Getting close to closing time in the remaining two available Supercross Championship hunts. Jett Lawrence was all but certainly going to join his brother Hunter as a 2023 Regional 250 champion, while Eli Tomac had the chance, albeit not as big as Jett's, to win the 450 Supercross Championship in his backyard for the second year in a row. In short, the question wasn't if we were going to see a Champion crowning a mile above sea level, just how many?
2023 PulpMX Yamaha LCQ Challenge
Once again, Steve Matthes secured a date for his LCQ privateer all-star race of sorts for the third year in a row, and it went off on Friday without a hitch. No one got hurt which is great, but Freddie Norren crashed out of what was going to be an easy twenty thousand dollars for him with about seven minutes to go on the clock. That ended up giving way to Josh Cartwright who cruised to the victory, entering this event as one of the "Wild Card" entries (#FreeChiz). Rounding out the podium here were the PRMX Kawasaki duo of Cade Clason and Chase Marquier, with their 250 teammates Hunter Yoder right behind in fourth.
Now for the fun stuff, because there was a ton of prop bet/donations made from all over the industry, some of which were much better than others. For starters, One-thousand dollars to the shortest rider in the field, sent in by the folks over at Kouba Links, which I was told went to Hunter Yoder. The people over at Checkerz raised just shy of three thousand dollars to give to whoever did the best air wheelie, which went to Mason Kerr. Friend of Moto Twitter Hannah Ray forked up a thousand dollars for whoever took home the holeshot, and that went to Lane Shaw. Some other funny props included most positions lost for a thousand dollars, 100 dollars for the "Grittiest Chiz", and 250 for the slowest lap without crashing or falling. Congrats to Steve and the gang for putting all this one for the privateer guys once again, a really cool event for the backbone of this sport. Also, the Maple Leafs still haven't won a second-round playoff game in nearly 20 years, hate to see it quite frankly.
Daytime Program/Injury Notes:
- Every 450 rider that was out last week is again this week + Webb, Bam Bam, and El Hombre.
- Another quick track, lap times well under 50 seconds in both classes.
- Step-up tabletop to roller double before the finish jump is Stewable.
- 250 West Fastest Qualifier: No. 18 Jett Lawrence (43.893) (Nearly a full second faster than second-fastest qualifier R.J. Hampshire. Ended up nearly two seconds faster in session two than his best session one lap).
- 450 Fastest Qualifier: No. 23 Chase Sexton (43.968) (Top six qualifiers all ran inside of 44.950, and the top nine ran inside of 45.975).
Heat Racing Roundup
The Master Chef Levi Kitchen was definitely all good after a qualifying issue because he bolted out to an early multi-bike length lead over R.J. Hampshire. Those two kept in close contact through the bulk of this one, with the gap never getting much higher than 1.5 seconds. Just as R.J. was making some inroads with two laps to go, he nearly spun out on his own in one of the flat corners and lost upwards of five seconds on Kitchen, as the Star Yamaha rider picked up the heat win.
A multi-rider pile-up kicked things off while Mitchell Oldenburg secured a Heat 2-holeshot. Included in that incident were Jett Lawrence, Hunter Yoder, and Hunter Schlosser, and Yoder was done after this one. Up front, Oldenburg surrendered the lead to a hard-charging Enzo Lopes, who was red hot earlier in the day. Then he yielded to Pro Circuit Kawi's Carson Mumford, who was equally on rails early in this one. Some lap traffic bit him big time, however, and more or less handed the lead and win over to Lopes. Nothing the lappers did wrong per se, just the wrong place at the wrong time for Mumfy.
CHIZ HOLESHOT. You'd have to see it to believe it but it happened. His teammate Ken Roczen ended up getting by him in just a few corners, as did Adam Cianciarulo not too far after. Pretty cordial affair from there on out. With the 450 class as battered as it is, lots of smaller names got into the Main Event right away. Michael Hicks among them who was making his 450 debut in Denver. Others included Anthony Rodriguez, Logan Karnow, Justin Starling, and Grant Harlan.
It got loud in short order during 450 Heat 2, because Eli Tomac was absolutely on it from the jump in this one, outrunning both Honda HRC riders to the holeshot line and then built up a 1.5-second lead over Chase Sexton. Sexton didn't need a bunch of more time to click with the track, because he ran down Tomac and got by with around 2:00 left on the clock. Despite some lap traffic and late surge making things interesting late, Sexton was able to hold steady for what was his seventh heat win of 2023.
250 West Class Recap
1st - No. 24 R.J. Hampshire (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing)
The Bakers Factory crew needed this badly with the number of injuries they've gotten this year, this late especially. Also kind of crazy to think Hampshire was on the razor's edge of going down in the opening corner, but somehow had enough rear traction to make things stick. Then he just locked in after a rough opening rhythm section and pinned his ears back.
Even Hampshire's monster case on the long double didn't matter when he tried to get by Kitchen the first time. Hampshire only needed about five minutes to erase that five-second gap to the lead. Didnt get a chance to see his track re-entry live on Saturday because of some power issues, but I don't think he did anything to warrant a penalty. Even if he slowed down just a bit more think the results here wouldn't have changed at all, R.J. was absolutely on it.
2nd - No. 43 Levi Kitchen (Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha)
Just wasn't Kitchen's night in Denver sadly, despite leading 16 laps. In the final nine laps of the 250 Main Event after Hampshire's case, He was outpaced by the Rockstar Husqvarna rider in eight of those, and the one lap he bested him, was only .009 seconds faster, that coming on lap 20. Even before then he only had four better laps on a head-to-head basis, Kitchen just didn't have the juice clearly. If it's any consolation, he's going to finish third in the 250 West standings should he gain two points on Enzo Lopes next weekend.
6th - No. 34 Max Vohland (Red Bull KTM)
Vohalnd had a golden opportunity for a late-season podium on Saturday, but a simple tip-over mid-way through took him out of a potential top-five finish, let alone top three. Was happy to see that he kept his head down and was able to at least gain a couple of spots before the night was out. Because of that, he has a four-point buffer to play with next week at Salt Lake City, as Vohland hopes to secure his first ever top five points finish in Supercross.
250 West Class Denver Top 10
1st No. 24 R.J. Hampshire
2nd No. 43 Levi Kitchen
3rd No. 1W Jett Lawrence
4th No. 56 Enzo Lopes
5th No. 49 Mitchell Oldenburg
6th No. 34 Max Vohland
7th No. 41 Derek Kelley
8th No. 52 Carson Mumford
9th No. 83 Cole Thompson
10th No. 59 Robbie Wageman
250 West Class Point Standings after Denver
1st No. 1W Jett Lawrence (197 Points. 250 Western Regional Champion)
2nd No. 24 R.J. Hampshire (163 Points)
3rd No. 56 Enzo Lopes (137 Points)
4th No. 43 Levi Kitchen (135 Points)
5th No. 34 Max Vohland (121 Points)
6th No. 49 Mitchell Oldenburg (117 Points)
7th No. 48 Cam McAdoo (109 Points)
8th No. 33 Pierce Brown (98 Points)
9th No. 83 Cole Thompson (87 Points)
10th No. 41 Derek Kelley (86 Points)
450 Class Recap
1st - No. 23 Chase Sexton (Honda HRC)
Welp, the 450 Championship fight is over, but not in the way the people probably expected going into the weekend. With the news on Tomac being confirmed as quickly as it was, Chase Sexton is (un)officially the Monster Energy Supercross Champion on the big bore. Ken Roczen, who is the closest healthy rider to him in the points, was already well beyond 26 points back coming into Denver. It's definitely not the way Sexton would want to win this, but he couldn't control these catastrophic injuries happening to Tomac and Webb in back-to-back weeks. What he can control is his own riding, and he was as good as anyone this last month or so. Gonna save some numbers and extra thoughts on that until next weekend, but Sexton is certainly a worthy champion.
Strictly sticking to Denver now, this was another fantastic outing for Sexton. Once he got the lead from AC about seven laps in, everything from there on out was essentially a formality. The only guy who was even in the same realm of consistency ended up being Ken Roczen, who not surprisingly, ended up only one spot back here. Didn't have to run up front for any extra points given what happened to Tomac, but he sure as hell raced like it, winning things on Saturday night by well over eight seconds.
2nd - No. 94 Ken Roczen (HEP Motorsports Progressive Ecstar Suzuki)
I feel bad for Kenny from this standpoint. If not for the Tomac injury, his ride would have been the headline coming out of Denver, maybe the single-best performance of the season in either class. Due to some incidental contact with Chiz in the opening corner, he essentially started in dead last but got a couple of spots back by the time lap one officially began. Roczen then proceeded to make up TWENTY (20) American Motorcyclist Association Supercross spots in just under 15 minutes of real-time. Just an absurd run to get Roczen his sixth podium of the season, after securing one all of last year.
3rd - No. 9 Adam Cianciarulo (Monster Energy Kawasaki)
I don't think it's a stretch to say we all collectively needed a feel-good story to leave Denver with, and we certainly got one. It's been no secret that AC has had some rough times as a professional Supercross rider over the years. Countless injuries, missed opportunities at wins, and most notably losing the 2019 250 West Championship in gut-wrenching fashion at Sam Boyd Stadium. Needless to say, he's been through a lot physically and mentally. So to see him break a 450 Supercross podium drought of 833 days on Saturday was amazing, and it was no secret that it meant the absolute world to him. Said it on Twitter the night of, but there might not be a better person in my lifetime to compete in this sport, and things are categorically better when Cianciarulo is doing good.
450 Class Denver Top 10
1st No. 23 Chase Sexton
2nd No. 94 Ken Roczen
3rd No. 9 Adam Cianciarulo
4th No. 46 Justin Hill
5th No. 12 Shane McElrath
6th No. 15 Dean Wilson
7th No. 751 Josh Hill
8th No. 11 Kyle Chisholm (!!!)
9th No. 78 Grant Harlan
10th No. 60 Justin Starling
450 Class Point Standings after Denver
1st No. 23 Chase Sexton (346 Points. New Points Leader. 450 Supercross Champion in all but name)
2nd No. 1 Eli Tomac (339 Points)
3rd No. 2 Cooper Webb (304 Points)
4th No. 94 Ken Roczen (303 Points)
5th No. 51 Justin Barcia (267 Points)
6th No. 21 Jason Anderson (242 Points)
7th No. 7 Aaron Plessinger (213 Points)
8th No. 9 Adam Cianciarulo (191 Points)
9th No. 46 Justin Hill (191 Points)
10th No. 15 Dean Wilson (182 Points)
Denver PulpMX Industry Idiots Fantasy Team
450 Class: Ken Roczen (All-Star +2), Josh Hill (+5), Anthony Rodriguez (+12), Cade Clason (+12)
250 Class: Enzo Lopes (All-Star +4), Carson Mumford (No Handicap), Nique Thury (+15), Hunter Yoder (+7)
Points Total: 304 Points
Next Up: Rice Eccels Stadium (Salt Lake City, Utah) (Season Finale)
Main Image via FELD