Features 16 Mar 2023

Top 10: Topics to follow in Supercross

Key points to be aware of at the halfway stage of the 2023 season.

The opening half of the 2023 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship has delivered first-class competition across the board, as the battle for the titles on offer continues to ramp up. As the series heads into the remaining eight rounds, MotoOnline takes a closer look at the Top 10 topics to follow.

Image: Octopi Media.

1. Three-way battle for the 450SX title:
2023 certainly has shades of the infamous 2006 championship fight between Ricky Carmichael, James Stewart and Chad Reed, as new red plate-holder Cooper Webb (Red Bull KTM), defending champ Eli Tomac (Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing) and Chase Sexton (Team Honda HRC) continue to push each other to new heights. The trio of contenders have distanced themselves from the rest of the 450SX pack and have firmly established a three-way battle for the winner’s trophy. Until last weekend, Tomac had remained in the driver’s seat with five round wins, but Saturday’s round at Indianapolis saw the standings shuffle, as Webb (two victories) left the Lucas Oil Stadium with a narrow one-point championship lead. Meanwhile, Sexton (one win) is just 12 points further behind and fourth-placed Jason Anderson (Monster Energy Kawasaki) is 23 points back of the top three.

2. Tomac working his way up the record books:
Tomac’s Daytona victory was a special one on many levels. Not only was it his seventh time standing atop the podium inside the historic Daytona International Speedway – which is a record in itself – it also saw him clear Carmichael as the third-winningest supercross racer of all time. If he can win two more main events this year, he’ll surpass Stewart’s 50-win record and move into second, with only Jeremy McGrath’s all-time record of 72 race wins ahead of him. McGrath’s top spot looks safe for the time being, but ET3’s career win record is still incredible. What’s more, Tomac has now also committed to lining up outdoors again come May.

3. Revitalization of Webb:
Compared to this time last year, two-time champion Webb’s turnaround in speed, form and confidence has been remarkable. Remember, in 2022 he didn’t win one main event all season, as he was hampered by a bike that the team struggled to dial in, crashes, and finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. 2023 is an entirely different story. From the outset he looked as fast and as determined as ever, and his ability to pick up the pace and pressure as the race wears on makes him a fearsome competitor. He’s won two rounds this year, but he almost always gets stronger as a season progresses. Now that he has snatched the championship lead from Tomac and has the momentum, he’s going to be hard to stop.

4. Sexton’s crucial mistakes:
Over the opening nine rounds of the championship, Sexton made some costly errors while in race-winning positions. In fact, if he’d kept his Honda on two wheels, it’s highly likely he could have won at Tampa and Oakland, which would have shaken up the point-standings significantly. As the most regular fastest qualifier in the field, there’s absolutely no questioning Sexton’s raw pace, but the big question is whether Sexton can minimize these big mistakes and make up the valuable ground he’s lost to Webb and Tomac during the second half of the series. Race wins will be vital.

5. A momentum shift for Roczen:
This year saw Ken Roczen make a high-profile switch to the Progressive Insurance Ecstar Suzuki team, and after posting consistent top-five results over the opening three rounds, his results went up and down as the team worked to find the perfect bike set-up for their star rider. It seems they’ve found a base setting they’re happy with, as ‘Kickstart Kenny’ stunned everyone with an emotional wire-to-wire win at the rutted, technical Indianapolis circuit on Saturday. It was Suzuki’s first 450SX main event win since Roczen lit the East Rutherford candles way back in 2016, and could be the catalyst he needs to reignite his Supercross campaign. The former outdoor champion is obviously now comfortable and happy with his set-up, and we could see him feature higher up the points in the second half of the series.

Image: Octopi Media.

6. Lawrence brothers lead 250SX regions:
If the first half of the championship is any indication of what will happen in the back end, the 250SX West and 250SX East racers better get used to seeing Team Honda HRC’s Jett and Hunter Lawrence winning races. The two Australians have quickly put a stranglehold on their respective classes, with Hunter racking up four wins from five outings, and Jett three wins from four rounds. Jett has already amassed a 20-point lead over second-placed RJ Hampshire (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna), while Hunter is 22 markers clear of Fire Power Honda’s Max Anstie. Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing’s Levi Kitchen and Nate Thrasher are the only ones who’ve been able to stop the Lawrences so far, but both Honda riders are in imposing form.

7. Barcia and Anderson’s ongoing rivalry:
TLD Red Bull GasGas rider Justin Barcia and Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Anderson regularly seem to find each other on the track this year, and the rivalry between the two has been something we’ve watched closely over the first half of the series. After the pair clashed at San Diego, Anderson found himself in the crosshairs of AMA officials at Tampa when his aggressive pass not only put both riders on the ground, but put Anderson on a six-month probation. Barcia seems to have found another gear over recent rounds, and pushed Roczen right to the checkered flag at Indy, setting the fastest lap of the main event in the process. Anderson has stayed out of trouble since his receiving his probation, but don’t be surprised if the two rivals continue to race each other hard over the remaining eight rounds.

8. Rookie Deegan stands out:
Of the 250SX rookies, Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing’s Haiden Deegan has been a standout so far in the 250SX East championship. Back-to-back P4 results at the opening rounds in Houston and Tampa impressed many, but it was his performance at Daytona, which saw him finish on the podium in just his fourth 250SX start that really stunned. Despite errors in Arlington (eighth) and Indianapolis (seventh) he still showed plenty of promise and many people will be keeping a watchful eye on him as the season progresses. Deegan is currently fifth in the overall standings. Meanwhile, Red Bull KTM’s two-time MX2 world champion Tom Vialle continues to come to terms with Supercross in his rookie year and sits eighth in the 250SX East standings, despite a DNF at Daytona.

9. Cianciarulo’s rebuild:
The past years have been brutal for Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Adam Cianciarulo, who found himself injured during 2021, then missed the vast majority of the 2022 racing season with a knee injury. The Floridian is treating 2023 as a rebuilding year after so much time sidelined, but it still hasn’t been without incident, since he missed Arlington and Daytona with a persistent wrist injury, but returned for Indianapolis where he finished a season-best sixth on one of the most demanding tracks of the year. AC simply wants to get through the rest of 2023 cleanly, rebuild his confidence, and continue improving his results. Indy certainly was a step in the right direction, and gives him a good platform for the second half of the series. Cianciarulo is currently 10th in the standings, but just as importantly, he’s logging points for the SuperMotocross World Championship (SMX) along the way.

10. The final Triple Crown at Glendale:
Fans have more than just chocolate to look forward to this Easter, with the final round of the Triple Crown being held on 8 April at State Farm Stadium, Arizona. The first two rounds of the three-finals race format at Anaheim 2 and Arlington saw some incredible action in both the 250SX and 450SX classes, with 11 different main event winners across the 12 races. Six different racers stood on top of the box at Arlington, which proves just how intense and unpredictable the Triple Crown format can be. While the format is generally not a favorite with the racers and teams, it’s understandably popular with the spectators. With its long start straight, lengthy whoop section, under-over and extended track layout, Glendale should no doubt provide more of the same close racing and drama we’ve come to expect from Triple Crowns.