“A couple of weeks ago if you had seen me, you would have said, ‘This guy is not doing good at A1.’” Chase Sexton admitted this after Anaheim, when he salvaged a podium after a rough run up.
Prior to the race, the rumor mill churned out stories that Chase Sexton was having some struggle days while adapting to his new Red Bull KTM, but we take such info with a grain of salt. Anaheim 1 is littered with stories of a rider getting hurt, sick, or just struggling through the off-season only to turn things around 180 degrees when the races begin. When Sexton took off in Anaheim qualifying, though, it looked a little grim, especially since speed is usually his specialty. At one point in free practice, we saw him glance at the tall scoreboard hoping to see his name, and it wasn’t there. He could not break the top five.
He looked better immediately in the next session, and then by the final session of the day he was back toward the front, ultimately netting third in session two and second in session three. From session two to session three, he also narrowed his gap to Jett Lawrence from 1.3 seconds to just under a tenth of a second.
“It’s been a different off season for me switching bikes and getting to know something that's quite a bit different than what I was on before,” he said in the post-race press conference. “So that takes a lot to get used to. And yes, we had our struggles but the last week or so we've been moving in the right direction and tonight, definitely, I feel like we're going in the right direction. So, that's a positive. I knew coming in that I was gonna be maybe a little bit not where I want be. I went out there and tried to salvage everything I could and try to get better. I think the last practice today I started to get into a flow. The heat race wasn't great, but the main event was okay.”
He had to overcome a first-turn crash in his heat just to get into the main. In the main event he was not quite there with the podium trio, but ahead of everyone else. “I had a really sketch moment. I was right behind Cooper, or not right behind, but I was in the hunt, and I went inside after the whoops and went on to the jump and then I went off and I get like a, there was a big old kicker that I didn't see because I was normally going outside. I had to bobble head through the rest of the section. After that, I could not see anything for probably a lab. My sweat was everywhere, and I lost the train after that, and it was pretty much me by myself.”
When Webb went down, Sexton inherited third. After his ride through the off-season, a podium was certainly acceptable. Perhaps consistency will end up being Sexton’s calling card after running as the speed leader of the class the last few seasons.
“It wasn't my best riding, but it's a long season and like last year shows, you gotta be up for every race. I feel like my consistency is better this year,” he says. “I just gotta get a little bit more speed, which I had really good speed last year and now if we get that back we'll be a good spot.
“I feel like the progress we've made in the last couple of weeks, just getting more comfortable and I ride obviously a lot off feel, which everyone does, but especially me,” he says. “When I feel connected with the bike and the track, I can really go fast and we're getting there. It's just taking some time. So, this team has been awesome. They've thrown everything at it, and they work their butts off. Every day that I ride the bike, I seem to get a little bit more comfortable. So, it's good.”