Five to go for Supercross in 2023 now, and Round 13 of this year taking place on the infield of what was once a half-decent track for NASCAR about 15 years ago believe it or not. But as far as the good ole bike racing goes, one of the best things to happen to the sport was Mercedes Benz Stadium effectively getting turned into a testing site for COVID-19. That opened the door for FELD to negotiate with the track for a dirt contract, and we now have a much more unique floor plan in Atlanta because of it, and I'll take that every day of the week over just another football stadium. Just nice to mix things up if anything.
Anyway, this is the first time we've seen the 250 East field in just under a month and were officially a week away from the first of two East/West Showdown rounds down in the Meadowlands. After being down so many points to Christian Craig a year ago this time last year, Hunter Lawrence is now in that spot this year. He entered the weekend 35 up on Nate Thrasher and is just weeks away from winning his first Supercross title in all likelihood. However, there is a massive return in the 250 East region this weekend as well, but more on that momentarily.
Onto the 450 title battle now, which took a big swing after Glendale via Eli Tomac picking up career win No. 51 and getting some much-needed breathing room over Cooper Webb after the KTM rider has a rough evening in the desert. Now despite running top of the chart in the opening qualifying session, Tomac didn't have that same juice in the final session, ending up seventh on the speed charts. But seeing where his Speedway winning percentage clip is at, that's not a major cause for concern.
The Beast from the Far East is Back
Better late than never, but we finally got the season debut of Jo Shimoda in Atlanta after an injury right before Houston put him on the shelf. And right out of the gate, he looked very sporty, topping untimed practice before ending up fourth fastest in each timed session. Had he not gotten hurt, Shimoda most likely would have been my pick to win the 250 East title. Didn't think the gap from Hunter Lawrence to him was that big whatsoever, and I was anticipating Shimoda to shake off the mistakes that hurt him a year ago. One final note as well, these will probably be the final rounds that Shimoda will run on a Kawasaki in Supercross. Steve Matthes floated him returning to Honda being a good possibility in late March.
Big Week for Triumph
I don't think Triumph in their efforts to build a Motocross program have made a single bad move/hire yet, and that trend continued with their newly signed test riders. First up on the MXGP side of things, they've officially brought in 25-time GP winner Clement Desalle, who last rode professionally in 2019 for Monster Energy Kawasaki. Then stateside, and this is the big one, Triumph has gotten Ivan Tedesco to jump ship from Pro Circuit Kawasaki, where he had spent the last several years testing. Getting a guy to jump from one of the Big Three 250 teams is invaluable stuff. Now for the fun stuff, we finally have some spy video of the Triumph 250 in action over in Europe with Desalle riding. Take a look.
Daytime Program/Injury Notes:
- Back-to-Back Whoops sections before the finish jump is pure chaos. I love it.
- 250 Fastest Qualifier: No. 29 Nate Thrasher (1:29.944) (Only He and Hunter Lawrence were inside of the 90-second range)
- 450 Fastest Qualifier: No. 23 Chase Sexton (1:28.064) (He, Adam Cianciarulo, and Jason Anderson comfortably looked better than anyone else)
Heat Racing Roundup
A pair of rookies in Haiden Deegan and Tom Vialle were shot out of a cannon on the start, both quickly building a gap to Hunter Lawrence in third. Further on back after the tunnel jump, Shimoda, after a good start, slid it in too deep on the flat 90-degree corner and fell to around 15th early on, but got into a transfer spot with no issues after. Someone who had issues though was Deegan, hitting neutral in the first rhythm section, but that only cost him a few spots as most. That led to a Lawrence win with Vialle in second. And a very nice outing for Husky's Talon Hawkins coming home in third. Also some mild post-race activities with Deegan and Shimoda.
After a rookie show to kick off Heat 1, it was bLUcRU showcase early in Heat 2 with Nate Thrasher, Jordon Smith, and JMart. And that group remained locked in for the entire race. Thrasher wasn't dominant per se but looked consistent enough on a lap-to-lap basis to feel good about his chances later on.
Learning from his mistakes at Glendale, Cooper Webb picked up a nice inside gate and was right up front early in Heat 1 behind Adam Cianciarulo but ahead of Ken Roczen. AC would crash out of the lead in the first whoop section, and he was very lucky he wrecked off the bike when he did because he was on for quite the ride. Best part is he was only out of a transfer spot for about 45 seconds, and he got back up to fourth. But bigger than Webb winning here, JOSH HILL ended up in third here.
So Eli Tomac seemingly had the holeshot in Heat 2 in the bag, but missed the opening corner as bad as he possibly could. That gave the initial lead to Justin Barcia, who then quickly lost it to new dad Jason Anderson, who won here a season ago. He had his hands full with Bam Bam right at the end, but El Hombre did some excellent defensive riding going into the last set of whoops to seal the deal. Very fun battle, all things considered, track feels very competitive. Worth noting that the AMA did dock Anderson one spot a little bit before the 250 Main Event got going.
250 East Class Recap
1st - No. 96 Jett Lawrence (Honda HRC)
Even more important than the win, which was once again in dominant fashion, HLaw borderline saved his season with one of the more improbable saves in some time. Can't say the process of saving the bike felt good in the slightest, but the optics were nonetheless spectacular and he got back out front without incident. Now for points-clinching scenarios, and yes we are very close to it, should Lawrence gain at least seven points over Haiden Deegan next weekend, he will clinch the 250 East Championship no matter what. Seeing as it's a showdown round, I think the odds of that happening are higher than you may think.
3rd - No. 238 Haiden Deegan (Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha)
The kid keeps simply checking off boxes, and this week for Deegan it was leading his first-ever Main Event laps early on in Atlanta, but he ended up fading back to as far as fourth, but due to Nate Thrahser's brutal wreck, ended up with another podium. Impressed with how he performed in the Georgia heat more than anything this week. His lap times did fade a little bit at the end, but so did everyone else to be fair.
4th - No. 30 Jo Shimoda (Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki)
A great day for the Jo Shimoda Agenda™ in 'our' first outing of 2023. Definitely some room for improvement as a whole given the start, and then the Heat Race tip-over. Outside of that, however, he looked fast all day and looked like he belonged up front after nearly a year off of his last Supercross start.
19th - No. 29 Nate Thrasher (Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha)
Thrasher can't catch a break this year man. Just an awful wreck for the Star Yamaha rider, which saw him get taken off on a flat board after several minutes of staying on the ground. The thing too is that he probably would have ended up on the podium all things equal given his speed that was day literally all day. Just hoping for the best.
22nd - No. 128 Tom Vialle (Red Bull KTM)
This was Vialle's best/second-best shot at a Supercross victory in 2023, and in both cases, he was out of the running immediately. This time the reigning MX2 World Champion went down and down hard on the landing of the finish jump after he made contact with Coty Schock's right before landing. He appeared to be ok all things considered, but another rough end to a weekend for Vialle. Outdoors isn't too far out now so that's good news for the Frenchman.
250 West Class Atlanta Top 10
1st No. 96 Hunter Lawrence
2nd No. 58 Jordon Smith
3rd No. 238 Haiden Deegan
4th No. 30 Jo Shimoda
5th No. 63 Max Anstie
6th No. 66 Henry Miller
7th No. 57 Chris Blose
8th No. 339 Talon Hawkins
9th No. 67 Cullin Park
10th No. 243 Caden Braswell
250 East Class Point Standings after Atlanta
1st No. 96 Hunter Lawrence (177 Points)
2nd No. 238 Haiden Deegan (132 Points)
3rd No. 63 Max Anstie (122 Points)
4th No. 29 Nate Thrasher (120 Points)
5th No. 58 Jordon Smith (115 Points)
6th No. 6 Jeremy Martin (11 Points)
7th No. 57 Chris Blose (104 Points)
8th No. 128 Tom Vialle (86 Points)
9th No. 67 Cullin Park (81 Points)
10th No. 285 Coty Schock (77 Points)
450 Class Recap
1st - No. 23 Chase Sexton (Honda HRC)
Statement win, clutch win, whatever term you want to use, that's exactly what it was for the now four-time Main Event winner. This was as every bit impressive for Sexton as Seattle was for Tomac, and don't look yet, he's gone from 25 points down to 17 points down with four rounds to go. It would be an improbable comeback by every precedent in the history of this sport, and he would need a few more non-podiums from Webb and Tomac, but the speed isn't a concern. Not after Saturday anyway.
2nd - No. 51 Justin Barcia (TLD/Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing)
If only Barcia was able to be this good all season, he'd be right up there in this title fight if that were the case. Not a whole lot else to say here for BamBam, he's put up three consecutive podiums, as well as four in his last five Main Events. Additionally, Barcia hasn't finished worse than sixth for nearly two consecutive months now. I absolutely believe that win is coming, but he only has four rounds left to make it happen. Also, the badly kept secret of his contract extension is now official. The vibes of him on the GasGas (bike and team) have felt great since day one so this feels like a mutual no-brainer.
4th - No. 2 Cooper Webb (Red Bull KTM)
15 minutes. Webb had Tomac breathing down his neck for 15 whole American minutes in that Main Event and never wilted, never gave up the spot, and saved what could have been a deflating two-point swing at this stage of the season. Didn't think Webb had the speed to win this Main Event based on his qualifying times, but this is more or less where I expected him to end up. Still, some work to do, but being down six points is better than seven, it's true. Also that two-to-go lap was as good as anything I've seen out of Webb in at least two years, wildly impressive to uncork that that late into the game.
5th - No. 1 Eli Tomac (Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha)
"Get #2" was shown clear as day on Tomac's pit board as things began to wind down, and despite his best efforts, could not get it done. It was pointed out by the booth that Tomac was losing a ton of time in the first whoop sections to Webb, which, while accurate, was being made up immediately in the ensuing set of whoops. Outside of that, it felt Webb had him mostly covered in the opening half of the track, then things evened out on the proverbial back nine. Now ET3 has to overcome some nasty demons at MetLife Stadium. If he can do that, he might be home free, but that's a big ask given what happened in 2017 and 2019.
8th - No. 15 Dean Wilson (Firepower Honda)
DEANO! He's been trying to get inside the top 10 literally all season long, and he's now put up back-to-back top 10 weekends in a row here. Certainly, not the way Wilson was probably hoping 2023 would go, but nice to finally see him turn his luck around.
21st - No. 21 Jason Anderson (Monster Energy Kawasaki)
Gonna chalk this one up to having a kid on Friday (congrats to Anderson and his girlfriend by the way) and just having no energy by the end of the day. On top of his faceplant just a week ago out in Glendale. For what it's worth though, Anderson looked awesome in everything leading up to the Main, just was probably running by empty at that point which is perfectly understandable.
450 Class Atlanta Top 10
1st No. 23 Chase Sexton
2nd No. 51 Justin Barcia
3rd No. 94 Ken Roczen
4th No. 2 Cooper Webb
5th No. 1 Eli Tomac
6th No. 7 Aaron Plessinger
7th No. 9 Adam Cianciarulo
8th No. 15 Dean Wilson
9th No. 45 Colt Nichols
10th No. 46 Justin Hill
450 Class Point Standings after Atlanta
1st No. 1 Eli Tomac (292 Points)
2nd No. 2 Cooper Webb (282 Points
3rd No. 23 Chase Sexton (275 Points)
4th No. 51 Justin Barcia (239 Points)
5th No. 94 Ken Roczen (238 Points)
6th No. 21 Jason Anderson (214 Points)
7th No. 7 Aaron Plessinger (213 Points)
8th No. 9 Adam Cianciarulo (155 Points)
9th No. 28 Christian Craig (150 Points)
10th No. 46 Justin Hill (140 Points)
Atlanta PulpMX Industry Idiots Fantasy Team
450 Class: Jason Anderson (All-Star +2), Adam Cianciarulo (-1), Kevin Moranz (+10), Justin Starling (+12)
250 Class: Tom Vialle (All-Star +7), Jo Shimoda (-2), Henry Miller (+4), Luke Neese (+15)
Points Total: 103 (450 Class only. Dashboard was on the fritz)
Next Up: MetLife Stadium (East Rutherford, New Jersey) (East-West Showdown Round No. 1)
Main Image via FELD