After 22 motos of some of the closest action we’ve ever seen in Lucas Oil Pro Motocross, Saturday’s Fox Raceway 2 National set the stage for the final two moto showdown between Eli Tomac and Chase Sexton. One point separated the two and what stood on the other side of the day was a first career 450 class championship for Chase Sexton or a fourth career 450 class championship for Eli Tomac who was also likely ending his Pro Motocross career today as well.
If the drama for the championship wasn’t hot enough, the weather certainly provided the heat anyway as temperatures soared well above 100-degrees Fahrenheit on the day. With a severe heat advisory in the area, MX Sports Pro Racing made the decision to shorten each moto to 25 minutes plus two laps and they met with team managers on Friday night to make a final decision, which the team managers all agreed on shortening the motos.
But it didn’t matter if you gave Tomac and Sexton two laps or 200 laps, they were bound to find each other. And when the gates dropped in the first moto of the day, who else but Chase Sexton poked his nose out just ahead of Eli Tomac to grab the holeshot and the battle was on.
Sexton led for much of the first part of the race as Tomac and Sexton yo-yoed back and forth to each other. Eventually, Sexton began getting slowed by lapped traffic which allowed Tomac to pounce at an opportune time to take the lead away. Sexton lost his flow for a little bit but picked the pace back up down the stretch. Tomac was just too solid at the end of the race though as he held on to win the first moto which put him four points ahead of Sexton going into the final moto.
Both riders had been sharing wins and second place finishes week after week and Tomac needed to just get another second-place finish for the second moto to clinch the title. Christian Craig holeshot the last moto of the year and had Jason Anderson on his tail with Chase Sexton in third. Tomac was buried just inside of the top 10.
But suddenly, Sexton crashed from third and remounted behind Tomac. He then tipped over again and had even more work to do. Tomac began slicing through riders as he passed a downed Ryan Dungey for third and caught the lead duo. Anderson had already moved around Craig for the lead so Craig who is Tomac’s teammate moved over to allow him through. Sexton then caught Craig and incredibly fell again. By the time he really got the ball rolling, Tomac had already moved into the lead and was pulling away. With five minutes left in the moto, Sexton made the move on Anderson for second, but Tomac was too far gone at the front.
It wouldn’t have matter anyway if Sexton passed Tomac for the win as he needed Tomac to finish third to win the title, but Tomac was simply too much at the finale. The Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing man went 1-1 to win the finale and clinch his fourth 450 class title.
“I just think of this whole year as its entirety and it’s just been such an enjoyable year,” said Tomac. “Starting with supercross and now motocross, the competition was just unbelievable from Chase. I mean, he is the next 450 guy hands down. We pushed ourselves to the limit. I felt like we even raised the bar this year. This is a very enjoyable moment and it’s the cherry on top.”
The fight all year between Tomac and Sexton was one for the ages and Tomac is certainly walking among legends now. For Sexton though, he’s firmly established himself as the next 450 class champion and even Eli Tomac said as much on the podium after clinching his title.
But a dejected Sexton still had to watch the championship celebrations commence after a 2-2 day. He officially ends up seven points down in the championship standings after 12 rounds of the closest racing we’ve ever seen in the series. He’ll hang his head low for a few days, but at least he can take solace in knowing he truly pushed a great like Eli Tomac to the very end.
“Man, that was a never quit attitude all year,” said Sexton. “Eli was so tough, and he obviously got the upper hand of me, but that second moto was frustrating. I was going for it. I knew I had to pass Eli and I tried to get to the front. I fell three times. So those mistakes, we’ve got to stop with those. It’s been an awesome summer though. I’ve made some big strides. I feel like I’m a different person than when I started. We can keep going and get better for next year.”
Jason Anderson ended up third overall on the day as he put 4-3 motos together. In the first moto, he came from 15th off the start all the way back to fourth which he admitted took it a little bit out of him for the second moto.
Because of the fatigue, Anderson did drop off the pace after leading quite a bit of the second moto. He was able to hang on for third and also secured third in the championship along the way.
“That first moto was really tough for me,” said Anderson. “I was behind Dunge [Ryan Dungey] at the start and he fell over and I spent a lot of energy getting back up to fourth. That second moto, the pace was tough for me, and I just couldn’t hang. All in all, it’s been a great season for me.”
Ken Roczen had a rough day but held onto fourth in the championship and Christian Craig accomplished his goal of beating Ryan Dungey for fifth in the championship after Craig went 3-4 for fourth overall on the day.
So, the closest 450 class season in Pro Motocross history has seen the sun set for the year and what a fight it was. If that was truly Eli Tomac’s final Pro Motocross race of his career, it was certainly one heck of a way to go out.
Fox Raceway 2 - 450September 3, 2022
|Cortez, CO United States||1 - 1||Yamaha YZ450F|
|La Moille, IL United States||2 - 2||Honda CRF450R|
|Edgewood, NM United States||4 - 3||Kawasaki KX450SR|
|4||Christian Craig||Temecula, CA United States||3 - 4||Yamaha YZ450F|
|Monroe, NY United States||5 - 6||GasGas MC 450F|
|La Moille, IL||539|
|4||Ken Roczen||Mattstedt, Germany||394|
|5||Christian Craig||Temecula, CA||373|
Before the 450 class even got to their showdown of the day, the 250 class would see a championship clinching moment. Jett Lawrence entered the day with a 41-point advantage on Jo Shimoda for the 250 class championship meaning Lawrence needed only a 12th place finish in the first moto of the day to clinch his second championship.
When the first moto kicked off the day, it was Jett Lawrence who launched out to the holeshot and early lead. Shimoda was right behind him, but it wouldn’t matter if Shimoda passed him as Lawrence was in a great spot to clinch the championship anyway.
Throughout the moto, Shimoda made a few runs and eventually Jett’s brother Hunter Lawrence caught up from third. Hunter Lawrence entered this final round just seven points behind Jo Shimoda for second in the championship so there was still the opportunity in play for the brothers to go 1-2 in the series if Hunter Lawrence could make those points up.
Eventually, Hunter caught Shimoda for second and their battle ended in spectacular fashion in the first moto with Lawrence plowing into Shimoda on the downhill which put the Kawasaki man on the ground. That moved Hunter up to second whereas Shimoda took a little while to get going and eventually lost third place to Justin Cooper.
Jett Lawrence was looking back and admitted after the race he would have let Hunter by for the win as it didn’t matter to his championship, but Jett did go on to win the first moto by just over a second from his brother.
The win was plenty for Jett Lawrence to claim his second 250 class championship with a moto still to go on the season. He would follow it up in the second moto with a second-place finish to also capture the days overall victory. In what was an ultimately dominant season for Jett, he ends what was likely his final 250 class race of his career on top again.
“It’s awesome to get it done back-to-back. I’m definitely grateful,” Jett Lawrence said. “The team has been awesome this year. Honda brought out an awesome new CRF250R and I’m super pumped to be on it again in Supercross next year. I’m also excited to ride the 450 in Pro Motocross next summer. I definitely have a little work to do before battling with the top guys like Eli [Tomac] and Chase [Sexton]. It’s going to be fun, and I can’t wait.”
With the chaos of the first moto in the rearview mirror, the attention turned to whether or not Hunter Lawrence could bounce Jo Shimoda from second place in the championship. Thanks to the collision that pushed Shimoda back to fourth place, Hunter Lawrence sat just three points down of second in the championship with the final moto still to run.
As the race began, it was Justin Cooper who originally fired out to the holeshot only to be quickly undone on the second lap of the race by Jo Shimoda. Shimoda was fired up after the contact with Hunter Lawrence and took off with the lead while Lawrence was buried outside of the top 10.
Hunter Lawrence ended up taking too long to pass the riders ahead of him and Jo Shimoda set sail at the front of the field to end up winning the moto by over 20 seconds. It was a big way to end the season for Shimoda as he sealed second in the championship and also solidified himself as a serious threat for titles in 2023.
“I don’t know about the pass [by Hunter]. I don’t know if you could call it a clean pass but enough to put me over the berm,” said Shimoda of the contact with Hunter Lawrence. “I hurt my shoulder a little bit, but that kind of made me pissed off a little bit. So, that second moto I just got a start and charged to the end and won it with a pretty big gap so I’m pretty pumped about that.”
For his part in all the battles of the day, Justin Cooper was able to put 3-3 rides together for third overall. The Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing man donned the #102 that he will use to represent Team USA in three weeks at the Motocross of Nations.
He didn’t quite have the pace of the leaders in either moto, but it was a solid way to end his season after things took a while to get rolling coming back from his foot injury. He also locked down fourth place in the championship with his result.
“Yeah, it was a fun day,” said Cooper. “It was definitely hot, so I’m glad to get out of here in one piece and healthy. We’ve got a big race coming up at des Nations. Hopefully we can bring it home for the USA. I got another good start [in the second moto]. I thought I had the first one, but I shifted a little bit too early and got pulled. So, I got a little redemption there, got another holeshot and it was a fun race with me and Jett. Jo was riding really good and he kind of walked away from us. I really had nothing for him. It was a fun track, definitely rough, and it tested us.”
Hunter Lawrence ended up fourth overall as he was only able to get back to fifth in the second moto to go 2-5 on the day. He arguably had the pace to win both motos on the day, but such is the season for Hunter that he couldn’t buy a start in the second moto if he tried.
Still though, it was the best season of Hunter Lawrence’s career with a second-place finish in 250SX West and now third overall in the Pro Motocross championship. Now he also prepares to go race for his country as he will represent Team Australia in the MX2 class.
And that’s a wrap on 2022. Congratulations to Eli Tomac and Jett Lawrence for their respective titles as it was a huge year for both. It’s been quite some time since we’ve seen the same two riders win indoors and out, but the racing in both classes were far from walkaways this season.
Now it’s time for a little break for everyone before we rev back up in three weeks’ time for the Monster Energy Motocross of Nations at RedBud. We’ll see you there!
Fox Raceway 2 - 250September 3, 2022
|1||Jett Lawrence||Landsborough, Australia Australia||1 - 2||Honda CRF250R|
|2||Jo Shimoda||Suzuka, Japan Japan||4 - 1||Kawasaki KX250F|
|3||Justin Cooper||Cold Spring Harbor, NY United States||3 - 3||Yamaha YZ250F|
|4||Hunter Lawrence||Landsborough, Australia Australia||2 - 5||Honda CRF250R|
|5||R.J. Hampshire||Hudson, FL United States||7 - 4||Husqvarna FC 250|
|1||Jett Lawrence||Landsborough, Australia||525|
|2||Jo Shimoda||Suzuka, Japan||480|
|3||Hunter Lawrence||Landsborough, Australia||468|
|4||Justin Cooper||Cold Spring Harbor, NY||415|
|5||R.J. Hampshire||Hudson, FL||346|