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Jett Lawrence's UCL Injury Turns This Year's 450 Pro Motocross Championship Upside Down

The news of Jett Lawrence's UCL tear, via a Tuesday practice crash, instantly sent shockwaves through the Motocross world. A chance for the brightest young star in the sport to sweep all three Premier Class Championships in his first full year as a 450 rider is over, and he'll be starting in a notable points hole come SMX time now if he's good to go by September (Looking at the current combined standings, he's looking at being seeded between 7th-9th realistically).

But not only is this another massive blow for the sport, in an 18-month stretch where we've lost Eli Tomac and Justin Barcia twice each to injury, as well as several other superstars like Chase Sexton, Jason Anderson, and Ken Roczen suffering injuries of their own; this drastically changes this year's 450 Motocross Championship (as if that wasn't already clear enough). Looking at the top five of this year's standings going into RedBud, Jett was the only rider with a 450 Outdoor title. Now, barring a historic comeback by sixth-place Dylan Ferrandis and Phoenix Honda, we're all but guaranteed a first-time Champion.

A Golden Opportunity

While Hunter Lawrence and Chase Sexton are the clear co-favorites now, there's one rider I'd like to see pick it up in a big way, even if that's not in a title-contending capacity: Star Yamaha's Justin Cooper. It's not a secret that he's likely looking for a new home in 2025, with Eli Tomac likely to stick around, and it was mentioned on one of the more recent broadcasts that Cooper was a fan of the fact he had more eyeballs on him internally at Star with both ET3 and Cooper Webb sidelined. Now that Jett is sidelined for the final six rounds of the year, and with at least one more race weekend with both Tomac and Roczen sidelined, now would be a great time to see him get back in the mix after he wasn't able to capitalize on three straight third-place runs between Moto 2 at Hangtown, and both Motos at Thunder Valley, although not for the lack of effort in once instance.

Now, as crazy as this may sound, Cooper's 35 laps led currently rank second in the class and now the best of all healthy riders. He also only trails Hunter Lawrence in average start, but the problem is that hasn't translated to Moto victories yet, anyway. The big issue at Thunder Valley, where he led 23 laps on the day, was that he hit a brick wall from a pace standpoint and didn't have the late race stuff to keep up with the Lawrence brothers. Being at altitude certainly had to have played a factor, but he's had other Motos elsewhere where his late-race pace dropped off by multiple seconds over just one lap, including last Saturday at Southwick in Moto 2.

I believe JCoop has the talent worthy of being a factory rider now and into the future, but if he wants to guarantee that for 2025 and beyond, interested teams will most likely want him up front and in the mix over these final six Nationals. Even if he's not in title contention, being able to give guys like H. Lawrence and Sexton a serious run for their money and potentially take home some Moto wins should go a long way for him when it comes to contract negotiations. Speaking of whom...

Chase vs. Hunter?

Now, with Jett out of the picture, Hunter vs. Chase is now the key battle in this sport over the next month and a half-ish stretch. A lot of things can still happen throughout these next dozen Motos, but even so, these two are now your clear-cut 1A and 1B guys in whatever order you want. So, who do you like? Hunter, with just one Moto win and zero National wins, but nine podiums in 10 starts? Or do you like Chase, who hasn't had the consistency but has hit higher peaks this year, has been excellent on the East Coast these last two seasons, and nearly won this Championship two years ago?

All things equal, I think both guys have a compelling case to take home this No. 1 plate, especially now since Hunter is more due than ever to break through for his first 450 National win. Never mind that he's the best starter in this class this year by a wide margin as well (average start of 2.6; next closest is JCoop with a 6.0). That said, I'll still stick with my preseason pick of Sexton. As stated, the Red Bull KTM rider has been NAILS on the east coast since 2022.

In his last 28 Motos at "East Coast" tracks (so not Hangtown, Washougal, Thunder Valley, or Pala), Sexton has finished first or second 23 times and matched Eli Tomac in 2022, doing so 13 out of 14 times. Both of those notes are absurd and feel like a good omen for Sexton. One thing I will note, though, is this: In both of the prior two seasons, Sexton has a seventh and a ninth to his name at Budds Creek, has never won there as a professional, and hasn't finished on the overall podium there since 2018. He makes it out of there clean; that's probably your ballgame, but we have a ton of time before we get there. I'm very excited to see how he and Hunter are firing out of the gates now at RedBud.

Main Image via Honda HRC


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