A remarkable run of some incredibly close motos between Eli Tomac and Chase Sexton laid the foundation for a wild eighth round of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross on Saturday at Washougal MX Park in Washougal, Washington. After leading the championship since the first round, Sexton finally saw his championship lead disappear over to Eli Tomac who entered Washougal on seven straight moto victories and four consecutive overall wins as well.
However, Sexton had been matching Tomac at every step of the way as he had finished second in every single one of those seven motos that Tomac had won prior to Washougal. That strange streak tied them for the second longest time it has happened in the 450 class where you have to go back to James Stewart and Mike Alessi in 2008 to find the last time two riders went 1-2 for seven straight motos with the same rider always winning.
Despite what looks like a dominant run on paper for Tomac through that stretch, Sexton wasn’t making it easy for him as he and Tomac both pushed to the limit at the previous round in Minnesota. It was clear these two were going to continue the fight at Washougal.
Right from the start of the first moto, we were set for a fun day. Sexton led early in the first moto with Tomac in third and Ryan Dungey splitting them. Unfortunately for Dungey, he would suffer a mechanical issue that forced him off the track and out of the moto from second place. That moved Tomac up onto Sexton for the lead and the battle was on.
Tomac made the pass, but Sexton did not want to let him go and the two stayed nose to tail for the rest of the moto. They would even both fall in a weird situation where Tomac fell and Sexton fell onto him, but they would both get up together and maintain positions to keep the frantic battle going. Eventually, Tomac would hold on over Sexton in second to extend their strange sequence out to eight straight motos of the same 1-2 result. But Sexton was ready to switch the tides in the second moto.
Sexton ripped the holeshot in 450 Moto 2 and Tomac was quickly into second place. What followed was an entire moto of some of the closest racing we’ve seen in years. Tomac kept the heat on Sexton the entire time as they both built a huge gap on everyone else behind them. Tomac would continuously make runs on Sexton for the lead but just couldn’t quite find the spot to make the pass for the lead.
Eventually, Sexton was able break free in the final two laps of the moto and finally end the streak with a breakthrough victory in the second moto. The win was critical as it also won Sexton the overall and kept the points deficit to Tomac at just five points heading into the two-weekend break.
“That one felt really, really good,” said Sexton. “I’ve been looking for that since we had this break and that’s my first moto win in these four races. So, it was really good and obviously it was for the overall. Winning here last year, it was cool to come here and back it up. Man, it couldn’t be a better way to head into the break with a little bit of momentum and was able to stop the bleeding a little bit and now we can focus on what’s ahead of us.”
Tomac of course was second overall on the day with his 1-2 performance and clearly gave everything to try to win both motos again. The positive for him is he does now have that championship lead in his favor heading into this break and he clearly isn’t missing anything in the speed or fitness department.
It seems that this break in action only robs us fans from the fun continuing as we have to wait for them to hit the track at Unadilla in 21 days. Tomac now sets himself up for what may be his final four Pro Motocross races of his career with a clear path ahead of him to try to win his fourth 450 class title.
“I was pushing,” said Tomac of the intense second moto. “Me and Chase were so close. I was eating a lot of dirt that time. I made so many big pushes to get to his rear wheel, I just couldn’t find the spot that time unlike Moto 1. Congrats to him. I did everything I could, but that one, second was all we got.”
Third overall on the day with solid 3-3 scores was Jason Anderson as the Monster Energy Kawasaki rider landed on the box for the second straight week. It’s another step in the right direction for Anderson who had a dismal couple of weeks at rounds five and six that pulled him way out of the championship fight.
Still though, he was close to Tomac and Sexton off the starts in both motos only to see them slowly pull away ahead of him. The break coming up could be the most beneficial for Anderson to truly reset and work on the few things he needs to tidy up as he’ll try to end his 2022 season with some race victories.
“I definitely was the third best guy out there,” admitted Anderson. “It’s tough when you get dropped like that, you’re riding alone, but I’ve just got to keep putting myself up there, try to see that pace, and see if we can make it happen. Two podiums in a row, it’s good progress for me.”
Fourth on the day was an improved performance from Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen. Roczen had his usual good starts and turned it into a 4-6 day for fourth. He still seems to be just a bit off in terms of feeling on the bike and fitness, but the last couple of rounds were certainly rough for the German. Similar to Anderson last week, Roczen has to be happy to just get a solid day under his feet.
Rounding out the top five in the 450 class was Christian Craig who didn’t have great starts in either moto but fought forward in both motos to go 7-5. He seemingly was in a battle all day long with Justin Barcia as these two are allegedly racing each other for the final spot of the Team USA Motocross of Nations team. Chase Sexton and Eli Tomac are apparently already locked into the 450 spots and now Craig and Barcia are testing 250s during the week to see how they feel. At least for today, Craig gets the nod.
|1||Chase Sexton||La Moille, IL||2 - 1||Honda CRF450R|
|Cortez, CO||1 - 2||Yamaha YZ450F|
|3||Jason Anderson||Edgewood, NM||3 - 3||Kawasaki KX450SR|
|4||Ken Roczen||Mattstedt, Germany||4 - 6||Honda CRF450R|
|5||Christian Craig||Temecula, CA||6 - 5||Yamaha YZ450F|
In the 250 class, we were beginning to see some separation for reigning champion Jett Lawrence over his brother Hunter Lawrence as Jett had outscored him by 34 points at the previous two rounds. Hunter had momentarily held the championship lead heading into the Southwick National after Jett suffered an engine failure in the first moto at RedBud, but Hunter entered Washougal just three rounds later looking at a 27-point deficit.
Washougal is also a track not favored much by Jett Lawrence as he admitted to us last week that he’s not that big of a fan of the racetrack. The slick conditions and tendency to force one fast line around the track were a few reasons Jett offered as to why he might not be feeling as strong this weekend, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he can’t win here.
For Hunter Lawrence, the goal is simple, he needs to win. As the gates hit the ground in the first moto, it was Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Jo Shimoda who launched out to the holeshot, but Hunter Lawrence was right on him. By the halfway point, Lawrence had made his way into the lead around Shimoda and was trying to take off. Shimoda and Jett Lawrence kept Hunter honest, but he was able to breakthrough and win the first moto. Step one was complete.
In the second moto, Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing’s Justin Cooper grabbed the holeshot and quickly pulled away at the front. With his fourth-place finish in the first moto, Cooper needed to win the second moto and hope for a bit of chaos behind him. Hunter Lawrence had moved into third early on and was pressuring Shimoda for second when he fell and slipped back to fourth.
Jett Lawrence then marched up to and around Shimoda for second position. Amazingly, that was for the overall win as Jett’s 2-2 was better than Cooper’s 4-1, Shimoda’s 3-3, and Hunter Lawrence’s 1-4 as they ran. Hunter Lawrence tried to close the gap down to Shimoda for third late in the race which would have flipped the overall in his favor, but he just couldn’t quite get it done in the end. Jett Lawrence claimed his seventh overall win of 2022 and his third in a row. His five consecutive moto win streak was broken with his 2-2 day, but for Jett Lawrence, it was a welcomed victory on a track that he doesn’t seem to enjoy.
“Maybe I should just complain about every track [laughs],” said Jett Lawrence. “To be honest, I think I just got lucky today. It was a big luck factor I think going 2-2 and Hunter unfortunately going down in the second one. I just got lucky on that one. I think I could have maybe pushed to Justin, but I had a few sketchy moments where I’m like, “You know what? I’d rather bring it home on two wheels. I’d rather take a second or whatever that may be and bring it home safe.”
Second on the day ended up going to Justin Cooper who brought home his first moto win of 2022 with the victory in 250 Moto 2. It certainly was much more similar to the Cooper we saw contend for the title in 2021 as the Yamaha man controlled the second moto from the front all the way through and fairly easily cruised to the moto win.
Coupling his fourth-place finish in the first moto into his score, he just narrowly missed the overall win on the day by just a single point. But that ultimately didn’t matter much to Cooper who was relieved to have finally found some of his old form once again.
“It was a great second moto,” said Cooper. “We had a great start to the day but we kind of just ventured down the wrong path with the bike and we went back to what we started with on the day. I was kind of lost in the first moto, didn’t have much intensity, but I got fired up for the second one and everything was clicking. It hasn’t felt that way in a while, so it was pretty refreshing to have that.”
A frustrated Hunter Lawrence was left to settle with third on the day as just a few tenths of a second separated him from his first overall win of the year. It’s clear that Hunter’s riding phenomenally each week and his unfortunate demise in this championship fight has just been little mistakes like the one he experienced in the second moto.
He did know though that passing Shimoda would have earned him the overall victory at the end, and he was able to claw the deficit late in the moto down from seven seconds to just those few tenths at the line. It’s a small win within a loss that he was so strong all moto long, but it was another lost opportunity to gain some points back on his brother.
“I was pushing,” said Hunter Lawrence. “There was like a seven second gap I think, and I had to bridge that, and it was tough. I had to dig deep. This place is honestly scary. It’s so high speed and then you come into the shadows, and it’s just pitch black, and you can’t see anything. Happy with my riding but obviously have got to clean up those little mistakes.”
Fourth overall today with two third place finishes was Jo Shimoda who had remarkably better starts on the day. Shimoda explained to us back at Spring Creek that he tried using starting blocks for the first time at the last round and he felt it really made a difference with his starts. Well today was two great starts for Shimoda and now he really got to see what he needs to do over 30 minutes to match the pace of the Lawrence brothers and Cooper ahead of him.
Rounding out the top five was Max Vohland who backed up his solid week at Spring Creek with a 7-5 performance at Washougal. The Red Bull KTM rider has been making some big steps over the last couple of weeks and it’s been showing here of late.
As for the championship picture, Jett Lawrence added one more point to his championship lead over his brother as he now sits 28 points up heading into the break. There is still plenty of racing left for the tides to turn, but Hunter Lawrence will certainly lament his lost opportunity today and now he has to wait 21 days to make amends on it.
The Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship will resume on August 13th at Unadilla in New York. Riders will look to regroup and prepare for the final four races of the 2022 which kicks off at Unadilla and goes four weekends in a row at Budds Creek, Ironman Raceway, and ends in early September at Fox Raceway in Pala, California. We’ll see you at Unadilla in three weeks.
|1||Jett Lawrence||Landsborough, Australia||2 - 2||Honda CRF250R|
|2||Justin Cooper||Cold Spring Harbor, NY||4 - 1||Yamaha YZ250F|
|3||Hunter Lawrence||Landsborough, Australia||1 - 4||Honda CRF250R|
|4||Jo Shimoda||Suzuka, Japan||3 - 3||Kawasaki KX250F|
|5||Max Vohland||Sacramento, CA||7 - 5||KTM 250 SX-F|