News 2 Apr 2024

Riders frustrated with red cross flag situation in St. Louis

Five riders were penalized shaking up the Triple Crown results massively.

At the tail end of the second 450SX race in the Triple Crown at St. Louis, Vince Friese was down in the middle of the finish line jump and landing prompting the red cross flag to be displayed as he tried to get his bike off the track. The red cross flag was shown during the white flag and checkered flag, and five riders still jumped the finish resulting in several penalties.

Jett Lawrence had won the race and jumped the finish line with the checkered flag and red cross flag displayed. He immediately looked back and put his hand on his head realizing his error, but he was not the only one. Cooper Webb, Chase Sexton, Aaron Plessinger, and Jason Anderson all jumped as well, with Anderson committing the infraction twice. Each rider was penalized two positions per infraction meaning Anderson received a four-place penalty.

Image: Octopi Media.

“I knew it was the end of the race and I didn’t even look it,” said Jett Lawrence after the race. “It kind of sucks because Vince, who they had the flag out for, was off the side of the track in between. I’m just pissed. I wish they would have warned earlier.”

Of the top seven riders in the race at that time, Eli Tomac in second and Hunter Lawrence in seventh were the only riders to not commit the infraction and roll the finish line jump. The AMA spent nearly a full hour sorting through the footage and finally posted the corrected results just before riders began staging for the final 450SX race. It promoted Hunter Lawrence, who had initially finished the race in seventh, all the way up to second place as he was able to roll the finish line jump both times.

“A lot of guys jumped on it but what are the chances you get closer than like fourth or fifth,” said Hunter Lawrence post-race. “They called out Mr. Tomac [in staging for Race 3] and then 96, and I was like, “Yeah, we’re not asking questions. We’ll just go ahead on out.” We’ve been on the bad side of that for sure many times with the red cross flag. I just had eyes on it tonight like a hawk and it worked out.”

Lawrence rolled it after watching Cooper Webb and Aaron Plessinger jump it on the white flag lap in a battle just ahead of him. Then all three were able to roll on the final lap. Eli Tomac was given the race win after finishing second to Jett Lawrence, whose two-place penalty dropped him to third. Tomac would go on to sweep all three races then while Webb still salvaged second overall with the wild scores of 5-6-2. Webb, like Jett Lawrence, knew his mistake as soon as he made it.

Image: Octopi Media.

“Basically, we were going super inside, and it was a white flag mixed with a red cross and I saw it right when I was going up the face,” explained Webb. “I knew right then and there I did it. Like I said, I saw the white was out and then the red cross just inside of it. It was a bit tricky. I think a lot of us honestly didn’t see it. I think when I finally saw it, I was a foot from going off the takeoff. It was kind of a hectic last turn because we had a lapper and AP was on my butt. I went inside and rolled because I saw it, but it was a tricky spot for sure.”

The red cross flag was displayed as a stagnant flag, meaning it simply hung out from the AMA officials left hand while he used his right hand to actively wave the white flag and eventually the checkered flag above it. With one flag waving and one flag not, some riders did notice seeing something, but were not quite sure of what until it was too late.

Aaron Plessinger was in a battle with Cooper Webb for fifth place at the time and the intensity of that battle along with the challenging nature of the track contributed to Plessinger missing the red cross flag on the beginning of the final lap.

“When they put the finish line like that, we’re coming out of a sharp corner and we’re already looking at ruts,” Plessinger stated. “So, I knew something was there. I thought it was the white flag, but then he was waving something, and I hit the finish line, and I looked back, and I saw it. I was like, “Dude, my luck.” We’ll take the penalty and move on. But when you put the finish line like that when you’re already kind of focused on everything else, it doesn’t really matter. There’s five of us that didn’t see it.”

Image: Octopi Media.

The whole situation left many riders frustrated, but all of them admitted their mistake and knew what the rule was and how they would be punished for it. The moment did reignite the debate about in-helmet communication or perhaps LED lights on the handlebars to warn riders of red cross flag situations. While no immediate solution is on the horizon, the AMA has mentioned a few times that it’s a situation they’d like to improve to make it so riders can either see the flag or be aware of the situation better.