Yeah! Anaheim 1! It’s here! SX 2024! Always a great race to attend even when, like this year, it’s not a great “race,” if you know what I mean. Yes, we didn't see a ton of action in the main. But all the hopes and dreams are out there on the Angel Stadium floor and after the mains are over, everyone has a better idea of where they fit in.
The track at A1, like a lot of A1’s, was very basic. There wasn’t much passing on half the track, but the second set of whoops turned out to be legit tough, and the one rhythm lane did provide some challenges. Finish line was a booter also! It’s a good way to ease everyone into SX. Well, except for Lux Turner, he didn’t ease into anything and sounds like he’ll be out for a while.
Well, well, well, he did it. Jett Lawrence slammed his way past Jason Anderson in the third turn and went on to lead every lap on his way to the win in his very first 450SX main event. It was a typical Jett ride really, he wasn’t pulling away trying to demolish the guys behind him. Nope, he was just maintaining his gap and riding pretty smoothly. When Anderson and Webb caught him a bit late in the main, I know the announcers were trying to hype it up but in my mind, there was ZERO chance Jett was gonna get caught. He had more in the tank. A lot more if he needed to uncork it.
It was all relatively easy for the 18. The way he got the win, he looked a lot like some guy named Jeremy McGrath out there. Smooth, easy, and calm. Buckle up people, Lawrence might start looking A LOT like that McGrath guy this season.
I get it, the people that run the series want Lawrence to be successful. He’s incredible, and like Wayne Gretzky, Tiger Woods or even Michael Jordan, they’re hoping his success can transcend the sport and get in front of more eyeballs, which means more money for the series. I get it and understand it from a marketing point of view, but there’s also a fine line of recognizing that there are other great riders out there. I heard that the plan was for Jett to come out last for opening ceremonies (because he's SMX champ) until his dad, Darren, vetoed it. But when I heard this was even being considered, I shook my head a bit. This is Supercross and Chase Sexton is the Supercross champ- he needs to come out last. Jett also had his own, different opening ceremonies video, but that actually came from Jett's team, other riders were offered the chance to do their own but Jett's was the most "different" because he had MMA announcer Bruce Buffer calling out his name. Then, over in the pits, Feld is in business with the Lawrence brothers with the VIP program they have! You also have banners in the stadium for the SMX title that Jett and Haiden Deegan have acquired. That was weird (there’s no rider in the pits who would pick an SMX title over a SX or MX title IMO).
Look, this is all coming from different angles. I think some of it is Feld pushing SMX, and Jett just happens to be the champ of that. Some of it is the Lawrences coming up with their own cool ideas that stick out. Plenty of it comes from Jett just winning a lot. The Lawrences themselves are not asking for special treatment. But sometimes perception becomes reality. First time there’s a rule controversy with a Lawrence brother, some fans are gonna scream about the VIP program Feld is partners in. Of course, in reality, rules are enforced by the AMA and not Feld, so these things aren't actually connected. But again, that whole perception/reality thing. There’s a fine line here that everyone has to be aware of, that’s all.
Jason Anderson came into Anaheim 1 a bit lowkey for sure. Lots to talk about when it comes to the kids, the guys who switched bikes, the riders coming off injury, etc., but Jason didn’t win a race last year, didn’t switch teams and also isn’t a big “look at me” guy. So, there wasn’t a lot of hype around the #21 but he got a podium at the first race and really looked good throughout the day. He’s switched to Troll Training with Alex Martin and had John Wessling helping him this off-season, he likes the new Kawasaki, and all in all, nice start to the year.
Chase Sexton hasn’t had the smoothest off-season on the new KTM. Just not totally gelling with the bike from what I heard, has had a few crashes in the whoops and I think if you had told Chase he would get a third at the opener he would take it. I expect Sexton and KTM to get the bike figured out a bit better here. Was he good? Yes. Was he Chase Sexton balls-fast of 2023 at any point on Saturday? No.
Cooper Webb was great. He probably would’ve gotten second if he hadn’t endoed over the tabletop late in the race. He actually did pass into second for a bit also. Anyway, Webb’s shed that weight from Paris, he’s figured out some health stuff, and looked way better than any SMX round or Paris. Which, ICYWW, this series is a little more important than those ones. Webb winning a heat was the surprise of the night, I think. Cooper “Spicy” Webb adds a lot to the series.
On Monday night we had Webb on the PulpMX show and he said he honestly thought Lawrence was going to have more raw speed than he had. Webb said last year he didn’t have the speed he needed to win and when he did win, it was more attrition. This year he feels like he does have that speed back. He said that he knows where he stands with all his competitors other than Jett. When he was creeping up on Lawrence in the main, he surprised himself.
On the flip side we’ve seen Jett go into manage mode on the track and pull away from a dude closing in when he needs to. I didn’t feel comfortable bringing this up to Webb…
It’s time for RJ Hampshire to get this thing done, right? Certainly, if you’re him, his family, or his team you’re looking at his own slow build and improvements, and then look at the guys who’ve left the class, and realize he’s in a great spot. But riders like Jeremy Martin and Dean Wilson, amongst others, also thought the same thing and couldn’t get that 250SX title. You have to fight off the riders who are around your age and experience and then you have to fight off the kids that are getting better. Well at Anaheim, Hampshire did that. He logged smooth, easy laps (did I really say that about RJ?) to take the win and the first red plate of his career. He told me afterward that he’s very stoked on the improvements the team has made on his bike. The triple-in was easy for him he said, and it was a great ride. He didn’t win the heat, he didn’t qualify fastest, but he was the best guy in the main event.
We’re never quite sure when RJ is gonna go full RJ, but he only really did it once last year in supercross. The year before that was a little better also, so he’s maybe a slow learner but hey, better late than never to figure out you can’t destroy yourself and win SX titles. Great work by Hampshire!
Jordon Smith is one of those guys we kind of overlook and he made a good point in the post-race interview. He said that he obviously had his rise from GEICO Honda to almost title winner at TLD KTM, and then he had three years of injuries where he barely raced. Last season he was fully back and got on the box. In Anaheim he rode great to get second and won a heat. But with Smith, consistency is the key. Last season he started on the box, then his bike broke round two, then he missed the main in Detroit, which you can’t do. Smith just needs to have his worse days be a fourth or fifth and not disasters like some other years.
Levi Kitchen was my pick for the win, I thought he looked great all day. He qualified P1 and was right there off the start. Hampshire seized the lead right away and rode off, but Kitch was solid. He admitted that after he got passed by Smith, he pumped up a bit. But he regrouped, got his teammat, Max Vohland back, and settled on the podium. I was thinking he was gonna be a bit upset after the race, but he was legit okay with his night.
Some other news and notes:
Aaron Plessinger was the fastest rider at Anaheim 1 you won’t hear about. Whether it was the heat or the main event, AP moved forward and passed some big names out there. I’m not a big segment time guy, but AP did have the best time in the second segment (which was the two whoop sections) in the main event. He was impressive for sure.
Hunter Lawrence made a bit of a joke at me on Friday in regard to our Racer X SX preview shows, in which I said I wasn’t sure he was any different than other double 250SX/MX champions like Aaron Plessinger, Zach Osborne, and others. Clearly, he thinks he’s better than that and I respect that, we’ll see. He’s got a long career in front of him. At Anaheim 1 he didn’t qualify for the main which was a shock for sure. He was the victim of Vince Friese cutting him off in the heat off the start, but his LCQ race, from his start to his opening three laps, wasn’t good. Tough start for Hunter and I’m sure he’s wondering WTF happened out there. I had heard he’s got an injury also from the first turn crash now.
Speaking of Hunter, privateer Cade Clason did a great job in holding Hunter off in the last turn. I was looking at the lap times of Hunter and Cade, and with about three laps to go Tweeted “Poor Cade” because you know how these big-time factory riders vs. privateer things go in LCQ’s. Well, Cade picked it up and rode smart to take the last spot.
Gonna take me some time to get used to #22 Freddie Noren. Just give me a few races, okay?
Phil Nicoletti had a tough night. We’ll leave it at that.
We had Chad Reed on Monday’s PulpMX Show and he told us that not having that number anymore is one of the big reasons why he wouldn’t do a one-off race here and there. I mean, I get it.
Max Vohland got a fifth, which is the fifth time he’d gotten a top five in a 250SX race before but this one just felt different, right? On the Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki for the first time, Max won his first heat race of his career, and he was charging up to third before losing a bit of momentum when a red cross flag came out. Sure, he got fifth but to me, this was the best fifth he’s ever gotten. Much improved!
I think Jo Shimoda got a little lucky to get that fourth. Bad start in the heat left him without a good gate pick and then he was way back in the main. If the red cross doesn’t come out and jack up a couple guys, I think he maybe gets sixth. He did not ride like he should in order to be a title contender. Again.
I don’t know, I thought the hype on Jorge Prado coming into the race was a bit much. Then again, maybe I was just listening to Kellen Brauer and Lewis Phillips too much. Like, the dude is a great MX rider (duh), but he doesn’t have much experience in SX, and he looked, well, okay out there. Okay isn’t bad, but he also looked tired and went backward to 13th in the main event. It’s fine, but there’s a long way to go for the Spaniard. He did tell me he was so confused on the starting procedure, the practice starts, the non-practice starts, and all the little things that he’ll be more familiar with next week.
Does anyone know why there’s Carson Mumford and Jo Shimoda beef? Former GEICO Honda teammates (and for short while, Pro Circuit), it sure looked like on press day and early in the main that Mumfy is not a fan of Sushi.
Mitchell Oldenburg hit the gate. That’s got to be embarrassing right?
I checked in with people around Dylan Ferrandis after the race and they said he was happy. A top five as a privateer is solid and although he knows he got some help with riders going down around him, it was still a nice showing. He’s got some small factory parts from Honda and based on how the Red Riders have worked in the past, if the results are there, he will get some more help.
I’m fine with what Vince Friese did off the start in the heat race. We’ve seen that a lot, he had a clear lane, and the other riders have brakes, right? Although the righthand first turn didn’t help. What he did to Dean Wilson though? Yeah, that’s who he is man. You know how Bane was born in the dark in Batman? Vince was born to meet you at the exit of a turn.
Thanks for checking out OBS yet again, been doing this column for a while now and it’s always interesting to find things to write about each weekend. Email me at email@example.com you want to chat about A1 or anything else.