Chase Sexton wins Atlanta Supercross as Eli Tomac, Cooper Webb miss the podium
Just as Chase Sexton was being written out of the 2023 Monster Energy Supercross championship, he rode to a dominant win in Atlanta and trimmed his points’ deficit to 17 as the leaders Eli Tomac and Cooper Webb finished off the podium.
Sexton entered Atlanta with three podium finishes in four starts on this track. The one thing missing was a win. Finishing seven seconds ahead of Justin Barcia, this was Sexton’s third win and 10th podium of the season, giving him the most top-three finishes in the series. Tomac and Webb are one back with nine each.
“To lead one start to finish feels really good,” told NBC Sports’ Will Christien. “I haven’t done that since San Diego last year. The track was really gnarly, so I had to be on my toes and that was a good test of the progress we’ve made mentally and with the bike. It was just a fun race.”
While discounting Sexton, it was noted that he needed the points’ leaders to make mistakes. A bad start for Tomac and an off day for Webb has given him the desperately needed opening and he now has a lot more hope than heading into this round. Sexton’s mistake-free races last week when he finished second to Tomac and at Atlanta gives him some momentum heading into the final four rounds.
Barcia’s second-place finish was his fifth podium of 2023, making him “best in class” among the riders who are not currently in championship contention.
“I think all we can do now is go for the win,” Barcia said. “We’re getting so close. This was a man’s track.
“The boys rode so good. Chase was on it. Kenny was on it. I wish you could see how gnarly that track was; TV doesn’t do it justice. The two whoops were very catchy.”
Ken Roczen finished third to score his third podium of the season and he saw that as a step in the direction he needs to head.
“We’ve been putting in some solid work all season,” Roczen said. “When I’m on the podium, I can’t ask for much more.
“That’s awesome because I came from a gnarly year last year. It’s really fun putting up a fight. Chase and I have been practicing together a lot more often and this was just like being back at the track.”
But the main storyline of the week belonged to the championship leaders.
Tomac had a slow start out of the gate. In his heat, Tomac got into Turn 1 hot and then was almost pushed off course by Barcia. Webb had already won his Heat 1 and that put Tomac at a disadvantage in gate selection.
But Tomac did not blame the gate selection for his struggles; he placed it squarely on his shoulders.
“We were together that whole moto there,” Tomac told Daniel Blair after the race. “I was trying to make a pass. I got really close about halfway and then nothing else really happened. I was trying a few things here and there; trying a few whoop lines, but could never finish anything.
“It was a tough track to make a move on, but to be honest I really blew it on the start. I had a big wheelie out of the gate and set myself back right away. I’m trying to take this as a positive that he was just one position in front of me.”
The poor start put Tomac in heavy traffic entering Turn 1, so he chose to ride safely through the middle of the pack and ended Lap 1 in seventh.
Webb did not start the Main much better. He was fifth in the opening lap. Tomac caught up to him and with a seven-point advantage entering this round, Tomac used discretion and settled in behind Webb.
Halfway through the main, Tomac gradually lost contact with Webb, dropping back four seconds as he got his second wind. Tomac stalked Webb and for a while it seemed he was biding his time. Webb dug deep with two laps remaining and created a gap that was just enough to keep Tomac from blitzing him.
“I rode like shit, honestly,” Webb told Daniel Blair. “That’s the bottom line. The leaders got away and Eli was all over me, so that was the main goal: to keep him behind.
“I just was off; didn’t feel comfortable. You’ve got to take these bad days and do what you’ve got to do.”
Trailing now by six, Webb shaved one point off Tomac’s championship lead.
Aaron Plessinger finished 10th in his heat and was forced into a rare Last Chance Qualifier. He overcame his poor gate selection to finish just outside the top five in sixth.
Jason Anderson beat Barcia in his heat and they fist-bumped at the end of the race. These two riders have an intense rivalry and it was contact with Barcia at Tampa that put Anderson on probation for the remainder of the season. Even Barcia was not immune to the feel-good story of the race.
Anderson’s wife gave birth to a baby girl and he had only an hour after the birth until he needed to travel to Atlanta.
“It’s been a crazy week for me being that this one is for my baby girl that I’ve only been able to see for an hour,” Anderson said. “Mom’s doing good at home and my little baby Siggy. I’m a little low on sleep, low on energy, but I’m going to try my best.”
Anderson fell out of the Main while running in the top 10.
After getting the lead on Lap 3, Hunter Lawrence made it look easy one more time as he won his sixth round of the season. Second-place Nate Thrasher crashed during the race and failed to finish, which means he can clinch the 250 East championship next week in the first East/West Shootout if he finishes third or better.
That was not obvious in the opening laps after Haiden Deegan grabbed the early lead.
During the first lap, Lawrence and Deegan raced side by side. Lawrence got around Deegan briefly and then made a rare mistake by overjumping an obstacle and riding off course as he recovered in the next turn. Deegan retook the lead and for the next two laps, 250 Supercross fans were treated to some of the most intense racing of the season.
“I got to say that was the gnarliest save I’ve ever seen by Hunter,” Deegan said after the race. “That was scary. I was behind him and I was scared for him.”
Lawrence prevailed in his battle with Deegan, but that rider refused to roll over and let the championship leader around. The two riders leaned on one another several times in the opening laps as Lawrence regained his composure.
“We had a little thing turn into a bit of a deal,” Lawrence said from the top of the podium. “It was not ideal. I got myself in the bush onions pretty bad. I needed two laps to recover. We had to work for that. It’s hotter than normal.”
Haiden Deegan scored his third career podium, all of which have come in the last four rounds since his incredible ride in Daytona.
“It’s incredible to think a year ago I won the Loretta’s on a supermini. It’s been a quick road honestly. This tells you if you work hard anything is possible.
“Right now we’re just putting int he work and I finally got to lead some laps. Finally got my first holeshot.”
The last time Deegan and his teammate Jordon Smith were on the track together, an aggressive block pass by Deegan set up a sequence of events that eventually led to Smith missing the Main. This week, he finished ahead of Deegan.
“It was tough,” Smith said. “It’s hot out here and the track is gnarly. It’s different than a typical supercross. I saw Hunter’s near crash and forgot which rhythm I was in on the third or fourth lap and did the same thing.”
Jo Shimoda returned after surgery for a shoulder injury and finished fourth. He inherited that position when Nate Thrasher sustained a vicious crash during the main.
Max Anstie rounded out the top five.
Coming off a second-place finish in his last race in Detroit and a heat win at Atlanta, Thrasher went down hard with two minutes remaining on the clock. He needed assistance getting off the track and was carted off the track by the Alpine Stars medical team.
2023 Race Recaps
Glendale: Eli Tomac wins 51st, breaks tie with James Stewart
Seattle: Tomac wins and ties Cooper Webb for first
Detroit: Chase Sexton inherits win after Aaron Plessinger falls
Indianapolis: Ken Roczen gets first win in more than a year
Daytona: Tomac extends Daytona record with seventh win
Arlington: Webb wins for second time, closes to two of Tomac
Oakland: Tomac ties Ricky Carmichael with 48 wins
Tampa: Webb gets first 2023 win
Houston: Tomac bounces back from A2 crash to win third race of 2023
Anaheim 2: Triple Crown produces new winners Sexton, Levi Kitchen
San Diego: Tomac, Jett Lawrence double down
Anaheim 1: Tomac wins opener for the first time
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