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2023 AMA Pro Motocross Recap - Thunder Valley

Round three of Pro Motocross brings things to Eli Tomac's backyard of Thunder Valley, but of course, there's no sight of the defending champion, nor really most of anyone else in the 450 class for that matter. Not even three rounds into the season, and talk of Jett Lawrence going 22-0 is very much here and in play, after yet another dominant outing last weekend on the outskirts of Sacramento. Without Chase Sexton, things were more or less a formality with the group of Aaron Plessinger, Cooper Webb, Dylan Ferrandis, and Adam Cianciarulo fighting it out for the last two podium spots.

For the lack of drama in the 450 class through two rounds, there's no such issue in the 250 division even with Hunter Lawrence taking home the opening two Nationals of the season. Haiden Deegan showed off quite the flash at Hangtown with his monstrous Moto 1 victory and is comfortably in the mix for the red plate at this juncture. Deegan's teammate Justin Cooper isn't that far behind either and has completely swept the board in qualifying in the opening three rounds of the season, and feels poised for a win. What about Tom Vialle and Jo Shimoda? the two international riders have shown good pace so far, but the expected results have not been there to this point for one reason or another.

Fun Levels Have Hit Record Lows

Things are simply not going well at the moment. In the span of about 18 hours earlier this week, not only did we find out that Chase Sexton is once again out, but Justin Barcia, who was slated to make his season debut this weekend, had an issue with the plate in his shoulder and his recover timeline is essentially reset. That's not all for the GasGas rig either, as both Pierce Brown and Michael Mosiman find themselves on the mend, leaving fill-in rider Caden Braswell as the only healthy rider for the Troy Lee-led team. Not what you would call ideal on top of every other injury. About time we switch off injuries for the rest of the season I'd say, does wonders for me in Madden. (Wrote that at 2:00 EST on Saturday. Spoiler: DID NOT AGE WELL)

Daytime Program/Injury Notes:

- Jett Lawrence annihilated a safety light off to the far side of the first double leading up to the Thunder Valley sign. He looked shaken up afterward but was able to finish out both qualifying sessions.

- Ty Masterpool qualified third fastest in his second career 450 class start

- 250 Fastest Qualifier: No. 32 Justin Cooper (2:16.477) (At least a second faster than anyone else and two seconds faster than anyone outside the top eight)

- 450 Fastest Qualifier: No. 18 Jett Lawrence (2:06.287) (Two seconds faster than anyone not named Adam Cianciarulo)

250 Class Recap

1st - No. 96 Hunter Lawrence (Honda HRC) (2-1)

It appears that Hunter is just going to be a better version of Justin Cooper from a year ago, from the standpoint that his Moto 1s won't be all the way there, but he's going to be all dialed in to close out the day. I don't think it would have been a sure thing that he would have won that second Moto had Cooper not gone down when he did, but his pace in those opening seven laps was mind-bogglingly good. The slowest lap he ran in that run was in the 2:19.500 range and by that point, it was smooth sailing.

Now despite the three Moto and Overall wins, Lawrence's points lead is nowhere close to his brother, only at 16 points. We saw last year how things unraveled starting at Southwick for him, and if Cooper, Deegan, or Shimoda can put it together, Lawrence could be in for a dogfight down the stretch run.

2nd - No. 32 Justin Cooper (Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha) (1-4)

Even if the first lap endo cost him the overall, I loved what I saw from Cooper in that second Moto. He got stuck for a good while behind Caden Braswell and Haiden Deegan just outside the top 10, then proceeded to essentially do what Lawrence did to open things up to close on his end. There was zero chance he was going to crack the podium with how slow he took to ramp things up, but he got every other possible spot on the board. Also, he's been the best starter in the class by a wide margin six motos in. He would have had two FFLs if he had dumped it one corner later and came close to snagging both holeshots on Saturday.

4th - No. 30 Jo Shimoda (Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki) (3-8)

The Jo Shimoda Agenda continues to take hits as once again, bad luck in a Moto 2 derails a near-podium effort. With just two laps ago, an innocent-looking fall sent Mitch Payton's ace from fourth to eight and took him out of the running of potentially ending up third overall. On a final note, Shimoda has had at least one Moto in each of the three Nationals with a start of 13th or worse, and in those Motos has made up an average of 9.66 spots per, not too bad.

36th - No. 128 Tom Vialle (Red Bull KTM) (29-DNS)

Things have now completely derailed for the MX2 World Champion in year one stateside. His last lap crash in Moto 1 knocked him out for the rest of the day after he had done some solid work making up ground after that massive start crash. Dont want to speculate, but it looks like he was a bit groggy as he was getting helped off to the side. Just a nightmare year in every sense of the word.

42nd - No. 88 Guillem Farres (Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha) (DNF-DNS)

We all saw the wreck that did Farres in and it's very clear that his arm was in a direction that it shouldn't be in, so yeah, not showing that for obvious reasons. Just a shame for a talented kid whose shown great flashes in his limited starts stateside since last summer. Hopefully, Farres has a speedy recovery because he can hang with any guy in this field and he's an absolute blast to watch.

250 Class Thunder Valley Top 10

1st No. 96 Hunter Lawrence (2-1)

2nd No. 32 Justin Cooper (1-4)

3rd No. 43 Levi Kitchen (5-2)

4th No. 30 Jo Shimoda (3-8)

5th No. 832 Chance Hymas (11-3)

6th No. 34 Max Vohland (7-5)

7th No. 58 Guillem Farres (6-6)

8th No. 238 Levi Kitchen (4-9)

9th No. 24 R.J. Hampshire (8-7)

10th No. 38 Jalek Swoll (10-10)

250 Class Points After Thunder Valley

1st No. 96 Hunter Lawrence (137 Points)

2nd No. 32 Justin Cooper (121 Points)

3rd No. 238 Haiden Deegan (110 Points)

4th No. 30 Jo Shimoda (95 Points)

5th No. 24 R.J. Hampshire (94 Points)

6th No. 43 Levi Kitchen (88 Points)

7th No. 34 Max Vohalnd (83 Points)

8th No. 128 Tom Vialle (68 Points)

9th No. 832 Chance Hymas (63 Points)

10th No. 75 Ryder DiFrancesco (63 Points)

450 Class Recap

1st - No. 18 Jett Lawrence (Honda HRC) (1-1)

Jett was doing so good at Thunder Valley that you barely saw him much at all on TV because of how far out he was, widely impressive in 450 Motos five and six of his career. Hard to nitpick or say much of anything else about Lawrence because he's been simply that good. Perfect Season watch is officially on.

6th - No. 81 Ty Masterpool (Sports Clips/Beachview Treatment/Airline Vacuum Kawasaki) (5-4)

So...Hand up, can't say I had Masterpool giving multiple factory riders legitimate fits in back-to-back Motos at any point this season. It's rides and performances like this that make you question why Star Yamaha gave up on him as quickly as they did. Just an outstanding day in every sense of the word.

8th - No. 78 Grant Harlan (Manluk Rock River Yamaha) (8-7)

All of the same things you can say about Masterpool you can apply to Harlan as well. His second Moto start was probably the most impressive thing to happen the entire day. The Hawaii native was right on Lawrence's heels for a solid minute before the rest of the pack got up to speed. Even then Harlan showed off some borderline top-five caliber speed for most of the day. Definitely would like to think some other teams are taking note of what he and Masterpool both did, probably two of the better privateer outings I've seen in years.

450 Class Thunder Valley Top 10

1st No. 18 Jett Lawrence (1-1)

2nd No. 7 Aaron Plessinger (4-2)

3rd No. 2 Cooper Webb (2-5)

4th No. 9 Adam Cianciarulo (3-6)

5th No. 14 Dylan Ferrandis (7-3)

6th No. 81 Ty Masterpool (5-4)

7th No. 36 Garret Marchbanks (6-8)

8th No. 78 Grant Harlan (8-7)

9th No. 47 Freddie Noren (10-10)

10th No. 103 Lorenzo Locurcio (12-9)

450 Class Points After Thunder Valley

1st No. 18 Jett Lawrence (150 Points)

2nd No. 14 Dylan Ferrandis (116 Points)

3rd No. 2 Cooper Webb (112 Points)

4th No. 7 Aaron Plessinger (109 Points)

5th No. 9 Adam Cianciarulo (98 Points)

6th No. 103 Lorenzo Locurcio (67 Points)

7th No. 47 Freddie Noren (63 Points)

8th No. 81 Ty Masterpool (62 Points)

9th No. 53 Derek Drake (58 Points)

10th No. 78 Grant Harlan (56 Points)

Thunder Valley PulpMX Industry Idiots Fantasy Team

450 Class: Adam Cianciarulo (All-Star, +4), Grant Harlan (+3), Romain Pape (+9), Derek Drake (+4)

250 Class: Justin Cooper (All-Star +1), Ryder DiFrancesco (+3), Josh Varie (+13), Caden Braswell (+11)

FFL: Justin Cooper and Jett Lawrence (Both Successful)

Points Total: 472

Next Up: High Point (Mt. Morris, Pennsylvania)

Main Image via Honda HRC


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