The highest temperatures of the season thus far, combined with more than 6,000 feet of elevation at Thunder Valley Motocross Park, provided a true challenge for the world’s best riders at the third round of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship.
With the heat index hovering in the mid-90s (mid 30’s C), the Toyota Thunder Valley National became a battle of endurance across both classes as Team Honda HRC swept the overall wins for the second time this season, where Ken Roczen prevailed in the 450 Class and Jett Lawrence raced to a third straight victory in the 250 Class.
The first gate drop of the afternoon got underway with Italian Antonio Cairoli leading the way with the Holeshot, with Roczen in close pursuit. The two former World Champions duked it out throughout the opening lap where Roczen was able to make the pass and open a gap. Behind them, Justin Barcia settled into third, just ahead of Jason Anderson and Chase Sexton, the season’s two overall winners.
A torrid pace in the early stages of the moto allowed Roczen to establish a lead of nearly three seconds, while the remaining front runners engaged in a multi-rider battle that saw Barcia move into second and drop Cairoli to third. Anderson followed through into third soon after. Cairoli continued to lose positions and soon fell outside the top five. Back out front, the battle for second intensified between Barcia, Anderson, and Eli Tomac, a Colorado native. Anderson made an impressive pass to take control of second just before the halfway point and Tomac eventually got around Barcia for third several laps later.
As the moto entered its final 10 minutes, the battle for second heated up between Anderson and Tomac. The Yamaha rider pounced at the first opportunity and stormed past, which put Tomac just over five seconds behind Roczen with eight minutes to go. With the support of the home crowd, Tomac went on the attack and erased the deficit in a matter of a couple of laps. Once he closed onto Roczen’s rear fender Tomac pulled the trigger on a pass and got by the Honda with ease, to the delight of the fans in attendance.
Roczen kept Tomac honest for a couple of laps after losing the lead, but the Yamaha rider was too consistent and pulled away in the closing stages. Tomac took his second consecutive moto win by 3.1 seconds over Roczen, followed by Anderson in third. Sexton finished in fourth, while Cairoli finished strong to claim fifth.
The second premier class moto began with another Holeshot for Cairoli, his third in a row, but he was immediately overtaken by Roczen, who put the hammer down and sprinted away to establish an initial lead of 3.5 seconds on the opening lap. Cairoli was forced to fend off heavy pressure by Anderson, while Tomac battled his way into fourth, just ahead of Sexton.
In his pursuit of Cairoli, Anderson went down after his rear tire popped out of a rut. He was able to remount, but dropped to just outside the top 10. Anderson’s misfortune played into Tomac’s favor, as he moved up to third, but Sexton made the pass on the Moto 1 winner to take control of the position. Both Sexton and Tomac kept pushing the pace, which allowed the duo to close in on Cairoli in second and successfully make their respective passes to drop the Italian off the moto podium.
As the moto reached its halfway point Roczen managed a lead of nearly four seconds, but Sexton was on a charge and was able to get his teammate within his sights. With 13 minutes to go Sexton was able to make the pass for the lead look easy and quickly put some distance over Roczen, as Tomac followed several seconds behind in third.
As time continued to tick away the momentum appeared to shift into Tomac’s favor as he began to run his fastest laps of the moto in the waning minutes. Less than three seconds separated the top three with five minutes to go as Tomac remained the fastest rider on the track. Despite the better pace, Tomac was unable to make any pass attempts stick as Roczen’s defensive prowess kept the Yamaha at bay. The longtime rivals put on a show as they continued to duke it out, which allowed Sexton to sprint away.
Sexton had the win in hand, with a lead of more than five seconds, but went down on the final lap with just a few turns to go. That handed the lead to Roczen, whose fight to fend off Tomac paid off with his first moto win of the season. The German crossed the line 5.1 seconds ahead of Sexton, who remounted quickly enough to lose just one spot, with Tomac third.
By virtue of his unexpected moto win, Roczen vaulted to the top of the overall classification, where his 2-1 moto finishes were enough to give him the 21st win of his career and his fifth victory at Thunder Valley, where he also emerged triumphant one year ago. Tomac earned a runner-up finish at his home race (1-3), while Sexton’s result in the final moto moved him into third overall (4-2).
With his third overall podium finish in as many races this season, Sexton maintained his hold of the championship lead. He currently holds a five-point advantage over Roczen, who gained seven points, while Tomac moved into third, 14 points behind Sexton.
Ken Roczen was stoked to get back on the winner’s list, saying, “It’s about being relentless. We (Tomac and I) had the greatest battle going on. I just didn’t want to give up. I just want to get better every weekend and that’s what we did. It’s unfortunate Chase went down like that, but I’ll take it. I’m so stoked right now.”
Despite missing the win Eli Tomac enjoyed the battle with Roczen, “It was a lot of fun racing. We were so close so many times there. I gave it my all. It’s always fun racing with Ken (Roczen). He races really clean and it makes it that much more enjoyable. It’s a bummer we missed out on the overall, but I’m still happy with the result today,” Tomac said.
The opening moto of the 250 Class kicked off with Levi Kitchen at the head of the pack for the Holeshot while his teammate Justin Cooper slotted into second ahead of Stilez Robertson, who was briefly passed by Jett Lawrence before reclaiming the position. The point leader was persistent and reclaimed third before the completion of the opening lap.
Lawrence’s forward progression continued in the early laps as he caught and passed Cooper with ease for second. Once into the runner-up spot, Lawrence looked to close in on a four-second deficit to Kitchen out front. While Lawrence initially gained ground, Kitchen responded with his fastest laps of the moto to pull back out and effectively end the threat. He continued to build on that advantage through the remainder of the moto.
Kitchen managed his first opportunity to lead a moto with the poise of a veteran. He was never challenged and went wire-to-wire for the first moto win of his career. The Yamaha rider took the checkered flag 9.4 seconds ahead of Lawrence, who also rode unchallenged in second, with Cooper in third. Hunter Lawrence overcame a start deep inside the top 10 to finish fourth, while Seth Hammaker rounded out the top five.
The second and deciding moto started with the Lawrence brothers leading the way as Hunter grabbed the Holeshot over Jett, who was then passed by Cooper for second. The lead trio quickly established themselves at the head of the pack. Behind them, a crash involving Hammaker and Nate Thrasher ended up collecting Kitchen and dropped the Moto 1 winner outside the top 10.
Back out front, Hunter Lawrence built an advantage of nearly three seconds as Cooper and Jett Lawrence continued their battle for second. Jett’s persistence paid off and allowed him to make the pass for the position. The lead between the Lawrence’s then stabilized at about two seconds, which then shifted the focus to Kitchen and his recovery from misfortune on the opening lap. The Yamaha rider was determined and soon found himself on the verge of a spot in the top five.
Back towards the front, Cooper found himself under fire from Michael Mosiman, who made easy work of the Yamaha rider to move into third. Once into podium position Mosiman continued to look forward and started to chip away at his deficit to Jett Lawrence in second. About 1.5 seconds sat between the two as Mosiman ran the fastest laps on the track, but Lawrence responded with an uptick in his pace, which allowed him to pull the gap back out.
While the Lawrences held strong to the top two spots, Mosiman started to lose ground to a late surge from Cooper in fourth. Cooper logged his best laps of the moto and was able to reclaim third with just a few minutes remaining.
At the front of the pack, Hunter Lawrence went unchallenged throughout the moto and carried on to a wire-to-wire performance that brought him his first moto win of the season. He took the checkered flag 5.5 seconds ahead of Jett, while Cooper followed closely in third.
Despite missing out on a moto win, Jett Lawrence’s consistent 2-2 effort was enough to put him atop the overall classification for his third straight win to open his title defense. It marked the eighth win of the young Australian’s career. Hunter Lawrence followed in the runner-up spot (4-1) for the second 1-2 performance for the siblings this season, while Kitchen’s resilient ride in the final moto was enough to bring him his first career podium result in third (1-5).
Jett Lawrence added another point to his lead in the championship standings, which now sits at 12 points over Hunter. Jo Shimoda, who finished fifth, is third, 38 points out of the lead.
“I’m just happy to get through the day. I’m (feeling) better than last weekend, but I’m still sick,” Jett Lawrence said. “I went flat (in the races). My speed just wasn’t there today. I just looked to stay on the podium and got the win, so I’m pumped.”
Jett’s brother Hunter Lawrence was happy to overcome the altitude and get a moto win and podium. “I just had to send it in the second moto and it worked out (on the start),” Hunter said. “That made it so much easier. It’s difficult here because the altitude is so much different than what we practice in, but we’ll keep working and try to keep getting better.”
Levi Kitchen was happy to make it onto the podium saying, “This is huge (to be on the podium). It’s a big learning experience to get out there and run with all those guys. I knew in that second moto I was going to suffer, so I just gave it all I had in the first 10 minutes and brought it home. I didn’t even think I was on the podium, so it feels great to make it up here.”
The Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship will travel east for the first time next weekend with the Father’s Day tradition from Pennsylvania’s famed High Point Raceway and the fourth round on Saturday, June 18,
450 Class Overall Results (Moto Finish)
1 Ken Roczen, Germany, Honda (2-1)
2 Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Yamaha (1-3)
3 Chase Sexton, La Moille, Ill., Honda (4-2)
4 Jason Anderson, Edgewood, N.M., Kawasaki (3-6)
5 Antonio Cairoli, Italy, KTM (5-4)
6 Ryan Dungey, Belle Plaine, Minn., KTM (7-7)
7 Justin Barcia, Monroe, N.Y., GASGAS (6-8)
8 Shane McElrath, Canton, N.C., Husqvarna (12-5)
9 Joey Savatgy, Thomasville, Ga., Kawasaki (8-9)
10 Garrett Marchbanks, Coalville, Utah, Yamaha (9-11)
450 Class Championship Standings (Round 3 of 12)
1 Chase Sexton, La Moille, Ill., Honda – 134 Points
2 Ken Roczen, Germany, Honda – 129 Points
3 Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Yamaha – 120 Points
4 Jason Anderson, Edgewood, N.M., Kawasaki – 111 Points
5 Christian Craig, El Cajon, Calif., Yamaha – 92 Points
6 Antonio Cairoli, Italy, KTM – 89 Points
7 Ryan Dungey, Belle Plaine, Minn., KTM – 89 Points
8 Justin Barcia, Monroe, N.Y., GASGAS – 74 Points
9 Aaron Plessinger, Hamilton, Ohio, KTM – 72 Points
10 Shane McElrath, Canton, N.C., Husqvarna – 65 Points
250 Class Overall Results (Moto Finish)
1 Jett Lawrence, Australia, Honda (2-2)
2 Hunter Lawrence, Australia, Honda (4-1)
3 Levi Kitchen, Washougal, Wash., Yamaha (1-5)
4 Justin Cooper, Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., Yamaha (3-3)
5 Jo Shimoda, Japan, Kawasaki (7-6)
6 Stilez Robertson, Bakersfield, Calif., Husqvarna (6-7)
7 Michael Mosiman, Sebastopol, Calif., GASGAS (13-4)
8 Matthew LeBlanc, Breaux Bridge, La., Yamaha (10-9)
9 Seth Hammaker, Bainbridge, Pa., Kawasaki (5-15)
10 Nick Romano, Bayside, N.Y., Yamaha (9-13)
250 Class Championship Standings (Round 3 of 12)
1 Jett Lawrence, Australia, Honda – 139 Points
2 Hunter Lawrence, Australia, Honda – 127 Points
3 Jo Shimoda, Japan, Kawasaki – 101 Points
4 Levi Kitchen, Washougal, Wash., Yamaha – 100 Points
5 Justin Cooper, Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., Yamaha – 100 Points
6 Michael Mosiman, Sebastopol, Calif., GASGAS – 81 Points
7 Seth Hammaker, Bainbridge, Pa., Kawasaki – 77 Points
8 Stilez Robertson, Bakersfield, Calif., Husqvarna – 74 Points
9 Max Vohland, Sacramento, Calif., KTM – 63 Points
10 Pierce Brown, Sandy, Utah, GASGAS – 58 Points