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Down to the wire for AMA 450 title

The Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, traveled to the motorsports hotbed of the greater Indianapolis area for the 11th and penultimate round of the 50th anniversary season at Crawfordsville’s Ironman Raceway. Abundant sunshine and temperatures in the mid-80’s set the tone for the Tucker Freight Lines Ironman National, where the two title combatants in the 450 Class, Team Honda HRC’s Chase Sexton and Monster Energy Star Yamaha Racing’s Eli Tomac, traded moto wins, from which Sexton prevailed triumphant via tiebreaker in what has been a historic battle for the Edison Dye Cup. In the 250 Class, reigning champion Jett Lawrence captured his eighth victory for Team Honda HRC and moved one step closer towards a successful title defence of the Gary Jones Cup.
450 Class
Moto 1The opening premier class moto started with Monster Energy Star Yamaha Racing’s Christian Craig leading the field through the first turn for the Holeshot. However, he was soon passed by Team Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen as Muc-Off/FXR/ClubMX Yamaha’s Shan McElrath slotted into third. Tomac and Sexton started outside the top five and top 10, respectively.

As Roczen sprinted out to an early lead of more than two seconds, Tomac made an impressive charge up to second where he passed McElrath, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Ryan Dungey, and Craig to put Roczen in his crosshairs. As Tomac made his move toward the lead Sexton responded with a charge into the top five, where he settled in behind Dungey.

As Sexton looked to break his way into the top three, Tomac pressured Roczen for the lead 10 minutes into the moto. Sexton made the pass on Craig for third as Tomac began looking for alternate lines to get around Roczen. Tomac was persistent and made the pass stick with nearly 18 minutes left. The Yamaha rider quickly opened a lead as Roczen and Sexton began a battle for second, from which Sexton made an easy pass on his teammate and looked to chip away at a 2.5 second deficit to Tomac as the moto reached its halfway point.

As they entered the final 10 minutes of the moto, mere bike lengths sat between Tomac and Sexton. Lapped riders factored into the fight for the lead as the momentum between both riders ebbed and flowed. Sexton was patient and pulled the trigger on an impressive outside-to-inside move that allowed him to cut under Tomac and take control of the moto with just over five minutes remaining. With the lead in hand, Sexton started to pull away from Tomac. A late push by Tomac saw him close back in with 90 seconds to go and was soon followed by an outside pass for the lead in the same section of the track where Sexton made his pass.

Tomac dropped the hammer and posted his fastest lap of the moto as time ran out on the clock, which allowed him to open a four-second lead. Sexton made a last-ditch effort to close in, but it wasn’t enough as Tomac took his 11th moto win of the season by 1.5 seconds. Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Aaron Plessinger finished a distant third, more than half a minute behind the leaders, followed by Dungey in fourth and Craig in fifth.
Moto 2The final moto saw Sexton seize the moment to grab the Holeshot, but he was soon passed by Roczen. Dungey slotted into third, with Tomac fourth and Plessinger fifth. The Honda teammates duked it out for the lead briefly, but Sexton got the edge and moved back out front. Roczen tucked in behind in second as Tomac made the pass for third and looked to wage battle with the red riders ahead of him.

Sexton was able to open a lead of more than three seconds in the opening 10 minutes of the moto as Roczen served as a buffer to his teammate. While his deficit to Sexton continued to grow, Tomac didn’t put a wheel wrong and tactfully made the pass on Roczen. A little more than four seconds separated Sexton and Tomac once the Yamaha rider moved into the runner-up spot.

The distance between the leaders hovered around five seconds for several laps before Tomac picked up the pace as the moto surpassed the halfway point. Tomac posted his fastest lap of the moto, but Sexton responded one lap later with his own personal best to sustain the advantage. As Tomac continued to try and chip away at the deficit, the battle for third heated up behind him as Roczen and Plessinger engaged in battle, from which Plessinger emerged with the position.

Back up front, the gap between first and second dropped to less than two seconds as Sexton navigated lapped riders, sometimes to Tomac’s benefit. As they approached the final five minutes of the moto Tomac closed the deficit to a second and had Sexton within striking distance. A bobble by Tomac halted his momentum briefly and allowed Sexton to pull back out to a three second lead. Behind this battle up front, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Jason Anderson was on a charge through the field that saw him easily pass Plessinger for third.

Sexton looked to cement his hold of the lead with another quick lap, which dropped Tomac six seconds behind. The lead continued to grow as time ran out on the moto. Sexton closed out his eighth moto win of the season by 11.2 seconds over Tomac. Anderson crossed the line in third but was penalized one position for an off-track excursion where he was deemed to have gained an advantage. That moved Plessinger into third.
OverallIn trading moto wins, Sexton (2-1) and Tomac (1-2) finished tied atop the overall standings, but the second-moto tiebreaker gave the Honda rider his fourth victory of the season and his third win in the past four races. Tomac’s fourth straight runner-up finish extended his overall podium streak to 10 races, while Plessinger (3-3) earned his second podium result of the year.

With equal points for the afternoon, a single point still separates Tomac and Sexton in the championship standings in what is now the closest title fight in the history of the sport. The landmark battle will come down to the final two motos of the season.

Chase Sexton, Team Honda HRC
“I finally got a good start [in Moto 2] and I just tried to sprint away. I got a good gap and got into lappers and made some mistakes and then Eli closed in. It was hot today and the track was rough, but I kept my head down and kept digging and we pulled it off.”

Eli Tomac, Monster Energy Star Yamaha Racing
I made a big push because he got stuck behind some lappers and I attacked. Then I tried a little too hard and made a mistake. I’m happy with the day though and happy with the result. We’ll move on to Pala [for the final round].”

Aaron Plessinger, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
That didn’t come easy. I got off to a great start [in Moto 2] and kind of went blank there for a bit. I don’t really remember the moto, but it was a good one. I was just having fun. I really love this track. It’s been a hell of a year, but we’re back on the podium baby!”
Photos: Align Media
450 Class Overall Results (Moto Finish // Points)Chase Sexton, La Moille, Ill., Honda (2-1 // 47)Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Yamaha (1-2 // 47)Aaron Plessinger, Hamilton, Ohio, KTM (3-3 // 40)Jason Anderson, Edgewood, N.M., Kawasaki (6-4 // 33)Christian Craig, El Cajon, Calif., Yamaha (5-5 // 32)Ryan Dungey, Belle Plaine, Minn., KTM (4-7 // 32)Ken Roczen, Germany, Honda (7-6 // 29)Malcolm Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Husqvarna (11-8 // 23)Fredrik Noren, Sweden, KTM (9-10 // 23)Dean Wilson, Scotland, Husqvarna (13-9 // 20)450 Class Championship Standings (Round 11 of 12)Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Yamaha – 496Chase Sexton, La Moille, Ill., Honda – 495Jason Anderson, Edgewood, N.M., Kawasaki – 402Ken Roczen, Germany, Honda – 373Christian Craig, El Cajon, Calif., Yamaha – 335Ryan Dungey, Belle Plaine, Minn., KTM – 332Aaron Plessinger, Hamilton, Ohio, KTM – 294Justin Barcia, Monroe, N.Y., GASGAS – 272Joey Savatgy, Thomasville, Ga., Kawasaki – 222Shane McElrath, Canton, N.C., Husqvarna – 197
250 Class
Moto 1The first gate drop of the afternoon began with Monster Energy Star Yamaha Racing’s Nate Thrasher at the head of the pack with the Holeshot as Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s RJ Hampshire and Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Max Vohland gave chase. The lead trio set a torrid pace in the early stages of the moto, which allowed them to establish a gap on the field. A persistent Vohland was able to make the pass on Hampshire, last week’s winner, and then set his sights on the lead. Behind these three riders Jett Lawrence and Monster Energy Star Yamaha Racing’s Justin Cooper looked to close in from fourth and fifth, respectively.

Ten minutes into the moto Thrasher was able to extend his lead on Vohland, who came under fire from both Hampshire and Lawrence. A savvy Lawrence made a quick pass on Hampshire to take over third and then stalked the rear fender of Vohland for about a lap before taking control of second. Lawrence faced a 3.5 second deficit to the lead when he made the pass, just before the halfway point of the moto. Behind this, Hampshire passed Vohland for third.

Lawrence made quick work of the gap to Thrasher and wasted no time in making a pass for the lead as soon as he saw an opening. Once out front, the Honda rider quickly distanced himself from the field. As Lawrence pulled away the focus turned to the battle inside the top three as Hampshire closed in on Thrasher and successfully made the pass for second. The closing minutes of the moto saw a hard charge from Team Honda HRC’s Hunter Lawrence that allowed the Australian to close in on Thrasher and grab third.

Jett Lawrence cruised to his 10th moto win of the season by 6.9 seconds over Hampshire in second. Hunter Lawrence closed strong to finish third but was penalized two points for an infraction in which he jumped on a red cross/wheels on the ground flag. Thrasher parlayed his holeshot into a season-best fourth-place finish, while Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Jo Shimoda rounded out the top five.
Moto 2The second moto got underway with Cooper up front for the Holeshot ahead of Shimoda. The Yamaha and Kawasaki riders battled it out on the opening lap as Shimoda was able to get around to complete the opening lap with the lead in hand. Hunter Lawrence followed in third while Jett Lawrence was mired outside the top 10 in 12th place.

A clear track allowed Shimoda to quickly establish a multi-second lead over Cooper as Hunter Lawrence settled into third with a comfortable gap over Thrasher in fourth. Further back, Jett Lawrence broke into the top 10 six minutes into the moto. While Shimoda continued to build on his lead the battle for second heated up between Cooper and Hunter Lawrence. The Honda rider paced Cooper for multiple laps and made the pass with a savvy inside move to take control of the position. As that unfolded Jett Lawrence was making his move on Vohland for fifth. Lawrence’s forward progress continued with a pass on Thrasher for fourth, which was enough to put him back in control of the overall standings. His comeback carried him onto the moto podium with a pass on Cooper for third with just under 10 minutes remaining.

Shimoda’s control of the moto was never in doubt as he maintained a lead approaching 10 seconds throughout the race and secured his fourth moto win of the season by 6.5 seconds over Hunter Lawrence, with Jett Lawrence in third.
OverallThe come-from-behind effort in Moto 2 helped Jett Lawrence secure his eighth overall victory of the season (1-3) and the 13th win of his career, which moves him into a tie for 10th on the all-time 250 Class wins list. Shimoda ensured the championship battle will head to the final round with a runner-up effort (5-1), while Hunter Lawrence rounded out the overall podium in third (3-2), despite his point penalty from the first moto.

Jett Lawrence will carry a 41-point lead over Shimoda into the season finale as he looks to successfully defend his title at a track he’s undefeated at. Hunter Lawrence remains in the title hunt as well, with a 48-point deficit to his brother in third.

Jett Lawrence, Team Honda HRC
“I didn’t quite get the start I needed in that [second] moto. It took me a while to get a flow going, so I just took my time and worked my way into third. It’s good to get another win and we’ll move on to the last round.”

Jo Shimoda, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki
“It’s just starts [for me]. In the first moto it wasn’t good at all. In the second moto it was better. I got into the front and just kept charging. I’m happy with the result.”

Hunter Lawrence, Team Honda HRC
“It’s tough when you don’t get the start because those guys [up front] get away so quickly. I found out I was penalized, so that’s a bummer, but we’ll head to the last round and try to finish strong.”
Photos: Align Media
250 Class Overall Results (Moto Finishes // Points)Jett Lawrence, Australia, Honda (1-3 // 45)Jo Shimoda, Japan, Kawasaki (5-1 // 41)Jett Lawrence, Australia, Honda (3-2 // 40)RJ Hampshire, Hudson, Fla., Husqvarna (2-4 // 40)Nate Thrasher, Livingston, Tenn., Yamaha (4-6 // 33)Justin Cooper, Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., Yamaha (6-5 // 29)Max Vohland, Sacramento, Calif., KTM (7-7 // 28)Jalek Swoll, Belleview, Fla., Husqvarna (11-8 // 23)Cameron McAdoo, Sioux City, Iowa, Kawasaki (10-9 // 23)Seth Hammaker, Bainbridge, Pa., Kawasaki (12-10 // 20)**Hunter Lawrence and Justin Cooper penalized two points apiece for red cross flag/wheels on the ground infraction in Moto 1.**

250 Class Championship Standings (Round 11 of 12)Jett Lawrence, Australia, Honda – 478Jo Shimoda, Japan, Kawasaki – 437Hunter Lawrence, Australia, Honda – 430Justin Cooper, Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., Yamaha – 375RJ Hampshire, Hudson, Fla., Husqvarna – 314Max Vohland, Sacramento, Calif., KTM – 279Nate Thrasher, Livingston, Tenn., Yamaha – 231Seth Hammaker, Bainbridge, Pa., Kawasaki – 227Michael Mosiman, Sebastopol, Calif., GASGAS – 208Levi Kitchen, Washougal, Wash., Yamaha – 193