We tend to say that anything can happen in racing, but some things tend to not happen. When a rider has the lead late in the race and has outlasted the early-race battle, he rarely throws away the win in the final moments.
Well, it happened on Saturday night in Minneapolis. Honda HRC's Chase Sexton appeared to have the win in hand, inching away from the pack throughout the main event on a tricky race track at U.S. Bank Stadium. For Sexton, the win was significant not just because it would mark his second win of the season and of his 450SX career, but also a boost of momentum after 3-3-7 finishes since his last win in San Diego. By battling past Cooper Webb for the lead and distancing himself from Jason Anderson to maintain the lead, it was a sign the young rider from Illinois was still in this championship fight for the long haul.
Then, in an instant, it ended. With a lap and a half to go, Sexton started losing grip with the front end of his bike. As it washed further and further from his intended line, and his lean angle increased it finally knifed completely as he hit the face of the jump on the exit of the corner. This sent him flying, literally, in a vicious high side. He managed to jump all the way onto the next table top...without his bike.
Ouch. Apparently Sexton has escaped without major injury, but he is now in the series' official concussion protocol.
Said today's press release from Honda HRC:
"With only two laps remaining, Sexton was tossed into the following jump. The Illinois native struggled to get up, and he was escorted off the track to be evaluated at the Alpinestars Medical Unit. Although banged up, Sexton felt relatively well when he left the venue, but officials will have him undergo concussion protocol this week."
Losing the win hurt because wins are never easy to get. Losing the win hurt because of the actual pain of the crash. Losing the win hurt because Sexton now drops to sixth in the series standings.
Sexton eventually stumbled to his feet and walked off. Shoutout to Jason Anderson for somehow jumping over Sexton instead of landing on him. Anderson went on to take the win. Also, it was noted that the hard impact of washing the front end into the face of the jump actually bent the front rim of Sexton's bike. Rare to see that much force applied.
Team manager Lars Lindstrom said the following in the post-race team statement:
“This was an extremely bittersweet race. Jett rode fantastic and did everything correctly to win the first round of the 250SX East Coast series. Our 450 riders were great all day and proved that with a 1-3 finish in the first heat race, and then Chase was dominating the main event until his crash with just a couple laps to go. I was gutted for him and for the team because the victory was so close for all of us; it would’ve been incredible to win both the 250 and 450 main events. Kenny was riding great as well, and was in the mix for a podium until he landed in the marbles off the triple and crashed. I think we made good improvements with his bike this week, and I know we can get him back on top soon. The whole weekend was a pretty difficult one with sub-zero temperatures outside and the team shuffling between the indoor pits and the truck for food and other things. I want to give a shout-out to the truck drivers, who had to deal with the extreme temperatures, which brings new problems and can cause issues with the trucks. The drivers kicked butt and made sure that everything worked properly the entire time.”
Update: Sexton has now posted to his Instagram account. He visited with a neurologist today and took a road bike ride. He's hoping to be able to race this weekend.