The biggest night of the year in Monster Energy Supercross lived up to the hype in its 2023 edition. One of the most action-packed 450 Main Events in quite some time capped things off at Anaheim, but there were some surprises in the running order and some quality racing throughout. Sadly though, there were some notable injuries, two of those in the 250 class with factory team riders. With that said, here's how things went down at Anaheim 1.
Daytime Program Notes:
- Firepower Honda makes a 250 lineup change. Wilson Todd running 250 West instead of Max Anstie.
- Jason Anderson and Jett Lawrence go down twice each in qualifying.
- ClubMX's Enzo Lopes went fastest in the opening 250 qualifying session.
- Christian Craig qualifies 14th in debut with Rockstar Energy Husqvarna (whoops crash in Session 2).
- Whoops section after the finish line jump was sketchy. Much better for the night program.
Heat Racing Roundup
R.J. Hamshire went wire to wire for the Heat 1 victory, pulling a second lead inside of a lap and a half over Mitchell Oldenburg. Jett Lawrence, after a bad start, was able to climb up to second place. A couple of other international guys made it into the Main Event in this one, Canada's Cole Thompson, and Venezuala's Anthony Rodriguez, on top of Lawrence.
-Pierce Brown, who looked tremendous in qualifying, went down very hard at the end of the opening rhythm section, forcing him to the LCQ just seconds in. Austin Forkner also had a shakey start, but was able to work into a transfer spot relatively quickly in fact, he went from outside the top 10 to third in under five minutes. Enzo Lopes was the leader for the first half here until Cameron McAdoo ran him down and stood him up in front of the first triple. That front two would stay pat, as would Forkner behind them in third.
-Eli Tomac and Colt Nichols were neck a neck at the holeshot line, but the surprise of these heat races was Dylan Ferrandis' good start. He was brutal off the gate a year ago, and in no time at all, he settled into second place behind the defending champion. Fun battle at the end in the opening 450 heat between Jason Anderson, Joey Savatgy, and Aaron Plessinger. AP would take home fourth, with Anderson and Savatgy to follow. Meanwhile, Adam Cianciarulo looked stout here, coming home in third. And Grant Harlan straight to the Main? Awesome story in his 450 debut.
Chase Sexton shot himself out of a cannon and was G-O-N-E from the jump. With 90 seconds plus a lap left, his lead over Ken Roczen was hovering around four seconds, but Sexton let off the gas when he had the win wrapped up. Behind Roczen were three Bakers Factory guys, Cooper Webb, Mookie Stewart, and Marvin Musquin. Webb caught Roczen at the end, but couldn't pull off the pass with two corners to go. But for anyone worried about Roczen on the Zook, he put the worries to rest here. Additionally, Justin Starling made it straight to the Main Event in this one, a great start to the year for the privateer.
250 West Class Recap
1st - No. 18 Jett Lawrence (Honda HRC)
Not his strongest night before the Main Event for the Jett, but sometimes it just doesn't matter. Just ask Cooper Webb in his two title seasons. Last night, a holeshot was all Lawrence needed, building up a nearly 6.5-second lead on way to career Supercross win No. 8, which sits him in a tie for 23rd all-time. Two riders in that group; Dean Wilson, and Travis Pastrana, you might have heard of the latter.
2nd - No. 24 R.J. Hampshire (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing)
Pretty nice night at the office for Hampshire, who picks up his fifth Top 5 in his last seven Supercross Main Event starts, and his third podium. By the time he got by Cameron McAdoo, Lawrence had too big of a gap to cut down, but picking up a podium right out of the gate is good business. Look out for R.J. next week if Jett ends up having a bad start, he definitely has the speed to be a winner in this field.
5th - No. 34 Max Vohland (Red Bull KTM)
Saturday was massive for Vohland in my opinion, because he got himself the confidence that he can compete indoors on the biggest stage in the sport. Just think, he didn't even qualify for heat races at the end of last season, and he was strong throughout the day. I don't think he's a Championship contender, but if he can keep doing this consistently and keep gaining experience running near the top of the field, he can be down the road.
DNF - Austin Forkner (Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki)
I mean can Austin Forkner catch any kind of break? Five seconds, five seconds into the Main Event, and his night was over. After getting tapped off the gate drop, Forkner flung off the bike and came down very hard on his left shoulder. No official word on his condition just yet, but Steve Matthes claims he heard it's a knee issue for Forkner. Either way, we're hoping for the best.
DNQ - Pierce Brown (TLD/Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing)
Brown never lined up for the LCQ after his heat race crash, so he is already behind the eight-ball after the opener. A real shame too, he seemed to look the best in class on the eye test during qualifying, and never got the chance to show it off in the Main. Now, the good news is Brown seems relatively ok, which is great to see given the crash itself.
250 West Class Anaheim 1 Top 10 (Running Order = Points Standings for Round One)
1st No. 18 Jett Lawrence (26 Points)
2nd No. 24 R.J. Hampshire (23 Points)
3rd No. 48 Cameron McAdoo (21 Points)
4th No. 49 Mitchell Oldenburg (19 Points)
5th No. 34 Max Vohland (18 Points)
6th No. 56 Enzo Lopes (17 Points)
7th No. 43 Levi Kitchen (16 Points)
8th No. 69 Phil Nicoletti (15 Points)
9th No. 40 Stilez Robertson (14 Points)
10th No. 41 Derek Kelley (13 Points)
1st- No. 1 Eli Tomac (Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha)
I have a simple message for Jeremy Coker and Bobby Regan; Do not, under any circumstances, let Eli Tomac retire. Give him a blank check, 100 percent autonomy over what parts go on the bike, an ownership stake in the team, whatever. You cannot let him walk if he can keep giving you performances like last night, simply cannot.
Tomac was all but done after he crashed going up the tunnel jump, falling from the lead to fifth, with Anderson, Roczen, Sexton, and Stewart in front of him. That should have been over in any normal circumstance. Now some fades from Stewart and Sexton out front helped, but Tomac ended up making a superhuman run to the front in under 10 laps. Simply a preposterous turn of events. Now Tomac is finally an A1 winner and breaks a tie with Chad Reed for sole possession of fourth on the all-time wins list (45). Additionally (shoutout to Mitch Kendra from RacerX for pointing this out), Tomac is the first defending 450 Champion to win at A1 since RV2 in 2012.
2nd - No. 2 Cooper Webb (Red Bull KTM)
If Tomac didn't win in the fashion that he did, Webb would probably be the top headline from the 450 class. Slowly and methodically, the former two-time Champion was able to overcome a 10th-place start and clawed his way up to second on the final lap of the Main Event. Took a couple of tries to seal the deal on Chase Sexton, but Webb got the job done. I'll say that I'm in a holding pattern with Webb, just to see how he starts the first few rounds of 2023 after how last season went down. So far, so good. Guess this is what happens when you meet up with James Stewart (so good by the way) a week and a half out before the season.
5th - No. 94 Ken Roczen (HEP Motorsports Progressive Ecstar Suzuki)
No podium, but I'd say that I feel good about where Roczen is at after round one. His starts on the RM450 are level with his Honda days, and he was a top-five guy from start to finish. The biggest thing is we now know that Roczen is capable of winning on a Suzuki, and that's as big as anything. As long as the HEP team can fine-tune some things on the bike to Roczen's liking, I'd be more shocked at this point if he didn't win. Still, a long way to go, but definitely a vote of confidence after A1.
6th - No. 45 Colt Nichols (Honda HRC)
You may have missed it with everything else going on, but yes, Colt Nichols in his 450 class debut was one spot out of his first career top five. Unreal stuff, especially considering how his day started. Nichols only qualified 16th, about two-tenths slower than Benny Bloss in front of him. Then he only finished seventh in his heat race, then saved his best stuff for the end I'd suppose. But hey, they only count points for those last 20 minutes plus two laps.
9th - No. 9 Adam Cianciarulo (Monster Energy Kawasaki)
It looked as if Cianciarulo was going to finish outside of the top 10 at A1, but he managed to go from 12th to 9th in the final two laps. Not what I was hoping for with AC, but if for nothing else he ran all the laps and has a good base to build from going into next weekend. It's a marathon, not a sprint don't forget.
13th - Christian Craig (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing)
It felt clear early on Saturday that Craig didn't have the pace that most were expecting and that was the case from the final qualifying session on. His first few Main Event laps were bogged down as he was attempting to make moves after a 16th-place start, but Craig never seemed to find a rhythm.
22nd - Malcolm Stewart (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing)
We were so close. So unbelievably close to reaching levels of Mookie Fever never seen before on this planet, and the deal wasn't sealed. Stewart was the primary benefactor of Tomac's crash, leading the ensuing four laps. But Chase Sexton behind him evaporated a three-second gap and got him on lap 13. It then appeared as Mookie was going to get another shot at the lead with Tomac running down Sexton, but he took a vicious hit in the rhythm lane after the bridge jump. Looks like he may have accidentally hit neutral based on the video, which does make sense, but man, what a night this could have been for Stewart. He looked great otherwise.
450 Class Anaheim 1 Top 10 (Running Order = Points Standings for Round One)
1st No. 1 Eli Tomac (26 Points)
2nd No. 2 Cooper Webb (23 Points)
3rd No. 23 Chase Sexton (21 Points)
4th No. 14 Dylan Ferrandis (19 Points)
5th No. 94 Ken Roczen (18 Points)
6th No. 45 Colt Nichols (17 Points)
7th No. 21 Levi Kitchen (16 Points)
8th No. 7 Aaron Plessinger (15 Points)
9th No. 9 Adam Cianciarulo (14 Points)
10th No. 17 Joey Savatgy (13 Points)
Anaheim 1 PulpMX Industry Idiots Fantasy Team
450 Class: Chase Sexton (All-Star +1 ), Adam Cianciarulo (+1), Cade Clason, and Benny Bloss (+10)
250 Class: Pierce Brown (All-Star +4), Enzo Lopes (+1), Derek Kelley (+4), Dylan Walsh (+7)
FFL: Chase Sexton and Pierce Brown (both unsuccessful)
Points Total: Pain
Next Up: Oakland, California (RingCentral Coliseum)
Main Image via KTM