Beyond this upcoming Supercross season being stacked to the gills on the 450 side of things, it's also a year of notable change. Reigning Champion Chase Sexton is now the flag bearer for Red Bull KTM, which is once again just a two-rider operation. Both Lawrence Brothers now reside in the premier class, and Star Yamaha (covered in Part 1) has shuffled the deck of their 450 squad. With two of those three teams already covered, plus GasGas and HEP Suzuki, what's the outlook on the other half of this 450 Supercross field?
*- Bold indicates statistical leader
No. 18 Jett Lawrence
2023 Supercross Stats (250 West): 6 Wins, 72 Laps Led, 5 Holeshots, Average Start of 3.2, Average Finish of 1.4, 223 Points (2023 250 Western Regional Supercross Champion)
It's hard to remember the last time someone came into their rookie 450 Supercross season with this level of hype and was practically considered at, or basically at the top of the food chain. To date, counting Pro Motocross, SMX, Motocross Des Nations, and Paris Supercross, Jett Lawrence is 32-6 in 450 races, with only 10 riders being able to say they've outpaced him in the world: Chase Sexton, Ken Roczen, Hunter Lawrence, Aaron Plessinger, Dylan Ferrandis, Jason Anderson, Justin Barcia, Jorge Prado, Romain Febvre and Jeremy Seewer. Many (me) would call that wildly impressive.
I think it's fair to predict that Lawrence will be a race winner and immediate title contender in 450SX year one, but there are two things I'm interested to see. If you remember back in Charlotte, Jett struggled big-time with what was described as a stiff bike setup. If the bike setup isn't as soft as he would want and it affects his performance, will he be able to limit the damage? Secondly, Jett seemingly had a knack for finding trouble in Heat Races over the last couple of years. The good news then was that he could blitz by a majority of the field if those came early, but he'll face more resistance in that circumstance. If that leads to bad Main Event gate picks, will he be able to overcome that, especially on some of the shorter starts where he may be unable to win a 200-foot drag race to turn one? At some point, I'd say yes, but consistently, that remains to be seen.
No. 96 Hunter Lawrence
2023 Supercross Stats (250 East): 7 Wins, 89 Laps Led, 3 Holeshots, Average Start of 3.9, Average Finish of 1.9, 241 Points (2023 250 Eastern Regional Supercross Champion)
There's no shortage of fun guys to watch in this 450 class, but Hunter is someone I have my eye on. Where he'll ultimately fit in this field will be a fascinating story. He ultimately impressed overseas in Paris, and he's coming into 2024 off a year where he DOMINATED the 250 East Championship. I ultimately wouldn't be stunned if Hunter picks up a win, maybe two, but I'm more interested to see if the week-to-week consistency we've seen in the last two years holds up. If so, he could be a dark horse player in this Title Fight.
Partzilla PRMX Kawasaki
No. 81 Cade Clason
2023 Supercross Stats: 0 Wins, 0 Laps Led, 0 Holeshots, Average Start N/A, Average Finish of 18.1, 64 Points (24th)
Over the last two Supercross seasons, Clason has missed four Main Events twice and ended the year on a season-best stretch over the final four rounds. Assuming he can make every Main Event in 2024, the fan-favorite privateer is probably looking at his first-ever top 20 points finish indoors.
No. 109 Aaron Tanti
2023 Supercross Stats: N/A (2022 Australian National Motocross Champion. Third-Place Finisher in 2022 Australian Supercross Championship)
PRMX announced in November that they had picked up Tanti, and weeks later, the key player in the Australian scene over the last few years, suffered fractured ribs in a crash at WSX's Abu Dhabi round. That ultimately kept him off the bike for over a month, and Tanti only began ridding the KX about a week before Christmas. It would be fair to guess the opening month of the season will be used as an extension of preseason training/testing with that in mind.
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing
No. 27 Malcolm Stewart
2023 Supercross Stats: N/A (Suffered season-ending knee injury in January of 2023, forcing him out for the entire year but two races)
Reportedly flying at the test track, this'll be our first live look at Stewart in nearly a year. In many respects, I view Mookie in many of the same ways I view Chase Sexton. The speed and talent are unquestioned, and in both cases, probably top five in the sport. The issue for Stewart these last few years though, has been the inability to stay out of trouble and be a consistent enough podium finisher to be in title contention. While he did finish third in the 2022 Championship, Stewart was about 1.5 rounds worth of points back of Jason Anderson and Eli Tomac. If he could turn those 7th-9ths into 2nd-3rds or even wins, I see no reason why he's not a title contender. I'm certainly higher than most on Mookie, but everything is right there in front of him.
No. 28 Christian Craig
2023 Supercross Stats: 0 Wins, 0 Laps Led, 0 Holeshots, Average Start of 12.3, Average Finish of 9.4, 150 Points (12th)
Although largely a year to forget for Craig in 2023, he made some progress in the score sheet before he went down for the bulk of the year in Glendale. No top fives in 11 rounds of action, but after five straight finishes of 10th or worse, he bested that mark in five of his last six and sat eight in the points before that qualifying crash. Craig undoubtedly feels better than what he showed a year ago, and while I don't believe he's a title contender, seeing him being inside the top 10 week in and week out would be a good chance of pace. On another note, since Baker's Factory is as light as it's been in a few years, all of the Rockstar Husky guys are still there, plus Aaron Plessinger.
No. 15 Dean Wilson
2023 Supercross Stats: 1 Win, 15 Laps Led, 0 Holeshots, Average Start of 6.7, Average Finish of 5.9, 267 Points (5th)
Even a little before everyone started to get hurt, Deano turned his year around, and he parlayed that into an excellent final three rounds, with finishes of seventh, sixth, and fifth from Nashville to SLC. Based on his recent merch drop, this seems like the final rodeo for the Scotsman, who is once again SX only, but in fairness, that got him into the three SMX rounds still. Be sure to give him a good hand at these races. Deano was consistently one of the best personalities in the sport for years, and him nearly winning Anaheim 1 in 2019 out of a box van will forever be a great moment in the sport.
Monster Energy Kawasaki
No. 9 Adam Cianciarulo
2023 Supercross Stats: 0 Wins, 7 Laps Led, 1 Holeshot, Average Start of 5.6, Average Finish of 8.1, 210 Points (9th)
While AC did miss a few Supercross rounds, 2023 was the most AC was out there for the calendar year since 2019. Even with plenty of rides ending with some less-than-optimal fades, simply getting those reps in for the year was as big as any win Cianciarulo could have gotten if you asked me. Combine that with the new Kawasaki model, believed to be akin to what the MXGP team ran a year ago, could this finally, at long last, the year AC becomes what he's been destined to be ever since he was a teenager? Speaking freely, I hope so. Not many better people/active ambassadors for the sport than the No. 9, and he's been through the wringer ever since Vegas in 2019.
No. 21 Jason Anderson
2023 Supercross Stats: 0 Wins, 0 Laps Led, 1 Holeshot, Average Start of 8.3, Average Finish of 7.1, 242 Points (6th)
In a vacuum, you'd conclude that Jason Anderson was nowhere close to his 2022 form, which isn't entirely the case. He wasn't on his top at every round, surely, but he faced a ton of bad luck in 2023, more than the typical few cases everyone can get. El Hombre had just two podiums on the entire season, both in the opening month, led zero laps the entire season, and then took a nasty spill in Nashville, resulting in a neck fracture.
Assuming Ando is operating at 100%, I'd say his trajectory for 2024 is similar, if not a tad bit higher than that of Ken Roczen. We saw what Anderson could do at his best in 2022, and if not for a couple of bad nights in Detroit and at Anaheim 1, he might have secured his second No. 1 plate on a 450. Might not remember this, but Eli Tomac skipped the finale in 2022 for a minor injury since he already wrapped up the title. If he had to go, what would have happened?
No. 125 Vince Friese
2023 Supercross Stats: (Missed All of the 2023 Monster Energy Supercross season with an unspecified Achilles injury. Made several enemies during WSX.)
250 West riders everywhere must have been doing cartwheels when they got the news Friese was going to be on a 450 again after spending the 2022 season out on the West Coast on a 250. The sport's resident villain made some new enemies in the back half of 2022 in WSX, namely Dean Wilson and Joey Savatgy, for racing...well, like you'd expect him to, leading to a ton of backlash. I feel safe enough saying there are some 450 that won't be thrilled by his presence, and in all honestly, I can't say I'd blame them.
No. 29 Ty Masterpool
2023 Supercross Stats: N/A
Masterpool was a fantastic story throughout the summer and into the SMX races, but he hasn't raced Supercross since April 2021. Based on the fact he raced all of SMX with a bad case of Appendicitis and still managed to finish 12th or better at every round, I think he should be able to hold his own indoors with this HBI squad. Unfortunately, we won't see Masterpool at A1. The team announced some days ago that in addition to the Appendicitis, he also had an ankle injury that he got taken care of, and he's not ready to race just yet.
Red Bull KTM
No. 7 Aaron Plessinger
2023 Supercross Stats: 0 Wins, 20 Laps Led, 1 Holeshot, Average Start of 6.8, Average Finish of 6.4, 236 Points (7th)
Despite Detroit going down as one of the more painful Supercross losses in recent memory, 2023 was Plessinger's second-best Supercross points finish on a 450 while missing three rounds, no less. Now the lone KTM rider working with Aldon Baker, what's the outlook on Ohio's No. 1 cowboy? He's shown the ability to compete for race wins, just not at a consistent rate, and hasn't been able to seal the deal when those opportunities arise. With the field getting even deeper, those chances won't be there as frequently, so it'll be big to see how he responds in late-race situations when they come.
No. 1 Chase Sexton
2023 Supercross Stats: 6 Wins, 124 Laps Led, 2 Holeshots, Average Start of 3.5, Average Finish of 2.8, 372 Points (2023 450 Class Monster Energy Supercross Champion)
Sexton represents the first 450 Supercross Champion to switch teams after winning a title since Chad Reed in 2008-2009. Not that his venture to KTM was a shock by any means, those whispers began as early as November/December of 2022, but this is not something that typically happens. With that said, a lot of people are, not so much concerned, more so curious about how things are going to go in this new marriage.
It wasn't exactly a secret that Sexton wasn't thrilled about the Honda over the last year either. I'm bringing that up since he hasn't done the sunshine and rainbows bit since moving teams, which is good, and worrying, for differing reasons. Regardless, it sounds like Sexton (and Plessinger) is set to ride the newer KTM frame, the '24 Factory Edition variant, from the jump. Kris Keefer did a good breakdown of how long he's been riding on the new frame, the differences, plus some Cooper Webb-related stuff from 2023. (Timestamps; 10:35-13:25)
Now, am I as worried about Sexton as some others seem to be at this point? No. Do I think he's a lock to go back-to-back? Also no. I think you'll see a feeling-out process with the new bike in these opening couple of weeks, but when Sexton gets dialed in, he should be fine. Then the question becomes, can he limit the mistakes from rounds like Tampa and Indianapolis last year? If the answer is yes, he has as good of a shot as anyone of winning this, perhaps the best shot.
Gaffney's 2024 Monster Energy Supercross 450 Class Preseason Power Ranking
10) No. 7 Aaron Plessinger
9) No. 96 Hunter Lawrence
8) No. 27 Malcolm Stewart
7) No. 51 Justin Barcia
6) No. 2 Cooper Webb
5) No. 21 Jason Anderson
4) No. 94 Ken Roczen
3) No. 3 Eli Tomac
2) No. 18 Jett Lawrence
1) No. 1 Chase Sexton
2024 Monster Energy Supercross 450 Class Championship Pick: Eli Tomac
Main Image via Red Bull KTM