2023 Season Commences with Kickoff Event in Southern California
With a mere 48 hours until the first gate drop of the summer at the KTM Fox Raceway National, the motocross industry gathered in Southern California on Thursday to officially commence the 2023 Pro Motocross Championship, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, with a season kickoff event that featured a morning press conference from the Starlight Theater at Pala Casino Spa Resort, followed by an afternoon riding session at Fox Raceway at Pala. Several dignitaries from prominent partners of the series were on hand to speak to attendees, while a collection of the top athletes from both the 250 Class and 450 Class took part in a Q&A session with the media.
The conference was emceed by NBC Sports and Peacock host and lead commentator Jason Weigandt, the voice of American motocross, and featured several announcements that will be important to the upcoming Pro Motocross season as well as the ongoing SuperMotocross World Championship (SMX) and its impending Playoffs and Final this September. Additionally, a new multi-year extension to host the opening round at Fox Raceway was announced by the Vice Chairman of the Pala Band of Mission Indians, owners and operators of the track.
The halfway point of the 31-race SMX season served as an ideal opportunity to celebrate the successes of the recent Monster Energy AMA Supercross campaign, which saw more than 850,000 fans attend the 17-race stadium season, including four sellouts and record attendance in five additional markets. Additionally, Supercross enjoyed growth in television and streaming viewership from the multi-year partnership extension with NBC Sports and Peacock, which was complemented even further with a significant level of growth from international subscribers to the SuperMotocross Video Pass, which is now available for a limited-time 50% discount entering the Pro Motocross season.
The success of Supercross bodes well for the Pro Motocross Championship, which is already experiencing growth in ticket sales and will be easily accessible for fans watching from home with uninterrupted coverage of all 22 motos across the 250 Class and 450 Class on Peacock. Additionally, Race Day Live, presented by MotoSport.com, will kickstart each race day with a one-hour showcase of the final timed qualifying sessions for each class. With the addition of a 30-minute “halftime” between motos, Peacock will provide a total of 5.5 hours of coverage at every National. Not to be outdone, NBC will carry two live hours of coverage from the Crestview Construction Southwick National (July 8) and Honda Unadilla National (August 12), allowing both classes to be shown on network television for the first time, while USA Network will air next-day coverage of the FXR Spring Creek National (July 15) and Yamaha Racing Budds Creek National (August 19).
“It’s incredibly important to provide our fans with the most seamless and accessible platform possible to watch our races, as is a transparent level of consistency across all 31 events of the SuperMotocross World Championship. Peacock and NBC Sports have delivered on that promise,” said Davey Coombs, President, MX Sports Pro Racing. “It’s also vital that our international audience, which is far larger and more passionate than people recognize, is provided with a high quality and proven streaming platform through a partner like Endeavor. To top it all off, not a single person on the planet will ever have to worry about missing a single minute of the action once the gate drops.”
A collection of both 250 Class and 450 Class riders took to the stage to discuss their anticipation to the new season and their preparations for the summer-long 11-round championship that has traditionally served as one of the toughest tests in all of motorsports. Championship hopefuls in the 250 Class like Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing’s Justin Cooper, Team Honda HRC’s Hunter Lawrence, and Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Jo Shimoda were accompanied by the division’s most established racer, Muc-Off/FXR/ClubMX Yamaha’s Jeremy Martin, among others. In the 450 Class, newly crowned Supercross Champion and last summer’s runner-up Chase Sexton was joined by his new Team Honda HRC teammate Jett Lawrence, who will debut in the premier division, former champion and Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing Yamaha rider Dylan Ferrandis, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Adam Cianciarulo, and more, including Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Cooper Webb, who confirmed his participation in Pro Motocross just days prior.
It was also confirmed that the series will see the addition of metal starting grates at Pro Motocross events, which aligns with the practice adopted by both Supercross as well as the FIM Motocross World Championship (MXGP) and the annual Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations. Coombs then welcomed the series’ sanctioning body in AMA Pro Racing, in addition to announcing that the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) will officiate Pro Motocross for the first time in more than a decade to offer another layer of competitive consistency to the entirety of SMX. Special recognition and attention was provided to RedBud MX co-owner Amy Ritchie, who along with her brother Tim will celebrate 50 years of moto at one of the sport’s most iconic venues for the FMF RedBud National, which has formally been announced as a retro-themed race on July 1 during the Independence Day holiday weekend.
Both Weigandt and Coombs took time to bring attention to the historic level of financial investment around the SuperMotocross World Championship, which will directly benefit the racers. The Pro Motocross Championship will see a purse increase of 42% this summer, while the SMX Playoffs and Final will pay out an unprecedented $5.5 million this fall, which will see $25,000 for the 22nd-place finisher in the 450 division, upwards of six figures for a top-10 finish, and $1 million for the 450 winner. Additionally, it was announced that the points scoring system for the SMX Playoffs will operate under the traditional 25-point scale that has been used for decades in Pro Motocross, was the structure for Supercross for many years, and is utilized as well in other series like MXGP. As a result, the progressive point system for SMX will see 25 points go to the winner of Playoff 1, 50 points for the winner of Playoff 2, and 75 points for the winner of the Final.
“The unification of Supercross and Pro Motocross, which represents the partnership between Feld Motor Sports and MX Sports Pro Racing in establishing the SMX League, is truly changing the future of this sport to the benefit of our athletes and our fans,” added Coombs. “This new era is long overdue, but we could not be more thrilled to see the historic impact the creation of the SuperMotocross World Championship has had already. This is just the beginning and the sky's the limit for how much more we can bring progressive and effective changes to the sport and improve the overall health of the industry for generations to come.”
At the conclusion of the press conference teams, racers, and members of the media made the one-mile trek to Fox Raceway at Pala for an afternoon ride session. All officially entered participants for Saturday’s race took to the track for the first time, to allow the entire field to get a head start on preparations for one of the most important races on the entire SMX calendar.
The season-opening KTM Fox Raceway National will get underway on Saturday, May 27, to kick off the Memorial Day weekend celebration. Coverage of Round 1 will be showcased exclusively on Peacock, starting with Race Day Live at 10 a.m. PT / 1 p.m. ET and followed by all four motos across the 450 Class and 250 Class, beginning at 1 p.m. PT / 4 p.m. ET.