Honda HRC’s Chase Sexton has certainly had a roller coaster rookie year in the 450SX class of Monster Energy AMA Supercross. After crashing out of the lead at the second round, Sexton would only return to action five rounds ago in Daytona. Despite missing six rounds, the speed he showed at the second round is still right there each and every week and the win that slipped through his grasps at Houston 2 nearly came right back to him at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Saturday. With the white flag about to wave, Sexton held a narrow lead over Eli Tomac. Unfortunately, a small run-in with lapped rider Cade Clason coupled with a slight mental lapse by Sexton resulted in Tomac scooting by for the victory. Sexton did not let the mistake get him down, however, as he remained very excited about his eventual second place finish.
After the race, Sexton spoke with the media via Zoom.
Racer X: Unfortunately for you, you had a great race going for 90 percent of it. Take me through coming to the white flag when you tangled up with [Cade] Clason, and then you couldn’t jump a jump even after that. So just tell me how that all broke down.
Chase Sexton: It was a really good race for me. Everything was going well. Obviously, Aaron [Plessinger] went down, so that was unfortunate for him, but it ended up giving me the lead. From there, I kind of just kept putting in my laps. I really felt like I was putting in solid laps. I couldn’t tell if it was Eli [Tomac] or Jason Anderson because they were both wearing kind of the same gear. So, it ended up being Eli, obviously. I knew he was coming. I saw him out of the corner of my eye kind of in some corners. I was really struggling in that first set of whoops, which was costing me time. I feel like I was good on the back half of the track and Eli would catch me in the front. So, I was riding a really good race and felt like I was doing consistent laps, but Eli pretty much just dropped hammer with probably four or three laps to go. Pretty much sucked up right to my rear wheel. I feel like I had energy left. I feel like I was riding really well again. Cade, I just went inside trying to just get around him really quick. I knew Eli was right there. So, in that next corner it was pretty vulnerable to stop before that double and block pass. So, I wanted to get through those two corners really quick. Honestly, the one after that, my mechanic Jade put on the pit board “two laps to go,” and I was like, “Okay.” I thought I saw the white flag. I thought the race was over, and I saw Eli keep going. I was like, “The race isn’t over.” So, I rolled the next jump, and then obviously the race was over after that. It was just not the best ending, but first 450 podium which was a positive. After the year I’ve had, it’s nice to be on one of these calls [press conferences] again and back on the podium. It was a really good night for me. The track kind of suited me. Obviously, it was tough, but looking forward to Tuesday and trying to keep this train going.
Take me through your learning curve of not only riding the 450 in supercross but racing the 450 in supercross, which can be a completely different than racing in the 250SX class.
From my past few races, it’s been pretty tough. Just been on the ground quite a bit. Not usually one to crash that much. I guess it just goes to show how tough it is to race or to be at this level. The tracks are probably the most surprising how gnarly they get. That’s where Cooper and Eli and a lot of those guys are just really good at adapting to the rougher track. I haven’t quite yet figured it out. But it’s been a really fun time, even though I have hit the ground quite a bit. Just happy to keep learning every race. I think if I can take something out of each round, I think we’re going in the right direction. So, for me, just being able to be healthy and still racing right now, it’s a positive. Just trying to learn as much as I possibly can from the more experienced riders in this class.
You show a lot of speed, but then also have a tendency to hit the ground every once in a while. Is there anything specifically about the 450 that you’re just struggling with a little bit here and there, as far as where to put the machine?
Yeah. I would say my speed hasn’t been an issue. Obviously, I’ve qualified really good and had some good heat races. For me, I think the 450, you have to pay attention I would say a lot more than the 250, just having that much more power, especially obviously the sand sections. They kind of got the best of me this year. Where you don’t have as much traction, there’s a lot more power to the rear wheel and that’s where I tend to be a little lazy and that’s where I’ve obviously had a little bit of a problem. So, for me, just trying to be a hundred percent focused for that 20 minutes and not take any breaks has been the most important part for me trying to learn this 450. Again, the tracks get really gnarly. So, the 250SX class compared to the 450 race, it’s like a completely different track. So, for me, I’m still learning that. Eli is the man when it comes to finding those lines late in the race, as of right now. So, I just want to learn. It’s fun to race with these guys.
With you now on 450’s, what is it like on a track like this? What are you looking for during the sight lap, and especially on a track this large where it’s impossible to memorize all of the different conditions?
For me, I was watching Nate [Thrasher] in the 250SX class getting through the whoops pretty well. My main focus was trying to find a line, if there was one, that’s smoother than the rest in the whoops that you could do every lap. Like I said, our mains are pretty long. Obviously tonight wasn’t as many laps. For me, I look for just a good whoops pass and a nice line through there that will be repeatable, and you can do every lap. So that was one thing I looked for. As well as just how the transitions are on the track, because tonight it was obviously pretty soft. They go out there and groom it, so it kind of covers up the really soft spots. So, I was looking for that as well. Overall, I feel like this kind of track suits me with the ruts and whatnot. I haven’t really raced a track [with ruts] this year. I missed all three Indy’s that were pretty rutted. But overall, I feel like I mesh well with ruts. I grew up in Illinois in the Midwest where we have all conditions. So, for me, I felt like the track suited me. Like Eli said, it has a lot more room and it’s a little bit more open compared to what we’re used to racing on. I feel like it just creates more lines and more separation. I think the track was good. Obviously, it came around really well for our main event. We were pretty close to where we qualified at, timewise. I’m looking forward to Tuesday.
You mentioned that the track came around really well. Given the amount of rain that we had today and everything else, were you kind of surprised that it got as good as it was for the main events?
To be honest, yes. We had probably a four-hour break in-between our only qualifying session and the heat races. It was I would say raining pretty much the whole time at a decent rate. So, for me, I thought the track was going to be standing water at least with the heat races and maybe come around okay by the main event. But by no means I thought we were going to be skimming the whoops and doing pretty much everything we were doing in practice. I feel like the track workers did a really good job. I feel like this dirt in general soaked up the rain pretty well having that Georgia clay. It’s red and it gets pretty sticky. So, I felt like the track was really good in the main event. Like I said, I think it was almost normal. Hopefully, we can keep that up and hopefully the moisture stays in the dirt for the rest of these rounds.
Also, with the main events getting shortened, would you have preferred that it had stayed longer? That may have been a TV call or something like that, but would you have preferred it go the full length?
Yeah. For me, it didn’t really matter. Eli was obviously coming pretty hard in the late stage of that race. So, when I was leading, I was like, “I wish this thing was over now.” It was pretty close. I don't know what the total time was because I haven’t looked at it, but I feel like it had to have been pretty close. When you come by, the track is so long that when you come by it, say if the race was normal you came by it [the finish line] at 19:55, it would be almost a 24-minute main event. So, I think that’s why they cut it down to 18 minutes. I don't think it really had anything to do with the track, but just trying to limit it going over by a whole bunch. It had to have been somewhere close to 20 minutes tonight. [Note: Total race length was 20 minutes and 45 seconds]. It wasn’t really a huge deal. But for me, it doesn’t really matter.
Watch the full Atlanta 1 Supercross post-race press conference below: