Been a while since the last time Supercross made it out to the Meadowlands, a whole four years to be precise. Last time we were here Cooper Webb had all but secured the 2019 450 Championship, while Chase Sexton took hold of the 250 East Points lead from a heavily injured Austin Forkner, securing his first-ever Supercross victory and never looked back. Now those two winners from four years ago are both on the big bikes, trying to run down Eli Tomac with just four rounds left in the season. This has been...well not the best venue for the defending Champion in years past. In 2017, he gagged away the points lead to eventual Champion Ryan Dungey, then two years later had the same level of mental mistakes trying to secure a last-ditch win over Cooper Webb. The 2023 trip to MetLife Stadium didn't start too hot either, but more on that in a minute.
Not much of a surprise, but the Hunter Lawrence vs Jett Lawrence battle has been a hot topic for multiple weeks coming in. In reality though, that's secondary to the fact that Hunter entered the weekend in a prime position to secure his first Supercross Championship. He's been my top 250 rider for some time now this year and had the chance to drive that point home against a combined 250 field, and a chance to beat his brother for some icing on the cake. And how about some rain for your viewing pleasure???
Eli Tomac Injury
I've talked about MetLife Stadium being a house of horrors for Eli Tomac for some time now and it didn't take long at all for that trend to continue. Maybe 20 seconds into the opening timed 450 qualifying session, Tomac went down at the very end of the opening rhythm lane and was visibly shaken up after the wreck, specifically his right knee. The good news here is that Tomac did come back out to get a time down in the second qualifying session, and ended up just outside the top five. Body language on the bike didn't seem all too bad either which was great to see.
Nate Thrasher Update
Unfortunately, we're not going to be seeing Star Yamaha's Nate Thrahser back on the bike anytime soon. After his brutal wreck at Atlanta, both he and the team confirmed that he suffered a dislocated hip and broken collarbone. On top of the fact he was also riding on a torn ACL for several races to this point, he will be sitting out the rest of the 2023 schedule, both Motocross and SMX. Even after we knew about the ACL injury, Thrasher put on a very strong stretch of races between Tampa and Detroit with four podiums in five weekends (three seconds and a victory). A couple of bad outings at Houston and Daytona pretty much ended his title chances, but Thrasher passed the eye test pretty much all year to this point. He should certainly be one to watch in 2024 regardless of what coast he ends up on.
Daytime Program/Injury Notes:
- Aaron Plessinger was ruled out for the evening in between the two 450 Qualifying sessions
- Adam Cianciarulo was ruled out for the evening about an hour before opening ceremonies.
- Track Layout this weekend (course direction specifically) is a carbon copy of Minneapolis in 2019
- Track degradation settings set to 200% at the bare minimum
- Only rider I saw take the outside lane on the option 90-degree corner was Chase Marquier in 450 session 1.
- Give James Stewart (so good btw) a blank check to do commentary every week @KenFeld
- 250 East Fastest Qualifier: No. 96 Hunter Lawrence (48.701) (Third fastest overall and exactly a half second faster than Jordan Smtih in second place)
- 250 West Fastest Qualifier: No. 18 Jett Lawrence (47.895) (Full second faster than everyone not named R.J. Hampshire and Max Vohland
- 450 Fastest Qualifier: No. 21 Jason Anderson (47.707) (Two weeks in a row he's looked lights out in qualifying. Four-tenths faster than Chase Sexton) (Justin Hill finished qualifying in third place)
Heat Racing Roundup
Very shaky start for Jett Lawernce in the 250 West Heat, but like on most occasions this year, his raw speed shined through and he charged through the bulk of the top 10 with relatively zero resistance save for Pierce Brown and Max Vohland. Out front early in this one though it was R.J. Hampshire pacing Vohland, and eventually breaking out to a three-second lead, and the victory. Lawrence however uncorked a monster 46-second lap on the final lap, becoming the first rider all day to do so.
Just as it looked like we were gonna get a Hunter Lawrence-Haiden Deegan showdown, Jo Shimoda parted the red seas and got by both by the time the field got to the finish jump for the first time. Instead, we got a Shimoda Lawrence battle in the closing stages of this heat. Looked like Shimoda was going to fade just enough to give it up to Hunter, but he was notably better in the whoops, and that made a bulk of the difference. Just like that, the Pro Circuit Kawi rider picked up his first career Heat Race win in a strong showing.
Ken Roczen and Cooper Webb picked up right where they left off at Atlanta and were in a war to kick things off in the 450 class early. And surprisingly, Roczen did to Webb what he did to him for the bulk of 2021, and forced him into conceding into second for the time being. And believe me when I tell you this; this was the best Roczen had looked all year. Body language on the bike was fantastic, he could put it anywhere he wanted to, which on this track being as slick as it was is impressive, and ran race-best lap times just about every lap. Very impressed to say the least.
In our first look at Eli Tomac in the night show, he got bottled up off the start and was behind the eight ball, but he managed to weave his way to seventh in the opening minute of action. Overall he looked fairly good but clearly under 100%. Out front early meanwhile were Chase Sexton, Justin Barcia, and Jason Anderson. Barcia however would tip it over out of second around the 3:40 to-go mark, allowing Anderson to get to second, and allow Benny Bloss and Toamc to get a bit close. Getting back to Sexton though, you can say a lot of the same things about him as Roczen. Buddy was absolutely feeling it. By the time he got the white flag, he was up on El Hombre by about seven seconds.
Can say I've ever seen a lightning delay in Supercross, but there's a first time for everything I suppose. The last one in general I remember was back at Thunder Valley Nats a few years ago where they called a 250 Moto about halfway in. An odd situation, but not much anyone can do here. Even if FELD wanted to keep the show moving (I know for an absolute fact they live by "show flow" on the Monster Jam side of things), just about every open-air stadium and race track has some kind of lightning policy. I know for most NASCAR tracks it's 30 minutes of no strikes in the area to get the all-clear. If this was simply just for rain, I too would be furious, but MetLife may have well been the biggest lightning rod in New Jersey.
250 East/West Showdown Recap
1st - No. 63 Max Anstie (Firepower Honda)
I'm going to be entirely real, I 100% thought Anstie was R.J. Hampshire off the start. The white bike and black helmet with the gold logo from the All-22 camera spot did me no favors, but it was indeed Mr. Anstie, who longed for a mudder stateside. Finally getting his opportunity, he grabbed it by the throat and never let go, even if Jett Lawrence made things very interesting in the final two laps. Just a great story for a good rider and a good team in Firepower Honda, congrats to everyone over there.
2nd - No. 18 Jett Lawrence (Honda HRC)
The only thing that really stopped Lawrence from another win in 2023 was ultimately that time reduction put in by the AMA. He would have had plenty of time to make something happen with those two extra minutes guaranteed and to be frank, I was shocked at how much ground he made up, to begin with. The Jett was a man on a mission in any event though. Take the 23 points and get ready for what should hopefully be a title clincher in Denver.
3rd - No. 96 Hunter Lawrence (Honda HRC)
No title clincher for Hunter on Saturday, but all he has to do is just play it safe in Nashville and he wins it next week. As for last night, Lawrence ended up about where he should have all things considered. His start wasn't bad by any stretch, he just lost some ground in that first corner and only recovered partially. Not a whole lot else to say. Just a very efficient night for the 250 East leader.
4th - No. 34 Max Vohland (Red Bull KTM)
Perhaps not more than Anstie, but not many guys I came away more impressed with last night than one Maximus Vohland of Red Bull KTM. You can say these results were based on the conditions, but all day, he was a guy who looked like he belonged especially given that it was a combined field. Definitely would have liked to see him try to get out front there in the beginning, but take small victories when you can. Additionally, he would need to have some luck most likely, but Vohland finishing top three in the 250 West standings is still in play, believe it or not. He's 14 points back of Enzo Lopes with two races left, one of which is another Showdown.
7th - No. 52 Carson Mumford (Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki)
Took us a LONG time to finally see Mumfy on one of Mitch Payton's bikes, but three races in now and he's yet to finish outside the top 10. Dating back to last year, where he only ran two rounds of Supercross all year, he has five straight top 10s to his name as well. More so than that, Mumford felt like he belonged just like Vohland. His lap times all race were super consistent with no real throw-away lap/s for the lack of a better term, especially as things broke down as time went on.
13th - No. 24 R.J. Hampshire (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing)
Not..entirely sure what happened to R.J. when Jett Lawrence was coming to the finish line, but I think it's fair to say things could have ended up far worse than what they did. I don't think Hampshire came into that corner intending to take Jett out, firstly because he was a lap down at that point, and secondly, that's a BOLD way to try and take someone out while trying to come out unscathed. Unfortunately for Hampshire, his bike kicked the bucket and he never technically finished. Would need an unprecedented chain of events to happen to even have a chance at the 250 West Championship. Probably did anyway, but now it's getting close to midnight.
250 East Rutherford East/West Showdown Top 10
1st No. 63 Max Anstie
2nd No. 18 Jett Lawrence
3rd No. 96 Hunter Lawrence
4th No. 34 Max Vohland
5th No. 56 Enzo Lopes
6th No. 238 Haiden Deegan
7th No. 52 Carson Mumford
8th No. 67 Cullin Park
9th No. 30 Jo Shimoda
10th No. 57 Chris Blose
250 East Class Point Standings after East Rutherford
1st No. 96 Hunter Lawrence (198 Points) (Can clinch 250 East Championship in Nashville by finishing top-20)
2nd No. 238 Haiden Deegan (149 Points)
3rd No. 63 Max Anstie (148 Points)
4th No. 29 Nate Thrasher (120 Points)
5th No. 58 Jordon Smith (120 Points)
6th No. 57 Chris Blose (117 Points)
7th No. 6 Jeremy Martin (106 Points)
8th No. 67 Cullin Park (96 Points)
9th No. 128 Tom Vialle (95 Points)
10th No. 285 Coty Schock (83 Points)
250 West Class Point Standings after East Rutherford
1st No. 18 Jett Lawrence (176 Points) (Can clinch 250 West Championship in Denver by finishing top-10)
2nd No. 24 R.J. Hampshire (137 Points)
3rd No. 56 Enzo Lopes (118 Points)
4th No. 43 Levi Kitchen (112 Points)
5th No. 34 Max Vohland (104 Points)
6th No. 48 Cameron McAdoo (101 Points)
7th No. 49 Mitchell Oldenburg (99 Points)
8th No. 33 Pierce Brown (98 Points)
9th No. 83 Cole Thompson (73 Points)
10th No. 41 Derek Kelley (70 Points)
450 Class Recap
1st - No. 51 Justin Barcia (TLD/Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing)
I mean when I'm right I'm right. I'm imagining that Barcia was doing cartwheels in the MetLife Stadium tunnels or the GasGas rig when the lightning hold was announced and the rain began to come in buckets. This was set up for Bam Bam on a silver platter and he raced as he knew it. The pass on Sexton was certainly aggressive, but not over the line for my taste personally. After that, it was only a matter of when, not if, he was going catch and then pass Roczen. Even with the rain, the fact Barcia lapped all but three riders in this one is insane. If you ever are trying to look for a Supercross mudder masterclass down the line, look no further than Barcia last night in the Meadowlands. Teach tape if you will. Also, a big shoutout to TLD GasGas team manager Max Lee for his first win on the job...at just 23 YEARS OLD.
2nd - No. 1 Eli Tomac (Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha)
If you told me Tomac would finish even close to the podium, let alone on it, after injuring his knee just a half dozen hours prior I would have called you crazy. But it happened! I saw it with my own eyes live and in living color. Hard to say how much that knee will be bothering him by the time we get to Nashville, but his scenario is now this; if Tomac finishes second or better in these last three rounds he wins the Championship no matter what. A lot can happen in three weeks but that feels doable if his right knee is in relatively good shape.
5th - No. 2 Cooper Webb (Red Bull KTM)
Not the night that I expected out of Webb at all. The fifth at face value is fine, but he kind of got bully-balled twice in one night by Roczen in the Heats and then Sexton in this Main Event. That would be fine if he had responded in some fashion, but it never happened. Once Sexton got by him in the option section, he felt flat for the rest of the night. Just looking at the two guys his fighting for this Championship with, his average lap time of 1:07.969 was 3.601 seconds a lap slower than Tomac, and then 1.820 seconds a lap slower than Sexton. Not over yet for Webb by any means, but he needs to dig deep in these last few weeks and get some help.
6th - No. 12 Shane McElrath (HEP Twisted Tea Suzuki)
There were a couple of monster performances by some less notable guys to into the top ten, McElrath being the best finisher of that group. To start from the beginning, The Zook rider qualified 17th in the afternoon, then only qualified out of his heat with about eight-tenths of a second to spare. Then on an absolute mud bog of a race track, McElrath somehow was able to dig himself out of a 14th-place start to almost finish top five for the first time ever on a 450. Even then, sixth is good enough for his best 450 finish.
7th - No. 80 Kevin Moranz (Red Line Oil/Tank Masters KTM)
Moranz finishing this high was another awesome story out of the Meadowlands, but he didn't have to scratch and claw his way to his spot. Although he initially fell from 6th to 10th early on, he never spent a second outside the top 10 the entire evening. Not the first time he's finished seventh, but this is Moranz's first seventh on a 450 and easily his best result on the big bore.
9th - No. 46 Justin Hill (Team Tedder KTM)
The Justin Hill Experience as a PulpMX fantasy player did me no favors. One second he was 19th, the next 11th, then 18th again just like that. Somehow some way though, he railed from running as low as 20th to finishing 9th. That now marks top 10s for Hill in 5 of his last 7 and 6 of his last 8. Going to be quite the strong finish to the season for Hill after a multi-year layoff. A top 10 points finish is now an expectation at this point.
450 Class East Rutherford Top 10
1st No. 51 Justin Barcia
2nd No. 1 Eli Tomac
3rd No. 94 Ken Roczen
4th No. 23 Chase Sexton
5th No. 2 Cooper Webb
6th No. 12 Shane McElrath
7th No. 80 Kevin Moranz
8th No. 44 Benny Bloss
9th No. 46 Justin Hill
10th No. 15 Dean Wilson
450 Class Point Standings after East Rutherford
1st No. 1 Eli Tomac (315 Points)
2nd No. 2 Cooper Webb (304 Points)
3rd No. 23 Chase Sexton (294 Points)
4th No. 51 Justin Barcia (265 Points)
5th No. 94 Ken Roczen (259 Points)
6th No. 21 Jason Anderson (225 Points)
7th No. 7 Aaron Plessinger (213 Points)
8th No. 9 Adam Cianciarulo (155 Points)
9th No. 46 Justin Hill (154 Points)
10th No. 28 Christian Craig (150 Points)
East Rutherford PulpMX Industry Idiots Fantasy Team
450 Class: Ken Roczen (All-Star +4), Justin Hill (+2), Cade Clason (+13), Jeremy Hand (+16)
250 Class: Jett Lawrence (All-Star, No Handicap), Carson Mumford (+7), Jordon Smith (-2), Hunter Yoder (+11, on my fantasy blacklist until further notice)
Points Total: 207. Travis Marx has ruined Supercross for me (unless I win money in one of these last three rounds then he should unanimously win Man of the Year)
Next Up: Nissan Stadium (Nashville, Tennessee)
Main Image via FELD