Chase Sexton grabbed his third 450 class win of the year while Hunter Lawrence continued his winning ways in the 250 class at Round 13 of the 2023 Monster Energy AMA Supercross season.
Justin Barcia earned second place on the high-speed track that stretched out in front of the grandstands of Atlanta Motor Speedway. Ken Roczen took third at the uncustomary-daytime Supercross round. In the return of Eastern Regional 250SX Class racing, Australian Hunter Lawrence took his sixth win in seven rounds in the regional series.
Ken Roczen grabbed the holeshot in the 450SX Class Main Event but Chase Sexton wasted no time getting into the lead before the racers had reached the second corner. After one lap Sexton was out front ahead of Roczen, Jason Anderson, Justin Barcia, Adam Cianciarulo, Cooper Webb, and Josh Hill, with points leader Eli Tomac in eighth place. Three minutes into the 20-minute plus one lap race Barcia was into third and Webb was up to fifth and soon applying heavy pressure on Anderson for fourth. Six minutes into the battle Sexton was inching away from Roczen and Barcia; the top three had separated themselves from Webb and Tomac who held fourth and fifth.
Twelve minutes into the race the top three were still close enough to be in the same track section together. Barcia was the rider on the move and pressuring Roczen for second. With six and a half minutes left on the race clock, Barcia took over the spot, but by then Sexton was four seconds up the track. Sexton put down some smooth, fast laps and stretched out the lead as the two riders ahead of him in the points still ran fourth and fifth.
Late in the race, Tomac made a drive and got up to Webb’s rear wheel just as Webb’s teammate, Aaron Plessinger, caught up to the two riders. But with two laps to go, Webb distanced himself from Tomac, and Plessinger lost touch; the big battle between the points front runners didn’t materialize. When the Monster Energy AMA Supercross flames fired off on the infield, Chase Sexton took his tenth career win and closed the points gap in the title chase to 17 with four races remaining.
“It felt like an outdoor race when I woke up this morning,” Sexton said. “I felt really tired today and kept waking up a little bit more for every session. I only did long motos this week, so I really feel like that work paid off. Around the 10-minute mark, I’m sure the TV broadcasters were waiting for something to happen. [laughs] I got through a huge mental barrier to get through that whole race on two wheels and ride solid. It was much needed.”
Justin Barcia was once again happy to be on the podium and considered it a good day all around.
“Atlanta was a really good day. I’m stoked on the team and myself and my riding. I had the family here and it was awesome. I qualified P5 and had a good heat race. I was riding really well, battling with Jason, and he went off the track. So, I took the heat race win by I believe you say, default. In the main event, I got off to a pretty good start, charged hard, and made some passes, Chase and Kenny were riding really well. I was able to get around Kenny. He pushed me hard the whole race. It was great. I wasn’t able to catch Chase, but I had a really good ride for second. I’m really looking forward to New York next week. It’s my hometown race.”
In the Eastern Regional 250SX Class Main Event, Hunter Lawrence snagged the holeshot ahead of Haiden Deegan, Jordon Smith, Talon Hawkins, and Coty Schock. Deegan jumped immediately into the lead but Lawrence shouldered his way back around as the racers charged up the face of the track’s bridge jump. Two minutes into the 15-minute plus one lap race the top four, Lawrence, Deegan, Smith, and Nate Thrasher were pulling away in a four-way battle when Lawrence got wildly out of shape in a rhythm section. Lawrence made an incredible save that took him off the track, and Deegan took over the front spot.
Within a couple of laps Lawrence had recovered and taken back the top spot, leaving Deegan to fend off his charging teammate Smith. The last time the Yamaha teammates had faced off there was blocking, contact, and a crash; but fans did not see a repeat as Smith got smoothly around Deegan with eight and a half minutes left on the race clock. Jo Shimoda, in his first race back from injury, was recovering nicely from a poor start and put his Kawasaki into the top five at the race’s midpoint. Jeremy Martin crashed hard in a rhythm section while running seventh, and late in the race, Thrasher had a fall exiting one of the track’s two whoop sections. At the checkered flag, Lawrence grabbed another win, Smith held strong in second, and Deegan earned a third podium in his rookie season.
“Day races are kind of weird; I’m not a big fan of them. It was hot today, but the track was so high-speed and open that we could get some airflow going,” Lawrence admitted. “It was so one-lined that you really had to be on the guy in front of you and confident in any move you were going to make. It feels really good to be where we’re at right now; this sport is so tough and full of peaks and valleys. It’s good to enjoy these moments because we work so hard for them. Now on to East Rutherford. Hopefully, Jett and I can get out of there with a good battle and a 1-2 finish.”
Runner-up Jordon Smith felt he had one of his best rides of the year.
“Yeah, it was a good day and a really good bounce back from a rough weekend in Detroit, so I’m really happy to come away with second,” Smith said. “I’m really excited about my riding today. I felt like it was some of my best of the year, and I felt really solid. The team did a good job. We made some changes to the bike, and they worked really well. The track was gnarly. It could get you in an instant, so you had to be very precise.”
Haiden Deegan continues to impress and make progress at every round and now sits second in the championship.
“It was a good day. I had a good qualifying and was third in the first one and ended up sixth. In my heat race, I was leading until halfway, when I hit neutral off the on-off. So I threw that one away, but I was able to finish fourth,” Deegan said. “I had the eighth gate pick for the main event, and from there, I pulled the holeshot on the outside like I did in the heat race. My starts have been dialed, which I’m happy about because I’ve been working hard on those. The whoops were also dialed the whole race. It wasn’t crazy speed, but I was consistent every lap, which is what I’ve been looking for because I feel like you can lose time quickly if you’re not consistent. We’re just slowly getting better and better. It feels great to get another podium and surreal to be second in the points during my rookie season.”
The next race drops that gate inside MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on April 22nd. The event returns to the nighttime, stadium-format racing but bring the unique 250SX Class mash-up of the season’s first of two East/West Showdowns.
450SX Class Results
1 Chase Sexton, Clermont, Fla., Honda
2 Justin Barcia, Greenville, Fla., GASGAS
3 Ken Roczen, Clermont, Fla., Suzuki
4 Cooper Webb, Newport, N.C., KTM
5 Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Yamaha
6 Aaron Plessinger, Hamilton, Ohio, KTM
7 Adam Cianciarulo, New Smyrna Beach, Fla., Kawasaki
8 Dean Wilson, Menifee, Calif., Honda
9 Colt Nichols, Murrieta, Calif., Honda
10 Justin Hill, Yoncalla, Ore., KTM
450SX Class Championship Standings
1 Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Yamaha (292)
2 Cooper Webb, Newport, N.C., KTM (286)
3 Chase Sexton, Clermont, Fla., Honda (275)
4 Justin Barcia, Greenville, Fla., GASGAS (239)
5 Ken Roczen, Clermont, Fla., Suzuki (238)
6 Jason Anderson, Rio Rancho, N.Mex., Kawasaki (214)
7 Aaron Plessinger, Hamilton, Ohio, KTM (213)
8 Adam Cianciarulo, New Smyrna Beach, Fla., Kawasaki (155)
9 Christian Craig, Clermont, Fla., Husqvarna (150)
10 Justin Hill, Yoncalla, Ore., KTM (140)
Eastern Regional 250SX Class Results
1 Hunter Lawrence, Wesley Chapel, Fla., Honda
2 Jordon Smith, Ochlocknee, Ga., Yamaha
3 Haiden Deegan, Tallahassee, Fla., Yamaha
4 Jo Shimoda, Menifee, Calif., Kawasaki
5 Max Anstie, Cairo, Ga., Honda
6 Henry Miller, Rochester, Minn., Honda
7 Chris Blose, Phoenix, Ariz., Kawasaki
8 Talon Hawkins, Temecula, Calif., Husqvarna
9 Cullin Park, Clermont, Fla., Honda
10 Caden Braswell, Shalimar, Fla., Honda
Eastern Regional 250SX Class Championship Standings
1 Hunter Lawrence, Wesley Chapel, Fla., Honda (177)
2 Haiden Deegan, Tallahassee, Fla., Yamaha (132)
3 Max Anstie, Cairo, Ga., Honda (122)
4 Nate Thrasher, Livingston, Tenn., Yamaha (120)
5 Jordon Smith, Ochlocknee, Ga., Yamaha (115)
6 Jeremy Martin, Rochester, Minn., Yamaha (111)
7 Chris Blose, Phoenix, Ariz., Kawasaki (104)
8 Tom Vialle, Murrieta, Calif., KTM (86)
9 Cullin Park, Clermont, Fla., Honda (81)
10 Coty Schock, Dover, Del., Honda (77)