After two weekends, the 2021 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship returned in a new venue. The 13th round provided one of the most unique tracks we have ever seen and the day was impacted by weather. Eventually, we saw yet another first-time winner in the 250SX class (the fourth in the 250SX West Region!) and a win by the defending 450SX Champion Eli Tomac. We fired off questions to long-time pro Jason Thomas to pick his brain on specific topics from the Atlanta 1 Supercross.
What did you think of the track and the event overall? You've said you loved racing the old Charlotte Supercross at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
I really liked the track. The longer lap time was a welcome reprieve from the 40 second lap times we have seen this season. There were creative rhythm sections, difficult whoops, and even a sand section to change up the flow. This track had a little of everything.
I did feel that the overall experience takes a hit with this style of venue but hopefully we get some of that back being under the lights on Tuesday. Give me a show!
Mud race or not a mud race?
As many know, Jason Weigandt and I are in a life-long duel over weather forecasts. I have lost more times than I am willing to count but I feel like I at least put points on the board at round 13. There is no denying that those heat races were a muddy mess. The main events certainly improved so I can’t claim a clear victory but with the losses I have sustained, I will literally take any glimmer of rain-soaked hope.
What's your take on the Cade Clason/Chase Sexton incident?
This is a tough one because it’s always going to be shades of grey. I do think Cade was mostly in the wrong here but I don’t think it was some egregious error worthy of internet hate, either. My only real insight in this scenario is that Cade ideally would avoid the race line. That inside rut/berm was the clear race line (it was right in front of me so I had a perfect view) and I would prefer Cade to push deep into the berm, sending a clear signal to Sexton that the inside race line was free to use. Uncertainty is always the enemy in these situations and in this case, Chase was forced to guess and guessed wrong. I have been lapped many, many times in my life so I know it’s not possible to get it right every time. I got it wrong, too. The important thing is to learn and apply.
I must commend Sexton’s poise in this scenario as well. I expected him to freak out and blame Clason but he took it on the chin and said he would do better next time. Kudos, Chase.
Do you think the riders had the track figured out after the limited practice or where they literally learning it during the races?
On a very basic level, yes. They had figured out the rhythm sections and had memorized the layout but when considering how dialed in they typically are after three rounds of qualifying, no, I don’t think they felt very comfortable. Factor in a completely different condition of track and I bet it was touch-and-go in the heat race. I would bet they were even trying new lines and approaches during the main event, too. The track was drying each lap but also becoming more treacherous as ruts formed. It was a true test to stay mentally vigilant in both continuing to improve but also change lines when the main line deteriorated.
Where they heck did this Nate Thrasher ride come from?
I believe it was a combination of a few things. First, he got the start in the main event. That was incredibly important. He also had just ridden the LCQ which gave him a much better idea of how the racetrack was shaping up. He was able to bring that momentum and pace into the main event, especially the early laps. While many of the other contenders were trying to sort out the conditions, he was in full sprint mode and gapped the field early. This was one of those rare situations where the LCQ was a distinct advantage.
Also remember, a rider like Thrasher is used to leading races. These wunderkinds have been winning races their entire life. The outdoor venue and daytime feel probably helped to lessen any nerves he might have felt. He was able to set a pace and just ride his own race. He never had any pressure, never had to battle anyone, and really just executed the same plan he has 1,000 times before. These rookies are not far removed from winning every time the gate drops so it isn’t a stretch to see him comfortable out front.