It almost felt a little bit like déjà vu at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Saturday. As the white flag was about to wave, Honda HRC’s Chase Sexton was in a position to win his first career 450SX main event as he tried to hold off a late charge from Eli Tomac. Unfortunately for him, a strange sequence of events occurred that ultimately cost him a shot at the victory.
Sexton rapidly approached Team PR-MX Kawasaki’s Cade Clason a few turns before the white flag was set to come out. After some slight contact in a bowl corner and then quickly after a small double, Sexton turned around to see where Tomac was before blocking the inside of the last turn and rolling the double leading to the finish line jump. Tomac jumped from the outside and pulled up alongside of Sexton as the white flag waved. Oddly, Sexton was still right next to Tomac when he then slowed suddenly after the finish line jump and rolled the next double. Tomac immediately opened up a nice gap as a result and coasted home on the last lap to win. Although coming up short of the win, Sexton earned his first career 450SX podium finish with a second-place finish.
The flashbacks came right back to what happened at Houston 3 earlier this year when Ken Roczen came upon Dean Wilson on the last lap and Cooper Webb used the confusion then to pounce on Roczen and steal the win away. However, Sexton went on to explain after the race that he had actually mistaken the frantic couple of turns for the last ones of the race. As he chose to go inside on Clason, and then dramatically inside in the final corner after that, all of that was because Sexton actually believed it was the last lap of the race.
“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,” said Sexton. “[With] 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.”
While Sexton was quick to explain his side of the situation, aesthetics still were such that Clason certainly received the ire of some fans who felt Clason had just cost Sexton his first race victory. Just like with Wilson back in Houston, fans immediately bombarded Clason’s social media accounts with negative comments.
Clason explained his side with Steve Matthes after the race. Essentially, he was getting blue flags for a long time without anyone actually being that close to him. Then Sexton made up a ton of time in the sand rollers and got right behind Clason suddenly.
“I was getting the blue flags for sure, but I would say I was getting the blue flags for three laps,” said Clason. “For about a lap and a half it was steady blue flags, and I looked around and they weren’t anywhere near me. Then they started waving it harder. Before the back set of whoops by the mechanic’s area, I looked back as went we went over the tunnel, and they still weren’t that close. I’m like, “Alright, they’re not close to me, whatever.” And Freddie [Noren] was behind me, like two seconds or something, so we were in our own battle. I can hear other guys behind me, even though we wear ear plugs. I felt so bad. I mean, I was pretty harsh on Dean for that incident at Houston. I went back and watched the video, he was so far behind me going into that turn and into that section. I was in the berm, and obviously I’m going slower than he is, but the angle he was going, unless I just go straight up the berm, he’s going to hit me! I didn’t know he was that close to begin with. If he’s four bike lengths behind me, I’m not just going to stop and let him go by. If he sets that corner up a little different, gives me a rev, I’ll double out of the corner and then just roll the whole finishline section. I was battling for 17th, I know that’s not a big deal to those guys but it’s a big deal to me. I feel bad. I mean, I cost him a win, and probably more money than I’ll ever make in my entire moto career. It’s obviously a huge deal for him. I get it, he’s freaking out, too, and I’m just trying to do my own thing. As soon as he passed me, I still jumped the double and then I pinned it off the track.”
On Sunday, Clason took the time to lay out his side of the story and reiterated how bad he felt for being involved at all.
“Simply, I didn’t know Chase was that close,” said Clason. “Watching it over again, they caught me a ton from the sand to that turn. I feel terrible for what happened, I wish Chase Sexton nothing but the best. Simply poor timing and I wish there was something I thought I could have done different.”
For Tomac, the win was his third of the 2021 season and the 37th of his career as he remains 36 points down of championship leader Cooper Webb. Fortunately for Sexton, he doesn’t need to wait long to have another crack at his first win as the gates drop again on round 14 of Monster Energy AMA Supercross tomorrow night at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
|1||Eli Tomac||12 Laps||1:40.285||Cortez, CO||Kawasaki KX450|
|2||Chase Sexton||+06.669||1:40.577||La Moille, IL||Honda CRF450R|
|3||Cooper Webb||+16.864||1:41.282||Newport, NC||KTM 450 SX-F|
|+22.043||1:41.711||Edgewood, NM||Husqvarna FC 450|
|5||Dylan Ferrandis||+23.883||1:41.048||Avignon||Yamaha YZ450F|