built this thing from the ground up. The way I look at it, all the issues we had this year made me a better person and we were within nine points of winning the championship with two races left.
Then it wasn't the brand?
If I didn't feel like I could win here [on Yamaha] then I wouldn't have come back. I had an opportunity to ride every single brand. I rode every single bike. This time it's what team I wanted to be on and how I gel with the team. To be honest, I gel with the Suzuki guys really well. I gel with everybody, but I felt like the situation to go racing and not have to worry about anything ... this was the best place to do that. I could up their racing program and they can support my future of eventually going into NASCAR. I felt like that was a strong package.
You rode every brand. Did you feel wanted by every single brand?
The only team I never pursued was Kawasaki. Obviously I rode the bike. I had a stock one and a few that were set up. I had an offer from factory Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha, JGR, my old team, and a few other teams, so I had a lot offers. Even KTM. I really think it came down to, I knew where [Ryan] Dungey was going and, when the outdoor season started, I felt like it gave me a chance to sit back and check things out and spend some time with my decision. When the Gibbs deal came up, as far as a racing team, I knew that was the team I wanted to be on. Once we locked the manufacturer in it was an easy decision to make.
What do they have that you've never had before?
Resources that will allow us do whatever we need to win races. I think I've always had that but when it comes down to it, the tools in the toolbox are a lot bigger. We have four of the top engineers in NASCAR working on my motorcycle. That's the difference. And being able to run whatever we want, whatever is best. When you get locked in to a factory you have to run whatever they have. This opens it up. That's the cool part.
What are you doing for the summer of 2012?
We're racing. We'll be ready to go. I think not racing outdoors this year sucked. For sure it sucked.
Is this a fresh start?
I think it's more about going to a racing team and worrying about racing. I want to say it's business as usual and the mistakes we made in 2011, I hope, are not around next year. What I struggled with in 2011 was when I wasn't perfect things went bad really quickly. That's why we would go from a good night, way out front, to flipping over the handlebars. I believe that we've put our finger on it and found a better setup where those problems shouldn't happen and I don't have to be perfect all the time to try to win races. I think we'll be better off.