Haiden Deegan proves the haters wrong, wins the 250 SuperMotocross championship
Haiden Deegan began the 2023 Monster Energy Supercross season as a Supercross Futures rider in the development class for 250s. After finishing fifth in that division in the Anaheim 2 race in January, the Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing team decided to test him on in the 250 East class at Houston. Deegan finished fourth in his first professional Supercross race. It was only his third pro race after making two starts in the Pro Motocross series last year and finishing with a best of 13th at Fox Raceway in the season finale.
Standing in the middle of the track at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida the following week, Deegan expressed surprise at getting that first top-five. Then, he went out and finished fourth again.
Two rounds later, he earned his first podium on a tricky hybrid track at Daytona International Speedway. With his leaning against the wall in the famed media center, surrounded by photos of NASCAR legends and soaking in Daytona’s history, there were no more expectations, just pure joy at running so well, so soon.
“After futures, I wasn’t even sure if I was going race, so we pulled it and we’re like, yeah, we might as well go race, get the experience and so far it’s going great,” Deegan said at the time.
In a season dominated by Hunter Lawrence, Deegan finished a distant second in the standings, narrowly edging England’s Max Anstie by a single point. He had no idea then how the season would end.
“I couldn’t imagine it,” Deegan said after the SuperMotocross season finale at the Los Angeles Coliseum. “My goal was to get a podium in an outdoor National in my first season and it went from there to being in the championship fight, having a red plate and now winning my first championship in my rookie season. It’s crazy.”
If his goal was to simply podium in the outdoor season, he checked that off his list in the first race of the season by finishing second at Fox Raceway. Deegan finished third at Hangtown the following week and again at High Point two weeks later.
Confidence was building. On the Fourth of July weekend at the RedBud National, Deegan finished second in the first moto and third in Moto 2. His combined score of five easily bettered Levi Kitchen’s 7-1. Deegan had his first professional win.
Deegan won again at Washougal later that month. This time he swept the motos. He finished second in the season finale at Ironman, but struggled throughout the season with consistency - finishing outside the top five at Southwick and Spring Creek and outside the top 10 at Unadilla and Budds Creek.
“It’s hard growing up and winning and amateurs and then you come to the pro ranks and you’re not winning,” Deegan said. “It feels more natural to be up front. I think it’s a thing where I kept working and working and I got to that point where I could win and that was a comfortable spot. You’re not going to win every race - it’s possible, shoot Jett (Lawrence) did it (in the Motocross season) but you just have to keep working hard and be there every time.”
The clock reset with the start of the SuperMotocross World Championship. Deegan stood on the podium at zMax Dragway and again at Chicagoland with a pair of third-place finishes. He ran well enough that he forced Lawrence and Jo Shimoda into a winner-take-all scenario in Los Angeles with fewer than nine points separating the top three.
A modest finish of fifth in Moto 1 had him questioning whether he could win the overall but Shimoda was only one position ahead in fourth. A strong start to Moto 2 as Shimoda struggled and Lawrence missed both races with a pinched nerve in his back put him second in the running order for most of the race.
At another time, early in the season, Deegan might have pushed past his limits. Saturday night in the Coliseum he rode a smart race and took the second-place finish at the overall victory.
Standing at the top of the podium after the race, Deegan thanked his supporters but also his haters.
“That’s how I feel off that stuff,” Deegan said. “If you doubt me, I’m going to prove you wrong - that’s just how I work and I’m going to work harder than everyone out on the track. That’s my goal every time.”
There was no sense of surprise when he sat in the post-race news conference, just more joy.