The Great Outdoors have finally arrived after a nearly month break after Supercross. Kicking things off for the Golden Anniversary season was once again Fox Raceway in Southern California once again. Reigning 450 Champion Dylan Ferrandis sadly suffered a notable thumb injury during the week, effectively ending his title hopes. However, there are plenty of Championship caliber riders in the 450 class. Including but not limited to Eli Tomac, Jason Anderson, Chase Sexton, and Ken Roczen. Not to mention the KTM All-Star tandem of Ryan Dungey and Antonio Cairoli as well. On the 250 side of things, Jett Lawrence kicked off his title defense at a track where his 3-for-3 lifetime with 4 Moto wins. How could the returning Justin Cooper fare, along with Hunter Lawrence and the rest of an exciting field?
Be sure to keep up with all of our Motocross coverage.
Honda’s Golden Season
Just days after they announced their 2023 CRF450 Model, Honda broke out some special bike graphics for the HRC riders to kick off the Motocross season. Roczen, Sexton, and the Lawrence brothers sporting 80s-looking Honda bikes. Gold rims, old-school-style number font, blue seat, the whole nine yards. They also used some Alpinestars kits (Fox in the case of Roczen) in the style of the legendary Rick Johnson. He also happened to be on the call on Saturday, along with fellow Honda legend Jeremy McGrath and Weege, both of which did a great job.
No. 1 Jett Lawrence – Honda HRC (1-1 for First Overall)
That kids is how you draw it up to open the season. Despite missing out on both holeshots, Lawrence’s pace was unmatched by anyone else in the field for over an hour’s worth of racing. His best lap in Moto 2 (2:18.665) was over a second faster than anyone in the field save for his brother. Lawrence is also still undefeated in his career at Fox Raceway. He is 4-for-4 in National Wins, along with six moto wins and two seconds. For the Jett, this is 250 Motocross National win No. 6.
No. 96 Hunter Lawrence – Honda HRC (2-2 for Second Overall)
The elder Lawrence brother also had a strong start to his 2022 Motocross campaign, securing a 1-2 day for Honda HRC in the class. The Moto 2 finish wasn’t a guarantee, as he had to storm through the top five to eventually get to then second place Jo Shimoda. It wouldn’t be until the final few corners to where he could get by his former teammate at GEICO Honda. For the rest of the 250 field, this is not what you wanted to see, but Lars Lindstrom and the HRC rig should be ecstatic with their 250 program after round one.
No. 30 Jo Shimoda – Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki (4-3 for Third Overall)
Rounding out the all international podium in the 250 class is Shimoda, who finished just a few points shy of matching his career-best National finish of second. He also finishes the best of his Pro Circuit teammates, on a day where it felt like Seth Hammaker was the best in class for the team. A collapse in Moto 1 hampered his effort, but for Shimoda, a 4-3 to kick things off is nice.
No. 24 R.J. Hampshire – Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing (3-9 for Fourth Overall)
After it seemed like Hampshire was set for a 450 call-up for Motocross after some testing, he ends up staying on the 250 here. He started in great fashion yesterday, finishing third in Moto 1 behind the Lawrence brothers, but had to dig deep later on. Hampshire found himself in 29th after lap one, then got up to ninth by the end of the Moto. That almost certainly cost him a podium spot for the day but by only one spot.
No. 59 Levi Kitchen – Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha (5-8 for Eighth Overall)
The performance from those podium riders was good but not unexpected per se. The Master Chef looked as good as he did maybe not so much. Kitchen showed some legit speed in the opening Moto, mixing it up with some class veterans like Austin Forkner and Pierce Brown. In the second Moto meanwhile, after being scored in 27th on lap one, the Master Chef sliced and diced his way up to 12th in just the next four laps. Jeremy Coker and Star Yamaha have something with Kitchen, he looked as impressive as anyone on Saturday.
No. 32 Justin Cooper – Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha (11-13 for 12th Overall)
Even with around eight months without any real race action, this wasn’t what Cooper was hoping for at Pala. The frustrating part is that things were looking great to start the day too. He led the opening four laps before both Lawrence brothers got by and bumped him to third by the time lap eight came around. In his first race back you can live with that you’d imagine, especially from a conditioning standpoint. Where things turned for the worse was when Cooper fell from 3rd to 12th in a span of three laps. He managed to get one back, before finishing 12th in Moto 2 after a start in 19th. It’s his first race back so hard to fault him still.
Just like at Anaheim 1 Supercross earlier this year, there were some notable injuries in the 250 class right away yesterday. Firstly, Husqvarna’s Swoll went down hard on the first lap of Moto 1 off an uphill jump and was reportedly in a sling afterward. Brutal as Swoll also got hurt to begin the Supercross season as well. Wackers was just as unfortunate, getting hurt at the Pala opener for the second year in a row. It was never seen on the broadcast, but McAdoo was shown on the cart at one point with a notable amount of blood coming from his nose. Here is to hoping both heal up quickly.
Pala National 1 250 Class Top 10
1st No. 1 Jett Lawrence 1-1
2nd No. 96 Hunter Lawrence 2-2
3rd No. 30 Jo Shimoda 4-3
4th No. 24 R.J. Hampshire 3-9
5th No. 29 Michael Mosiman 9-4
6th No. 33 Austin Forkner 6-6
7th No. 47 Seth Hammaker 8-5
8th No. 59 Levi Kitchen 5-8
9th No. 44 Pierce Brown 7-7
10th No. 50 Stilez Robertson 10-11
No. 23 Chase Sexton – Honda HRC (1-1 for First Overall)
It felt like Sexton was in line for a huge day after topping the speed charts in qualifying, and that ended up being the case. Just like the younger Lawrence brother, Sexton took some time to get out front in both of his Moto wins. However, once he did, it was game set and match in both instances. He was the only rider all day to dip into the 2:16 bracket on lap times and was consistently running the best lap times all day long. Thanks to his efforts, Honda HRC is now in possession of both red plates going into Hangtown next week. Additionally, this is Sexton’s third career 450 Motocross win, and the second at Pala.
No. 94 Ken Roczen – Honda HRC (2-2 for Second Overall)
Gotta be thrilled if you’re in that HRC rig as it relates to Roczen. Hasn’t raced since early March and puts up a 2-2 while leading laps to start the Motocross season. His first Moto was nearly a disaster, as Sexton made incidental contact with him in an attempt to get the lead. Luckily Roczen kept it upright, and it seemed like a no harm no foul situation. Fatigue was also not an issue at all either which is a great sign for Roczen as it relates to the early portion of the season.
No. 28 Christian Craig – Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha (3-3 for Third Overall)
If you had Craig going 3-3 for third on the bingo card, congratulations. The 250 West Supercross Champion was likely to have some good outings this year, but can’t say this good this early was the expectation. Let alone him being the highest-running Star Yamaha rider in either class. Craig ended up doing a great job battling, and subsequently passing, Dungey in both Motos. At least for now, Craig is right in the thick of things at the top of the field.
No. 3 Eli Tomac – Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha (7-4 for Fourth Overall)
A rough-looking Moto 1 performance made it seem like the knee was a bigger issue than let on for ET3. However, after a debrief and some bike changes, he came reasonably close to a third in the second Moto, finishing just behind Craig. That ended up being good for fourth overall on the day, but the knee will be worth monitoring as the season moves along.
No. 5 Ryan Dungey – Red Bull KTM (5-5 for Fifth Overall)
Nearly six years after he last ran an AMA Pro Motocross National, Diesel Dungey looked as good as advertised with a 5-5. He was nearly in the lead at the beginning of Moto 2 and spent ample time in both Motos in a podium spot. Truly an insane run for the multi-time Supercross and Motocross Champion. Athletes don’t just take five years off and then come back running near the same level often, more so ever. As he gets further settled in, could a National win be on the table? The last time Diesel did that was six years ago yesterday at Glen Helen.
No. 21 Jason Anderson – Monster Energy Kawasaki (4-8 for Sixth Overall)
If not for his problems off the start, El Hombre could have easily been in Sexton’s position. Not once, but twice did Anderson turn starts from 15th and 25th respectively and turned one into a top-five, the other into a top 10. He will start a little behind the eight ball from a points perspective, but the speed is there and that is enough to build on going into Hangtown.
No. 222 Antonio Cairoli – Red Bull KTM (10-6 for Seventh Overall)
Despite him gaining and losing spots in both Motos, it’s worth noting that Cairoli ended up doing better in Moto 2, where he got his better start. Cairoli to begin Saturday qualified top five behind Sexton, Roczen, Tomac, and Anderson. After a so-so Moto 1, Cairoli rode much better the second go around, hanging around the fifth spot for nearly the entire Moto. As of the time of writing, we don’t know if he is sticking around after Hangtown (stay for the full season I beg of you), but it is nothing short of fantastic that we finally got the 222 over to do American Motocross at last.
Pala National 1 450 Class Top 10
1st No. 23 Chase Sexton 1-1
2nd No. 94 Ken Roczen 2-2
3rd No. 28 Christian Craig 3-3
4th No. 3 Eli Tomac 7-4
5th No. 5 Ryan Dungey 5-5
6th No. 21 Jason Anderson 4-8
7th No. 222 Antonio Cairoli 10-6
8th No. 7 Aaron Plessinger 6-10
9th No. 51 Justin Barcia 8-9
10th No. 12 Shane McElrath 11-7
Once again we are in the Industry Idiots PulpMX Fantasy pay league and the uncanny streak of having All-Stars that win continues. As does the immense levels of pain.
Week 1 PulpMX Fantasy Motocross Lineup
250 Class: Jett Lawrence (All-Star, +1), Seth Hammaker (+5), Cameron McAdoo (+5), Dylan Walsh (+16)
FFL: Justin Cooper and Ken Roczen (Successful on both)
Follow Jack Gaffney on Twitter @JackGaffneyPTST
Main Image via Honda HRC