It's a new day in the 250 Class of Monster Energy Supercross. No more Lawrence Brothers, no more Justin Cooper, and it's time for guys like Jo Shimoda, Haiden Deegan, Levi Kitchen, R.J. Hampshire, etc, to stake their claim in an interesting class across two coasts. Luckily, we know the majority of who's on what coast now, and while we aren't getting Shimoda vs. Deegan full-time until the summer, this class still boasts some elite talent. Here's how I have things graded 10-1 going into Anaheim.
Honorable Mentions: No. 36 Phil Nicoletti (Muc-Off/FXR ClubMX Yamaha), and No. 73 Robbie Wageman (Heartbeat Hot Sauce Solitare Yamaha)
Gaffney's 2024 Monster Energy Supercross 250 West Class Preseason Power Ranking
10) No. 26 Garrett Marchbanks (Muc-Off/FXR ClubMX Yamaha)
2023 Supercross Stats: N/A (Missed Supercross with a Wrist Injury)
With no U.S.-based Supercross races of any kind under his belt since April 2022, Marchbanks should still be a respectable rider, once again with the ClubMX Yamaha squad. In that last full season he ran, he had some notable lowlights, like failing to qualify out of the LCQ at Anaheim 2 and then some sub-top-15 runs, but he still managed to finish eighth in a field that featured Christian Craig, Hunter Lawrence, and Jo Shimoda. Also very much worth noting is that Marchbanks is just months removed from finishing sixth in 450 Motocross and seventh in 450 SMX. He can be a spoiler at a fair share of rounds this year.
9) No. 929 Julien Beaumer
2023 Supercross Stats: N/A (First Full-Time Supercross Season)
Technically the second-highest rookie here since Ryder DiFrancesco is also making his official Supercross debut, Beaumer is the rookie that I'm more interested in watching since we've seen much less of him than RyderD to this point. One thing worth noting though, is that Beaumer and DiFrancesco went head-to-head at two SX Futures races last year in Beaumer's backyard of Glendale, then in East Rutherford, with the newest Red Bull KTM rider winning both contests. Going back and watching the latter, I was very impressed with how he handled himself with Daxton Bennick, now of Star Yamaha, evaporating a five-second gap in the final moments of that race, and staying poised on a last-corner bump and run attempt. Without question, Beaumer might be the guy I'm most excited to watch in this entire field. Lots of upside now that he's under the factory KTM tent.
8) No. 20 Max Vohland (Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki)
2023 Supercross Stats (250 West): 0 Wins, 2 Laps Led, 1 Holeshot, Average Start of 3.8, Average Finish of 5.7, 121 Points (6th)
As far as Vohland goes, I think him moving away from KTM was the best move he could have made. Felt like the team was in a rough spot to where they had to call him pro a bit early, he got hurt that first year, and it was rough sailing indoors from the jump. The upside in Motocross has shown and for the most part, has always been there, but the Max Vohland SX Experience™ is a roller coaster. He was almost equally as likely to finish in the top five as he was to miss a Main Event in 2023, missing two. On a new bike, a new team, and a new lease on life, Vohland is entering this season under the radar, which plays right into his hands if he can get the ball rolling right away.
7) No. 55 Mitchell Oldenburg (MotoConcepts Honda)
2023 Supercross Stats (250 West): 0 Wins, 0 Laps Led, 0 Holeshots, Average Start of 6.9, Average Finish of 6.6, 131 (5th)
Despite missing one round in each of the last two seasons, Oldenburg has still been a hyper-consistent force in the 250 class, with back-to-back top five-point finishes coming into the 2024 tilt. What's ultimately kept him out of title contention the last two years is the ability to get his CRF250 on the podium, having one in his last 16 250 SX starts. But you know exactly what you're getting with Oldenburg every year, which is nice. He'll be a 4th-8th place guy every weekend and will make life tough on these factory guys.
6) No. 34 Ryder DiFrancesco (Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing)
2023 Supercross Stats: N/A (First Full-Time Supercross Season)
Shimoda wasn't the only notable loss for Mitch Payton this offseason, lest we forget. Despite running in 16 Nationals for Pro Circuit Kawasaki these prior two seasons, Ryder D is surprisingly making his first official Supercross start in just 48 hours. One thing to note is that he's never finished off the podium in seven career SX Futures starts, and finished 10th in his first full-time season of Motocross. I think the Bakersfield, California native will be just fine in year one. His new wrench is Craig Behl, who is probably most notable for working with Ben Townley in the 2000s, plus Marc De Ruever in his one-off appearance at Southwick in 2008. Also, the announcement video GasGas put out for the signing was top-tier.
5) No. 31 Jordan Smith (Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha)
2023 Supercross Stats (250 East): 0 Wins, 5 Laps Led, 0 Holeshots, Average Start of 7.9, Average Finish of 6.1, 159 Points (4th)
No wins, and he had a few low points (missing a Main in Detroit mainly), but I thought Smith was largely good with Star Yamaha in year one. He was never able to hold serve with Hunter Lawrence or Haiden Deegan points-wise, but he was right in the mix behind them with Max Anstie and Nate Thrasher from start to finish. Give or take, the strength of this field is probably a few notches better than last year's 250 East group, but Smith has the experience and pace to be a top-five guy.
4) No. 47 Levi Kitchen (Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki)
2023 Supercross Stats (250 West): 1 Win, 16 Laps Led, 0 Holeshots, Average Start of 7.1, Average Finish of 6.5, 156 Points (3rd)
If not for a crash off the start in San Diego and a poor start in the mud at East Rutherford, Kitchen probably finishes second in the 250 West Title chase to Jett Lawrence last year. Kitchen consistently showed off some great speed, ending the season with podiums in three of his last four outings indoors. As far as where he fits with Pro Circuit, I think he's probably the No. 3 guy on the pecking order, simply based on Austin Forkner and Cameron McAdoo's tenure, but that can and probably will change quickly. This move has the chance to look good for everyone involved by the time we hit the midway point of the season.
3) No. 57 Nate Thrasher (Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha)
2023 Supercross Stats (250 East): 1 Win, 18 Laps Led, 1 Holeshot, Average Start of 7.0, Average Finish of 7.3, 120 Points (t-7th)
Before he went down with a nasty season-ending crash in Atlanta, Thrasher was the only 250 East rider outside of Hunter Lawrence who held claim to a Main Event win and at least five laps led. He 100 percent let one slip in Tampa, but coming back that next week in Dallas with a Main Event win was gigantic, even if it was in a winless Triple Crown effort. The only real question mark with Thrasher these last few years has been consistency. If he fixes that, he's as good as any rider in this field, bar none, but these runs where he ends up 10th-12th have to get out of his system to be a true Championship contender.
2) No. 24 R.J. Hampshire (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing)
2023 Supercross Stats (250 West): 1 Win, 14 Laps Led, 1 Holeshot, Average Start of 3.0, Average Finish of 4.5, 186 Points (2nd)
I've said it for a couple of years now- There is no one more exciting in the sport of Motocross than one R.J. Hampshire. I can't guarantee what will happen with him on any given week, only that it'll probably be entertaining. The thing is that R.J.'s only obstacle these last two years has been Jett Lawrence, the only rider to beat him in points over that span. He had the few off rounds that seemingly everyone but Jett or Hunter had, but even then, R.J. was a podium guy 8 nights out of 10. I'm sure the wins will be there more so than they've ever been, but there's one obstacle in the way of a title for Hampshire.
1) No. 30 Jo Shimoda (Honda HRC)
2023 Supercross Stats (250 East): 0 Wins, 0 Laps Led, 0 Holeshots, Average Start of 6.0, Average Finish of 4.8, 75 Points (13th)
Had he not gotten hurt days before the start of 250 East a season ago, Shimoda would have been my pick to win that regional title, but instead, he was held to just four rounds of Supercross, scoring only one podium. Down the stretch of Motocross and into SMX, there wasn't a better 250 rider on either side of the Atlantic. Now back on the bike he initially turned pro with, I once again expect some great things from the No. 30 under the HRC tent and subsequently another No. 1 plate for Lars Lindstrom and the boys. Long live the Agenda™.
2024 Monster Energy Supercross 250 West Championship Pick: Jo Shimoda
Main Image via Honda HRC