Another wild weekend of racing in the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship last weekend as the Budds Creek National provided some fireworks and somehow the 450 class title race is still as close as it can be. As such, we fired off some burning questions to long-time pro Jason Thomas to pick his brain about Chase Sexton and Eli Tomac’s title fight, Jett Lawrence’s gate pick saga, and more.
What a wild day in the 450 class! When the dust settles though, will Chase Sexton’s seventh in moto one or Eli Tomac’s fifth in moto two be more costly for the championship?
I don’t really think that will be the deciding factor. I think this is going to come down to the finale and who gets it done. Those first moto mistakes looked like it could have been the decider, but Tomac’s second moto struggle gave Sexton new life. It seems as if they are destined to take this down to the final moto.
Tomac stuck with the scoop tire for the second moto when the track was drying up and getting hard. How much do you think that impacted his second moto ride?
I have gotten the stare of death from Tomac for suggesting that the scoop tire was holding him back at times. I don’t care to get that look ever again so I will politely decline on inferring that.
That second moto was also one of the hottest we’ve had this year, but we maybe had the best race of the year with six riders running nose to tail for a long time. How is that possible when it seems that the cooler days create the better racing since nobody is wearing down from the heat?
The elite riders in the 450 class are all in shape and incredibly prepared. Is it harder to push for 35 minutes when it’s that humid? Yes, absolutely. It’s not a limiting factor, though. Those guys all train in the heat every day, much hotter in most cases. The temperature was only around 85 which kept things reasonable. Had we pushed into the 90’s with that humidity, things may have been a little different. It’s a testament to the level of fitness that the 450 elite possess more than anything.
RJ Hampshire notched his first moto and overall win of 2022. Did he look heaps better than at previous rounds to you or was this a culmination of good starts/no mistakes?
I believe that Florida based riders excel at Budds Creek because of the soil being so similar to what they ride on day in and day out. The traction is predictable and results in a higher level of confidence and aggression. The heat and humidity likely helped as well, testing the other riders more than usual. Specifically, to RJ, though, the starts had to play a huge role. He was one of only a couple of riders to use the scoop tire in the 250 class which surely had a huge impact on his starts. From there, it was up to him to avoid the mistakes we know he is prone to. He admittedly had several close calls but close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades (and for COVID-19 social distancing in 2020).
Jett Lawrence used the far inside gate to get a good start in the first moto but then was pinched between the only two scoop tires on the gate in moto two and got a terrible start. How critical is gate selection to these guys as the championship closes in?
It was a big problem. When Cameron McAdoo lined up on the other side of Jett (after RJ had gone to his right), I bet he had a moment of doubt cross his mind. Both RJ and McAdoo are good starters, and that scoop tire is a clear advantage on a deep start. It was easy to see them gain that few inches of clearance and both fill the gap, that space being absorbed like a vacuum. Riders are always looking for more room so they can continue acceleration. As soon as they cleared Jett’s handlebars, they both drifted his way. The result was Jett having to actually hit the brakes and drop back about 10 feet or more.
The gate pick wasn’t really the problem, in my opinion. Jett picked a nice, inside gate based off his first moto result. He can’t control what the other riders decide to do around him. The inability to drift left because McAdoo also got a good jump and drive was much more the issue. It was a very unfortunate turn of events for Jett and created a serious uphill slog in moto two.
Jason Anderson got his second overall win on the year with a 2-2. Do you think Anderson views his Pro Motocross campaign as a “success”?
If he doesn’t, he should. This is unquestionably his best season ever, championship be damned. He has been better than advertised at every step. He just won the hottest race of the season to date and had to pass several riders to do it. I understand that these guys aren’t satisfied with anything less than winning but from a more objective glance, this has been one heck of a year.