Break time! With only five rounds to go in an exciting year of racing, we recap our best moments from each class. We grabbed our guys Aaron Hansel (editor-at-large), Jason Weigandt (editorial director), and Mitch Kendra (online associate editor) to write about a few highlights of the season so far.
Frontier Justice In Indy
Aaron Hansel: I don’t enjoy seeing anyone on the ground, I just love it how frontier justice works in this sport, and in this case, the execution couldn’t have been any better.
At Indy 1, Michael Mosiman put Jett Lawrence down almost immediately in a heat race. Rewind one week prior, when Lawrence confused his HRC Honda with a battering ram and absolutely drilled Mosiman’s front end. It was odd because Lawrence hadn’t been stuck behind Mosiman for long, and, as far as we know, the two had less beef between them than a pair of vegans on a cleanse. But ram him he did, leaving everyone wondering if Mosiman would exact revenge one week later.
When something like that happens, it makes you want to grab the popcorn for the next race, but often the revenge just never happens. Even a careless woodworker could count on one hand the number of times Jason Anderson has been on the receiving end of successful payback [Note: Brayton did it once! –Weege]. The rarity makes it that much more satisfying. We didn’t have to wait long for Mosiman to exact his pound of flesh, either. At the very next round, just mere moments into the race, Mosiman charged up the inside and ran Lawrence high, leaving him nowhere to go but down. He didn’t smash him, and he did it in the heat race so as not to damage Lawrence’s position in the championship (which Lawrence later acknowledged and even seemed to appreciate). As far as revenge goes, Mosiman did it in the politest way possible.
The real kicker? Check out the 450 guys reacting to Mosiman’s move while in staging.
Crashes Change the Story at Houston 3
Jason Weigandt: Is this best moments or most important moments? Well, the most important moments will lead to the best moments, so I guess this is okay. One corner at Houston 3 changed the look of this series, as both Austin Forkner and RJ Hampshire were collected in the same section in practice. Both riders clipped the landing of a jump before a turn and endoed. The injuries really changed the face of the 250SX East title fight. Forkner has a lot of supercross wins and has battled for titles before, and Hampshire is always a contender, but with both riders out, a Christian Craig/Colt Nichols/Jett Lawrence title duel formed (they each took a win in Houston). Jett then ran into his own problems, so this title will feature Colt versus Craig in a battle of the “long journey to get here” tale. Nichols and Craig could have won the title no matter who else was racing but losing other contenders so soon really changed the feel of the series. Several privateers ended up with amazing career-best results, and the championship is set up for feel good story no matter which rider wins.
Colt Nichols Comes Back at Indy 3
Mitch Kendra: Looking big picture, Indy 3 turned out to be quite the night. Teammates Colt Nichols and Christian Craig were first and third through the first few sections until an error cost Nichols to crash out of the lead on the first lap. Nichols had to wait for the pack to clear, leaving him in last place.
While charging through the field, Nichols encountered Honda HRC’s Jett Lawrence. Lawrence had just crashed hard on the Tuesday night heat race and opted to sit out of the Indianapolis 2 main event but was all-in for racing for the third time that week. While Nichols made short work of most of the field, he ran into some trouble with Jettson. The two went back and forth for several laps using different lines, maneuvers, and speeds all while navigating through traffic—most notably Lawrence’s stoppie entering the turn before the whoops.
Eventually the Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing rider got the better of his younger counterpart. While Craig cruised to the win out front and Nichols somehow managed a third-place finish, limiting Craig to just a five-point gain in the series. After the race, you might think Nichols would have been heated after that battle with Lawrence, but this wasn’t the case. They were seen chatting—and smiling—on the backside of a berm! It was a fun battle to watch and seeing them have a good time bench racing about it was great to see in its own way. While both riders have had very different journeys before making it to the top step of a 250SX main event, you have to respect their hustle. Plus, if Nichols does hold onto claim the title, this race will be looked back upon and thought as the championship “saver.” As the saying goes, “Championships are won on your worst nights.” From the bigger picture perspective of the championship standings, the battle between Lawrence and Nichols, and the duo then chatting afterwards, there was a lot to unpack from this race. Plus seven different riders cashed in new career bests in this main event. That’s a lot of good stuff.
Daytona Supercross' Podium Trio
Aaron Hansel: Where to start out west? The 250SX class is so packed with feel-good moments picking just one is like walking into a Ferrari dealership and asking if you can see the fast one. Hunter Lawrence and Seth Hammaker getting their first wins and guys like Kyle Peters and Jalek Swoll getting on the podium, well, that stuff just makes you feel good, ya’ know?
If you’re catching the vibes of my written revs right now, then you, like me, must have loved Daytona. You’ve got the warm and fuzzies of Cameron McAdoo getting his first win and taking over the points lead there, combined with several other “I love you man,” moments.
Stilez Robertson took second place. It’s no secret last summer wasn’t exactly a picnic for him, and far too often we’ve seen rookies not perform at what some might consider a factory level and get cut before getting a chance to really bloom. Robertson still had time to right the ship, but it had to be somewhere in his mind, be it the forefront or stashed somewhere in the back. So, when he comes out and leads laps at Daytona and hangs on for second place, it just makes you smile and say, “Hell yeah, nice job!” as if he could hear you from the couch 3,000 miles away.
Similar story for Pierce Brown. He was pretty good during the Salt Lake City leg of supercross in 2020 but was struggling in the Nationals before getting injured at RedBud and missing the rest of the summer. He didn’t even race the 250SX West opener because he wasn’t quite ready yet. But at Daytona, his very first race back, he goes and nails the final spot on the podium. That entire podium is about as close as you can get to a Hallmark Moment in motocross, people.
Hunter's Hunt is Over
Jason Weigandt: This series offered three-straight weeks of first-time winners, but to me Hunter Lawrence’s first win was the biggest. Cameron McAdoo was following the natural career progression toward race wins. Hammaker is a rookie but showed supercross speed immediately, wins were probably going to come. For Lawrence, things were getting bleak. All those injuries were probably leading to a lot of doubts. We’ve seen riders head into that black hole and only a few recover completely. Also, Hunter’s supercross skills were a complete mystery because no one outside of private track had really seen him ride it. It was massive for Hunter to show the world that he can A) get healthy B) win again and C) win at supercross. He punctuated it with a sweet double pass to get the lead in that race. Best moment, for sure.
The World One Year Later
Mitch Kendra: I’m going to sort of combine my 250SX West and my 450SX best moments. For me, for someone to win their first race at Daytona is awesome—and we got to experience it now for the second-straight year. This was an ever bigger celebration than that, though. After Garrett Marchbanks won the 2020 250SX main event and Ken Roczen and Eli Tomac fought for both the premier class main event win and sole possession of the 450SX points lead, the championship—and the world—was flipped upside down due to COVID-19. Now, WITHOUT GETTING INTO POLITICS, one year later and we were back.
Daytona was the last “normal” event of 2020 before the COVID-19 brought lockdowns around the world. For us to be able to get back to racing and return to this venue was just great. At one-point last year so much was up in the air. We’re not quite back to “normal” normal yet but we’re getting close. Daytona served as a nice landmark to see where we are. It was great to be able to get back to Daytona to see some great racing. Like Hansel said, for McAdoo, Robertson, and Brown to earn the best finish of their careers at the historical venue, it’s just awesome to see. Add in the impressive ride by Eli Tomac, battles between Cooper Webb and Aaron Plessinger in both the heat and the main event, and the 450SX points heating up with Roczen and Webb, this turned out to be an eventful night. Tomac is still a little farther back in the points standings than he would want to be, but he made history tying Ricky Carmichael for the most Daytona 450SX main event wins of all-time. Plessinger said he would be better since his team tested prior to Daytona, and so far, it has proved to be accurate as he podiumed that race and then won his first two 450SX heat races in the weeks following. Having AP on TV for interviews again has been great—oh and congrats to him and his wife Kendall for the recent birth of their baby! Really, the whole night at Daytona was filled with good stuff!
McElrath Makes A Splash in Season Debut
Aaron Hansel: Rooting for just about anyone in this sport is easy. Give me a name, and I’ll come up with five reasons why you should be a fan. But in some cases you almost can’t help but want a rider to succeed no matter what. For me, Shane McElrath is one of those guys. The dude burst onto the scene out of nowhere back in 2012 at the Monster Energy Cup, and when I say nowhere, I mean NOWHERE. He wasn’t a big prospect on anyone’s radar, and there was zero hype surrounding him. Rumor has it he hadn't even been on an airplane in his life back then. I remember talking to McElrath’s then-team manager, Tyler Keefe, before the MEC and I remember him telling me he thought there was a good chance McElrath could win the Amateur All-Stars class. In my head I just kind of snickered at what I viewed as Keefe’s blind loyalty. But, sure enough, when the gate dropped a few hours later, McElrath shot out and led every single lap of the first race and made the win look easy. He crashed in the second race, but he’d already more than gotten the attention of the paddock at that point.
Since then he’s been involved in several championship campaigns, but bad luck, a few untimely injuries, and extremely stiff competition have prevented him from coming out on top in any of them. He’s always been that guy who’s been close, who could, but never quite has, in terms of a title. Fast forward to 2021, when a shoulder injury delayed his debut in the 450SX class. After sitting on the sidelines for the first six rounds, McElrath was finally ready to race. It was his first race since leaving the 250 Class, he was on a new bike and team, and he was fresh off the injury list. If you asked the magic eight ball if Shane was going to kill it, all signs would point to, “Hell no.” But, when the gate dropped for McElrath’s heat race, he shot out to the lead! Tomac would eventually pass him, but McElrath hung on for second. Like 2012 at the MEC, and plenty of times since, McElrath came out and totally surprised everyone. Unfortunately he’s back on the sidelines with a back injury right now, but in that moment in Orlando, I couldn’t help but crack a smile and raise a glass in recognition of McElrath’s dogged determination.
Chizz Gonna Chizz
Jason Weigandt: I’m serious here, folks. My favorite moment in the big class is…Kyle Chisholm chizzing in the Houston 1 450LCQ! Chizz gonna Chizz! I know this is a weird pick, but you have to understand the atmosphere in Houston. It was so far removed from the Anaheim opener we’ve come to know that it was just refreshing to get hit in the face with such normalcy. Plus, the knowledgeable fans, media, and industry types (fantasy players around the world) know that Chizz if gonna Chizz, so as soon as Kyle got the lead in that LCQ you could sense this collective smile from supercross fans everywhere. This was the inside joke we’re all in on. Regardless of age, track, year, team status or anything else, Kyle Chisholm is going to make the darned main event, full stop, no exceptions. We need moments like this to share if we can’t hang out together with a packed pits and stadium in Anaheim.
I love the role players in sports, and that’s what Kyle has become to supercross. He’s not the superstar that carries the team but he’s the lovable guy that comes off the bench and gives you a few good moments. When you’re watching Chiz Chiz in an LCQ, it’s a moment that makes you smile and appreciate racing. We needed that in Houston because we weren’t getting it in Anaheim.
Moranz Keeps Moving
Mitch Kendra: Since everyone the 450SX title fight gets so much attention, I want to shift focus a little and give a quick shot-out to Kevin Moranz here. Not only is he a full-blown privateer (getting sponsors himself, racing, AND working on his own bike) but he decided to race a 2019 KTM 450 SX-F in the premier class while the 250SX East Region was on break. So far, he has pulled impressive starts against the top dogs in the sport! But then he had bike issues that ended his race early. He went to the mechanics area, tried to figure out what the issue was but his night was done. He only completed 14 laps in the main event but eventually pushed his bike across the finish line once the checkered flag waved.
At any point, he could have mailed it in and waited for the 250SX East Region to resume but Moranz put his nose to the ground and sought help from anyone he could. Different riders, mechanics, and even the Red Bull KTM factory team lent Moranz a hand, which speaks volumes. Eventually, a brand-new motor showed up and the Kansas native was back to work putting the entire bike back together himself (with a few helping hands). That extra help really shows how cool this sport is, people pitch in to help other riders even if it’s not in the contract or the job description. The factory KTM people even sourced a new (stock) motor for Kevin, which they don’t have to do. Look, Moranz isn’t out there getting podiums or competing for race wins but you do have to appreciate the dedication and hard work of him and everyone who helped.