The seventh round of the 2022 Monster Energy AMA Supercross season has come and gone. Both classes provided several talking points from passes, crashes, winners to losers. As such, we fired off some questions to long-time professional racer Jason Thomas to get his take on all things Minneapolis.
How different did this track break down from the previous, more hard-pack West Coast rounds? And how much can this throw off a rider’s setup in terms of bike settings and comfortability?
It was quite a bit different. The dirt wasn’t super soft, but the ruts add a “sponge” type feeling. That sponge type feeling wreaks havoc on tires and suspension as the feeling is simply not consistent enough to trust. To make things worse, the base began to dry out as the day wore on, adding another layer to the complexity. Riders like predictability above all else and Minneapolis’ inconsistent feedback was short on that.
Chase Sexton was so close to yet another win, but a mistake cost him with two laps to go. Despite the DNF and loss of championship points, does a night like this (leading laps, running away from competitors) provide learning that will benefit him more than just being in say seventh all race and finishing?
Anytime a younger rider leads a main event, it’s a learning experience. Chase is still blossoming into the rider he will become. The technique, talent, and mental fortitude are all readily apparent. The last bit of development will come with time. He has taken huge strides forward in 2022 and I expect 2023 to be that year where it all aligns. His confidence has reached a point where he no longer feels any intimidation by the names on the back of jerseys. His ability is now on the level of the very best in the sport. His decision making and situational race awareness is rapidly improving and even with the unfortunate crash, he’s far ahead of where he was a year ago. Sexton is coming and fast.
Cooper Webb grabbed the holeshot and although he was passed by several riders, we haven’t seen him get out of the gate confident like that lately. He rode better than he has previously and said the team found settings this week that worked out well. Yes, he seems to do better on East Coast tracks generally, but when watching him ride, what could you tell was different this week?
It was a step in the right direction. He still doesn’t have the raw speed that he’s been able to wield in previous championship runs. He wins that Minneapolis race in 2019 and 2021. The whoops are still a significant weakness and until that is no longer a liability, he is going to be fighting to reach the podium. These East Coast tracks help mask that chink in the armor but make no mistake, it’s still a problem.
The 450SX racing has been great so far this season, but how excited are you to have this 250SX East series start and have a fresh new championship loaded with talent?
It’s not a stretch to say that the east series is deeper than the west. Losing Colt Nichols to injury and the last-minute switch of 250 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Champion Jett Lawrence to the east only exacerbated that fact. Further, Justin Cooper was also slated to be in this east series and was forced out with a foot injury. There are several riders in this east series that can win which wasn’t really the case out west. Parity is a great thing for racing.
Marvin Musquin earned his first podium finish of this season, and he's been hovering around the podium spots at the last few races. Does he start to shuffle himself into the top group from here on out?
I think Marvin’s riding has been better than the results would indicate. He nearly landed on the podium at A1 (fourth) and led laps at San Diego before completely unraveling there. He would have likely gotten a podium at A3 without that Cade Clason run-in and then made good on it a week later in Minny. With the switch to East Coast tracks which favor his skill set (and vulnerability in large blitzing whoops), I would expect Marvin to be in the mix for podiums each week. The big question is if he can avoid the mistakes that have cost him a few podiums already.
Malcolm Stewart has hands down put together the best seven races in a row in his 450SX career, even with some mistakes and crashes in there. How much of this can we attribute to the Aldon Baker program, how much can we attribute it to the new machine, and how much is just Mookie leaning on his experience?
I think Aldon’s steady hand is a big influence here. Aldon’s effect on the mental side of racing is and will likely always be underrated. He instills confidence and poise through discipline and reinforces the future possibilities by his pupils’ past results. It would be silly to think Mookie hasn’t benefited.
Aside from the championship battle, are there any other trends you can point out that might not be obvious to the average viewer?
I think it’s very important to emphasize how good Eli Tomac has been through the first half of the season. He’s never been this good this early and it’s really not even close. His sixth last weekend is an outlier to what has been a historically strong start to the season. If Jason Anderson trips up at any point and gives Tomac a big lead, I just don’t think anyone is going to catch him. He’s too strong, too experienced, and too fast to be chased down if he gets a big gap.
Obviously, we are only one round into this 250SX East Region championship with a lot of racing to go, but does the poise showed by Jett Lawrence as an 18-year-old help him almost more than his flat-out speed on a dirt bike?
He’s the most even keeled 18-year-old racer I have ever seen. He just doesn’t make the mistakes that almost every other young racer is expected to make. It makes me wonder what this situation looks like at 22 years old and again at 25 years old. The possibilities are endless.
Austin Forkner and Cameron McAdoo were both kinda quiet but solid in the main event behind Lawrence and Jeremy Martin and RJ Hampshire were not far behind. Is this kinda how the season will go—with these five riders shuffling around for wins and podiums most of the season?
I could see a revolving door for podium finishes, yes. I believe Jett is the alpha of these riders, but it should be a pretty great battle at several rounds. It may come down to who makes the big mistakes and who stays consistent. These 250 championships are often volatile with huge point swings.
Who was the shock of the night for you in the 250SX East Region opener?
I was very impressed with Austin Forkner’s main event. I didn’t like how his heat race went. He looked a bit slower than the frontrunners and then made a very unwise pass on Phil Nicoletti. He simply looked rattled. When the main event came around, though, he didn’t show any of that uncertainty. He rode solidly with a good pace. I didn’t see it coming after a chaotic qualifying run.
Which 450SX rider(s) benefits the most heading into the Triple Crown in Texas next weekend?
Triple Crowns seem to benefit riders that can’t find consistency in their starts. Having three chances to smooth out variance in their starts makes one poor start less impactful. Tomac is really the rider I’m thinking of in this scenario. He has been able to grab top three starts this year, but he’s also put himself in bad positions at times, too (A1, Oakland, Minneapolis).
It’s important to make the distinction between inconsistent starters and poor starters. I think Dylan Ferrandis has established himself as a poor starter. I don’t think Triple Crowns help poor starters, quite the opposite. Ferrandis won’t have the additional time to move through the pack and will find himself in traffic throughout the entire night.