Last September Eli Tomac and Chase Sexton crossed swords in a ferocious battle for global supercross and motocross supremacy. After a summer of brutal heat, humidity and fierce man against man competition, the 2022 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship went down to one final 25-minute-plus-two-lap moto.
“I think we both have elevated the speed of motocross, to be straight-up,” said Eli Tomac, a racer who despite clinching the prestigious Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship in May, desperately wanted to clinch his second title of the 2022 racing season. “May the best man win. There’s no letting off. There’s really no gifts at this point.”
After all was said and done that brilliantly bright Saturday at Fox Raceway in Pala, California, it was the veteran Tomac, who turned 30 this November, holding Sexton back by a handful of seconds to win the second moto of the day, but to also clinch his fourth AMA Pro Racing 450cc class championship, as well.
“I felt like Chase and I were just raising the game all year long,” explained the Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing racer. “I mean we were pushing ourselves every weekend and neither of us was making mistakes. I was impressed by his speed and I think that was why we were elevating ourselves. The most impressive thing with Chase was his speed and his consistency all the way down to the last moto. I don’t know how we even made it to that point because of how hard we were both pushing each other to that last race. Those battles with Chase this summer were next level. I think we elevated the pace. It was unbelievable. I would call him the next generation 450 guy.”
Almost astonishingly, after a six year run with Team Kawasaki for which he earned four championships, Tomac called time on his relationship with green brand in order to form a new alliance and team deal with Yamaha. For a war weary veteran competitor who won the very first professional race he lined up for in 2010, the Yamaha move was a pronounced gamble.
“Yes, in my opinion it was a gamble, but it was an educated gamble,” offered Tomac of a team switch that shook the global motocross community. “We tried to surround ourselves with the people we thought would help me put myself in the most successful position. From the outside looking in, it probably looked a little bit crazier than what it actually was, but I knew what I was capable of doing with the right things in place.”
An accolade that meant the world to the native of Cortez, Colorado, was that for the first time in his celebrated 12-year career, Tomac won both the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship and the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship in the same racing season.
“It’s very special because a lot of the time for everything to go the right way for that long is really tough in this sport.” explained the Yamaha YZ450F rider. “You’ve also got to be motivated for all of it, too. It’s really easy to have that supercross high and then you’re like, ‘Alright, here comes motocross.’ For me, this year was easy. I loved everything about it, and I loved my environment. That was key for me: to surround myself with a really good working environment and it led to success in both series.”
The year 2022 marked an excellent season for six-year pro Chase Sexton. Aged 23 and a member of mighty Team Honda HRC, Sexton was sixth in the 2022 Monster Energy AMA Supercross standings before going toe-to-toe with Tomac at the launch of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship.
“Until you get in that situation and put yourself up against a guy like Eli for a whole season, you don’t really know what you’re made of until you do that,” offered Sexton of his constant battle with Tomac in ’22. “This is the highest level I’ve ridden at. Ever. And honestly, I’m really young in my career, so I didn’t think I’d be racing on this level this soon. Two thousand twenty two was definitely a good year for me. I think it was a year that I needed to kind of establish myself as a guy that can win championships coming into 2023. I definitely think I needed this year of getting close. Obviously, I wanted to win that outdoor championship over Eli Tomac, but now that I didn’t win it, it is definitely motivating me going into next year. I definitely have belief in myself that I can do it now. Until you get in that situation and put yourself up against a guy like Eli for a whole season, you don’t really know what you’re made of until you do that, so now having that experience will really help me.”
The 2023 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship will kick off on Saturday night, January 7, 2023, inside klieg-lit Angel Stadium of Anaheim, California. The Formula 1 of global supercross and motocross, Angel Stadium has opened the supercross season on 31 occasions and for that night and for all else that will come with it, Chase Sexton is ready.
“I’m ready to take another step this year and for me that is winning a title,” declared Sexton. “I want to go out there and win multiple races and be on the podium a lot. You have to come in with small goals and focusing on myself. Race wins and podium finishes, that’s the first priority for 2023. I am definitely confident that I have what it takes. Eli is going to be good. This is going to be a stacked field in 2023, so I’m definitely going to have to be on my game, but like I said, I’m confident in my ability and my fitness and my mentality. I can be a supercross champion so I’m going to work my butt off this off-season and put it all on the table in 2023. I’m just stoked to be back racing in January and back in a stadium. Everyone loves supercross, so I’m just stoked to go out there and race and I’m going to give it my all.”
As Sexton says, the 2023 contender list is indeed stacked, including not just Tomac and Sexton but the surging Jason Anderson, who logged arguably the best season of his career in 2022 with Monster Energy Kawasaki. Cooper Webb, the 2019 and 2021 450SX Champion, surely aims for a bounce back season in 2023. The list goes on. Many can win. Eli Tomac, though, will enter the 2023 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship as, indisputably, the best, most decorated supercross racer on earth. He is the defending champion of both series. Keen to win yet another title before he calls time on his career, Tomac is quite aware that Chase Sexton will be a force to be reckoned with.
“Yeah, Chase is going to be one of my top competitors, if not the guy,” says Tomac. “He’s going to a strong guy in supercross, that’s for sure. Everyone knows that he has the speed and now he is going to have a little more experience under his belt, so I’ve got to always keep digging for more myself. He’ll be on everyone’s radar at this point, and he’ll be there to stay for the time being.”
So, can one Eli Tomac and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing Yamaha YZ450F go out into the National Football League and Major League Baseball stadiums of the United States of America and win it all once again in 2023?
“I think so,” he nodded, quietly confident. “I’ll never underestimate the competition, whoever it is. I have a new motorcycle coming in and I think it’s going to be a great step. The Yamaha YZ450 is going to be all-new and I’m excited for that and I’m excited to develop that bike and I’ll do everything I can to defend that number one plate.”
Sidebar: Jeremy McGrath: “It’s Showtime”
Before a sell-out crowd inside Angel Stadium of Anaheim, on January 23, 1993, Jeremy McGrath of Team Honda powered to the first premier class main event supercross win of his career. The sport stunned by the result, McGrath reached for a higher gear and never looked back, winning seven AMA Supercross Championships. The most accomplished and beloved supercross racer in the sport’s illustrious and spectacular history. Racer X talked with McGrath about Eli Tomac, Chase Sexton and the 2023 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship.
“I thought the showdown between Tomac and Sexton this year was great,” said the Californian. “Just when you thought Sexton was going to take over and become a champion that day and that he was going to be a part of the changing of the guard, Tomac has one of his best and boldest races ever! It was like, ‘Whoa, Eli isn’t ready for that yet!'"
“I think the sport is healthy,” furthered McGrath. “You have Eli Tomac, who has been unbelievable. He had the best season of his life in 2022. I certainly think Chase Sexton is the next guy. I think Honda is sitting in a really, really good position with Chase. I’m a fan of Chase. He’s an unbelievable rider.
“I think we’re going to see some epic battles in supercross between Tomac and Sexton. Eli is topped out as far as confidence and ability. He’s a veteran and he’s been in the game a long time. And Chase, when he’s on, he’s pretty unbeatable. The question with Chase will be if he can get his mental side of the game really, really, really on point because Eli does have that.”