top of page

2023 SuperMotocross World Championship Playoffs Preview - 450 Class

The 450 Class has suffered its fair share of injuries in 2023. Save for a handful of riders, headlined by Eli Tomac and Malcolm Stewart, things have turned around going into the SuperMotocross World Championship. All of the World Supercross riders are good to go. Jason Anderson and Justin Barcia have had their race legs under them for some time now, and we should be getting word of Cooper Webb's status very shortly.

The fact, however, remains this. Summer has come and gone, and Jett Lawrence continues to be the talk of the Motocross world. 22 Wins and 0 Losses to begin his Motocross career on the big bike, but there's a lot more at play for the Honda HRC rider now. If he can stay hot over these next three weeks, his bank account will get a notable deposit, likely to the tune of seven figures. So, will Lawrence become $1,000,000 richer? Or will someone be able to put the young Australian down to the second step of the podium for the first time in his 450 career?

SMX Points Format

SuperMotocross World Championship Playoff Point System (via Feld)

NOTE: Injured/Inactive Riders retain their in-class seeding no matter what. Injured LCQ Range riders can be replaced as needed.

SMX 450 Championship Purse

450 Class Championship Purse Payout (via Feld)

450 Class Last Chance Qualifiers (3 Riders Advance)

As of today (Tuesday, September 5), there's still one TBA spot left in this LCQ field. This is due to several opt-outs and injuries that have plagued this class all year. Some were expected, Jose Butron, for starters, with his lack of Supercross experience, plus Benny Bloss, given that he's been testing the U.S.-based Beta bike for some time now. The single biggest opt-out in either class, meanwhile, is Joey Savatgy. He was the final seeded rider for the 450 LCQs, but couldn't get a program ready in time according to Michael Linsday over at Vital. A shame too. I thought he could make some hay in these Main Event Motos. Circling back to Phil real quick, his segment on PulpMX with the Lawrence Brothers was maybe the best of the year. Check it out if you haven't. (Lucas Mirtl fell to his knees in public when he caught wind of this, I promise you)

So, who does that leave to compete for three Main Event gates? Leading things off is Filthy Phil Nicoletti, who had a strong finish to the Motocross season. Behind him is Kevin Moranz, who if you don't recall, pulled off the holeshot in the Main Event of Seattle Supercross. Then you have guys like Justin Starling, Josh Cartwright, and Jerry Robin, who probably make up your five most likely riders to transfer in on any given weekend of the three. I feel like had the formatting of SMX been made clear much earlier, the AMA/Feld wouldn't have had to go this deep into the standings for alternates, but it's a good learning experience for 2024 and beyond.

450 Class Bottom 10

Josh Hill still going strong in 2023 is probably the greatest indicator that I have, in fact, become old. Those half dozen points he picked up in two Motocross appearances proved vital as they locked him into the night show outright. Speaking of Motocross, Ty Masterpool won over a lot of people, and deservingly so, over his great runs throughout the summer. Although he's good to go, he just recently had his appendix removed. If for nothing else, Masterpool seems to have a Pro Circuit engine that was ready to go before Ironman, so that's a big plus going into these three races.

Tons of other great riders find themselves in this group, such as Justin Hill, Shane McElrath, Dean Wilson, and sentimental favorite Grant Harlan. If you recall, his family's facility suffered a fire about a month ago, and the money on the line here could go a long way in the rebuilding process. Not to mention guys like CHIZ, Colt Nichols, Garret Marchbanks, and Freddie Noren. There should be some fun battles in the middle of the field.

250 Class Top 10

*- No. 9 Seed Eli Tomac is (obviously) not competing

10 Seed - No. 51 Justin Barcia (TLD/Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing)

2023 Supercross Stats: 15 Starts, 1 Win, 15 Laps Led, Average Start of 6.7, Average Finish of 5.9, 0 Holeshot, 267 Points (5th)

2023 Motocross Stats: 4 Starts, 0 Moto Wins, 0 National Wins, 0 Laps Led, Average Start of 3.9, Average Finish of 13.2, 0 Holeshots, 147 Points (12th)

If not for the injury and setback, there's a world where Bam Bam is probably the 450 Class No. 2 seed. He was electric from Daytona Supercross to the time he went down in Nashville, and a DNF in Unadilla Moto 1 brings his average finish in Motocross way down in the six Motos he ran. Feels worth remembering that Barcia is one of just three riders here to have won the Monster Energy Cup, coming in 2012 with a 2-1-2 over Ryan Dungey and Eli Tomac.

8 Seed - No. 94 Ken Roczen (HEP Progressive/Ecstar Suzuki)

2023 Supercross Stats: 17 Starts, 1 Win, 33 Laps Led, Average Start of 6, Average Finish of 5.7, 2 Holeshots, 304 Points (3rd)

2023 Motocross Stats: 1 Start, 0 Moto Wins, 0 National Wins, 16 Laps Led, Average Start of 1.5, Average Finish of 4.5, 1 Holeshot, 36 Points (23rd)

Roczen is the second of three former Monster Energy Cup winners in this field, winning three years after Barcia in 2015. Despite being lower in the seeding like Barcia, I think they both can compete for Moto and Event wins in this three-round Championship. Before hyperextending his knee at Salt Lake City, Roczen was on fire to end the Supercross tilt, rattling off six top fives in the previous seven rounds, with podiums in four. Despite running the WSX Championship, Roczen also gave Jett Lawrence one of his toughest battles of the year at High Point, which got him by Eli Tomac in the standings for that eight seed. Should Roczen end up beating someone by a point or two after Los Angeles, remember that.

7 Seed - No. 21 Jason Anderson (Monster Energy Kawasaki)

2023 Supercross Stats: 15 Starts, 0 Wins, 0 Laps Led, Average Start of 8.3, Average Finish of 7.1, 1 Holeshot, 242 Points (6th)

2023 Motocross Stats: 7 Starts, 0 Moto Wins, 0 National Wins, 0 Laps Led, Average Start of 9.4, Average Finish of 8.1, 0 Holeshots, 207 Points (9th)

El Hombre has the opportunity to wash away all of the frustration of what was a rocky 2023 should he end up competing for this Championship. The results don't show it, but he was riding strong again aboard a KX450 when he was upright. If not for being a victim of circumstances in Moto 2 at Millville and Moto 1 at Unadilla, Anderson likely concludes the Motocross season with 10 straight top fives. Assuming he stays out of trouble and hits his marks, he'll have his chances.

6 Seed - No. 2 Cooper Webb (Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha)

2023 Supercross Stats: 14 Starts, 2 Wins, 12 Laps Led, Average Start of 4.1, Average Finish of 2.8, 1 Holeshot, 304 Points (3rd)

2023 Motocross Stats: 4 Starts, 0 Moto Wins, 0 National Wins, 0 Laps Led, Average Start of 3.9, Average Finish of 3.9, 2 Holeshots, 147 Points (12th)

The official word hasn't dropped yet, but it's been expected for some time now that Webb will be returning this weekend but flying the banner of Star Yamaha. Webb's run with Star when he was on a 250 was nothing short of great, but I'm fascinated to see how he looks on a new bike with realistically less than two months on it at the absolute most, probably much less than that. Will he be a contender? If everything goes well, it'd be hard to say no.

5 Seed - No. 14 Dylan Ferrandis (Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha)

2023 Supercross Stats: 4 Starts, 0 Wins, 0 Laps Led, Average Start of 9.3, Average Finish of 9, 0 Holeshots, 56 Points (25th)

2023 Motocross Stats: 11 Starts, 0 Moto Wins, 0 National Wins, 2 Laps Led, Average Start of 7.7, Average Finish of 5.2, 3 Holeshots, 399 Points (2nd)

Hard to say how Ferrandis is doing after his violent get-off to end the year at Ironman, but we saw some flashes out of him throughout the summer, most notably that late first Moto super surge at Unadilla where he made up about five seconds on Jett Lawrence. We also saw him fall into the same struggles indoors as he's had since moving up to a 450. Ferrandis' starts in Supercross give him next to no chance at wins, which explains only having two career 450SX podiums. The good news is these longer starts, paired with this Star Yamaha bike, means he may have a shot to rectify those indoor star issues. If not, Ferrandis is looking at an uphill battle in his final three races with Star Yamaha.

4 Seed - No. 9 Adam Cianciarulo (Monster Energy Kawasaki)

2023 Supercross Stats: 14 Starts, 0 Wins, 7 Laps Led, Average Start of 5.8, Average Finish of 8.1, 1 Holeshot, 210 Points (9th)

2023 Motocross Stats: 11 Starts, 0 Moto Wins, 0 National Wins, 3 Laps Led, Average Start of 5.1, Average Finish of 6.8, 2 Holeshots, 328 Points (5th)

The final-ever Monster Energy Cup winner didn't achieve his goal of making every race in 2023 but came awfully close to it. With Cianciarulo's nerve issues still a factor, these average start-finish numbers aren't exactly a shock. However, it's a good indicator that he was better with longer races and tougher tracks. Even then, AC put up his best Supercross results of the year at the gun, with a third and fourth at Denver and Salt Lake City. If anyone is going to benefit from Motos that are 10 minutes and a lap shorter, you're looking at him right here.

3 Seed - No. 18 Jett Lawrence (Honda HRC)

2023 Supercross Stats: N/A (Won 250 West Supercross Championship)

2023 Motocross Stats: 11 Starts, 329 Laps Led, Average Start of 1.5, Fourth Perfect Motocross Season in History (450 AMA Pro Motocross National Champion)

We know what Jett can do on a 450 in Motocross, but SMX is the first experience we'll have of him on a Supercross-esque circuit. I have no doubt the starts will be dialed in, and the long speed will be there for Lawrence, we quite literally saw that for 22 Motos. My only question is, will we see Jett have those early race incidents that kept popping up during Supercross? If you're anyone with title hopes in this field, you hope so. Might be your best, perhaps your only chance.

2 Seed - No. 7 Aaron Plessinger (Red Bull KTM)

2023 Supercross Stats: 14 Starts, 0 Wins, 20 Laps Led, Average Start of 6.8, Average Finish of 6.4, 1 Holeshot, 236 Points (7th)

2023 Motocross Stats: 11 Starts, 0 Moto Wins, 0 National Wins, 7 Laps Led, Average Start of 5.2, Average Finish of 4.4, 1 Holeshot, 386 Points (3rd)

Looking back at the finish of Detroit Supercross, I wonder how the rest of the year would have gone for AP if he finally got that first win. He ended up pretty well despite it, but could that win have propelled him to an even better outdoor year than he already had? In 22 Motos, Plessinger racked up 19 Moto finishes of fifth or better, with 14 in the final 15 Motos of the year. Supercross has been a bit of a struggle still on the KTM, but he had some solid outings outside of that Detroit run. In the scenario where one or both of Chase Sexton and Jett Lawrence have some issues, either this weekend or next, AP might be able to cruise into the Coliseum with the points lead on sheer consistency.

1 Seed - No. 23 Chase Sexton (Honda HRC)

2023 Supercross Stats: 17 Starts, 6 Wins, 124 Laps Led, Average Start of 3.5, Average Finish of 2.8, 2 Holeshots, 372 Points (450 AMA Supercross National Champion)

2023 Motocross Stats: 8 Starts, 0 Moto Wins, 0 National Wins, 0 Laps Led, Average Start of 4.4, Average Finish of 2.6, 2 Holeshots, 338 Points (4th)

Six more chances for Sexton to try and beat Jett before the year is out, and we see him on an orange bike for the foreseeable future. He tried and failed 16 times to best Lawrence once, but don't let 'em tell you it was for the lack of effort. Sexton gave him all he had for the majority of those Motos, specifically over the final set of Moto 2s. Just about any other year, an average finish under three probably wins you an Outdoor Championship, but this wasn't any other year.

As far as Sexton's Supercross Championship winning performance went, I wanted to go back and see how it stacked up against Eli Tomac's run in 2022, and the numbers here may surprise you (Tomac skipped the final round last year with a minor knee issue, hence the average numbers).

*- Laps Led excludes Triple Crown Rounds for some reason and are excluded for that stat.

Eli Tomac '22

22.4 Points Per Main

43.7% Main Event Win Rate

Average Start of 5.1

Average Finish of 2.8

5.3 Laps Led Per Main Event

Chase Sexton '23

21.9 Points Per Main

35.2% Main Event Win Rate

Average Start of 3.5

Average Finish of 2.8

8.85 Laps Led Per Main Event

This shows you how good Sexton was. But also how much he left on the table in Supercross. Between Tampa, Indianapolis, and Anaheim 1, he realistically left three wins and over 20 points on the board. Tomac would have won the title if not for the Achilles tear, but Sexton was every bit as good as Tomac last year and this year. I'd be lying to you if I said don't anticipate any more mistakes, but this kid refuses to quit and is the only guy in this field to show consistently that he can challenge Jett Lawrence for race wins. That counts for something in my book.

Gaffney's 2023 SuperMotocross Playoff 450 Class Championship Power Rankings

5) No. 2 Cooper Webb

4) No. 21 Jason Anderson

3) No. 94 Ken Roczen

2) No. 23 Chase Sexton

1) No. 18 Jett Lawrence

2023 SuperMotocross Playoff 450 Class Championship Pick: Jett Lawrence

Main Image via Honda HRC


bottom of page