Why Daytona Supercross will likely decide the 2023 450 Class Championship
Daytona Supercross has been a big event on the docket since the earliest days of the sport, but just how important is the event in the grand scheme of the 450-class Monster Energy Supercross Championship? The event has effectively served as the midway point of the year, most often round 9 or 10 on what is now a 17-race schedule, a table setter for the stretch run if you will. But what if I told you Daytona, round eight of this season, has served as a terrific indicator where things in the Championship hunt are going months ahead of time? With Eli Tomac, Cooper Webb, and Chase Sexton all under a blanket in points, let's take a look.
Winning Daytona Supercross isn't the tell of who is most likely winning the 450 title, but leaving with the points lead is. As of a couple of years ago, 65 percent of all eventual Champions had the points lead after Daytona. However, over the last two decades, the 450 rider leaving the 'World Center of Racing' with the red plate has gone on to win the title 18 times, That's 90 percent of the time for those keeping score, and 91.6 if you count the four years prior with Ricky Carmichael ('02, '01) and Jeremy McGrath ('00, '99). So yeah safe to say there's some decent precedent.
Sticking with just the main 20-year sample size, the average points lead of the leader after Daytona since 2003 has been 21.35. That margin has been as high as 40 points on two occasions, with Ryan Dungey in 2015 and Jason Anderson in 2018. And on the flip side, that gap has been as low as just two points on three separate occasions. Those being Carmichael over Chad Reed in 2006 after the same two riders were separated by 32 the year prior. The second instance was Ryan Villopoto in 2013, who nabbed the points lead over Davi Millsaps en route to a third consecutive title. The final and most recent example was Ken Roczen leaving Daytona in 2021 with a two-point gap over Cooper Webb, more on that in a few moments.
Sole possession of the red plate has also been taken/changed hands on several occasions in Daytona over the years. Most recently, Eli Tomac broke a tie with Ken Roczen in 2020 and right into the early days of the pandemic. The aforementioned 2013 Villopoto-Milsaps transfer where RV2 went from down 12 points to up 2 points in one night. Reed in 2009 went from being tied with Stewart to going up 11 points. Then in 2006, Carmichael went from down one to up two points on Reed.
The Outliers who Didn't win the Supercross Championship
While more recent years have been more consistent with this trend, there have been some eventual points champions not to have the red plate after Daytona. Just a couple of years ago, Cooper Webb was just barely shy of then points leader Ken Roczen, before he took the red plate a week later in Arlington. Roczen wouldn't see the points lead for the rest of the season afterward.
The other outlier in these 20 years was Chad Reed back in 2009. He and James Stewart (so good by the way) came into Daytona that year tied despite Stewart winning 8-of-9 going into that weekend. Also even with Stew finishing second to last at Anaheim 1. Reed would pull to an 11-point lead after winning that night. About a month later, Stewart got the points lead in Seattle en route to a four-point title victory. Genuine cinema that year, real hoop if you will.
How does this Affect Cooper Webb and Chase Sexton?
You notice no Tomac here and that's because Daytona is his yard, I fully expect him to win this weekend barring anything crazy. Back on topic, in five trips to Daytona on the big bore, Webb has exclusively finished third or second. If that holds up with a Tomac win, the most amount of points he would be trailing by going into Indianapolis would be seven. A bit bigger than his gap to Roczen in '21, but a smaller margin than what Stewart overcame in '09.
Ultimately this trend hurts Chase Sexton the most I would say, but even then that isn't much. Not because his results at Daytona are bad, as a matter of fact, they're solid in a two-round sample size. An eighth in 2021 after a massive case earlier that day in qualifying, then a third last year. However, to have sole possession of the points led, Sexton would most likely have to win, with Webb finishing no better than third, and Tomac no better than fourth.
Where things get interesting is here. In the scenario of a Sexton-Webb-Tomac podium in that specific order, all three riders would be tied at 181 points a pop. That has not occurred in at least 20 years with even two riders, let alone three, which could muddy the waters a bit. However, the technical right to first place would go to Tomac on the account that will have the most wins of the group no matter what after Daytona. Still, a ton of races to go after this, and any of these three guys could win without question, Saturday should be fun.
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