Chase Sexton wins Salt Lake City Supercross finale, secures championship with an exclamation point
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah - Chase Sexton was determined there would be no asterisk attached to his championship and ended the 2023 season and Monster Energy Supercross finale in Salt Lake City, with the win and an exclamation point instead. Sexton snapped a 20-year championship losing streak for Honda to become the first rider since Ricky Carmichael in 2003 to win for the manufacturer.
With Hunter Lawrence clinching the 250 East title in Nashville and Jett Lawrence clinching the West in Denver, Honda had a clean sweep of the Supercross championships.
Sexton’s Salt Lake City win was his third consecutive and fourth in the last five rounds and in each race, he rode flawlessly.
While it is true that two of his closest competitors fell to injury in the past two rounds, Sexton did everything in his control by winning the Nashville race and taking over second in the points when Cooper Webb was injured. He won and took the points’ lead from Eli Tomac in Denver when that rider ruptured his Achilles tendon.
Championships come in all shapes and sizes.
Sexton dominated the night by grabbing the holeshot and riding away from the field. When the checkers waved, he had an 18-second lead over Aaron Plessinger and had lapped his way up to fifth-place.
“I worked my whole life for this exact moment since I was four years old,” Sexton told NBC Sports’ Will Christien. “My dad and I traveled the world to go to races and it paid off. The season has been up and down.
“But they have 17 races for a reason and you have to stay strong. I’m so proud of how I’ve bounced back this year. It goes to show I can make the whole race. I’ve made strides this year and it paid off.”
Sexton’s charge to the points’ lead began six rounds ago with a second-place finish in Glendale, Arizona after a series of mistakes had him virtually out of the conversation for the title. Being left out of the conversation made him angry and in the post-race news conference, he said that was a key motivation for the perfect performances he’s put together with his last four wins.
Plessinger made his return to the series after missing three rounds to injury.
Still sore from a crash in New Jersey, he was determined to make noise in a field that has been depleted by injuries. Plessinger grabbed the holeshot in his heat and led until time ran off the clock, but needed to complete the last two laps. At the end of the whoops, he got behind on his braking and blew through the end of the bowl turn, taking out a robotic camera in the process.
It took a while to disentangle his bike from the apparatus and Plessinger fell to 10th, but made his way around Joan Cros on the final lap and qualified for the main with his ninth-place finish.
“Man, I’m feeling good especially after that crash in the heat race,” Plessinger told NBC Sports’ Daniel Blair. “It was a tough choice coming back to race this round because I’m still sore. I figured I’d give the fans a good race to watch and that’s what I did. I didn’t go out without a bang; I took out one of your cameras and got a little muddy.”
Justin Hill stood on the final step of the podium, completing a series of races in which he finished better with each consecutive outing. Hill finished fifth at Nashville and was fourth last week in Denver.
“The expectations just kept moving,” Hill said. “What a year for Team Tedder. We’re just out here doing our thing and enjoying it and I couldn’t be happier.”
The battle for second through fourth was intense between Plessinger, Hill and Adam Cianciarulo. Each of them saw this as an opportunity to end the season on a high note.
One week after scoring an emotional podium finish, Cianciarulo scored his second top-five of the season with a fourth-place result. He chased the leader for the first half of the race until Plessinger caught him. Riding with soreness in his arm after having stem cell therapy during the week, he chose discretion and a solid finish.
After scoring five consecutive top-10s without a top-five, Dean Wilson finished fifth for his best result of the season.
Ken Roczen entered the final round needing only two points to pass Webb for third in the standings. A near crash in a bowl turn on Lap 1 put an end to his race as he hyper-extended his knee. Roczen finished last in the Main and earned only a single point. Compounding his frustration was the fact that he was in a league of his own in his heat, winning with an advantage of 12 seconds over Wilson.
Jett Lawrence ended his 250 Supercross career in style, taking his 13th win in this class and moving into a tie for third with Jeremy McGrath.
After clinching his championship last week in Denver, Lawrence said he was not going to take any risks this weekend as he prepared to move into the 450 class in the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, but with his closest rival for most of the season ahead of him in the Main, Lawrence could not pass up the opportunity to get around RJ Hampshire.
“The emotions haven’t come out quite yet,” Lawrence said after the race. “The last 250 race, to come out on top; it’s been awesome. This 250 has been unreal to me. It’s who I am today.”
For Lawrence, this is his fourth consecutive championship after winning the last two Motocross titles and last year’s 250 East championship.
Hampshire held on to finish second with Levi Kitchen in third, which led Lawrence to declare the race a romp for the 250 West riders. “All West guys top three,” he declared. “Is West the best? I’d say so.”
The highly touted battle between Jett and his 250 East championship winning brother, never materialized as Hunter Lawrence got a bad start out of the gate and was involved in a pileup on Lap 1 that dropped him outside the top 10 for most of the race.
The first 250 East/West Showdown was overshadowed by rain that began to fall just as the riders hit the gate for the feature. After a lengthy delay for lightning to clear the area that weekend, the track was turned into a muddy pit. The East/West Showdown in Salt Lake City was also defined by rain, but with sunshine during most of the afternoon, the moisture soaked into the ground and track held up. It was slippery but did not fall to the same conditions as New Jersey.
Hampshire grabbed the early lead with Jett on his back tire. For the past two weeks, Jett has said that his focus is on his move to the 450 class, but with adrenaline flowing and a chance to beat his rival, Jett surged in the middle of the race.
“The little punk got me,” Hampshire said. “I had a good start. I was stoked on that and I came around the second turn and looked at the board and saw he was right behind me and said ‘this is going to be a long one’. He was better than me in the whoops. I tried to protect it. I knew he was there. But I can’t take away from this season.”
Jett and Hampshire have had heated battles all season and Jett gave him a little elbow grease halfway through the race as he then pushed Hampshire wide to take the lead. In the post-race conference, Hampshire said it was a good thing Lawrence scooted away because he fully intended to repay the favor in the next turn.
Kitchen secured the final podium position after winning the 250 West heat race by a sizeable margin over Hampshire and Jett.
Jo Shimoda was the top 250 East rider in fourth and Jordon Smith rounded out the top five.
A Lap 1 accident collected several riders including Hunter and the 250 East heat winner Haiden Deegan. Hunter climbed to sixth at the checkers with Deegan in eighth.
The disappointment for Deegan was as sharp as it was for Hunter. Named Supercross Rookie of the Year earlier in the day, his heat win served notice that he would be in line to take the mantle and be one of the top contenders next season.
“I’ll just tell you this; [the heat win] boosted my confidence quite a bit,” Deegan said. “I got the holeshot and ran away.”
2023 Race Recaps
Denver: Chase Sexton wins, takes points’ lead with Eli Tomac injury
Nashville: 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
Hunter and Jett Lawrence faceoff one last time
Malcolm Stewart renews with Husqvarna
Adam Cianciarulo: “It’s about what you notice in life’
Eli Tomac and James Stewart comment on Tomac’s injury
Eli Tomac suffers season-ending injury
Cooper Webb sustains concussion, out for season
Results and points after Denver
Chase Sexton wins, takes points’ lead