The seat of power in the 450 Pro Motocross class is as wide open as it's been in years with Eli Tomac's Achilles injury and Ken Roczen going off to do World Supercross. With those two out alone, 60 percent of last year's laps-led production, 62 percent of the Moto win production, and 50 percent of the Nationals win production are gone. Several other notable riders are set to miss at least some time this season as well via injury or participation in World Supercross. Names like Malcolm Stewart, Joey Savatgy, Shane McElrath, Justin Hill, and most importantly Chiz.
The logical favorite by default for this 450 Championship is none other than Chase Sexton, who took Tomac out into some deep, deep waters a season ago, and fell seven points shy of a Championship. This isn't to say he's the runaway favorite, however. The insertion of Jett Lawrence into the 450 class is a big storyline going into Pala, after wrapping up back-to-back 250 titles in his previous two seasons. What about 2021 450 Champion Dylan Ferrandis, who is back after missing the large majority of the Supercross season after a scary incident in Houston? Or Adam Cianciarulo, who when healthy, has been a force in the Great Outdoors on a 250 or 450? That's not even hitting on a few other contenders either, including Cooper Webb, Aaron Plessinger, as well as the on-the-mend Justin Barcia, and Jason Anderson right here.
AMA Pro Motocross 450 Class Preview: Part 1
*- Bold statistic indicates series leader
Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing
No. 51 Justin Barcia
2022 Motocross Stats: 0 Moto Wins, 0 National Wins, 0 Laps Led, 1 Holeshot, Average Start of 8.2, Average Finish of 8.2, 303 Points (8th)
Wasn't exactly a banner year for Bam Bam a year ago, but he was looking the best he ever has down the stretch in Supercross before he got hurt. Even with him getting hurt, I think Barcia is going to be the guy who benefits the most from these opt-outs for WSX and injuries, and even if those weren't a factor I'd say he's in for a good summer. No top-five points finishes since 2018 but there's a solid chance that trend could buck this year. With that said, Barcia announced on Thursday afternoon that he is officially out for Pala over on Instagram, so he's going to be at a points disadvantage from the jump.
HEP Twisted Tea/Ecstar/Progressive Suzuki
No. 47 Freddie Noren
2022 Motocross Stats: 0 Moto Wins, 0 National Wins, 0 Laps Led, 0 Holeshots, Average Start of 14.1, Average Finish of 12.2, 141 Points (14th)
The only team on the planet that doing a split squad for Pro Motocross and World Supercross is Dustin Pipes' group, who had a very solid Supercross campaign on all fronts. Noren comes in after running his own program on a Kawasaki in Supercross, finishing 14th in the Outdoors points a season ago. And here's a nice little fact for you, especially if you play PulpFantasy, The Swede has just one finish worse than 17th dating back to September of 2021.
No. 50 Marshall Weltin
2022 Motocross Stats: 0 Moto Wins, 0 National Wins, 0 Laps Led, 0 Holeshots, Average Start of 17.0, Average Finish of 17.7, 134 Points (15th)
Weltin is jumping back up to the big bore for HEP after running 250 East Supercross, where he only ran five rounds. For what it's worth, his two best results came at the closest things to Motocross tracks on the schedule with 11ths at Daytona and Atlanta. His numbers last summer mostly mirrored his teammate Noren, but he had some bad rounds scattered throughout the summer. Most notably a 40-DNS at Budds Creek after a 38-15 at Unidilla just a week prior. With that said he looked much better after he got picked up by HEP six rounds into the season.
Manluk Rock River Yamaha
No. 78 Grant Harlan
2022 Motocross Stats: 0 Moto Wins, 0 National Wins, 0 Laps Led, 0 Holeshots, Average Start of 23.0, Average Finish of 21.5, 47 Points (21st)
Some good news and bad news for Harlan as it relates to Harlan and Pro Motocross. The bad news is he won't be running the full series, but the good news is that's because he's gotten the opportunity to run World Supercross with Craig Deck Racing (Australian Monster Energy Yamaha). He'll still be running rounds in Motocross in the meantime, but how much is unknown. The only two rounds of WSX that run head-to-head with Pro Motocross are RedBud and Washougal, but I'd imagine that the former will become a priority once that season gets rolling. Awesome opportunity for the Hawaii native though.
No. 174 Luca Marsalisi
2022 Motocross Stats (250 Class): 0 Moto Wins, 0 National Wins, 0 Laps Led, 0 Holeshots, Average Start of 26.6, Average Finish of 25.4, 8 Points (42nd)
Marsalisi isn't exactly what you would call a household name, but the pride of Dansbury, Connecticut is just years removed from finishing third in the 250 B limited class at Loretta Lynn's, losing out only to now current Star Yamaha riders Daxton Bennick and Levi Kitchen. Marsalisi also suffered a severe back injury at the ranch just a year later in 2021, when he opened up that year with fifths in Moto 1 of the 250 and Open Pro Sport classes. Now the Connecticut native has a massive opportunity in front of him jumping up to the big bore in just his second professional season. On a final note, I did more research than I would like to admit to see if he is a Connecticut-born Yankees fan. There is no greater sin in New England, however, I came up with no dice.
Monster Energy Kawasaki
No. 9 Adam Cianciarulo
2022 Motocross Stats: N/A (Missed all of the 2022 Motocross season)
Of all the guys in this field, the one I believe is getting slept on the most is one Adam Cianciarulo. Even though he missed about half of the 2021 season, he still had a fair share of good outings, but the real reason I'm high on him is what he did in 2020. If it wasn't for a 38th in Moto 2 at the season opener at Loretta Lynn's, he more than likely beats Zach Osborne for the title that season. AC is also in relatively good shape from a health standpoint coming into the 2023 tilt, despite missing a handful of rounds in Supercross, showing off some great pace especially after he came back from a multi-week break. I genuinely wouldn't be shocked at all if he ended up winning this Championship, or if he gets his first-ever nod to run Motocross Des Nations in France.
No. 21 Jason Anderson
2022 Motocross Stats: 1 Moto Win, 2 National Wins, 14 Laps Led, 0 Holeshots, Average Start of 10.1, Average Finish of 4.1, 440 Points (3rd)
Staying healthy has plagued El Hombre for the bulk of his 450 career, but up until last year, he never managed to win an AMA national even when he was. That took all of two rounds for him to do in his first season with Monster Energy Kawi. On top of that, his 4.1 average finish ranked third in the class, and he was one of only three guys to win multiple Nationals outright despite only securing one Moto win.
This year hasn't gone according to plan for Anderson, with some very shakey Supercross runs before he went down at Nashville, and as of Thursday afternoon, he's not on the Pala entry list. Just under a month ago, El Hombre suffered a pair of non-displaced fractures in his neck that he didn't catch until a week later. The best news here is that he's ok, but his season is not done in his own words. So even if we don't see him this weekend, he should be back sooner than later barring any setbacks. Would also expect him to be in contention for a Des Nations spot just like Cianciarulo.
No. 255 Kris Kiefer
2022 Motocross Stats: N/A (I'm dead serious here by the way)
Do not adjust your glasses, you are seeing this correctly. Kris Kiefer is set to line up for Pala this weekend aboard a YZ450. I couldn't believe it but he is 100 percent down on the entry list and has been for some time. My guess is he will make the top 40 in qualifying and get his way in, but I'm fascinated to see where he ultimately ends up if so. Went and looked back to see where he ended up in his Loretta Lynn's Senior Class (Age 40 and up) run in 2017 (seeing as that's the only thing we have to go off of), and he went 3-8-8 in a field that included Mike Brown and Nathan Ramsey. Pulling for him to qualify in though.
Red Bull KTM
No. 2 Cooper Webb
2022 Motocross Stats: N/A (Took a sabbatical)
Not only is Cooper Webb a full go and back on the bike after his scary concussion in Nashville, but he's also in for Motocross amidst some legit rumors that he would join Ken Roczen in running World Supercross. I was shocked to hear that given what happened last year with him taking the summer off. On top of the fact that he is almost certainly on the way out and back to Star Yamaha (pending Eli Tomac coming back I'd imagine), his numbers in his last two healthy seasons aren't as bad as I would have thought in retrospect. Average finish of 6.3, an average start of 3.85, 13 total holeshots, and a 1-1 at Millville '19. That however is his only ever National win on a 450 after racking up seven career 250 wins.
So this is all to say that Webb hasn't been bad, he's just clearly a better indoor guy by any metric you want to use. If Barcia is going to benefit from Tomac and Roczen being out the most, Webb isn't too far behind I'd say. Don't expect any massive win totals from the former 250 National Champion, but he should hopefully be competitive once things get rolling. He was only cleared this week so he's behind the eight ball on outdoor prep for sure, may take him a couple of weeks to get his game legs back.
No. 7 Aaron Plessinger
2022 Motocross Stats: 0 Moto Wins, 0 National Wins, 0 Laps Led, 0 Holeshots, Average Start of 8.9, Average Finish of 7.9, 322 Points (7th)
AP is in a similar spot to his one-time Yamaha teammate Justin Barcia going into this Motocross season. I thought this was the best we had seen of Plessinger on a 450 throughout the winter and spring, and I think we're going to see that continue into the summer. Would definitely like to see him finally get a win on a 450 before this year's out, but if he could sneak in a top five points finish that would be optimal. Also, he's set to return to KTM next year, surprise.
Main Image via FELD