Lawrence Brothers Sweep SMX Playoff 2 at Chicagoland
Team Honda HRC's Jett Lawrence was back on the top step of the podium with a strong overall win at the SuperMotocross World Championship Playoff 2 inside Chicagoland Speedway. Lawrence's victory came via 1-2 moto scores in the event's two-race format.
Progressive Insurance ECSTAR Suzuki's Ken Roczen earned an emotional second place overall finish just days after the birth of his second child; the win moved Roczen into third place in points with a clear path to winning the championship next weekend. Team Honda HRC's Chase Sexton earned third place overall on the high-speed, SuperMotocross track that stretched across the storied auto raceway. In the 250 Class, Team Honda HRC's Hunter Lawrence was back on top, winning both motos and recapturing the 250 Class points lead.
Jett Lawrence grabbed the holeshot in the first 450 Class moto with Troy Lee Designs Red Bull GASGAS Factory Racing's Justin Barcia, Sexton, Muc-Off FXR ClubMX Yamaha's Phil Nicoletti, and Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing's Dylan Ferrandis right behind. Sexton, the winner of both motos at Playoff 1, was quickly on the attack to take the lead, but Lawrence held his spot. Just before five minutes had ticked off the race clock Sexton made a tiny mistake exiting one of the sand turns; that was all it took for Lawrence to break free and sprint out of striking distance. The two Honda teammates put in similar lap times, each taking a different bike set-up approach to their race bikes. Sexton was running a stiff Supercross-style suspension set-up and Lawrence had on his more compliant motocross-style suspension. The difference demonstrated the challenge of all the teams to find an ideal bike set-up for the custom built SMX track. Just past five minutes into the 20-minute plus one lap moto, Ken Roczen took over third place from Barcia in a thrilling back-and forth that had the riders trade the lead multiple times through several sections. The lead group looked mostly settled at that point, but Red Bull KTM's Aaron Plessinger was on the move after a bad start that had him outside the top ten at the beginning of the race. Plessinger reached sixth place with just over six minutes on the clock and charged after Ferrandis. On the final lap Plessinger made the move into fifth. At the checkered flag it was Lawrence, Sexton, Roczen, Barcia, then Plessinger.
The 450 Class moto two roared off the line and race veteran Nicoletti grabbed the holeshot and led Barcia, Lawrence, Sexton, and Roczen. Lawrence and Roczen were both on the move on the opening lap. Lawrence took the lead from Nicoletti before a minute and a half was off the race clock. Roczen was past Nicoletti forty seconds later and then right on Lawrence's rear fender and pressing for the lead. Sexton eased into third place but the battle was just out of reach as Lawrence's and Roczen's pace pushed the front two into a race of their own. Behind Sexton, Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing's Cooper Webb reached fourth place with Ferrandis right behind. Throughout the race Roczen would fall back two seconds, then make a push and get right back up to Lawrence. With just over eight minutes left on the race clock Plessinger moved into fourth and the front group looked settled. But in the closing laps Roczen closed the gap again and pressured Lawrence. With just over a minute left on the clock Lawrence waved Roczen past, relinquishing the lead but also eliminating the pressure. Fans suspected a mechanical issue, but Lawrence explained later it was an attempt to help Roczen finish ahead of Sexton in the overall results; it was a strategy to gain maximum points on series-leader Sexton. Roczen pulled a comfortable gap while Lawrence maintained his lead over Sexton. Lawrence did earn the overall win and Roczen did finish second overall with Chase taking third. However, Lawrence's unconventional race strategy did not impact the overall finishing order. Going into the Final next weekend, which pays triple points, Sexton leads Lawrence by just two points and Roczen sits in third only ten points back from the top spot. This creates a 'winner take all' finale between Lawrence and Sexton, with Roczen positioned to take the championship if he wins the Final and Sexton fails to finish in second.
When the gate dropped for moto one of the 250 Class Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing's Haiden Deegan rocketed into the lead ahead of Red Bull KTM's Tom Vialle, Hunter Lawrence, and Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki's Jo Shimoda. Shimoda, Playoff 1 winner, looked aggressive going after third but Lawrence held him off. On the opening lap of the 20-minute plus one lap moto Lawrence made the move on Vialle to take over second at the same time Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing's RJ Hampshire got around Shimoda to push him back to fourth. For the first half of the race all eyes were on the fluctuating gap between Deegan in the lead and Lawrence in close pursuit; it grew and tightened between 1.3 to 2.2 seconds. Seven minutes into the race Shimoda dialed up his aggression and took back fourth place. Thirteen minutes into the race Lawrence pulled up on Deegan's wheel in a move for the lead. A minute later Deegan made a mistake in one of the track's deep-rutted corners and wasn't able to jump the finish line double. Lawrence flew past and soon after pulled a small gap on Deegan. With 2:15 remaining on the race clock Shimoda moved past Vialle and set his sights on Deegan. The racer from Japan put in blistering laps and used momentum from an outside line to jump past Deegan. Shimoda set his sights on Lawrence, who had a two second lead at the white flag. Shimoda quickly closed the gap and got right on Lawrence's rear tire. Then Shimoda took a hard jolt on an outside rut with a sharp hook in it. Shimoda bit his tongue and cut his chin on his handlebar; and so he dialed back his last-lap attack. Lawrence took the moto one win, Shimoda cruised to second and Deegan held on for third.
The second 250 Class moto provided even more excitement. Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing's Justin Cooper nabbed the holeshot with Shimoda, Lawrence, Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki's Ryder DiFrancesco, and Hampshire in tow. In just the opening lap Lawrence bumped past Shimoda in a corner, only to get re-passed by Shimoda in an immediate counterattack. Shimoda set his sights on Cooper and four and a half minutes into the race Shimoda took over the lead while Lawrence sat third and Deegan had reached fourth. A minute later Lawrence overtook Cooper momentarily, but it took another lap of racing to secure the spot. Lawrence now sat just one second back; between he and Shimoda, the winner of the moto would take the event overall and the $50,000 race win bonus. Vialle put in a strong push and got up to third place with eight and a half minutes left on the race clock. But Vialle broke his shift lever and, with his bike stuck in second gear, was out of the hunt for the race win. With less than five minutes left on the clock the battle for the lead took a dramatic turn when Shimoda sensed something wrong with his bike. He later said that he backed down his pace to take the stress off his bike and ensure a finish. Lawrence rode smooth to the checkered flag, the moto win, and with that the overall victory as well. The win gave Lawrence back the points lead going into the SuperMotocross World Championship Final next weekend.
At the event's midpoint the Supermini World All-Stars Main Event dropped the gate for the top racers between the ages of 12-16 aboard 112cc-displacement race bikes. Monster Energy Team Green Kawasaki's Carson Wood grabbed the holeshot with MTF Ogio Dunlop's Benjamin Moya, B's Moto Lab JM Racing's Darren Pine, and Husqvarna Answer Racing's Vincent Wey ahead of the screaming pack of two-stroke race bikes. Wey moved into third less than a minute into the eight-minute plus one lap race. The battling was fierce and the racer making the most progress was Fasthouse X Hot Wheel's Max Shane. At the race's midpoint Shane took over second place. Late in the race Wey shorted a large double and crashed on the landing, taking down KTM Orange Brigade's Seth Dennis, who was right behind him. With under a minute left on the race clock Wood held control over the race with a comfortable lead. At the checkered flag the podium finishers were Woods, Shane, and Moya with Dennis recovering nicely from his crash to finish fourth.
The inaugural season of the SuperMotocross World Championship wraps up and crowns two champions next weekend on September 23rd inside the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, California. The SuperMotocross World Championship Final will pay out triple-points for finishing positions to weigh the final event of the year as the most significant. The purses are the largest in the sport's history, including a $1,000,000 bonus to the 450 Class champion and $500,000 to the 250 Class champion. Every position pays out more than any other series in two-wheeled off-road racing as part of the total 2023 purse of $10,000,000.
Coverage of the Final begins with the Race Day Live show that covers qualifying, team and rider news, a look at the track, and LCQ live coverage; it starts at 4:30PM Eastern Time on Peacock. Then the event kick-off and updates are covered live on the Pre-Race Show coverage at 9:30PM Eastern Time. Directly following that, the racing will air live on both Peacock and USA Network beginning at 10:00 PM Eastern Time. The race coverage will re-air on September 25th at 1:00 AM Eastern time on CNBC.
Tickets are on sale now to witness the final round of the sport's first post season with the SuperMotocross World Championship Final at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the same stadium that kicked off the sport of Monster Energy Supercross back in 1972 with the Superbowl of Motocross. For ticket sales, race information, video highlights, updates, track maps, and more about the September 23rd event, please visit SuperMotocross.com.
450SMX Playoff 2 Results
1. Jett Lawrence, Australia, Honda (1-2)
2. Ken Roczen, Clermont, Fla., Suzuki (3-1)
3. Chase Sexton, LaMoille, IL., Honda (2-3)
4. Aaron Plessinger, Hamilton, Ohio, KTM (5-4)
5. Dylan Ferrandis, Bedarrides, France, Yamaha (6-5)
6. Justin Barcia, Greenville, Fla., GASGAS (4-10)
7. Cooper Webb, Newport, N.C., Yamaha (8-7)
8. Phillip Nicoletti, Bethal, N.Y., Yamaha (7-9)
9. Jason Anderson, Rio Rancho, N.Mex., Kawasaki (13-6)
10. Colt Nichols, Muskogee, OK, Kawasaki (12-8)
450SMX Class Championship Standings
1. Chase Sexton, LaMoille, IL., Honda (90)
2. Jett Lawrence, Australia, Honda (88)
3. Ken Roczen, Clermont, Fla. Suzuki (80)
4. Aaron Plessinger, Hamilton, Ohio, KTM (74)
5. Dylan Ferrandis, Bedarrides, France, Yamaha (71)
6. Cooper Webb, Newport, N.C., Yamaha (60)
7. Justin Barcia, Greenville, Fla., GASGAS (59)
8. Jason Anderson, Rio Rancho, N.Mex., Kawasaki (58)
9. Garrett Marchbanks, Coalville, Utah, Yamaha (44)
10. Adam Cianciarulo, Murrieta, Calif., Kawasaki (42)
250 SMX Playoff 2 Results
1. Hunter Lawrence, Australia, Honda (1-1)
2. Jo Shimoda, Suzuka, Japan, Kawasaki (2-2)
3. Haiden Deegan, Temecula, Calif., Yamaha (3-3)
4. RJ Hampshire, Wesley Chapel, Fla., Husqvarna (5-4)
5. Maximus Vohland, Granite Bay, Calif., KTM (8-5)
6. Jordon Smith, Belmont, N.C., Yamaha (10-8)
7. Seth Hammaker, Bainbridge, Pa., Kawasaki (9-9)
8. Levi Kitchen, Washougal, Wash., Yamaha (6-12)
9. Ryder DiFrancesco, Bakersfield, Calif., Kawasaki (12-7)
10. Jalek Swoll, Belleview, Fla., Husqvarna (7-13)
250SMX Class Championship Standings
1. Hunter Lawrence, Australia, Honda (89)
2. Jo Shimoda, Suzuka, Japan, Kawasaki (86)
3. Haiden Deegan, Temecula, Calif., Yamaha (82)
4. Levi Kitchen, Washougal, Wash., Yamaha (63)
5. RJ Hampshire, Wesley Chapel, Fla., Husqvarna (62)
6. Jordon Smith, Belmont, N.C., Yamaha (62)
7. Maximus Vohland, Granite Bay, Calif., KTM (59)
8. Tom Vialle, France, KTM (54)
9. Ryder DiFrancesco, Bakersfield, Calif., Kawasaki (54)
10. Seth Hammaker, Bainbridge, Pa., Kawasaki (49)
SMX Supermini World All Stars Results
1. Carson Wood, Zephyrhills, Fla., Kawasaki
2. Max Shane, Oceanside, Calif., KTM
3. Benjamin Moya, Santiago, Chile, GASGAS
4. Seth Dennis, Brooksville, Fla., KTM
5. Logan Mortberg, Pierson, Fla., KTM
6. Darren Pine, Montgomery, Tex., GASGAS
7. Jayce Wolf, Franklin, Wis., KTM
8. Wyatt Duff, Lexington, Ky., KTM
9. Carson Millikan, Surprise, Ariz., KTM
10. Kane Bollasina St. Louis, Mo., KTM