SMX Things to Watch in 2024: Five reasons for Jett Lawrence to look over his shoulder
Jett Lawrence’s Pro Motocross and inaugural SuperMotocross World Championship title are still fresh in everyone’s minds, leaving fans to wonder if he can continue into 2024. To this point in his career, he’s been absolutely perfect in championship bids aboard a 450 and almost perfect in race wins.
The question must be asked whether Lawrence will face significant competition in 2024.
The remainder of field and their fans, the answer is an unequivocal yes. Lawrence’s graduation to the 450 class came with unique circumstances and a field that was decimated by injury late in the Monster Energy Supercross season. Several top riders either missed the start of Pro Motocross or were still finding their rhythm after returning to action. The winter has allowed them to heal in order to come out of the gate strong for Anaheim on January 6, 2024.
Where will that competition come from?
Here are several riders to watch at the start of the season.
The 2023 Supercross championship was Tomac’s to lose. Cooper Webb was eliminated from the hunt with an accident in Nashville and Chase Sexton had a lot of ground to cover if he wanted to catch and pass Tomac with two rounds remaining.
A freak accident when Tomac landed hard on a standard jump ruptured his Achilles tendon and kept him off the bike for the remainder of the year. This kind of accident takes months to heal, but Tomac was back on the bike practicing before the SuperMotocross season was over. During the offseason, Yamaha announced Tomac will return for the Supercross season with the option to add Pro Motocross if desired.
Tomac has unfinished business and as one of the toughest riders in the history of the sport, he will be the rider to beat early.
Sexton has a chip on his shoulder. He does not relish the fact that some pundits are putting an asterisk behind his 2023 Supercross championship because of Tomac’s injury. It does not matter if the criticism is fair; the mere fact that it exists is added motivation.
Sexton spent the next several months staring at Lawrence’s posterior, finishing second to his teammate in the majority of the motocross’ motos. No one wants to lose but losing to a rider with equipment identical to yours is hard to swallow.
He has a fresh slate. He left Honda at the end of the season and will race as a teammate to Webb at Red Bull KTM in 2024. The gloves are off.
Jett’s most intense competition will come from his brother, Hunter Lawrence. These two riders have possibly the best relationship of any siblings in competitive sports - but the only thing worse than losing to a teammate is losing to your younger brother. Hunter is both in 2024.
His 450 ride wasn’t available when the Pro Motocross season began because Sexton was still using it. And delaying Hunter’s elevation to the top tier gave Jett a chance to ease into the premiere class. As proud as Hunter was to watch the adoration heaped on Jett, he would not be a professional athlete if he did not imagine he could be the rider standing on the top of the podium.
Honda won all but one of the championships offered in 2023 and they will pick up where they left off. Hunter provided them the 250 East title when they swept the Monster Energy Supercross season.
If there is a tougher rider in the field than Webb, you wouldn’t want to meet him in a dark alley.
His Supercross season came to an abrupt end in Nashville while he was slugging it out with Tomac and Sexton for the 450 title. The image of Adam Cianciarulo making hard contact with Webb’s helmet had most experts predicting a long recovery from what must have been a massive concussion. Amazingly, Webb was back on his bike in time to start the Pro Motocross season.
He finished fifth overall at Fox Raceway, podiumed in the next two rounds, and kept his perfect record of top-five alive with a fifth at High Point before injury sidelined him again. Webb and Red Bull KTM knew they were going to part ways at the end of the season and their heart wasn’t dedicated to completing the season.
Webb eased into his new role with Star Yamaha during the SuperMotocross World Championship and ended the playoffs with a podium at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
Racing wasn’t as much fun as it once was for “Kickstart Kenny.” In January, he told NBC Sports he “urgently needed a change” and moving to Suzuki gave him a new lease on life.
Roczen showed consistency during the Supercross season and tenacity during the playoffs. In the final press conference of the season, he likened himself to a chihuahua nipping at the heels of Lawrence and Sexton as he finished second overall in each of the three playoff rounds.
Roczen is beginning to think of himself as a supercross specialist and that focus will make him a force when the stadium season starts.