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2023 Monster Energy Supercross 450 Class Preview Part 1

The end of perhaps the greatest season in the history of AMA Motocross and Motocross Des Nations feels like a lifetime ago and now we're just over a week out from Anaheim 1 Supercross just like that. Feels like a broken record at this point, but this is year three of the 450 Supercross class being considered the deepest ever, and yet it still has merit. As good and deep as things were last year, 250 West Champion Christian Craig is now in the mix, as is former Champion Justin Cooper, on a part-time basis at least.

The top rung of the sport largely remains unchanged heading into 2023. Eli Tomac, Chase Sexton, and Jason Anderson are once again top dogs in the class, coming off highly successful 2022s. Below them, you have guys like Ken Roczen, who perhaps made the most intriguing move of the offseason going to HEP Suzuki. Not to mention guys like Adam Cianciarulo, Malcolm Stewart, Dylan Ferrandis, Cooper Webb, etc. The SuperMotocross Playoffs (Think of it as a multi-round Monster Energy Cup) also looms large at the end of the year, but there’s plenty of racing to do beforehand. Without any further delay, here’s a good look at what to expect both in the 450 Class of Monster Energy Supercross, as well as some other important notes going into A1.

How to Watch

For the first time ever, FELD Motorsports and MX Sports have a combined media rights package with Supercross and Motocross, inking a multiyear agreement with NBC several months ago. The kicker this season is that all 31 total rounds of Supercross, Motocross, and SMX, will all be live on Peacock, but with not much of a network TV presence.

I’m going to imagine that older fans aren’t particularly thrilled with this move but given the struggles with MAVTV last summer’s Motocross season., Peacock is a gigantic upgrade in that sense. Also, Peacock is free if you already have Xfinity, be a friend tell a friend.

Moving onto the broadcast team, things stay mostly the same for the who year with one significant addition to the color commentator rotation, STEW (so good by the way). After calling some motocross rounds at the end of the season to rave reviews, James Stewart will be splitting duties with Ricky Carmichael. Unclear how those reps will be split through the year at this time. Outside of that, things should look familiar with Leigh Diffey, Daniel Blair, Todd Harris, and Jason Weigandt leading the booth, with Will Christien and Jason Thomas working down on track. No word yet on if Dennis Rodman will return after his one-off at Pala 2, but we’re holding out hope.

Age of Triumph

While we’re still a year out from Triumph joining the sport, both in the U.S. and in MXGP, they’ve begun to build up a top-notch program. Bobby Hewitt, the former longtime head of Rockstar Husqvarna Factory Racing, and its previous iterations. That wasn’t all, they also picked up one of his confidants in Scuba Steve Westfall, who served as Crew Chief for the Rockstar Husqvarna outfit from 2014 to mid-2020, before spending a year and a half as Hewitt’s replacement. Westfall will once again assume the role of a team manager with the English brand.

Triumph didn’t stop there either. Ricky Carmichael will serve as Triumph’s “Global Off-Road Ambassador” after initially being tabbed for bike testing help back in 2021. Helping out in the engine/powertrain department is Dudley Cramond, who formerly served as KTM’s “Engine Guru”.

Perhaps the biggest move Triumph made, however, is their lead chassis engineer Dave Arnold. This is the man that was with Honda from the Marty Smith days in the 70s, all the way up to the McGrath dynasty in the 90s. On top of his role as a team manager, Arnold spent two decades in the R&D department for Honda, in addition to consulting stints with bike and part manufacturers. That isn’t all, he was also a part of the development of the Honda CR Two Stroke bikes, statistically the winningest line of motorcycles in the history of the sport.

Although 2024 is the target date for Triumph’s AMA debut, there is a catch, being that they will exclusively be a 250 team to start. As of earlier this month, the plan is just 250s next year (number of bikes N/A), with a 450-program set for 2025. Even as there hasn’t been a peep about the bikes themselves, we know Triumph isn’t playing around with its operation.

Monster Energy AMA Supercross 450 Class Preview: Part 1

*- Bold statistic indicates series leader

HEP Motorsports Progressive Ecstar Suzuki

(Brandon Hartranft to miss Monster Energy Supercross after serious preseason crash)

No. 11 Kyle Chisholm 2022 Supercross Stats: 0 Wins, 1 Lap Led, 0 Holeshots, Average Start of 15.3, Average Finish of 13.9, 109 Points (14th)

Chiz finds himself back with RMArmy for the first time since 2019, signing a two-year deal plus an option for 2025 via Michael Lindsay and VitalMX. A great all-around deal for one of the most universally beloved riders in the sport. 2022 was an interesting one for Chiz as he ended up having a highly successful fill-in stint with the Star Yamaha 250 program late in the season. In the middle of that stint, he also put up an eight on a 450 at Atlanta, out finishing Marvin Musquin most notably.

For a brand like Suzuki that has been stagnant with the motorcycle itself for several years now, Chiz is going to have perhaps an even greater role in testing. His direct help in bike setup may have also directed led to Ken Roczen signing with the team. As far as gear goes, Chiz will be decked out with a Fly Kit and Helmet, 100% goggles, and A-Star boots due to HEP’s gear deal, however, there’s an obvious exception for someone else. Oh yeah, he was teammates with Stew the year he won his last Championship, coincidence???

No. 12 Shane McElrath 2022 Supercross Stats: 0 Wins, 0 Laps Led, 0 Holeshots, Average Start of 8.0, Average Finish of 12.9, 101 Points (18th)

Not confirmed just yet, but the expectation is that the “SX2 World Champion” is going to be with HEP in short order. His average start clearly jumps out here, as he was just one of 10 riders who finished top 20 in points to do so. The nearly five-position drop on average was also the highest of any qualified rider.

McElrath, perhaps more than any rider in the sport, has been all over the place over the last few years. In 2022 alone, he spent time with Butler Bros KTM in Supercross, Rockstar Husky, and ClubMX Yamaha for Pro Motocross, then he was with the Rick Ware Racing WSX program also on a Yamaha. McElrath noted after his title win, that there is also a clause in his RWR contract to where he can race for any team in AMA SX, but that he is set to go back to them whenever WSX starts up. That’s notable because this HEP squad also runs in WSX under the Pipes Motorsports Group banner. For now, the former 250 Championship contender resides in the trenches with RMArmy for the opening half of ’23. Look out for some good starts scattered throughout the season.

No. 94 Ken Roczen 2022 Supercross Stats: 1 Win, 26 Laps Led, 1 Holeshot, Average Start of 5.7, Average Finish of 8.7, 101 Points (14th) After two massive contracts and an interesting breakup with Honda HRC, Ken Roczen finds himself back with Suzuki. I will come out and say that I don’t like this move, I LOVE this move for the 2016 450 Motocross Champion. Roczen seems to be a fan of the bike based on everything Chiz has said, a vast contrast to the rumor and innuendo about his feelings about his CRF last year. Furthermore, Roczen didn’t need to sacrifice his sponsorships with Fox or Red Bull to join HEP either.

It goes without saying that Suzuki as a brand isn’t what it was five years ago, let alone in the mid-2000s/early 2010s. The RM line has stagnated for quite some time now, most evident by the fact it’s the lone bike with a kickstart still. With that said, this becomes the chance of a lifetime for Roczen. If he can be the catalyst that brings Suzuki back from the brink and help breathe new life into their seemingly abandoned Motocross program, words can’t describe how big that would be. I think Roczen coming out of this season with at least one Main Event win isn’t out of the question. An Anaheim 1 victory would put him at five, extending what is already an all-time record.

Firepower/Genuine Honda

No. 15 Dean Wilson 2022 Supercross Stats: 0 Wins, 0 Laps Led, 0 Holeshots, Average Start of 10.4, Average Finish of 11.3, 152 Points (10th)

Seeing Deano on a bike that isn’t a Husqvarna is going to take some time to get used to. I could say the same about him running O’Neal gear, which is also a thing of the past. Although Wilson will be in Fly gear (with Alpinestars boots), he’ll still be rocking a Rockstar Energy helmet with his personal sponsorship still active. This deal with Firepower Honda will stretch across both AMA Supercross and WSX for Deano after he said goodbye to the outdoor grind after last season.

If you remember last season, Deano’s Supercross season was cut short in St. Louis when he suffered a literal puncture to his backside. Before that, however, he had a solid season going, never finishing lower than 14th before his final start. Odds are that Wilson will likely be in line for another good year as well in ’23, finishing top 10 in Supercross points in five of the last six seasons. Also, worth noting that he is the lone 450 entry for this Firepower Honda Squad, with Max Anstie jumping down to the 250 class.

Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing

No. 27 Malcolm Stewart 2022 Supercross Stats: 0 Wins, 2 Laps Led, 0 Holeshots, Average Start of 6.9, Average Finish of 4.9, 314 Points (3rd)

The winter months are commonly associated with the flu, but Mookie Fever sweeps this country from sea to shining sea the moment the new year hits. It’s contagious, it’s inescapable, it’s inevitable. Last year Rockstar Husky finally gave Stewart what he was looking for with a multi-year deal, and immediately produced a career season. 13 Top 5s and three podiums, all of which were runner-up results, on top of a third-place finish in points.

This was as close as we had ever gotten to Mookie Fever reaching maximum levels, Stewart consistently showed off race-winning pace, it just never materialized. Entering the second and final year on his current contract, will this finally be the year Mookie checks off that first win? Even if he doesn’t, I’d imagine a new contract is priority one for the Rockstar Husky outfit.

No. 28 Christian Craig 2022 Supercross Stats (250 West): 4 Wins, 53 Laps Led, 2 Holeshots, Average Start of 4.5, Average Finish of 2.4, 230 Points (2022 250 West Regional Supercross Champion)

A popular preseason take that I’ve seen from fans is that Craig is going to podium at A1, at the bare minimum. Seeing as he was borderline unstoppable last year on a 250 before he began playing it safe for the title, on top of not dropping off much on a 450 in Motocross, can’t say that is a bad take.

The most fascinating storyline with Craig going into 2023 however is his move to Bakers Factory. Except for Eli Tomac, Chad Reed, and Jeremy McGrath, every Premier Class Supercross Champion dating back to 2000 has at one point or another spent time with the world-renowned trainer. Seeing how good he was last year with Star Yamaha, if Baker has somehow made Craig even better going into his full-time 450 debut, he’s going to be a problem. I wouldn’t rule out a top five points finish at all. Team and bike affiliation isn’t the only new thing for Craig either, he is going to be rocking Fox gear from head to toe as well in 2023.

Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing

No. 51 Justin Barcia 2022 Supercross Stats: 0 Wins, 24 Laps Led, 2 Holeshots, Average Start of 5.9, Average Finish of 4.9, 302 Points (5th)

BamBam looked well on his way to a top three points finish a year ago, in what was objectively a great season for him. He was one of just four 450 riders to average a top-five finish, and one of just six to lead over 20 laps. Then Salt Lake City rolled around, where he was given a 10-point penalty after T-boning Malcolm Stewart in that evening's Main Event, before getting booed out of the building like a main-event pro wrestling heel. That penalty dropped him from fourth to fifth in points and likely cost him some form of points finish bonus.

Barcia is yet another high-caliber rider who is entering a contract year but said in an interview with VitalMX that he wants to continue racing “for a few more years”, even as he is set to turn 31 years old this March. Furthermore, he’s been adamant since he joined the GasGas team that he’s enjoying his time there. I would personally be stunned if they don’t re-up Barcia to one last contract at some point in the next 6-10 months.

Partzilla/PRMX Kawasaki

No. 68 Cade Clason 2022 Supercross Stats: 0 Wins, 0 Laps Led, 0 Holeshots, Average Start N/A, Average Finish of 16.8, 77 Points (21st)

Clason is back with PRMX after spending last season with Storm Lake Honda where he was one spot shy of a top 20 points finish. Even then, he’s improved three spots in the standings in each of the last two seasons, so if that sticks, he’s a mortal lock for an 18th-place points finish. With a new team also comes a gear refresh for the fan favorite. Look for Clason rocking an OG kit, Arial helmet, and Fox boots.

No. 219 Chase Marquier 2022 Supercross Stats: N/A

Last year Marquier tried to qualify for some 450 class Supercross events on a 250, albeit unsuccessfully. The good news for him is that he won’t be 200cc’s short in 2023, which should hopefully get him into some Main Events. The last time that Marquier made a Main Event on record was Salt Lake City 6 in 2020 where he finished 10th, racing for Team Manluk Honda. His gear situation is on level with Clason, save for a pair of Alpinestars boots.

Red Bull KTM Factory Racing

No. 2 Cooper Webb 2022 Supercross Stats: 0 Wins, 27 Laps Led, 3 Holeshots, Average Start of 6.0, Average Finish of 6.1, 278 Points (7th)

Seeing as Webb is basically on the 2010s San Francisco Giants system of winning a title every other season, not winning last year wasn’t that shocking. What was however is just how far he dropped off from 2021 to 2022. Outside of putting up back-to-back three holeshot seasons, last year was his worst statistical season with Red Bull KTM, and quite frankly it's not even close. A lot of that has to do with the ’22 KTM not being as good as it was being touted as, on top of Webb’s split with Aldon Baker. Through the first month of last year, Webb finished on the podium just once and had four finishes of seventh or eighth.

After taking last summer off, Webb is also entering a contract year with Red Bull KTM. In fact, all three of their 450 riders are currently slated to hit the open market as of now. Back to Webb, hard to say what his prospects of staying with KTM are beyond this year. Putting up another strong Supercross campaign should give him no shortage of options. He’s also back at Bakers Factory which should help out with things.

No. 7 Aaron Plessinger 2022 Supercross Stats: 0 Wins, 0 Laps Led, 0 Holeshots, Average Start of 9.2, Average Finish of 9.4, 97 Points (19th)

Plessinger’s first year on KTM didn’t start off on a good note, suffering a broken arm not even two full months into 2022. Before that, he did pick up a runner-up finish at the second round of the season in Oakland, then later picked up a couple of Motocross podiums at Southwick and Ironman. You’d have to assume AP is going to put up better numbers this year than in the seven-round sample size from 2022. Remember that he finished fifth in the points and averaged a finish of 7.5 in his final season with Star Yamaha. Plessinger is clearly capable of being a top guy if he can stay upright.

No. 25 Marvin Musquin 2022 Supercross Stats: 1 Win, 4 Laps Led, 1 Holeshot, Average Start of 6.6, Average Finish of 5.6, 305 Points (4th)

The ageless French wonder is entering his 13th season as a professional rider in the United States, passing up retirement once again. If last year was any indicator, it doesn’t appear Musquin has fallen off either. In the final seven rounds of 2022 alone, he podiumed five times, finished Top 5 six times, and picked up a Triple Crown Main Event win (2-1-2) over Chase Sexton and Eli Tomac.

Entering 2023, there are also a couple of massive changes for Marv. Firstly, his longtime mechanic Frankie Latham was internally promoted at KTM, which puts North Dakota native Kyle Defoe with the former World 250 Motocross Champion. Last season he was stationed at Pro Circuit Kawasaki with Cameron McAdoo. The second big change for Musquin comes with a kit change, going from Thor to O’Neal. Massive get for them, and they gave him an excellent setup for Paris Supercross several weeks back. Marv seems to find his way near the top of the standings every year, but this field is super deep to begin the year.

Waiting for an Answer

No. 17 Joey Savatgy 2022 Supercross Stats: N/A (Tore ACL the week of Oakland)

Somehow, someway, Savatgy is technically still without a ride for 2023 in the U.S. which is mind-boggling. This is someone who showed right out of the gate that he could compete for podiums as a rookie on a 450-factory bike, but injuries have hampered him since 2019. Even then, Savatgy looked excellent at times for Monster Energy Kawasaki as a fill-in rider for Motocross, then later when he nearly went 1-1-1 at the WSX Australian GP.

Both Michael Lindsay and Steve Matthes have alluded to the notion that Savatgy could run a Rick Ware Racing Kawasaki. You would also like to think that just about any factory team would go to him first in the unfortunate incident where a factory rider goes down with some sort of injury. Even then, it feels odd that a guy who’s probably a top-15 talent in the 450 class doesn’t appear to have any preset plans for 2023 just yet. As far as we know anyway.

Main Image via Suzuki Cycles

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