Chase Sexton wins Denver Supercross; Jett Lawrence joins brother as 250 champion
DENVER, Colorado - Chase Sexton won his second consecutive Monster Energy Supercross race at Empower Stadium at Mile High in Denver in an event marred by a season-ending injury to Eli Tomac. The injury and Sexton’s win effectively clinches the 2023 title for Sexton.
Tomac got a good start to the main as Sexton struggled during the opening lap. Hitting Turn 1 in third, Tomac ripped through the whoops heading into the Finish Turn, executed the wall jump perfectly and took the lead by the end of Lap 1, a position he held for three laps. At that point, tragedy struck for the rider who entered the race with an 18-point lead and as the favorite to win the 2023 Supercross championship. Tomac landed hard in one of the rhythm sections. His foot hit the ground. Tomac immediately slowed, headed off track and rode to the Alpinestars Medical trailer with his left foot raised.
After being helped into the trailer and treated, team manager Jeremy Coker reported to NBC Sports’ Daniel Blair that Tomac ruptured his Achilles tendon, an uncommon injury that will end his season.
While Tomac led the opening laps, Sexton was trailing outside the top five. As Tomac was being treated, Sexton worked his way forward and at the time Tomac’s injury was announced, Sexton had the lead and a seven-point advantage over his challenger.
A stunned Sexton was alerted to the turn of events on the top step of the podium.
“It’s definitely a lot of mixed emotions right now,” Sexton told Will Christien. “It’s definitely not the way you want to see someone go out. Eli is obviously an awesome competitor. We had a lot of good battles this year and he had a good points’ lead and I was trying to do the best I can. It’s a bummer to see him go out like that. For me that race was okay. I’ve been struggling all day with the altitude, and I was happy with the way I was riding in the middle of that race.”
Tomac’s departure from the race elevated Adam Cianciarulo to the top spot. He began the season with some lingering health issues after missing much of 2022 to injury. Cianciarulo scored 10 top-10s in the 12 rounds he made this season, but had not really come close to cracking the top five. The three rounds Cianciarulo missed earlier this year were also because of injury, and given the ebb and flow of the last couple of races, Cianciarulo had to wonder if he would get to the checkers unscathed.
In the late going, Cianciarulo lost second-place to Ken Roczen, but held onto his first podium of the year.
“I’m at a loss for words,” Cianciarulo said. These last couple of years has taught me a lot; taught me about myself. I’m going to be honest, I wasn’t sure if I would ever be up here again. Obviously I got a bit of a gift there with Eli. I hate to see someone go out like that. ... I just wanted to take it home. That was the longest 20 minutes of my life.”
Cianciarulo broke into tears.
“I can’t say enough good things about the people around me, that believed in me when nobody else did. I believed in myself. I fought everyday. I’m going to keep fighting. They say a winner is just a loser that kept trying, so this is for all the losers out there.”
For Roczen, the Denver Supercross race was a continuation of his recent strong run. Roczen finished third in three consecutive races from Atlanta through Nashville and with this second-place finish, Roczen trails Cooper Webb by a single point for third in the championship standings.
It didn’t come easy. Roczen crashed on the first lap and had to make his way forward, but he caught and passed Cianciarulo only on the last lap.
“I gave it everything I had,” Roczen said. “I went really far inside of the gate because they were all messed up. I took a chance because it was one of the better ruts. That’s what I needed to get a drop, which I did. I just got closed off in the front. I ran it in hard and slid it out.
“I was happy to lay it over that way rather than clipping a wheel and falling over the side. I had the clutch and kept the bike running. I went down the rhythm lane and people went down in front of me, which I came to a dead stop again and had to pull my bike out and keep going. But I didn’t allow that to destroy my whole main.”
One week after scoring a career-best finish of fifth in Nashville, Justin Hill improved that mark by one position and finished fourth.
Shane McElrath rounded out the top five.
Last week Hunter Lawrence bested the 250 East field to score his first championship.
In Denver, Jett Lawrence needed only to ride a smart race to secure his fourth consecutive 250 title. He is the defending 250 East Supercross champion and led the points in the last two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross championships. Lawrence’s night got off to a rocky start when he was squeezed on Lap 1 of his heat and fell to 14th in the running order.
Lawrence climbed to fourth at the end of his heat, but that gave him a terrible gate pick. Pinched on the inside line, he ended Lap 1 10th in the order. Lawrence picked his way through the field and denied Enzo Lopes of his first podium finish with seven minutes remaining on the clock.
Lawrence was 12 seconds behind a fierce battle for the top spot between Levin Kitchen, winner of Heat 1, and RJ Hampshire. The most important thing for Lawrence was to protect his position and secure the title.
“That bike has treated me so well,” Lawrence said. “This team, we could be put out of tenth. It’s not even a team anymore, it’s a family. They’ve done everything for me and my brother and I’m bowing down to the bike.”
The battle for the top spot was one of the closest from start to finish this season.
Hampshire and Kitchen were in contact throughout the event and just past the midway point Hampshire was mounting a charge. He rode wide heading into a rhythm section and lost momentum going up a jump after inadvertently hitting neutral. Hampshire cased the landing and was bounced off course before making a miraculously save. Hampshire was not content with holding onto second. He chased down Kitchen and made the pass for the lead when Kitchen got loose on the wall jump.
Hampshire scored his first win of the season and beamed ear to ear.
“It’s such a big difference from last year,” Hampshire said. “I show up and I enjoy my weekends. I love riding my dirt bikes right now. ... I hit neutral off that double and thought I might have lost it and I started clicking them off right after.”
Kitchen held on to finish second.
“I executed the start again, so I’m stoked on that,” Kitchen said. “I hit my marks well for the first half of that race. RJ caught me, had a little mishap there, but after I got that gap I probably looked over my shoulder too many times. I haven’t been in that position too many times and I kind of froze up, but overall I have to take the positives.”
Denied the podium, Lopes finished fourth after scoring the first heat win of his career.
“The first time feels super good,” Lope said after winning the heat.. “I’m just so out of it, I’m speechless.”
Mitchell Oldenburg rounded out the top five.
2023 Race Recaps
Nashville: Chase Sexton keeps hope alive; Cooper Webb out
New Jersey: Justin Barcia wins muddy race; first in two years
Atlanta: Sexton is back in the championship picture
Glendale: Eli Tomac wins 51st, breaks tie with James Stewart
Seattle: Tomac wins and ties Webb for first
Detroit: 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
More SuperMotocross coverage
Justin Barcia, Jason Anderson out for Denver
Joshua Cartwright wins PulpMX LCQ Challenge
Cooper Webb sustains concussion, out for season
Adam Cianciarulo, Aaron Plessinger detail New Jersey injuries
Power Rankings after Nashville
Results and points after Nashville
Chase Sexton wins crash marred New Jersey race