GEICO Honda’s Chase Sexton and Monster Energy/Star Racing Yamaha’s Shane McElrath entered Sunday’s race with tied in the points lead in the 250SX East Region lead. Like the Atlanta Supercross when both riders shared the points lead back in February, only one rider would come out of the race day with the lead.
Sexton and McElrath, respectively, were the top qualifiers in the only session of the day after rain adjusted the schedule. McElrath won the first heat, Sexton the second. Come the main event, Sexton and McElrath were one-two. But in the second turn, that changed quickly. McElrath went inside on Sexton and pushed the #1E rider wide, sending him outside of the Tuff Blox. Sexton reentered the track inside the top ten but things continued to go south when he clipped the rear end of Enzo Lopes while tripling into a corner, taking them both down and allowing McElrath and the rest of the field to continue ahead while he remounted. Then, in a series of unfortunate events when Garrett Marchbanks went down hard, the race was red flagged and with McElrath (the leader) completing less than three laps, the race would be completely restarted out of the gates.
This worked out to be a gift, said Sexton afterwards, who got another great start—of course, accompanied by McElrath. But this time it was McElrath who had issued of his own as mistakes allowed Sexton to move from second to first and cruise to his third win of the 2020 championship. McElrath brought it home in second and his teammate Colt Nichols rounded out the podium.
All three riders spoke about it in a post-race press conference, held via a Zoom conference call. NBCSports’ Daniel Blair hosted the virtual press conference.
Daniel Blair: Shane and Chase, since we’ve gotten to Salt Lake City it’s been Shane versus Chase, Chase versus Shane. You guys have been riding well. You seem to be one-upping each other every chance you get. Come into this race with the red plates tied. Tough conditions. Chase, you’ve come away with it with that points lead. Shane, second in the championship as it runs. I want to talk about the couple things that happened in that main event. There was a red flag early that sent you guys back to the gate. Then Shane of course, lap traffic got you there early in that main event. Take me through both of those things and how it affected you differently.
Shane McElrath: Honestly, it was a bummer. I was ready to go. I think it showed. I pulled the holeshot. I didn’t pull the first one, but I got in the lead right away. Second one I pulled really good. I just felt like it was time to go. It was a bummer to get the red flag. I don’t know what really happened to Garrett [Marchbanks]. He was sitting up over there and they were waving the yellow and then he just never moved. It was a bummer to see him have to get hauled off and also to get red flagged because we were in the perfect position that we needed to be in. [I had to] Just refocus. I think we were all a little wet after sitting there in the rain for a little bit. It was pretty different once we started back racing. The rain really made things slippery. It was another good start. Really just tried to go. I was doing okay. The track was pretty slippery, but then just crossed paths with that lapper and went down. My gloves were slippery. My hands were frozen. It took me a couple laps to get back going, which was a bummer. At the end I felt fine and really just wish I had some more time. It was a bummer everything that happened, but to come away with second on a mud race, I did my best. We’ll be ready for next Wednesday.
Chase Sexton: The first race I got a really good start. Came into the second corner and Shane came inside me. I went off the track. The second rhythm section, I got the rhythm clean. I think Enzo Lopes rolled the last jump and I landed right on top of him and ended up sliding out. So that was a bummer. I really felt like my speed was really good all day. I felt like I had an edge on everybody. I think I could still get up to at least… I know I could have got into second but Shane, I was kind of keeping tabs on him the first couple laps. I felt like my speed was good enough to maybe get up to him. It definitely worked out in my favor to get the red flag. Got a decent start. I think I was second. I was kind of just riding behind Shane. The first race [that was restarted] I made a stupid mistake early and I was like, I’m not going to do that again. I got to wait this thing out. I felt like I was faster in the whoops. I got close to him a couple times, but I kind of backed off and then kind of got back close. Then he ended up coming together with a lapper, which gave me the lead. After that I kind of put my head down for a few laps and ended up running into the same lapper in that corner and broke my front brake system, so I didn’t have a front brake for over half that race which was kind of a bummer. It was kind of sketchy with how the track was. I felt like I rode decent. I felt like I rode really well all day, but that first race was not good for me. Getting the restart played in my favor. On the line I was like, “I got to win this race.” There was no second place tonight. I had to go out there and win. I feel like we did a good job with that.
Colt, for all the riders who are on this, they started the year then had the break and then are coming back to this, but for you this has been your supercross season. Just kind of take me through the last week and how it’s gone, how good it feels to be back, and not only to be back but riding at podium speed and getting on the box twice. How has the trip been for you and how important was it for you to get back into supercross and have some success here late?
Colt Nichols: It was honestly really important for me. I got kind of lucky by all this stuff happening and made it to where I would get to race these races in Utah. Really just tried to be prepared as I could. I would have loved to have had a little bit more time, but I think everyone is kind of in that boat a little bit at times. I just wanted to do this as well as I could. I didn’t really know where I was going to be. I’ve been riding with Shane back home. Obviously been going really well, but it’s just different when you’re in a title hunt. The intensity of the races is different. I’m kind of coming in here with intentions to try to help if I can. I just really want to go out there and do the best I can. Tonight I was just a third-place guy. I wasn’t really that great. I struggled in a lot of areas and just needed to overall be a lot better. But the trip itself has been really good. I’m super happy to be here and just being able to race. Two podiums in the last two races has been awesome for me. Just want to try to keep it going, finish the last two strong and maybe give myself a little momentum going into outdoors and try to see what we can do there.
Chase, after everything that’s happened in these last two races and how upset you were last Wednesday night, to come in and get a win like this was huge, especially because there was a head-to-head battle with Shane, after there was contact with you guys in the first race too, the first start. How important was it for you to enter this short break with the red plate again?
Sexton: I was obviously disappointed after last Wednesday. I felt really good that day too. I just made a small mistake and it cost me big time. Getting back to fourth was okay, but I want to be battling with Shane for wins. So I was bummed, but I kind of went in today like, this is a must win and to get the momentum back on my side. I felt like I was off a little bit coming to Salt Lake. I just need to get the momentum back on my side. I think today with those conditions, it kind of suits my riding style a little bit. I like those rutty, more East Coast type conditions. It wasn’t a full mud race. I knew coming in today that I was going to be in a good spot, and qualifying, first in my heat race and then obviously getting a break in the main event and going out and doing what I was capable of doing all day. I was pumped on that. That’s why I feel like the emotions were high after the race. Definitely excited to have the red plate back to myself.
If you prefer to watch the press conference, watch the archive below:
Shane, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you do what you did to Chase Sexton. You’ve always been a really clean rider, but you guys have gotten a little spicy. Was that payback for what he did to you a couple days ago in the qualifying where he bumped you off?
McElrath: Did I make contact with him? I didn’t feel any contact, so I’m not sure if I even bumped him or not. I was just going for the line. I thought he was still behind me. I didn’t know that he had went off the track until after the main event, in that case. I’m not riding to get payback. I’m riding to win. It’s whatever. It was first lap and it was like, let’s get the lead and let’s go. That was my mindset behind it.
The first couple rounds were really on the dry side. Did we finally get enough water into the track today?
McElrath: Yeah. It was pretty weird and knowing how hard and slick it’s been, it was really interesting coming in. It’s going to be muddy but the dirt also packs in really hard. Once we got to see the track on the track viewing, the lanes and everything was dry. There was definitely puddles between the transitions, but the jumps and everything looked like it was going to be dusty. We seen that in our one and only qualifying session, especially before the triple. Honestly I don’t think it was the rain that was the worst part. I think it was more being cold. Especially once we got restarted, we were all getting rained on, then sitting on the line and it rained harder. So we were all pretty wet. Once I fell and picked back up, my gloves were wet and muddy. Probably from halfway on, my hands were just really cold and burning. It was weird to have to deal with that. I missed out on Denver last year when it was really cold. It was tough all around, not just track-wise. It was conditions and weather and everything.
It’s a little different with the separation between you and mechanics too, trying to get things as simple as a water bottle or umbrella when you’re sitting on the line. It’s a little different now.
Especially when we went to restart. Our gates were just kind of trash. But even before that, you try to use a rag, you try to use a brush but the grates are just caked with mud. There’s really nothing you can do with it. You just set your holeshot button and hope you get traction. For us, I don’t think we really broke traction on the grates, which is surprising with them being wet and muddy. Especially on Wednesday the gates didn’t get picked up, so they were packed with dirt. Even under the gate, you really just tried to move the dirt around. As a rider you can’t really dig all that out without getting your gloves super dirty. You don’t really have time to take your gloves off and dig through the dirt and have to hold your bike yourself. It’s definitely different, but [at] the same time it kind of adds that little bit of focus especially before the gate. It’s like, “I got to do this, I got to do this, I got to do this.” Then the card goes up and it’s time to go. It’s definitely different, but it’s cool to be doing some different stuff right now.
Shane and Chase, you guys have been battling, tight points but now we’re going into a little bit of a break. It’s a short break, but a break nonetheless. Is this something you guys are read for or would you rather just keep racing?
Sexton: Like you said, we have a little bit of a break. It’s not very much. It’s only I think ten days or something like that. For me, it will actually let me get back to my normal-ish riding schedule. Ride some this upcoming week and then get back into racing the next week. We’ve been off for so long that taking a break right now doesn’t really feel right. We want to race three races. It’s going to be weird. It’s going to be weird being in Utah and not at home and just trying to keep yourself entertained. It’s going to be different. Then having the west coast guys here so close where you can’t even go watch the race. It’s going to be different, but I think everyone’s in the same boat.
McElrath: It’s really kind of exciting because the West Coast guys are going to start back racing, but at the same time it’s not really anything long. For me, kind of like Jason [Anderson] said earlier, there’s no much time in-between the races as it is. This week we will get to ride a little bit during the week. We’ll get to do some training and still stay on top of our recovery. I’m really enjoying this schedule and having to get these races knocked out. It’s pretty wide open, but every single race day that we’ve had since we’ve been here has been completely different. We had one really early morning, one really late at night, one all over the place today. It’s really exciting just to kind of be going with the flow. It’s like, all right, this is what we got. Let’s work with it. We’re ready right now. We’ll be ready come next Wednesday and we’ll keep this thing going.