Features 9 Apr 2024

Q&A: Expectations for final five rounds

Key talking points to close out Supercross in 2024.

As Monster Energy Supercross comes off the final off-weekend of the year, five races remain in what promises to be an all-out sprint to the championship in each class. MotoOnline answers some questions about what to expect from several different storylines that are at the forefront before racing resumes this weekend in this edition of Q&A.

Image: Octopi Media.

Q: Will Jett Lawrence become the third ever rookie to win the 450SX title?

A: It certainly is very possible as Jett Lawrence has won the most races and far and away led the most laps in 2024 thus far. When you think back to Jeremy McGrath in 1993 and Ryan Dungey in 2010, the only two riders as of now that have won the 450SX title as a rookie, they both ultimately walked the championships home in the stretch run. McGrath strung a ton of wins together, whereas Dungey was in a big title fight with Ryan Villopoto until the 14th round when Villopoto crashed and broke his femur. McGrath won the title by 57 points and Dungey won by 70 points in the end. Jett Lawrence is just eight points up on Cooper Webb and is coming off a rough final race before the break where he came together violently with Justin Barcia in St. Louis and limped home to an eighth-place overall finish. If momentum matters, Webb has a bit of it rolling right now and the break might have come at the wrong time. But if you look at how Jett Lawrence fared coming off the first break of the year after Glendale, he went 4-1-1-1 from Rounds 7-10 and was perhaps putting the title to bed already. He nearly went 1-1-1-1 but crashed twice late in Arlington to slip back to fourth from the lead. It seems if Jett is going to win this title in the final five races, he controls his own destiny.

Q: Is the Pro Circuit “curse” going to be broken?

A: Jinxes can be a real bother and we hope this question starting to be asked doesn’t jinx Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki out of some long awaited 250SX titles this year. The once dominant force in 250SX with a laundry list of titles, PC Kawasaki has been so close yet so far from championship success of late. Their last title was five years ago when Adam Cianciarulo won the 250 class of AMA Pro Motocross in 2019 but you have to go back to Justin Hill in 2017 to find the last time a 250SX title was claimed by Mitch Payton’s crew. From so many near misses out of Joey Savatgy, Cianciarulo, Austin Forkner, and more, it has felt like a black cloud is hovering above the Pro Circuit shop. Well, right now they enter the final three rounds of 250SX West and four rounds of 250SX East as the points leaders in both classes with Levi Kitchen and Cameron McAdoo, respectively. Kitchen has really become the leading force in 250SX West the last few rounds and is clearly the man to beat. McAdoo on the other hand will have his hands full with Tom Vialle, Pierce Brown, and Haiden Deegan. But the chances are high that at least one #1 plate, if not two, will be planted on the doors of the Pro Circuit semi in just over a months’ time.

Image: Octopi Media.

Q: Six riders have won a 450SX race, will there be more?

A: While everyone loves parity and the idea of more winners and spoilers getting into the mix, it’s likely Eli Tomac’s win in St. Louis is where the merry-go-round stops. Jett Lawrence (5 wins), Cooper Webb (3), Chase Sexton (1), Eli Tomac (1), Ken Roczen (1), and Aaron Plessinger (1) all have won races in 2024 and these riders also fill out the top six in the standings. Former race winners like Jason Anderson and Justin Barcia are still in need of that first breakthrough for 2024, but neither have been particularly close to doing so of late. Does that mean it won’t happen? No, especially with maybe more mud races on the horizon and Barcia being notorious for his mud riding prowess. But with the title fight up front reaching a point of high intensity and importance on winning races, the opportunity for championship “management” opening the door for someone else to win seems to be quite low.

Q: What do the final five races of Adam Cianciarulo’s career look like?

A: Adam Cianciarulo announced his retirement from professional racing which will come at the end of Monster Energy Supercross in 2024. That sets in motion a quick retirement tour that will no doubt commence as the well-liked Floridian will have tons of fanfare surrounding the final five races of his career. So, is there some magic to be had? Cianciarulo’s best result so far was an eighth in San Francisco and he unfortunately crashed out of St. Louis after he and Mitchell Oldenburg came together in the first race of the night. It was a shame because Cianciarulo had looked great throughout the day and was in second place when his night ending crash happened. Depending on his physical well-being aside from the nerve issues in his hand, Cianciarulo still has the ability to run up front on any given night and really could have a big moment at some point in these closing races. A win is probably out of the question, but a fifth career 450SX podium for Cianciarulo would be a massive send off for him. More than likely, AC gives us one more flash of brilliance to get near the top five and the crowd will be going nuts for it.

Image: Octopi Media.

Q: Who wins the 250SX East/West Showdowns?

A: One thing that always happens with these East/West Showdowns is everyone debates which coast is better and usually talks about the elite championship contenders, then someone nobody was talking about gets a big win. So, sure Levi Kitchen or Cameron McAdoo or RJ Hampshire or Tom Vialle or Haiden Deegan or Jordon Smith could win these things, but how about some other faces? Jo Shimoda hasn’t won a race this year but has been trending in the right direction. Nate Thrasher has won a race but is way out of championship contention. Seth Hammaker has been close on occasion to some wins, but it hasn’t happened just yet. And don’t forget Pierce Brown is in the title fight and he’s still winless too! While all these guys are focusing on each other in their respective championship fights, it seems completely in the realm of possibility for someone like Thrasher to win the Nashville Showdown and Shimoda to claim the Salt Lake City win, for example. If anything, there have been eight different winners through 12 rounds of 250SX this year, and there’s still four riders who have won races prior to 2024 that haven’t landed atop the box yet this year. These Showdowns really have the making of being some of the most unpredictable ones we’ve ever seen.

Q: Which riders will turn heads down the stretch?

A: Thinking back to just last year in 450SX, Justin Hill and Adam Cianciarulo took some very popular late-season podiums. They were helped a bit by some attrition in the class as several riders had season ending injuries from Round 14 onwards, but they still hit at the right time as well. A few names to keep an eye on that could surprise in these final five races of 2024 are riders like Malcolm Stewart and Shane McElrath. Stewart has not had the year he hoped to have in 2024 but things are slowly trending upward with quite a few top 10 results of late. Shane McElrath just got back into the top 10 with a 10th place finish in St. Louis, his first top 10 result since finishing fourth at the second round in San Francisco. Stewart and McElrath are hardly getting noticed as they have been hovering in those positions that don’t get talked about much, but they have been solid. If they remain consistent and things ahead of them start getting wild, look for them to capitalize and have some breakthrough rides before the season is over.