FELD's backyard of Tampa, Florida played host to Round 5 of the Monster Energy Supercross tilt, coming off an action-packed night in Houston a week ago. 250 rookies Tom Vialle, Haiden Deegan, and Chance Hymas all shined in their maiden voyages, but Hunter Lawrence was as advertised, picking up the region-opening win in dominating fashion. Max Anstie meanwhile was impressive to start his 2023 as well, finding himself on an AMA podium for the first time in over a decade.
Chase Sexton, who was strong during Saturday afternoon's qualifying session once again, needed a big day after last week. After dominating all day at NRG Stadium, he allowed Eli Tomac to flip the script in the Main Event to take home his third win in the opening four rounds. Sexton's trouble area last weekend, a sand section, was also back for an encore performance, this time as an entire rhythm section as opposed to a sweeper corner. Would Sexton be able to strike back at Tomac this go around? Would Tomac pick up career win No. 48? Or would someone be able to come in under the radar and steal a win in the home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?
It's been a while since we've gotten a good ole protest in Supercross. The latest 'infraction' that someone has filed, is that Max Anstie was "riding a 280cc" in Houston. Although we don't know the identity of the team that filed this with the AMA, past precedent would make Star Yamaha a likely suspect. Back in 2020 when Chase Sexton won that year's 250 East Championship, they protested the results of the final round, claiming that Sexton was using illegal fuel. As you could imagine, that didn't take long to disprove. In fairness, this could absolutely be someone else, but guessing this was Star for the time being has some merit.
Nick Romano Injury Update
Sticking with Star Yamaha, they got some bad news this week with Nick Romano, who was expected to run at least some east coast rounds in 2023. Unfortunately for the teenage multi-time Loretta Lynn's Champion, a devastating knee injury will keep him off the bike for the entire calendar year. Specifically, it's an ACL and Meniscus injury for Romano, that happened on a routine jump out of a corner. Romano also just recently had a shoulder injury as well, hence why he missed the 250 East opener in Houston. Just a devastating deal here, hoping for the best in rehab and recovery.
Daytime Program/Injury Notes:
- Sand Section was annihilated by the end of the final 450 Qualifying sessions.
- Chance Hymas qualifies fastest of the 250 East rookies, finishes in fifth place.
- 250 Fastest Qualifier: No. 96 Hunter Lawrence (49.380 Seconds) (Nearly seven-tenths faster than Jordon Smith in second)
- 450 Fastest Qualifier: No. 23 Chase Sexton (48.555 Seconds) (Top nine riders separated by under four-tenths of a second)
- IT'S RAINING (around 5:00 EST-ish, just after the final 450 session ended)
Heat Racing Roundup
A track with some added last-minute moisture and a giant san section, what could go wrong? Well... a lot. It would be easier to name the riders who didn't run into some form of trouble in the opening 250 heat, namely Nate Thrasher, and Tom Vialle for those finishing up front. Jordon Smith, despite ending up in a podium spot, found the ground early, as did Zombie Blose, Michael Mosiman, Culin Park, and several others. Thrasher won in easy fashion, a good sign for things to come perhaps, given how lackluster Houston was [Disclaimer: I take zero responsibility for jinxes]
It was going to happen eventually, but all of two weekends into his pro career Haiden Deegan is a Heat Race winner, doing so in wire-to-wire fashion up against Hunter Lawrence, and more so Jeremy Martin and Chance Hymas. Most impressive was that the wide majority of this second heat was with inclement weather, Outside of his opening lap (52.043 seconds) every lap he ran was in the 51-second bracket, and the only rider with a faster average lap was Lawrence. One more note, rookie Caden Braswell makes it into his first career Main Event via a penalty to Hardy Munoz which sent him to the LCQ.
A good start in the 450 class with Adam Cianciarulo and Jason Anderson getting out front, but Rockstar Husky's Christian Craig as well, who desperately needed a good night after some rough signs out west and in Houston. Once Anderson picked up the lead in the whoops, that top three of himself, AC, and Craig remained locked in. Dean Wilson looked sporty in this one, coming from just inside the transfer window all the way up to fifth. The Scotsman has been doing some solid work so far with the Firepower Honda team, consistently competing for top 10s this year so far on a weekly basis.
Chase Sexton meanwhile pulled off a repeat performance from last week, pulling away from Eli Tomac early on and winning by multiple seconds. The spin here is that Aaron Plessinger got by Tomac as well in the whoops and drove the reigning Champion back to third. After that, Tomac didn't seem to be interested in pushing the issue, especially with the track conditions being what they were. Further on back, Joey Savatgy had a mid-race crash in the opening rhythm section and made a valiant effort to try to get into a transfer spot, but to no avail. Additionally, Cooper Webb was a bit shaky here to open up...I feel like I've seen this one before. [Disclaimer to prior Disclaimer: Except for when I'm correct]
250 East Class Recap
1st - No. 96 Hunter Lawrence (Honda HRC)
I mean, what a ride by Lawrence. It seemed as if he was stuck around sixth-fourth for a decent bit, but once he got by Mosiman and Deegan around nine laps in it was game on. The lap before, Hunter rattled off his best lap of the evening, a 50.191, but put up two more he closed things out. Looking at his segment times, he was probably going to do it as well on the final lap, but, well, you probably have seen what happened by now.
I don't think either rider did anything wrong here, by the way, just some good hard racing going for a win. But hey, two in a row to start out, and more so winning two in a row in entirely separate ways is mighty impressive for Lawrence. Feel like Kris Keefer knew what he was talking about when he ranked him over Jett for 2023 on Monday.
2nd - No. 29 Nate Thrasher (Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha)
Someone had to lose last night, and sadly that was Thrasher, who put together an awesome Main Event. The only thing I will say, and James Stewart (so good by the way) pointed this out, is that Thrasher 100 percent should have hugged the inside on that final corner. It's not a lock he wins in that scenario, but he gives himself an infinitely better chance of sealing the deal. A bummer of a way to close things out, but this was a much-needed performance after Houston.
4th - No. 238 Haiden Deegan (Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha)
Two rounds in and I'd say Deegan is ahead of schedule in his development at this point. On a night like Saturday where track conditions were shakey most of the day, a fourth is pretty good. One thing to note is that he was running at least a second a lap faster than Max Anstie over the final three laps, who finished five seconds up on the rookie. That also feels like a really good sign given Anstie's ability on a motorcycle over the years.
7th - No 31 Michael Mosiman (Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing)
You have to wonder where Mosiman would have ultimately ended up if not for his mid-race accident. Speaking of really quickly, I put most of the blame for that on Mosiman. He was in no man's land just before Lawrence got to him, although he didn't help the situation any. But his lap times were excellent up until then, but afterward, had just one lap < 52 seconds. A seventh is ok given the circumstances, but being nearly 20 points out of the lead this early is anything but.
15th - No. 58 Jordan Smith (Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha)
Speaking of less-than-ideal, things did not go according to plan for Smith, who was coming off a podium in Houston. An early opening lap crash when he was running in second, put him in 17th across the stripe the first go around, and he only made a net gain of two spots from there on. Now, Smith, who entered Saturday in a great spot points-wise, is all the way back in ninth place with 29 points.
250 East Class Tampa Top 10
1st No. 96 Hunter Lawrence
2nd No. 29 Nate Thrasher
3rd No. 63 Max Anstie
4th No. 238 Haiden Deegan
5th No. 6 Jeremy Martin
6th No. 128 Tom Vialle
7th No. 31 Michael Mosiman
8th No. 832 Chance Hymas
9th No. 62 Jace Owen
10th No. 99 Hardy Munoz
250 East Class Points after Tampa
1st No. 96 Hunter Lawrence (52 Points)
2nd No. 63 Max Anstie (44 Points)
3rd No. 238 Haiden Deegan (38 Points)
4th No. 6 Jeremy Martin (36 Points)
5th No. 128 Tom Vialle (33 Points)
6th No. 31 Michael Mosiman (33 Points)
7th No. 29 Nate Thrasher (31 Points)
8th No. 832 Chance Hymas (30 Points)
9th No. 58 Jordon Smith (29 Points)
10th No. 62 Jace Owen (23 Points)
450 Class Recap
1st - No. 2 Cooper Webb (Red Bull KTM)
WELP, for Eli Tomac and Chase Sexton, the absolute last guy you wanted to see win outside of each other found the top step of the podium, and for the first time in nearly a season and a half at that. I honestly feel like Webb ends up winning Main Events on days where he was poor in qualifying or Heat Racing at an 80 percent clip, and Tampa fits into that metric.
Webb, despite making some notable mistakes, just kept Chase Sexton on his toes for well over 10 minutes, and eventually got him to slip up. Now, not only is Webb very much in the title mix, he picks up career win No. 19, tying him for 12th all-time with Damon Bradshaw, who was in Tampa last night.
2nd - No. 23 Chase Sexton (Honda HRC)
Two weeks, six lost points, two lost wins for Sexton. And once again, this happens after he was lights out in both qualifying and Heat Racing. The real gut punch here is Sexton led a whopping 21 laps, and despite losing some ground to Webb progressively, it felt like he had him cleared just enough.
In fact, the sand section played into his hand this week. Webb was the one committed to the less favorable line, this time being the outside, and Sexton was making back up big chunks of time but cutting it inside. Had he not gone down in the whoops, he would have left Tampa with the red plate too, simply brutal stuff.
3rd - No. 7 Aaron Plessinger (Red Bull KTM)
Just as it has been a minute since Webb won, you can, well could now, in this case, say the same thing about Plessinger. His last 450 Supercross podium came over a season ago in Oakland, where he played runner-up to Jason Anderson. Good to see that Houston wasn't just an aberration, perhaps AP has the KTM dialed in now and these results are going to be more standard moving forward.
4th - No. 94 Ken Roczen (HEP Motorsports Progressive Ecstar Suzuki)
Roczen simply keeps on keeping on with RMArmy. If not for an eighth last weekend, he would be on a streak of five consecutive top-fives to open up 2023. I just hope someone up the chain of command at Suzuki is seeing what Roczen is doing and can be convinced to invest in their Motocross program. I don't feel like it's a stretch to say Roczen can be a multi-race win-a-season guy on this bike if it was up to par, hell, I think he could sneak by and potentially win a race with the RM as it is now given the right circumstances.
5th - No. 1 Eli Tomac (Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha)
Tomac would seemingly 'shut it down' at points in his Kawasaki stints if he wasn't feeling it, Dallas 2019 being a good example. I can't think of any other explanation for his performance Saturday, because he didn't look competitive nearly all night. I say that considering Jason Anderson, who finished behind him, ended up with a better average lap time. With that said, I wouldn't put this to anything outside of just an off night. Would expect a podium result at the minimum from Tomac next weekend.
6th - No. 21 Jason Anderson (Monster Energy Kawasaki)
Bad luck continues to be an issue for El Hombre, but speed/pace is anything but an issue five rounds in. Going down early tangling up with Barcia and running in dead last going into lap one, Anderson put on a tour de force performance, going from 22nd to 6th in roughly 23 minutes time. Given the condition and late rain playing a factor, that's wildly impressive work. And again, all the problems plaguing him right now are, for the most part, out of his control. He's got the speed to win multiple races before this season is out, it just has to all come together.
12th - No. 9 Adam Cianciarulo (Monster Energy Kawasaki)
It's not altogether for AC in his return campaign, but he's checking off boxes each week and completing every lap each round which is important. Off a great start, Cianciarulo spent the early portion of this Main Event in the top five, and nearly the top three. Two separate mistakes forced him to outside the top 10, but his pace looked good looking at his lap times. Not the result he would have probably wanted, but it's about the process at this juncture.
450 Class Tampa Top 10
1st No. 2 Cooper Webb
2nd No. 23 Chase Sexton
3rd No. 7 Aaron Plessinger
4th No. 94 Ken Roczen
5th No. 1 Eli Tomac
6th No. 21 Jason Anderson
7th No. 32 Justin Cooper
8th No. 51 Justin Barcia
9th No. 17 Joey Savatgy
10th No. 10 Christian Craig
450 Class Points after Tampa
1st No. 1 Eli Tomac (113 Points)
2nd No. 23 Chase Sexton (111 Points)
3rd No. 2 Cooper Webb (109 Points)
4th No. 21 Jason Anderson (93 Points)
5th No. 94 Ken Roczen (92 Points)
6th No. 7 Aaron Plessinger (85 Points)
7th No. 51 Justin Barcia (80 Points)
8th No. 9 Adam Cianciarulo (67 Points)
9th No. 17 Joey Savatgy (67 Points)
10th No. 45 Colt Nichols (61 Points)
Tampa PulpMX Industry Idiots Fantasy Team
450 Class: Chase Sexton (All-Star +1), Kyle Chishom (+10), Justin Hill (+8), Dean Wilson (+4)
250 Class: Max Anstie (All-Star +3), Chris Blose (+1), Hardy Munoz (+7), AJ Catanzaro (+13)
Points Total: 181 (Seven Riders) (I'm not having fun, Steve Matthes and Travis Marx are thieves of joy)
Next Up: Oakland, California (RingCentral Coliseum) Attempt No. 2
Main Image via Honda HRC