Trends. You’d think the season would have produced a few strong ones by now, and while some have started to emerge, we’ve been left with seemingly just as many questions as we have clues as to where this season is headed. After seeming nearly unbeatable early, Eli Tomac inexplicably ended up fifth in Tampa, while Cooper Webb exploded back into the championship picture. The other contenders have had their ups and downs as well. But did these mercurial trends persist in Oakland? Let’s get into this week’s Saturday Night Live and have a look.
First, the first. Place, that is. Up front the race win was claimed by Tomac, who bounced back from Tampa to resume his winning trend in Oakland. It didn’t come easy, however, thanks again to a tremendous, until it wasn’t, performance from Chase Sexton, who saw this race go like several other races this season. Early on Sexton was amazing, leading the race and slowly riding away from Tomac. But then, as we’ve seen too many times already in six rounds in 2023, Sexton made a mistake, crashed, and handed the win to Tomac.
“I thought I was kind of maintaining, then he [Sexton] started pulling away,” Tomac said afterward. “I went to the jump [line in the whoops] and he pulled away even more. So I went back to skimming. That was just the better line for me. Jumping saved some energy for that late-race push. I needed that rebound. I just didn’t ride like myself at all last weekend. To go out and execute [tonight], that was a good one.”
It was good for Tomac in the record book as well, as this win tied him third on the all-time supercross win list with Ricky Carmichael in the premier class at 48.
“Yeah, it’s special. Anytime you can tie RC on anything it’s really good,” Tomac said. “I’m just thankful for the success I’ve had in my 450 career, and the whole Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha team for making that possible, and giving me the chance to do it. Looking back now, whatever it was, ten years ago when I started in the 450 Class, did I think I’d be here? I would say no, but anyway… I don’t know where I’m going with this. It’s cool to be here with number 48.”
When Sexton and Tomac were running one and two it was the battle for the points lead, as the pair, at the time, were only separated by two points, which meant whoever won would take ownership of the red plate. Tomac later said that particular thought did indeed enter his out there.
“Yeah, it’s like whoever wins this race takes the red plate. So it’s definitely crunch time,” Tomac said.
Sexton didn’t echo the sentiment, saying the only thing he’s thinking about is trying to win the race, and that he wasn’t even quite sure what happened when he crashed.
“Up until the crash I felt so comfortable and so smooth. I had a really good flow going. I wish I could tell you what happened,” Sexton said. “I landed and there was a two-wheel slide and there was nothing I could do. It’s really hard to get back into the flow with a track like that. The bike was fine. I was fine. Just trying to get back into the flow was tough.”
Unfortunately for Sexton his troubles didn’t end with the crash. He remounted in second place, but when you let Webb get his foot in the door it’s very frequently followed by him smashing the door open the rest of the way and demoting you in the race order. That’s what happened in Oakland, as Webb, who is so strong late, got his hooks in Sexton, stalked, and pounced, taking over second place. His rampage didn’t end there, either, as Tomac had an issue on the last lap that ended with him tangling with a Tuff Block. That allowed Webb to close up on Tomac and apply all kinds of pressure to the reigning champ for a very tense remaining thirty seconds of the Oakland supercross.
“I didn’t exactly see what happened, but I heard the crowd go crazy and then saw a Tuff Block going and I thought, ‘Oh man, this might be good for me,’” Webb said with a smile in the press conference. “But man, he threw it down on that last lap! I did too, but I heard his revs and he was going for it. I was too, but I was like, ‘Man, he’s freakin’ hammering!’ We got close with that mistake but he held it on.”
As strong as Webb was late in the race, he admittedly lacked intensity early on.
“I have to get out of my comfort zone a little at the beginning knowing I’ll be in it at the end. Overall, I feel like I’m still in a really good spot,” Webb said.
Elsewhere in the field Aaron Plessinger had a great ride, working his way steadily forward to finish fourth. He was pressuring Jason Anderson at one point but never even had to put a move on him, as Anderson went down all by himself. Anderson was able to recover and take fifth place.
Oakland - 450SX Main EventFebruary 18, 2023
|1||Eli Tomac||21:28.917||19 Laps||1:06.189||Cortez, CO||Yamaha YZ450F|
|2||Cooper Webb||21:29.798||+.881||1:07.228||Newport, NC||KTM 450 SX-F|
|3||Chase Sexton||21:42.168||+13.251||1:06.058||La Moille, IL||Honda CRF450R|
|4||Aaron Plessinger||21:46.053||+17.136||1:07.323||Hamilton, OH||KTM 450 SX-F|
|5||Jason Anderson||21:50.747||+21.830||1:07.838||Edgewood, NM||Kawasaki KX450SR|
|1||Eli Tomac||Cortez, CO||248|
|2||Cooper Webb||Newport, NC||248|
|3||Chase Sexton||La Moille, IL||226|
|5||Jason Anderson||Edgewood, NM||199|
The 250SX West class resumed action in their series at Oakland on Saturday night also. Due to the race being postponed, this round initially was set to go off right at the start of their series but instead was inserted as their fourth round right in the middle of what was going to be about a two-month break. As such, two riders in particular were a little caught out by the quickness of the series returning to action in the form of Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s RJ Hampshire and Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Cameron McAdoo. Both riders had crashed separately at Anaheim 2 three weeks ago with Hampshire damaging his shoulder and dealing with some internal bleeding while McAdoo had bruised up his arm really bad from a crash in practice. Both riders admitted they were not at 100 percent coming into Oakland but as they sat 16 and 17 points, respectively, behind championship leader Jett Lawrence. They knew it was go time no matter what.
For Honda HRC’s Lawrence, it was trying to keep things about as business as usual as he could, having put up 1-1-2 scores at the first three races of the year thus far. He was perhaps the last person who wanted to see a lengthy break in the schedule, so Oakland was maybe the most welcomed sight for him to try to keep the ball rolling.
All day long, it seemed like Lawrence was keen to do just that as he rolled through qualifying topping both sessions and even having the fastest lap between both classes at one point as well. The momentum continued to roll into the night show where he cruised to a heat race victory to set himself up well for the main event. He did experience a bit of a hiccup, however, when he found himself feeling sick before the race and threw up beforehand.
The start in the main event was perhaps the only blip as he passed into the top five on the first lap and then picked off guys one by one until he was in second behind Hampshire who had the early lead. As he was working on catching Hampshire, the Husqvarna rider fell in the first turn from the lead and remounted behind Lawrence in a battle with McAdoo for second. That was all Lawrence really needed from there as he picked through lapped traffic well and opened up a comfortable gap in the end to cruise to his third win of 2023 and extend his championship lead out to 20 points.
“First few laps, I kind of just was really seeing where the lines were at and what the main lines were going to be with just how chewed out the track was,” said Lawrence. “The biggest thing was finding the main lines fast and sticking with them because like Cameron said, he was still going outside and blitzing the whoops and feeling how that was and different stuff like that. Jumping at the start, I was like, “Okay, we’re going to be doing this most of the race.” I was kind of feeling the guys out and once I got Cameron, I was just kind of feeling the pace of RJ and what he was doing. I had a few laps where I made a mistake and [Cameron] got on me but it stayed pretty much the same and then RJ ended up going down, so I was like, “Oh that makes my life a little easier.” From there it was just about keeping the same lap time and eliminating as many mistakes as I can and eliminate the risk because if you pushed too much, the track would just bite you so hard.”
The track was certainly no joke, even for the 250SX guys who perhaps had it a little better off, but unfortunately for Hampshire, it was a simple rock in a rut that spoiled his lead. Hampshire had holeshot the main event and led the first five laps before washing the front end out and handing the lead and eventual victory over to Lawrence. Normally a situation like that would have been a huge bummer for Hampshire, but after the last couple weeks of recovery, he knew it was going to be quite tough to hold off the charge from Lawrence behind him.
“Tonight, I was really hoping I didn’t get the holeshot just because I knew it was going to be a tough main event for me,” said Hampshire. “Just from the week I had and how I felt on the bike. But I ripped the holeshot and I felt pretty good. I knew I didn’t have that for the whole 15 though. I just came into that rut, caught a little rock, and there went my front end. I just had to reset a little bit. Cameron passed me right away and then I just clicked it off and did what I could.”
Hampshire retained second place despite the fall but it wasn’t without a battle. Early in the 250SX main event, Cameron McAdoo and eventually Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/GasGas rider Pierce Brown was worked into a three-way battle with Jett Lawrence for second. When Hampshire fell, he also fell right into that battle with McAdoo initially passing him for the spot before Hampshire got back around. That wasn’t the end of the battling for McAdoo though as he eventually had Brown catch and pass him only for McAdoo to pass Brown right back and provide a little love tap as well that sent Brown tumbling to the dirt. From there McAdoo would hold on for the final spot on the podium which was a welcomed sight after a similar two weeks of recovery.
“It was obviously a very long few weeks of getting my arm back to somewhat healthy,” said McAdoo. “But I don’t really want to highlight that. I’m still struggling with it a little bit, but I was the third best guy tonight. I’m proud that we got myself back to being healthy to race and to fight for it. It was tough, but we’re back up here so that’s good.”
Brown remounted fourth but was passed by Anaheim 2 winner Monster Energy Yamaha/Star Racing’s Levi Kitchen. The two riders battled it out for fourth all the way until the end though with Brown passing Kitchen back right before the white flag waved. Then Brown made a mistake which allowed Kitchen back through a final time to secure fourth which left Brown down in fifth.
Kitchen lamented after the race that his starts were off all day, and it really hurt him. After winning in Anaheim, perhaps the expectations are a little higher now but he also explained that he’s still pretty new to supercross, had never raced at Oakland before, and was satisfied with an end result of fourth.
Brown on the other hand was left frustrated at what could have been. He felt he should have tried to pass McAdoo sooner as he had more speed in hand and fell into their groove. The contact with McAdoo also didn’t exactly make Brown particularly happy but he was more disappointed in himself for the few too many mistakes. Still though, it was the first race this year that Brown raced fully healthy after suffering a bone contusion in his tailbone in a heat race crash at Anaheim 1 that has now fully healed. The result wasn’t what he wanted but the riding was noticeably strong.
And that’s it for the 250SX West guys for a while now as they go back into a hiatus with 250SX East resuming next week in Arlington. Speaking of Arlington, the whole series heads back to the Lonestar State next week for the seventh round of Monster Energy AMA Supercross where the 450SX guys look to keep the title fight going while we refresh ourselves on the 250SX guys again as for the third time in four rounds we are swapping which coast is racing. We’ll see you in Texas!
Oakland - 250SX WestFebruary 18, 2023
|1||Jett Lawrence||Landsborough Australia||Honda CRF250R|
|2||R.J. Hampshire||Hudson, FL United States||Husqvarna FC 250 RE|
|3||Cameron McAdoo||Sioux City, IA United States||Kawasaki KX250|
|4||Levi Kitchen||Washougal, WA United States||Yamaha YZ250F|
|5||Pierce Brown||Sandy, UT United States||GasGas MC 250F|
|2||R.J. Hampshire||Hudson, FL||104|
|3||Cameron McAdoo||Sioux City, IA||101|
|4||Mitchell Oldenburg||Alvord, TX||83|
|5||Enzo Lopes||Rio Grande do Sul||82|