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2023 SuperMotocross World Championship Playoffs Recap - Chicagoland

It's been a hot minute since Supercross or Motocross hit the Chicago/Greater Chicago area. The last instance was back in the middle of 2000 when Jeremy McGrath clinched his seventh and final Supercross title at Route 66 Dragway aboard a Mazda-branded Yamaha. 23.5 years later, the inaugural SuperMotocross World Championship's second round is right down the road at the now-defunct Chicagoland Speedway. A track that was one of the better 1.5 mill circuits in NASCAR through the 2010s had a unique layout and the most Motocross-esque of the three tracks in this Championship. Ilinois own Chase Sexton kicked things off with a bang in Charlotte with a flawless 1-1 day, plus a great 2-1 outing by Jo Shimoda in the 250 class. With a more MX feel in Chicagoland, how much would things change?


Daytime Program/Injury Notes:

- Dirt Crew added a step-up four rollers into the section on the front stretch infield.

- The Section going up the turn one wall and back down is awesome.

- OG Daytona Supercross vibes with the grass off the gate drop.

- 250 Fastest Qualifier: No. 24 R.J. Hampshire (1:52.205) (The only 250 rider to get faster in session two was Justin Cooper)

- 450 Fastest Qualifier: No. 94 Ken Roczen (1:51.516) (Nearly a half second faster than anyone else. The only top-10 qualifying 450 rider to get faster in session two was Jason Anderson)

- 250 LCQ Transfers: No. 42 Josh Varize, No. 71 Preston Kilroy, No. 285 Coty Schock, No. 67 Cullin Park, No. 125 Luke Neese, No. 508 Hunter Yoder.

- 450 LCQ Transfers: No. 69 Phil Nicoletti, No. 93 Jerry Robin, No. 91 Jeremy Hand.

- Watching Nick Wey and Ben Townley's kids race in the Super Mini race aged me no less than 20 years.


250 Class

1st- No. 96 Hunter Lawrence (Honda HRC) (1-1)

If anyone needed a weekend like this, it was Hunter. Outside of the fact he won twice, what was the big difference between last night and Charlotte? Simply put, he was excellent off the gate drop. Lawrence was third across the holeshot line twice, and even if he didn't wreck twice last week, that would have been much better than what he did in Charlotte. There was never a doubt that he was catching Deegan in Moto 1, but rather if Shimoda was going to hunt him down. Luckily, he ran out of time, but it was far too close for comfort. As for how he won Moto 2, take wins however you can get 'em. That Shimoda bike issue was a direct 12-point swing in favor of him, and now he has the red plate going into LA. It would have been a must-win situation no matter what (a win and Shimoda second would be a tie in favor of Lawrence), but it's nice to have that momentum.

2nd- No. 30 Jo Shimoda (Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki) (2-2)

You're probably wondering what happened to Shimoda in that second Moto, but he was mum on the issue postrace out of respect to his guys. Save for a so-so Moto 1 start, there were no issues to speak of to start the night. Jo was making up seconds at a time on the flat sweeper coming off the turn one wall and nearly made a run from fourth to first in just four laps. Would've been a must-win situation next weekend no matter what, but given the more Supercross feel next week, I think Shimoda is firmly the title favorite now.

3rd - No. 238 Haiden Deegan (Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha) (3-3)

I thought Deegan would've been in the mix for the win, and while the results would indicate so, he was out of things pretty quickly in Moto 2. With about 9.5 minutes left, he was four seconds back of the leaders. That gap was over triple that amount at a point and regressed to about 12 seconds to close things out. That said, he can still win this SMX Championship with a win no matter what next weekend, so things could be worse.

12th - No. 32 Justin Cooper (Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha) (17-6)

Although Cooper is still mathematically in this thing despite a couple of off weekends, he needs everything to go right in Los Angeles, and that list is as long as Chris Jericho's 1001 holds scroll. Topping that list is not getting caught up in a turn one crash again, which appeared to be due to Ryder DiFrancesco running out of room and getting into the left side of JCoop's rear tire. Looking back at Moto 1, he got about every spot he could have, but only picking up five spots from dead last isn't going to win you anything. Wasn't super impressed with the Moto 2 fade either while we're on the subject.

14th - No. 128 Tom Vialle (Red Bull KTM) (4-DNF)

Vialle was on track for back-to-back podiums before his shifter broke in Moto 2, which had him stuck in gear two. Safe to say that wasn't going to cut it on a track with as many high-speed sections as there were. This likely takes him out of the Championship picture, which stinks because Vialle put together an awesome three Motos beforehand.


250 Class Chicagoland Top 10

1st No. 96 Hunter Lawrence (1-1)

2nd No. 30 Jo Shimoda (2-2)

3rd No. 238 Haiden Deegan (3-3)

4th No. 24 R.J. Hampshire (7-3)

5th No. 34 Max Vohland (8-4)

6th No. 58 Jordon Smith (5-8)

7th No. 35 Seth Hammaker (2-11)

8th No. 43 Levi Kitchen (9-7)

9th No. 75 Ryder DiFrancesco (12-6)

10th No. 38 Jalek Swoll (11-10)


250 Class Points After Chicagoland

1st No. 96 Hunter Lawrence (89 Points)

2nd No. 30 Jo Shimoda (86 Points)

3rd No. 238 Haiden Deegan (82 Points)

4th No. 43 Levi Kitchen (63 Points)

5th No. 24 R.J. Hampshire (62 Points)

6th No. 58 Jordon Smith (62 Points)

7th No. 34 Max Vohland (59 Points)

8th No. 128 Tom Vialle (54 Points)

9th No. 75 Ryder DiFrancesco (54 Points)

10th No. 35 Seth Hammaker (49 Points)


450 Class

1st- No. 18 Jett Lawrence (Honda HRC) (1-2)

We might as well start with the elephant in the room here. As far as the "baby gift" goes, that accomplished nothing. Roczen had second Overall locked up, and even if he didn't, the points he would have cost Sexton wouldn't have mattered that much. No matter what, Lawrence, Roczen, and Sexton would all go into Los Angeles in must-win situations. Had Lawrence said that he wasn't trying to force the issue down the stretch with the win locked up, that's one thing, but this wasn't the case.

Now, with a more Motocross feel, we got a much better Jett this weekend. If not for the Moto 2 shenanigans, it would've been a couple of wire-to-wire Moto wins where he made the wide majority of both races a formality. The Coliseum features a much more Supercross feel, and based on last weekend, that doesn't play into his hands. How will he respond when all the chips are down, in what could be the difference in coming home with as much as $1,000,000 or potentially less than $100,000 if things go poorly enough?


2nd- No. 94 Ken Roczen (HEP Progressive/Ecstar Suzuki) (3-1)

Had a sneaky, albeit not complete feeling, that Roczen was going to win one of these six Motos, and sure enough, he did. Even if Jett rolled over, Kenny was riding fantastic all day. He also nearly caught Sexton near the end of Moto 1 but ended up about two seconds back. Had that happened, I wonder if he would have caught Lawrence had he not packed it in. For what it's worth, in the two laps before he really started coasting, Roczen gained about a third of a second on Lawrence, and his gap to him was never greater than 2.5 seconds. It's not out of the realm of possibility. Also, congrats to Ken and Courtney on child No. 2.

3rd- No. 23 Chase Sexton (Honda HRC) (2-3)

Not Sexton's strongest night, especially on home turf, but he's still in the points lead, and is by all accounts the favorite to win next weekend on a Supercross heavy track in Los Angeles. With that said, I was surprised at how quickly both Lawrence and Roczen gapped him in that second Moto. It's a numbers game now which I get, but he was out of it very quickly.


8th - No. 69 Phil Nicoletti (Muc-Off/FXR/ClubMX Yamaha) (7-9)

For the couples and couples of people who decided to pick Filthy Phil for an FFL in fantasy this week, congratulations, it all goes downhill from here. That aside, it was a great day for Nicoletti, pitting out of a van with the Club Yamaha boys no less. Beating guys like Cooper Webb and Justin Barcia is no joke, and if we're keeping it 100, he did an awesome job holding off Lawrence for as long as he did. Give him and that team a lot of credit.

450 Class Chicagoland Top 10

1st No. 18 Jett Lawrence (1-2)

2nd No. 94 Ken Roczen (3-1)

3rd No. 23 Chase Sexton (2-3)

4th No. 7 Aaron Plessinger (5-4)

5th No. 14 Dylan Ferrandis (6-5)

6th No. 51 Justin Barcia (4-10)

7th No. 2 Cooper Webb (8-7)

8th No. 69 Phil Nicoletti (7-9)

9th No. 21 Jason Anderson (13-6)

10th No. 45 Colt Nichols (12-8)


450 Class Points After Chicagoland

1st No. 23 Chase Sexton (90 Points)

2nd No. 18 Jett Lawrence (88 Points)

3rd No. 94 Ken Roczen (80 Points)

4th No. 7 Aaron Plessinger (74 Points)

5th No. 14 Dylan Ferrandis (71 Points)

6th No. 2 Cooper Webb (60 Points)

7th No. 51 Justin Barcia (59 Points)

8th No. 21 Jason Anderson (58 Points)

9th No. 36 Garrett Marchbanks (44 Points)

10th No. 9 Adam Cianciarulo (42 Points)


Chicagoland PulpMX Fantasy Team

250 Class: Tom Vialle (All-Star, +3), R.J. Hampshire (+1), Dilan Schwartz (+7), Preston Kilroy (+11)

450 Class: Justin Barcia (All-Star, +5), Jeremy Hand (+11), Garrett Marchbanks (+2), Shane McElrath (+7)

FFL: Jett Lawrence (Successful) and Justin Cooper (Successful)

Points Total: 239 Points (I was inside the top 50 in the world midway through 250 Moto 2. I hate it here)


Next Up: Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (Los Angeles, California) (All point values are tripled from Charlotte)


One last note, Canyon Richards, who had that awful wreck in the Supermini race, ended up getting to that GNCC race in West Virginia and put it on the podium. To me that's grit.


Main Image via FELD

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