Pro Motocross has made it out of California and to the outskirts of Denver at Thunder Valley. Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Jason Anderson is the only non-Honda rider to win an overall to this point, as the CRF brigade has gone nuclear to begin the year. Chase Sexton who qualified first in the 450s again, barely missed out on a 2-for-2 start, and the Lawrence brothers have been nothing short of fantastic in the 250s to this point. Although not a complete anomaly, the 450s were up first on the day, and that is where we will begin on Saturday’s action.
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No. 94 Ken Roczen – Honda HRC (2-1 for First Overall)
Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good, and that was the case for Roczen at Thunder Valley. After he successfully held off Eli Tomac for then second place in Moto 2, it seemed a 2-2 finish was in the works. Well, it was, until Sexton went down with a handful of corners left in the Moto, which gave Roczen the win and Overall in one fell swoop. The German may not have been the sure-best rider in the 450 class, but he was due for some good karma. Additionally, his starts continue to be on point three Nationals into the season. Roczen didn’t holeshot but got to the finish line first in both races.
A problem with Roczen has typically been late Moto fades, While that did happen in Moto 1 against Eli Tomac, he surprisingly looked better in the second Moto in regards to his pace. A surprise given the altitude factor in play at Thunder Valley. Unkown if Roczen heard James Stewart’s comments from earlier in the week, but if he did, that is one hell of an answer.
No. 3 Eli Tomac – Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha (1-3 for Second Overall)
Despite the end result, ET3 was probably the best rider on the day as a whole. The Colorado native was on rails in Moto 1, completely erasing a six-second deficit to Roczen, which turned into a win over five seconds. A performance akin to what we saw from Tomac in the three-peat run with Kawasaki. What ultimately cost him the overall was some great defensive riding by Roczen late in Moto 2. He forced Tomac wider than normal on an off-camber corner, which gave the Honda rider a very strong gap. Had Sexton not tipped over, Tomac would have won the Overall. You would have to imagine he would want that battle back with Hindsight being 20-20.
No. 23 Chase Sexton – Honda HRC (4-2 for Third Overall)
Sexton would be wise to put Moto 2 from yesterday in the rearview mirror ASAP. While his Moto 1 result had him out of Overall winning contention at the time, the three points Sexton lost as a result could be massive down the line. For now, Sexton is up six points on Roczen, and it wasn’t like the speed for Sexton has been an issue whatsoever through six Motos. While a definite mental mistake, they happen to just about every rider here and there.
No. 222 Antonio Cairoli – Red Bull KTM (5-4 for Fifth Overall)
Not once, but twice on Saturday did the 222 wind up with holeshots at Thunder Valley. This isn’t something Cairoli was doing nearly at all in the ‘GPs his last few seasons (He can thank Jorge Prado for that), and he is now 3-for-4 in his last four attempts. Despite some early fades in both Motos from Cairoli, he looked good on the whole at Thunder Valley. This is also the first track where he has prior experience at as well. He ran for Team Italy there in the 2010 Motocross Des Nations, going 2-4 which was good for second among MX1 class riders.
No. 285 Marshal Weltin – Twisted Tea/Progressive H.E.P Motorsports Suzuki (15-13 for 13th Overall)
A big shoutout to Weltin, who got himself a call from the H.E.P team for a rider with Justin Bogle taking a break. Going from a barebone GasGas ride to what is essentially a defacto Suzuki factory bike, he put up a season-best result of 13th overall. Nearly finishing top 10 in a second Moto on a completely new bike on less than a week’s notice is as impressive as it gets, well done.
Thunder Valley National 450 Class Top 10
1st No. 94 Ken Roczen 2-1
2nd No. 3 Eli Tomac 1-3
3rd No. 23 Chase Sexton 4-2
4th No. 21 Jason Anderson 3-6
5th No. 222 Antonio Cairoli 5-4
6th No. 5 Ryan Dungey 7-7
7th No. 51 Justin Barcia 6-8
8th No. 12 Shane McElrath 12-5
9th No. 17 Joey Savatgy 8-9
10th No. 35 Garrett Marchbanks 9-11
No. 1 Jett Lawrence – Honda HRC (2-2 for First Overall)
The Jett keeps on trucking despite being under the weather still. Even without a Moto win, he is 3-for-3 for National wins this year. Even then, a pair of seconds when you’re not 100 percent is still a huge deal, especially when it keeps Lawrence in the points lead. Not much else to say really, just a very strong day for the reigning Champion.
No. 96 Hunter Lawrence – Honda HRC (4-1 for Second Overall)
Starts were a problem to this point for the elder Lawrence brother, but not in the second Moto. After securing the holeshot, he completely checked out on the field in a race that all but came down to the start. Despite this, Lawrence’s fourth in Moto 1 cost him a shot at the Overall. Furthermore, he continues to lose incremental ground to his brother six Motos into 2022. At some point, these second and third-place Overalls have to turn into wins for him to become a real title threat.
No. 59 Levi Kitchen – Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha (1-5 for Third Overall)
Get that line of Master Chef merchandise at the ready, because Kitchen has officially arrived as a professional Motocross rider. He shocked just about everyone by convincingly winning Moto 1 after a holeshot, where no one, not even the Lawrence brothers had anything for him. Granted he was a bit under the weather himself, which may have played a factor in finishing fifth later on in the day. However. Kitchen has been strong to this point, and could play a factor in this title hunt should the Lawrence brothers and Justin Cooper slip up. Additionally in all seriousness, there is money to be made with the Master Chef merch, thank me later.
No. 29 Michael Mosiman – Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing (13-4 for Seventh Overall)
Mosiman was primed for a good day after pacing the field in qualifying, but that simply didn’t pan out. A 13th in Moto 1 put him completely out of winning contention right off the bat. To his credit, however, Mosiman ran well enough in the second Moto to not make his Saturday a complete disaster. He has shown that getting one Moto together is a non-issue, two in one day has been a struggle so far. Once he gets straightened out, Mosiman should be fine.
During the early stages of Moto 2, Thrasher and Hammaker came together near the end of lap one. Thrasher got the much worse end of the contact and his second Moto ended almost right away. He was also in visible pain as he was being attended to. His YZ250 landed on him after he hit the ground for context. Hammaker meanwhile rallied to a 12th in the second Moto.
Thunder Valley National 250 Class Top 10
1st No. 1 Jett Lawrence 2-2
2nd No. 96 Hunter Lawrence 4-1
3rd No. 59 Levi Kitchen 1-5
4th No. 32 Justin Cooper 3-9
5th No. 30 Jo Shimoda 7-6
6th No. 50 Stilez Robertson 6-7
7th No. 29 Michael Mosiman 13-4
8th No. 329 Matt LeBlanc 10-9
9th No. 47 Seth Hammaker 5-15
10th No. 411 Nick Romano 9-13
Week 3 PulpMX Fantasy Motocross Lineup
250 Class: Justin Cooper (All-Star, +4), Jalek Swoll (+5), Nate Thrasher (+5), Matt LeBlanc (+8)
FFL: Justin Cooper and Ken Roczen (Successful on Roczen, unsuccessful on Cooper)
Follow Jack Gaffney on Twitter @JackGaffneyPTST
Main Image via Honda HRC