Yeah! Round five of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross series was all the way east out in Tampa, Florida, and was in some ways, a copy of last week in Houston, really. We’ll get into why later on, but it was good to be back in Florida. The weather there cannot be beat this time of the year, that’s for sure. The massive rain we predicted for Saturday never came, it was light. And then the series again threw itself into a blender for us as well, which was neat.
After press day on Friday and again during practice on Saturday, I had more than a few riders tell me about the dirt and how hard it was. One of them told me, "It’s like Anaheim or something out there." None of the Florida compounds have anything like what was laid down in Tampa. It was a bit of a curveball for the riders and teams.
I grabbed a bunch of interviews after the races from some riders, so I gave you some of the best stuff they gave me and broke it down. If I didn’t talk about your favorite rider here, blame them for not talking to me.
And away we go!
So yeah, the similarities to last week’s race. We had a rider named Chase Sexton who was blazing fast in practice and in his heat in Houston, and he even passed Eli Tomac and dropped him in said heat which, yeah, never happens. Then in the main he got to within a second of ET but couldn’t get it done and took second.
It was a real clutch, impressive ride by Tomac to overcome the raw speed of Sexton.
This week Sexton was again impressive in practice all day long. I think he’s been the quickest rider in nine-straight sessions now, which is unbelievable really.
“I mean, honestly, I don’t even know why I even try to go fastest out there because it doesn’t matter. It’s really an ego thing,” Sexton told me after the race.
Sexton won his heat in impressive fashion and then grabbed the holeshot in the main, prompting WHOEVER was running the Racer X Twitter account to tweet, “He gone,” on the first lap. What an idiot that guy is.
But Cooper Webb was right there the whole time despite not looking great at any point during the day and just wouldn’t let go. He had his meat hooks into Sexton and couldn't be shaken off, and not even a huge almost-crash late in the main affected Webb. Sexton went down in the whoops and Webb took off with the win. It was a real clutch, impressive ride by Webb to overcome the raw speed of Sexton.
Two races, two impressive rides by two champs and the victim both times was Sexton.
“To be able to run with him at the beginning and have a good pace, and then just kind of find a good flow. We were kind of playing cat and mouse and I felt like I was in a good spot. Really didn’t want to go too soon. I felt like I had the speed to match him and had some good lines and stuff. Obviously, the lappers were tricky, especially in that sand. But I felt like if at any point I fell back a little bit I was able to pick it up and get right back on them.
“So, I felt like we were in a good spot. Then I made that big mistake there at the end and almost went down. Then I think it was two laps later that he pretty much had the same thing happen and went down. I felt really good. It’s the first time that I’ve felt like I had really good speed and could run whatever the pace was. It was a good win. Get the monkey off the back a little bit and get that ball rolling, hopefully.”
Webb saying that he thought he had the speed to match Sexton is a bold claim, seeing as how the whole day went, but that’s Webb. He does stuff like that and being able to reel Sexton in when he wanted is a good sign for him and a bad sign for the rest of the field.
Webb was doing this little double-double thing that Sexton was rolling and going on-off and as Webb explained on the Pulpmx Show, the line was about the same time but then as the race went on and people brake slid up the single, it got taller, and it got rougher on the back side. And Webb’s line became better. Crazy to think about the small stuff like that (including Webb noticing Sexton going off the dragon from the second roller from the top) that makes such a difference in a race.
“I think that line, we dart-fished it all day and it wasn’t ever faster. But in the main event I knew just in the simple fact of everyone was going roll, on, off. You could tell, the first single, when people brake slide up it all day, it just gets taller and taller and taller. Then the single going down the backside had a lot of acceleration bumps. So, I just kind of knew this line is going to probably end up being pretty good. At the beginning, it really wasn’t. I think it was very similar, but by the end, I think it would just kind of give me a good slingshot. And staying out of the rough stuff into the dragon. He was going from the second to top and I was trying to get as light as I could over it, but I maybe just didn’t have the legs to quite do that line.”
“After the main event I wanted to like, jump off a cliff. But it’s frustrating because it has happened quite a few times. But like I said, tonight I was hitting my marks. I was on point. I was riding good. I should have switched lines. My biggest thing now is riding on rougher tracks during the week. I rode on a rough track on Thursday, and I struggled really bad. So, I need to start doing that more. And that’s how the main event is. That’s really the bottom line.”
I think he’s got a point here. In Houston and Tampa, when the track was fresher (practice, heats, early in mains), he was amazing. As whoops broke down, ruts got deeper, etc., he wasn’t as good. And as he says, he rode a rough track on Thursday and wasn’t good. Attacking your weakness is a good start to turn this around for sure.
I’m impressed with Chase standing around after the race and talking to the media about his close defeats, it says something about his character, I think. Many a rider in his position would not do that.
“These guys somehow pull it out. I mean, if it’s not Eli, it’s Cooper. I ride the same all day, and these guys just somehow in the main events can… I got to find more speed in the main event, I guess.”
Yup, Sexton pretty much sums up his frustrations here.
“It was a bit of an off day for my riding. I struggled with finding a comfort zone during the night show, with the conditions being on the edge of slick and decent traction. Overall, we learned a lot about those conditions for the future, and I'm happy to still have the points lead.”
I didn’t speak to Eli Tomac after the race, but this was his quote in the Yamaha PR so yeah, we’ll go with that. Not a full “weirdo Eli” ride from his Kawi days but definitely not what we’re used to seeing from him. We’re onto Oakland…
“Obviously, I struggled today throughout the day so bad. Let’s put it this way. This week has been the worst week I’ve had in a long time. Taking that into the weekend and just doing a lot of stuff, and I was uncomfortable in practice. I told those guys from the beginning, like yesterday at the track I told them, I want to cruise through the day, stay calm, and I’m going to put all my focus into the night program, and that’s what we did. People think, ‘I got to win, I’m going to win,’ and all this shit, but this fourth-place tonight was huge for me. I’m thankful that I was able to get that and kind of salvage and save the day a little bit.”
One thing for sure, ask Ken Roczen a question and you’re going to get an honest answer. Roczen’s fourth in Tampa was pretty good coming off a not great Houston. What he’s talking about was he was out testing all week on the RM-Z and has been fighting a few bike issues that he and the team are trying to solve.
“I absolutely love it. And not just Larry (Brooks), but everybody on the team. They’re bending over backwards. Really. I don't know if I’ve ever worked with a team that put everything in motion at this moment and just says, “You want this? Go for it.” I’ve been in love with that, seriously. We have a really good team connection, me and them. It’s full game on. So, working with Larry has been phenomenal. He’s actually staying for next week, too. So, we’re going to do some more stuff. I believe in them.”
Roczen loves working with his Team HEP and manager Larry Brooks. If LB is staying in Florida this week, I also suggested that he stock up on Mountain Dew, which Larry likes. Like, a lot.
“Yeah, the qualifying last week was a little subpar. It was great this week. But starts were great last week, but they were a little subpar this weekend. So hopefully we can shake the dice and get the full deal. Get two sixes next time.”
When I caught up with Hunter Lawrence, he asked me to not ask him to take us through that last lap because he had already talked to everyone about it. So, in the course of talking about his race, which was great, and we all saw what happened, I made a note that the only negative was one week after his starts were dialed, they went away for him in both the heat and main event.
He's been the class of the class (does that break an English rule?) so far, and he really should be when you think about it. Not to bag on his competition but this is what he’s got:
A guy who has speed but crashes a lot (Michael Mosiman)
A guy who wins or finishes off the podium (Nate Thrasher)
A guy who has speed but crashes a lot (Jordon Smith)
A guy who had never made the podium in 250SX before 2023 (Max Anstie)
A rookie (Tom Vialle)
A rookie (Haiden Deegan)
A guy who’s been off a year and struggles in SX at times (Jeremy Martin)
So, Hunter Lawrence is doing exactly what he should be doing so far. It’s not easy being the clear favorite either, and if he can’t win, he shouldn’t push it and end up off the podium either. Hard to see how he misses the podium each week in this east series.
“Yeah, Yarrive is emotional, but it’s nice. You don’t feel like you’re just another number on a bike. The thing with Yarrive is that he’s so passionate. I’ve had bosses before that you think they don’t give a f**k about you. You get injured, you’re replaced straight away. They don’t even speak to you. It’s like, if you don’t perform, get out of here. Get a job. You’re not on the team anymore. Whereas I feel like for Yarrive, he’s very passionate and he’s loyal to his people.”
We have quite a story here in Max Anstie as the Brit got his second podium in two weeks for the privateer Firepower Honda team. Anstie’s team owner, Yarrive Konsky, has teams both in the USA and Australia and is one passionate guy, as you can tell from his social media. He’s got Anstie, Dean Wilson (who improved this week, at least the first half of the main) and it seems that he’s got all the karma on his side as well. Cool story here!
“I looked up in free practice and I thought, ‘What in the blue blazes am I doing?’ It’s crazy. I’m fast. It’s one of those where I don’t normally look up at the board and see myself up there.”
I didn’t have Max being so fast on my bingo card, and nor did he apparently!
“The MTF crew are texting on the group chat at 10:30 at night saying, ‘Bro, it’s 10:30. No one can sleep. Why are you on the dyno?’ Marty’s like, ‘We’re just trying to find an extra tenth of a horsepower here and there.’”
I also didn’t have Marty Davalos being a lynchpin for this team’s success. He's quick transition from racer to manager is impressive. Who knew?
“…it was crazy. After winning the heat race I was so excited. That’s like just winning. Winning again. It’s been a little bit since I won. It’s been since Mini O’s. So, I was like, ‘It’s so good to get a win.’ Especially since, I had Hunter Lawrence, I had Anstie, I had all those guys in that heat race. It was a stacked heat race, and I was super happy. So, we just came back to the pit. Just tried to be a little confident with myself, but still humble with my riding. Knowing that these guys are fast. The top five is fast. The main event, I executed a good start and just rode smooth. Just did what I did last weekend. Was there and a couple guys made mistakes. I was able to capitalize. But besides that, it was a good, fun race."
Look, I don’t really care about amateur racing success or who’s gonna “kill it” when they turn pro, or who’s “a beast.” I’ve had too many of my industry friends tell me about these kids and there’s probably a 50 percent success rate for these guys. But Haiden Deegan, who’s been a magnet for attention forever thanks to his dad’s vlogs, etc., is the real deal. Read that quote again, you can see that the kid just gets it. So yeah, I don’t care about what he did as an amateur but his two fourths to start the year, and his heat race win, you don’t get those without having serious fitness, serious heart, and serious determination, not to mention the obvious talent that even Stevie Wonder could see. It’s been impressive for sure.
“Yeah, it’s really up to me. It’s no contract signed or anything. I’m just riding dirt. Bobby was good enough to give me a bike and I appreciate that. He’s been spending a lot on me to get me out there on the 450. Just trying to do the best I can for the team. As of right now, I only think I’m doing two more. We’ll see how it goes.
“(We’re) Skipping Oakland. I’m going to be at Arlington and then Daytona. And then we’ll go from there.”
Justin Cooper’s had two, what I think are, impressive races to start his 450SX career, and many of us wonder what exactly the plan for him is. You look at Christian Craig’s and Colt Nichols’ results (they’ve been fine, I’m not shitting on them but they’re just “fine.” I think we can all agree, yeah?) and then see that J-Coop jumped in and is well in front of them and it gives you some perspective, right? Well, as you read, Cooper’s deal is a bit open ended, and when he says it’s up to him, I take that as if he continues to do well, he’ll continue to go to the 450SX races. Are two sevenths good enough for his team? I say yes but I guess we’ll see…he’s back at Dallas.
Or maybe, with Ferrandis out for Oakland, he does line up?
“We had some more pace today, and it was kind of at the same effort level as it has been all year. It’s not like I just decided to try harder. It just came much easier for me today speed-wise, which was good. When you’re out a long time and you come back to these races, things can come at you a bit quicker. You can always go to the test track and put together a solid twenty and feel pretty good about it, right? But when you come here things have got to slow down for you a bit.
“And today it was a huge step for me in that direction. Felt really good on the bike. Felt really good in the whoops, which I haven’t all year, which is ironic because I endo-ed my brains out. But obviously, not the main we wanted with the mistakes, but a big step I think.”
Adam Cianciarulo was sort of back this week! As in, he showed that old speed we know is in there. It’s been a bit slow (for him) and steady series for AC who’s said many times that he just wants to race the whole series. So, he’s coming off a year off, he’s building, he’s trying to get his shoulder/arm where he wants it to be, and it’s been…okay to start the year. Well, in Tampa he was number one for a while in both qualifying sessions and he got a good start as well. Yes, he went down in the whoops, but as he says, he had more pace and felt good in the whoops as well. Are we seeing the “old” Adam coming back? Stay tuned, kids.
“I’m not happy. I want to be spraying champagne and getting some podium pie, that’s for sure. But I think a big thing for me this year is I want to rebuild. You go out there and you send it and then you’re on the deck and then you’re hanging out again. So, I think a big thing for me is if I can improve every weekend and then I can make a season, that’s a big win for me.”
Jeremy Martin on his 5-5 start to the year. I think it’s been just okay as well. Not bad, but not where he wants to be. Maybe if he had gotten Jordon Smith there last week on the last lap to get third, but as it is, he made a mistake and Deegan got him.
“I was stoked on the start and then just got owned in that turn where A-Ray went down. Did you see A-Ray go down there? It was nasty. I hope he’s okay.”
A Ray is most definitely NOT okay, Jer. Broken thumb for the #140, and add Jeremy Martin to the list of riders who’ve seen Alex Ray have horrific crashes on a SX track.
“I’d like to not be there again if I don’t have to be.”
Joey Savatgy on his LCQ ride, which he says was the first 450SX LCQ he’s ever had to go to and is also the sentiment of every top 450SX rider out there.
“We burned through some parts today. Bars, radiators, which is unfortunate. Like I said, I made a run on Barcia there at the end, but to be honest, the last five laps, I don't know if I held my breath or what, but legs started getting a little Jello-y. So, maybe that extra five or six laps I did in the LCQ was the cherry on top, but I’m happy with it considering. It wasn’t my best night but to come out with a ninth, we’ll take it.”
Savatgy had another good race this year doing it as a total privateer and he’s in the top ten yet again. But this one wasn’t easy. He had crashes in practice that caused him to miss the last session and then again in the heat which took him to LCQ land. He’s got just another three races to go here in his deal with Rick Ware Racing and by the sounds of it, Rick and Joey’s agent are hashing things out to keep him going the rest of the year. I had Tweeted that we got to get Joey out there for the whole year and Rick replied to the Tweet with this:
Basically, I’ve been designated as THE place to go to get the scoops on Savatgy’s RWR deal so take that Racer X, Swap Moto, and Vital MX!!!!
Also, Savatgy’s parking spot each week is something else. Pretty soon he’s going to be out on the freeway. I understand he’s not in a semi-truck and all that, but he’s a top ten guy and this weekend, and at one of the Anaheim’s, he was basically the last truck before the parking lot. Nutty.
“Before the season, I lost five or six weeks. I had a little injury, so I missed a lot of testing time and things like that and switching back to the Honda from being on the Yamaha for a while. It’s been a good transition, but it’s just been a little bit more difficult than I thought, just learning the bike and things like that. So, round one I definitely struggled a lot all day long. In the main, my shock faded quite a bit, so I felt like I just couldn’t keep going forward.”
Jace Owen had an ehhhhh first round in his return to the Phoenix Honda team but in Tampa, he was back in the top ten and was the second privateer as well. That’s more like it for the somewhat underrated Owen.
“I don't think so. The Honda is good, too. It is good. It’s strong. I like it. I’m starting to come around and gel with it, so that’s the biggest thing for me is finding comfort, really.”
Also, Jace wasn’t having any of this, “Yamaha motors are the best motors in the 250 class,” talk, that’s for sure!
Thanks for reading everyone, we’re onto Oakland for ROUND TWO of the series. It makes no sense, just go with it though, please and thank you. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions for me, please and thanks.