Features 16 May 2023

Debrief: 2023 Supercross Rd17 Salt Lake City

450SX champion Sexton and Showdown winner Lawrence recall 17th round.

The final round of the 2023 Monster Energy Supercross Championship took place in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, where Team Honda HRC’s Chase Sexton took a convincing win in the slick conditions on his way to wrapping up his first 450SX title. In the 250SX East/West Showdown, it was Jett Lawrence who took another win, finishing off his 250 career in style. Both riders were available to the media following the races for this Debrief feature.


Image: Octopi Media.

Congratulations Chase, you’re the 450 Supercross champion. How does that feel to hear?

It’s honestly unbelievable to hear that. To win tonight in those circumstances, that was probably one of my better main events I’ve had. It’s super-special to be sitting here, Supercross champion. Obviously, I’ve had Lites championships, but nothing even comes close to 450 Supercross. So, I’m super grateful to the people I have in my corner, my family, my trainer, my agent. It takes a team. Throughout this year, through the ups and downs, we’ve definitely had some frustrating moments, but we persevered through those and never gave up. It definitely paid off.

Mathematically you’ve known this was coming for a week. How hard has it been with your team to have the discipline to be respectful of Eli [Tomac] and just keep it in and then finally get to explode across the finish line? How good did it feel to finally get that out?

Just like with Eli last week, I wanted to win this race more than anything. My goal coming in today was to win and just put a stamp on the season. I definitely feel like I did that. It was a long week. I was sick for most of it. I rode one time on outdoors and came and rode press day and we were ready to go. It was a long week, thinking about this moment and crossing that finish line. Winning the race tonight was the stamp for me, it felt so good. Just goes to show how much I’ve improved this season. I really have no words.

It’s been wild to watch the season and get this title. Going through that main event, what’s going through your head? You’ve had a week to think about the celebration and everything else, but what’s going through your head for the 20 plus one?

This whole week I was like, I don’t want to hear anything about celebrating, nothing. My goal was to win this race. I had a different week, I didn’t really ride much and didn’t really train at all. Obviously, the goal was to win the championship and that was the main thing, but I wanted to win this race and put a stamp on the season, I was super-locked in and didn’t really have much going on in my head, just focus on the race, that’s something in this class, these last six races I’ve been super focused and locked in. It’s really paid off for me, I haven’t had many races like that. In the middle of the season, people were very hard on my late-race crashes, and I feel like I’ve really made a point to prove those guys wrong, it feels good.

The four wins in the last five races have been kind of perfect races for you. What kind of momentum does it give you going into outdoors? Do you think of yourself as the favorite now?

Before I went up for the main event, I’m like, not that the season would be less sweet without winning tonight, but it honestly was going to feel that way if I didn’t win that main event, so I put a lot of expectations on myself. I pulled the holeshot and just tried to set sail and get away, that was some of the best riding I’ve done all season. It means a lot, just to be able to get out front, put those laps together and be really consistent, that’s what I lacked middle of the season. I was good in the beginning, and then I would either make a mistake or just fall off and that’s something that you can’t do in this class. So, like I said, the people in my corner this year have put so much time and effort in to just get me out of that hole, and put me where I am right now.

Entering the motocross season without the stronger guys like Tomac, [Ken] Roczen, maybe [Justin] Barcia and with Jett Lawrence entering, how do you feel without the stronger guys beside you?

I want to race the best guys out there. Obviously, it’s unfortunate to not have Eli, Jason [Anderson], Justin, Kenny and all those guys. We’ll have Dylan [Ferrandis] back, he’s super-good outdoors, and we’ll have Jett in the 450 class. It’s not going to be easy, by any means, but I’m ready to build off what I had last season and really just kind of build off what I’ve done in Supercross and carry it into outdoors. My goal coming into this year was to be better than I was last year, and if I can do that in outdoors I think we’ll be in a good spot.

You said after Atlanta that you felt complete as a rider. Is that still the word that you’d use to describe this feeling, or has it changed?

Yeah, I would say I’m definitely more complete than I was beginning of the season, and even middle of the season. I really turned a corner after that break we had. I can’t really put a finger on what it was exactly, but just me having that mental break and working on the bike and testing, it really paid off. I came into Phoenix ready to kind of turn the season around and it worked out. I won four of the last six races. It means a lot. Like I said, the people in my corner, I couldn’t be more proud of. Being from Illinois, it’s super cool, I can’t wait to see the people I’ve kind of grown up with and celebrate with them. It’s really special.

What do the next couple days look like for you? Celebrating this championship, but ramping up for Pro Motocross? How do you balance it?

We’ll definitely celebrate tonight and just the next few days, obviously. I have a test scheduled in Florida Tuesday through Saturday, so back to work – it’s never-ending for us. We obviously want to celebrate and cherish this championship with Honda, it hasn’t been done since 2003, so it’s definitely a cool feeling, especially for me being where I am in my career. I’m really happy to check this one off my list. It’s going to come down to outdoors. I’m definitely ready to start testing and get ready for that series.

Like you mentioned, being able to break the Honda curse. You came from Geico Honda, it’s not quite Honda HRC, but that’s the feeder program. For you to be able to bring Honda a championship as the team you turned pro with, how is that?

I’m pretty sure my words were when I came off of 2020, I told either Brandon [Wilson] or Bill [Savino] from Honda, I will win you guys a championship before I leave here. That was maybe a little bit arrogant to say, but I really believed in myself, so it’s pretty cool to win them a championship. I was obviously close last year in outdoors and didn’t get it done, it’s cool to get it done in Supercross. I have a loss of words, I’m super-happy with how the team has really rallied around me this year, they put a lot of work into the bike. It’s so much better than what we ended on last year, it just goes to show how hard those guys work, it means a lot to be a part of that team.

I think they touched on it a little bit on the broadcast. Not that you were going to give up on the season, but you guys were probably getting to a point later in the season where you were going to start turning your heads to motocross testing. What was that conversation like?

I started riding outdoors probably around maybe even Atlanta, affter that I started riding outdoors once a week, obviously not focusing on outdoors, but starting to get kind of shifted over. I think it even helped me on supercross, just kind of mixing it up, getting some speed back, corner speed and everything like that. I never thought the championship was over, like I said, anything can happen. It’s 17 rounds obviously for a reason, it’s a gnarly series, like we’ve seen this year, so you’ve got to be built for it and reliable, obviously. So, I never gave up on it, I wanted to win as many races as I possibly could in these last six races we had. So, my mindset never changed, I wanted to win. Like I said, even in the mid-season when I was having those races where I was crashing, I would get up and just try to calm myself back to a position where I thought that would get me some points and not quit. Even in Indianapolis when I crashed behind Kenny, I tried to ride with bent bars, and it all pays off in the long run. Never give up is really the motive behind the season.

The gear selection tonight, was there any specific plans with that? What was the gear selection idea there?

I didn’t know what gear I was going to wear tonight. I think I actually said that I wanted to wear the Bulls stuff, like probably six or seven races ago. They asked me what I wanted to wear, and it just so happened to line up with tonight. Obviously, Michael Jordan, Chicago, it means a lot to me being 23. September 23rd is my birthday, so the whole 23 thing this year, it was cool. The gear looked awesome today with the red plate, nothing looks as good, the red plate just makes everything tie together. I’m really happy with how everything turned out. Alpinestars won all three championships this season, so really special to see Gabriel [Mazzarolo], the owner of Alpinestars down at the podium and celebrate with him. Best gear in the business, by far.

Being the chaser for the last third of the season, and at one point kind of not really being in the conversation, what did you learn about yourself?

Like I said, I had a little bit of a lull that mid-season where I lost a lot of points, and winning Detroit and losing seven points wasn’t ideal. After that race, I feel like I kind of got the vibe I was not really a part of the championship talk anymore, it kind of pissed me off a little bit. I was pretty motivated, I just told myself we’ve got to start winning races. My goal this year was to win seven races. I won six, which didn’t meet that goal, but I just told myself if I could win races and just put some pressure on the guys that I was behind. Pressure is not ideal and not like Eli was feeling pressure, but even into Denver, he wanted to beat me, and I obviously wanted to beat him, it’s just being a racer. I didn’t like not being in the conversation, I feel like I was worthy of it. Like I said, I wanted to prove the haters wrong this season, especially mid-season when I feel like everything I saw was negative, so I tried to turn it into a positive and it’s paid off.

Riding as closely as you did to those guys, did you learn something about your riding style?

I think just riding with Cooper [Webb] and Eli, especially Eli in outdoors last year, I learned so much. I think I said it maybe in the press conference prior to this race. You don’t obviously talk to somebody when you’re racing 30-minute motos in the motocross championship, but you learn about somebody’s character within those 30 minutes. Eli, he taught me so much last year, obviously I didn’t win the championship, but I wouldn’t change anything, I couldn’t have learned more from something other than just racing him last year, it was really special for me. Going to motocross of nations with him and just seeing his mentality, the guy wants to win at all costs. I wanted to get a little bit more of that in me. Even Cooper, some people say he doesn’t have the speed, but he makes up for it in the mental category. It’s cool to race those guys and take some parts of their game that are better than mine and try and put it into mine. Obviously, I had the speed and that’s not an issue, just some other parts I needed to fix. I feel those guys have made me a better rider and the rider that I am today.


Image: Octopi Media.

Jett, congratulations on the win. Let’s just talk about that main event. That’s the end of your 250 career, did you think about that in late stages when things were settling down?

No, not really. It still hasn’t quite sunk in as my last, I think once I start racing 450 in outdoors it will kind of sink in as my last, it was a fun one. The track got pretty technical, the dirt was actually really sick for that one, which was great. In the heat race it was like ice, so we weren’t looking forward to it. It didn’t really cross my mind until after, I was like, ‘that’s really kind of my last one.’ I’m not going to go up to 450 and come back down for a few, I’m up to 450 now and we’re staying there for a while, it’s an exciting step for me. It’s a new kind of step in my life, that new chapter, I’m excited for it. It was a good way to end it for my last 250 race.

These Showdown races where you guys get to kind of watch each other, what’s your thoughts on your brother going into the outdoor championship? You’ve won that title twice now, you’re moving on and he’s probably the favourite to win that championship. What are your thoughts on Hunter heading into the outdoor championship?

He’s just lucky I’m not in 250 still… That’s what the main part is [laughs]. No, it’s cool, it’s going to be different, that’s for sure. It’s going to take a bit to realize, I feel like at the first round, once he starts getting dressed, I’m going to get dressed also, it’s going to be kind of a different schedule for me throughout the day, so it’s just kind of going to be getting used to that. But I like it. It’s time for a change for me. 250s has started to get pretty repetitive for me, the same stuff, so I think it’s time for me to go up. It’s going to be fun, exciting, and really exciting to cheer on HJ on 250. It won’t be long until he’s back up on 450, so it will be good.

The next chapter is coming for you with a different group of riders. What does it look like from your perspective now that challenge that’s coming and obviously the rookie year and what comes with that?

For me, it looks like there’s going to be a lot of really good battles, I can tell you that, it’s going to be fun. Outdoors I get to race against my teammate Chase, that’s going to be exciting. We all know he’s got a lot of speed up his sleeve, it’s going to be exciting. We get to kind of start at the bottom again, like I did going when I first went pro, start at the bottom and kind of make your way up, I get to start there again and kind of just learn new stuff that you don’t learn while you’re watching TV. So, I’m excited for it, it’s always good to learn more and more stuff, to get my experience a little bit more and better, I’m excited for it, it’s going to be fun. Just go out there and have a fun outdoors and just go from there.