That’s a wrap on the 2022 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship with round 12 back at Pala AKA Fox Raceway. Two titles handed out, some hot temperatures and some epic racing (at least at the front) to talk about. Let’s get into the race and as well, some season long “Observations” if you will.
Look, do I wish the series went to Glen Helen for its Southern California stop? I do but MX Sports and GH can’t seem to work out their differences and having been to Glen Helen events recently and in the past, I understand where MX Sports is coming from here. Now, having said that GH is a better track with better viewing but if you have to have a national in Southern California (which I believe you have to) then Pala is a good substitute. But yeah, having two nationals there is probably too much and shout out to the fans that were there because it was hot, like, real hot and not many riders enjoyed the track nor the prep.
What a first moto by Eli Tomac, heck when you combine it with the first moto last week at Ironman, it might be in the top five of the best motos that Tomac has ever raced. Brilliant strategy by the veteran in using lappers, not panicking, line selection and the ability to pace yourself. He struck when he needed to and then was able to sprint away as well from Chase Sexton to really take the pressure off for moto two. That three points he gained, making his lead four, enabled him to make sure the second moto could stay drama free.
What a first moto for Eli, it was something else indeed to watch and two pressure-filled motos became a chance for Eli to shine. There were times earlier in his career when the pressure was on him and he didn’t come through but this year, he sure came through both indoors and out with epic rides.
Eli admitted that he was “panicked” a bit in moto two when Sexton was ahead of him and Jason Anderson was leading. Eli pictured himself unable to get Anderson (remember, Eli wasn't able to rage to the front in the second moto at Budds Creek) and Sexton winning the title by one point. We know that didn’t happen, Sexton crashed three times (!!) while trying to pin it and Eli got Anderson and pulled away to stamp his 1-1 day but there was a moment there early in moto two where you could see some “things” unfolding.
So, Eli becomes the first rider since 2015 to win both the 450 Supercross and 450 Motocross titles in the same season. Ryan Dungey did it in 2015. I thought comparing ET’s 2022 season to some of the other two title guys (who all had 29 races in SX and MX) would be a fun exercise.
|Year||Rider||SX Wins||SX Points||MX Wins||MX Points||Total Wins||Total Points|
That 2005 season of RC’s is pretty amazing-well, all of these are pretty amazing really- to win two premier titles in a year is awesome- but it is interesting to see that out of these six “doubles”, ET’s got the least amount of wins. Yet somehow, to me anyways, this year “seemed” to be pretty dominant right?
Chase Sexton deserves a round of applause for his year for sure. I know it’s always the tendency to say ‘Oh well, he’ll just get it next year- he was just so much better than anyone else and Tomac won’t be there next year’ but man, in this sport you just never know. Lots of things could happen and Sexton’s going to think about this one for a while especially when you look at the two-turns-to-go crash at Lakewood that cost him three points. He was amazing all year long indoors and out. Weege and I were trying to think of a guy that became “the guy” in the premier class that wasn’t “the guy” in 125/250’s and we really couldn’t think of anyone. Usually it goes the other way, as we've seen lots of prolific 250F or 125 winners who couldn't replicate that in the big class. Chase has been the opposite. He never even won a 250 National race overall but now he's on the highest of possible levels in the 450 division. His rise has been remarkable for sure.
I was pretty impressed with Sexton all year long and really, with James Stewart in the booth at two races this year, it’s appropriate that Sexton is really the first guy to sort of remind me of Stew. Yes, I said it. He’s not Stew (easy there) but he’s Stew-lite to me.
Yes, Honda has still not won a premier title since Carmichael left in 2004 and yes, Team Honda is aware of this and yes, they’re sick of hearing it. 2022 was the year that Jason Anderson got the “he’s never won a national” monkey off his back, will 2023 finally be the year Honda gets that giant monkey of its back?
Jett Lawrence rode to another win to clinch his second consecutive 250MX title and it was a whole lot better than his clinching ride last year where he crashed a bunch and definitely seemed like the nerves were getting to him. This year he not only rode to a win, he was also trying to move over and give his brother Hunter the win to get some points on Jo Shimoda for second in the championship. Now that’s pretty elaborate to handle on a title clinching day!
I think Jett will slot right into a podium guy in the 450MX next year, he’ll take some lumps here and there, but it should be exciting to watch him jump into that deep end.
Speaking of Hunter, yes, he was clearly trying to go for second in the points when he charged a bit too hard coming down a hill and slammed into Shimoda, taking him down. He didn’t mean to knock Jo down, but he did intend for there to be a collision (as he told me after the race). He just went a bit too hard, couldn’t get on the brakes and yes, it was greasy. Jo was not stoked after the race, and I was surprised that Jo said Hunter didn’t say anything to him afterwards. That seems unlike Hunter, and Hunter did tell me that he would speak with Shimoda at some point. We just can’t have this type of Mirtl-on-Mirtl crime out there! Both riders are repped by agent Lucas Mirtl and Jett and Jo are tight.
If I was Jo, I would be a bit ticked, that pass could’ve caused some issues and I would file that away for a bit of revenge for later or at least know that when it comes to racing his friend, rough riding is, I guess, ok?
I can’t believe that Hunter didn’t win an overall this year and I also can’t believe that I may be typing out “Jo Shimoda, 2023 250MX champion” as well. Should be a good battle between those two and one would assume a healthy Justin Cooper for the championship next year.
Hold on, Ryan Dungey’s done again? I had heard he was going to keep racing from someone at KTM and from what I gathered, it was just to be determined whether he would do supercross or not before going to MX again. And then when I asked Ryan about next year a couple weeks ago, he said that he had made his mind up and seemed happy about it. Meaning that he was enjoying racing again and going to come back in 2023. Now he told some media outlets that he had scratched that itch and was retired again.
So, something changed somewhere, I guess. To me, Ryan’s MX season was a success even though the last couple of races went a bit worse for him than I would think, and he seemed to enjoy being back at the grind again. Not sure what happened, I would guess (and I didn’t hear this, just a guess) that maybe he wanted to come back, it was sort of expected he would come back, and something changed at KTM and they told him they couldn’t support him again? I mean, that kind of fits KTM’s modus operandi, right? Roger DeCoster doesn’t seem to be the type for sentimentality and good vibes.
Anyways, it was cool to see him back and thanks Ryan!
Some other news and notes:
-Alex Martin announced this was his final season in the sport and unfortunately for him, he didn’t get to go out with a 1-1 or even a 10-10 and then get carried off on the shoulders of his team. Nope, he couldn’t race Ironman last week because of a dislocated shoulder, then this week while out in practice he jacked his back up and couldn’t race. That. Would. Suck. Props to MX Sports for letting him go out for a parade lap before the moto. What a career Troll had; it was cool to see him really make himself into a motocross hero from humble beginnings.
-Benny Bloss had a strong Pala 2 and as I told him after the race, for as crappy as things can go for a rider at times (and for Benji, it CAN go bad), there are days like Pala 2 for Benny that make you realize what’s in there if he can stay away from mistakes. Great ride for Bloss in both motos.
-The last national is always a time for some privateers to shine. Bloss is a privateer, but I won’t count him because he’s gotten some of these results again over years. Nope, I’m talking Hawaii’s own Grant Harlan borrowing a Honda from Kris Keefer (Harlan races Kawasaki normally) and then having by far his best results of the year with a 12-11 because, well of course! Harlan rode great and in honor of that, may I point out some other last national round privateer hero results:
2021 | Bryson Gardner | 10th in moto 2 | 450 class
2020 | Jake Masterpool | 10th in moto 2 | 450 class
2018 | Tyler Medaglia | 7-6 | 450 class (mudder)
2017 | Bradley Taft | 7th in moto 2 | 250 class
-Haiden Deegan, Chance Hymas and Talon Hawkins were all rookies that rode pretty well at Pala in the heat. Hymas and Deegan had a nice little battle in moto two (Deegan was GOING for it) and Hawkins had his best finish by far of the three nationals (I think) that he’s done. Cool to see these guys racing but there’s a chance they’re all back in SX Futures for 2023? I don’t know exactly; it all seems of dumb to me to allow these factory kids abilities to duck in and out of pro racing and some of them are even dodging the combines and stuff? Thank God I’m not focused on the amateur scene.
-Did Justin Cooper do enough to call off the MXDN dogs? 3-3 on the day and he fought hard to not let Jett get away in moto two. It was hot and tough as well, I don’t know… I feel like the mob has been a bit unfair.
-Jo Shimoda won the second motos in the last three races. Kind of a weird and wacky stat.
-Super cool to see Marvin Musquin out there on the 250 in prep for the MXDN. It’s been a while since he rode one and as he told me after the race, him showing up here was the very definition of “off the couch. He rode the 250 a couple of times, said he went on a couple of bike rides and some runs. He has not been full-time training at all. Hey, in the first moto he was running third there for a bit!
-Dean Wilson is done with the outdoors (well except for the MXDN)! The former 250MX national champion will be racing USA and WSX next year for the Firepower Honda team but his days racing the USA nationals are over. Afterwards, he said that everything about Pala 2 confirmed that he was making the right decision! He tied a season best with his ninth in his last moto of his career. I’m not here to talk about Dean’s career yet, because he’s still racing indoors. but his interview with me after the race was awesome as he laid it all out there on why he can’t do two thirty-minute motos anymore. Mostly, his knees really hurt!
Thanks for reading OBS this year, we’ll be back with OBS from MXDN, maybe OBS from WSX, maybe OBS from Paris SX and who knows what else? Always fun to type out some thoughts and you can email me at email@example.com if you want to chat about this race or anything else.