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2024 AMA Pro Motocross 450 Class Preview

22 Motos came and went in 2023, and not a soul could stop Jett Lawrence from winning every one of them. From California to Massachusetts and everywhere in between, the best 450 riders in the nation tried and failed to beat him in the great outdoors. Now, the Australian phenom has a major target on his back, sitting as the defending champion in all three AMA 450 Class Championships. With his only Motocross blemishes coming in the Motocross Des Nations these last two years, does anyone have anything for the Jett in 2024? Here's how I stack up the 450 Class going into Saturday.

Notable Riders Not Factored Due to Injuries: Eli Tomac, Ken Roczen, Cooper Webb

Honorable Mentions: Malcolm Stewart, Christian Craig, Grant Harlan, Phil Nicoletti, Shane McElrath

10) No. 26 Garrett Marchbanks (Muc-Off/FXR/Club MX Yamaha)

2023 Motocross Stats: 0 Moto Wins, 0 National Wins, 0 Laps Led, 0 Holeshots, Average Start of 12.8, Average Finish of 7.0, 255 Points (5th)

For all of the praise that Ty Masterpool justifiably deserved last summer, Marchbanks was in the same boat with him and managed to bring home a top-five-point finish for the Club MX boys for the first time ever. The midseason class switch will probably hurt him when it comes time for SMX with starting points, but he still managed to end up 13th in the combined 450 standings despite missing the opening two Nationals of 2023.

9) No. 51 Justin Barcia (Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing)

2023 Motocross Stats: N/A (Held to three Nationals due to injury and recovery complications)

Barcia's low standing here, even with some notable absences, is mainly due to a lackluster Supercross campaign up until the final four rounds and his stretch of struggles outdoors. Since he won at Millville with a 1-2 in 2021, he has just one Overall podium, four Overall top fives, and zero moto wins in his last 16 National starts. In fairness, he did end Supercross far better than he started, but I would've liked to see more positive results.

8) No. 29 Ty Masterpool (HBI Racing Kawasaki)

2023 Motocross Stats: 0 Moto Wins, 0 National Wins, 0 Laps Led, 2 Holeshots, Average Start of 12.3, Average Finish of 8.7, 242 Points (7th)

Outside of Jett Lawrence, Masterpool's ascension with the HBI Kawasaki team was the story of the summer last year. He was taking it to some of these factory guys on a weekly basis until an appendix issue hampered him down the stretch and into the three SMX races. It's a more contested field this year, but last year still feels like a good barometer from which to judge him.

7) No. 14 Dylan Ferrandis (Phoenix Honda)

2023 Motocross Stats: 0 Moto Wins, 0 National Wins, 2 Laps Led, 3 Holeshots, Average Start of 7.6, Average Finish of 5.2, 399 Points (2nd)

Quiet as it was kept, Ferrandis put together a rock solid summer a year ago with Star Yamaha, and to the surprise of many, comes into this Motocross season on the heels of his best 450 Supercross season (on the eye test) with Phoenix Honda. Although he missed a handful of races with a lung infection, Ferrandis still managed to run the final three Supercross rounds of the year, so we know he has some live race reps going into Pala. I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest if he ends up being a lite version of 2017 Blake Baggett, perhaps not winning, but taking it to these factory guys at a high level and snagging multiple podium weekends throughout the summer.

6) No. 32 Justin Cooper (Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha)

2023 Motocross Stats (250 Class): 0 Moto Wins, 0 National Wins, 0 Laps Led, 2 Holeshots, Average Start of 4.4, Average Finish of 2.6, 399 Points (2nd)

If not for a freak qualifying crash at High Point, there's a 90% chance Justin Cooper would've entered this season as the 250 Motocross Champion. Nevertheless, he's another guy coming into the Outdoor tilt hot, and he's a better Motocross guy by default, so I imagine he's in for a good number of months. A subplot for Cooper, though, is his future. His deal is up at the end of the year, and it doesn't appear a return to Star is the likeliest outcome. Depending on Kawasaki's plans for an AC replacement, his jumping over there feels almost too obvious, given that he's already a Monster Energy guy.

5) No. 7 Aaron Plessinger (Red Bull KTM)

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

AP is officially good to make his first race start in nearly two months after an elbow fracture in Foxborough and looks to replicate his success of last summer. As crazy as it sounds, the seven laps he led only trailed Ken Roczen (16) and Jett Lawrence (300+). Also, racking up three Overall podiums a year ago, that first National win still eludes him. If that happens at a particular track in Michigan on Fourth of July weekend for whatever reason, that could be akin to a spiritual event.

4) No. 96 Hunter Lawrence (Honda HRC)

2023 Motocross Stats (250 Class): 7 Moto Wins, 6 National Wins, 103 Laps Led, 3 Holeshots, Average Start of 6.2, Average Finish of 5.5, 419 Points (2023 AMA Pro Motocross Champion) (MX2 Rider in Motocross Des Nations for Team Australia)

Everything was beginning to click for Brother Hunter as he concluded his rookie 450 Supercross campaign and his success as a 250 Motocross rider is well noted. Needless to say, I think he's a legitimate title threat should he show he's capable of Moto wins right out of the gate this weekend. Just watch out for him at Southwick, which has been his house of horrors these last two years, losing the 250 red plate there twice in subpar outings.

3) No. 21 Jason Anderson (Monster Energy Kawasaki)

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

Although a Supercross injury held him to just seven rounds a year ago, El Hombre still managed to have some good results at Washougal, Budds Creek, and Ironman to close out last season. Additionally, he was outstanding in this Championship's 2022 running, in his first tour with Kawasaki, finishing third in the points and picking up his first-ever pair of 450 National wins at Hangtown and Budds Creek. I'm going to guess this is a bit higher than some would expect Anderson to be, but I think he's in for a really good summer. I can't imagine his feud with both Lawrence brothers will hurt him in the motivation department.

2) No. 4 Chase Sexton (Red Bull KTM)

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

Let the record show it was not for the lack of effort that Sexton didn't get a Moto win a year ago. Mistakes, absolutely, but he went for it almost every time out, Budds Creek more than any other weekend. We got to hear a little bit from Sexton about KTM's outdoor prep, and he seemed much more positive than he did coming into SX (by the way, more of that as opposed to typical preseason speech), and mentioned that he liked the stock KTM platform, which got a VERY funny reaction out of Cooper Webb, who of course split from the team midway through last summer.

The biggest thing for Sexton is going to be limiting the mistakes that have hurt him these last few years, but he was also the only guy to consistently take the fight to Jett Lawrence on a Moto by Moto basis. Considering all of that, I think it will be a dogfight between the No. 4 and No. 1 all summer.

1) No. 1 Jett Lawrence (Honda HRC)

2023 Motocross Stats: 22 Moto Wins, 11 National Wins, 329 Laps Led, 11 Holeshots, Average Start of 1.5, Average Finish of 1.0, 550 Points (2023 AMA Pro Motocross Champion; Fourth Ever Perfect Season) (MX1 Rider in Motocross Des Nations with Team Australia)

The inevitability of Jett Lawerence tested fans a year ago from a parity and excitement standpoint, but years down the road, I imagine people will have a better appreciation for what he did, myself included. A year later, it's another 450 field hit by injuries, however nowhere near as bad as last year, but now he's the clear-cut top guy in the sport after taking the 450 MX, SMX, and SX titles in the span of about nine months of real-time.

I think it would be extremely tough for Jett to go 22-0 again for a ton of reasons, mainly since it's never happened in back-to-back years, for starters, but think of all the things that have to go right to get to that point. With that said, he's probably most people's favorite, and for a good reason. But with Sexton, his brother Hunter, Anderson, Plessinger, and Cooper to deal with, I wouldn't call it a mortal lock that he goes back-to-back in the Great Outdoors.

2024 AMA Pro Motocross 450 Class Championship Pick: Chase Sexton

Gaffney's Preseason Team USA Motocross Des Nations Picks: 

MX2 - Haiden Deegan (I'd rather Kitchen, but I doubt Kawi is interested in sending him over to the UK)

Open - Chase Sexton

Main Image via Honda HRC


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