Not many teams in any motorsport now have the talent that Honda HRC has for this 450 Motocross campaign. They are in the rare spot of having their current top guy Chase Sexton, coming into the season as the title favorite when he is likely on his way to Red Bull KTM come next January. While simultaneously having the future of their program in Jett Lawrence get the mid-season call-up exactly like Sexton did in 2020. Lots of high expectations for both of them going into this edition of the Great Outdoors, especially with the depleted field. It's been a hot minute since there's been a possible teammate battle for this 450 title, Ken Roczen and Ryan Dungey in 2014 is the last I can recall. With that said here's what I have on Lars Lindstrom's guy, Dylan Ferrandis, and a few others going into Saturday, as well as going over options for Motocross Des Nations this year.
AMA Pro Motocross 450 Class Preview: Part 2
*- Bold statistic indicates series leader
Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha
No. 14 Dylan Ferrandis
2022 Motocross Stats: N/A (Only ran Unidilla and Budds Creek due to multiple injuries) (Open Class rider for Team France in Motocross Des Nations)
Unfortunately, Ferrandis never got a fair shot to defend his 2021 Motocross Championship, and for the second year in a row, he suffered a season-ending injury in Supercross. This go around the Frenchman is here for the start of the season, and is good to go based on his words at the season-opening presser on Thursday. My only concern with Ferrandis would be his starts, which haven't been too great since he jumped up to the 450 class, but that's much less of an issue in Motocross than it is in Supercross. Outside of that, Ferrandis should be a contender from the jump. His 2021 title campaign was one of the best individual MX seasons in some time with his absurd consistency. One final note, Lewis Phillips brought this up after the press conference which feels notable.
No. 53 Derek Drake
2022 Motocross Stats (250 Class): 0 Moto Wins, 0 National Wins, 0 Laps Leds, 0 Holeshots, Average Start of 18.3, Average Finish of 18.9, 72 Points (20th)
So in a twist of fate, Drake is actually going up to the big leagues for Motocross, in a move that I love given the state of the 450 class this year. Talked about him a bit in the 250 Class previews, but I'm interested to see how he ends up by the end of the season.
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing
*- Both riders are slated to miss multiple rounds to begin the season.
No. 27 Malcolm Stewart
2022 Motocross Stats: 0 Moto Wins, 0 National Wins, 0 Laps Led, 0 Holeshots, Average Start of 15.3, Average Finish of 15.8, 61 Points (19th) (Five rounds due to injury)
When we get Mookie back on the bike is unclear at the moment, but he did recently ink a two-year contract extension with Rockstar Husky in some good news for those who have caught Mookie Fever (me). Whenever Stewart does come back, however, he's going to need to stack up some points and quickly at that. His 15 points in Supercross rank him at 32nd in the class as it relates to the SMX Playoffs this fall.
No. 28 Christian Craig
2022 Motocross Stats: 0 Moto Wins, 0 National Wins, 7 Laps Led, 1 Holeshot, Average Start of 4.0, Average Finish of 3.3, 373 Points (5th)
Craig, after his brutal injury in Glendale, is also set to miss a chunk of time this Motocross season. At the season-opening presser, he stated that he's three weeks out from getting back on the bike, and the plan is he will be back starting at Millville. A shame since Craig has finished either sixth or fifth in 450 Motocross points the last three years and was in the conversation to make last year's Des Nations squad on a 250.
No. 18 Jett Lawrence
2022 Motocross Stats (250 Class): 11 Moto Wins, 9 National Wins, 135 Laps Led, 3 Holeshots, Average Start of 4.0, Average Finish of 3.3, 525 Points (250 National Motocross Champion) (Open Class rider for Team Australia in Motocross Des Nations)
Wrote a bit about some grounded expectations for the reigning 250 Champion coming into his rookie 450 season, and over a week later my thought process isn't much different. He is not the best guy in this class, but Lawrence is comfortably in that top four-six range just with all the injuries present. I have no doubts that he'll find the top step of the podium at least once, but the big question is will he be able to stay upright for 22 Motos? He finished 22 Motos in third or better a season ago on the dot, but I think Jett is probably going to run into some form of trouble with the 450 on occasion. It's just a situation of him being too fast for his own good at times, which is a great problem to have when you think about it. Also if you like free motorcycles, gear, and tickets to races, his latest giveaway may be for you.
No. 23 Chase Sexton
2022 Motocross Stats: 8 Moto Wins, 4 National Wins, 137 Laps Led, 7 Holeshots, Average Start of 4.7, Average Finish of 2.0, 539 Points (2nd) (Motocross Des Nations Champion with Team USA)
Before 2022, no one had gone into deep water with Eli Tomac and had gotten the best of him since he turned into, well...Eli Tomac. That all changed last summer when Chase Sexton was legitimately getting the better of him down the stretch, picking up massive wins at Washougal (2-1), Unadilla (1-1), and Ironman (2-1). Ultimately a seventh at Budds Creek Moto 1 is what did him in, but Sexton didn't lose out on a No. 1 plate for the lack of effort. And if for nothing else, Sexton was excellent in his Motocross Des Nations debut.
This year Sexton finds himself in ET3's spot at the top of the food chain in this class and is the favorite for a reason. Over the last three seasons, his average Moto finish is a staggering 4.3, which only Tomac has bested with a 3.7 (of those competing near fully in two of the last three seasons). His starts as good as anyone in this class, and his best track just so happens to open up the season. I would say anything short of at least second in the points would be a disappointment given the circumstances, and by all accounts, your looking at 'Captain America' for Des Nations here if Sexton stays healthy.
Gaffney's 2023 AMA Pro Motocross 450 Class Preseason Power Ranking
*- Top 5 instead of 10 since everyone is hurt
5) No. 7 Aaron Plessinger
4) No. 18 Jett Lawrence
3) No. 14 Dylan Ferrandis
2) No. 9 Adam Cianciarulo
1) No. 23 Chase Sexton
2023 AMA Pro Motocross 450 Class Championship Pick: Chase Sexton
Gaffney's 2023 AMA Pro Motocross Preseason Team USA MXdN Candidates (In Ranked Order)
MX1/Open: Chase Sexton, Adam Cianciarulo, Jason Anderson, Justin Barcia, Christian Criag
MX2: Justin Cooper, Jeremy Martin, R.J. Hampshire, Haiden Deegan, Ryder DiFrancesco
Main Image via Honda HRC