On Saturday evening, Team Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen scored the Anaheim 1 AMA Supercross 450SX victory for the fourth time in his career. The German was perfect all night aboard his CRF450R, leading every lap of his heat race and the main event. In the 250SX West Region opener, Hunter Lawrence notched a third-place result.
Roczen nailed the premier-class holeshot in the final, while Chase Sexton – fresh off a heat win of his own – tucked in behind him, and the teammates ran nose-to-tail for the first eight laps. At that point, Sexton bobbled on a jump landing and went down, losing one position. The Illinois native quickly remounted and regained the spot, only to crash in the whoops and drop to midpack. During the race’s second half, Sexton charged steadily forward, climbing to fourth by lap 17 of 22, although a last-corner tussle with Marvin Musquin dropped him to fifth. Meanwhile, Roczen crossed the finish line with a margin of over seven seconds on the runner-up rider.
In the quarter-liter ranks, Lawrence suffered a poor start and completed lap one in 10th place, but he reached the top five by lap six and advanced another position four laps later. Early on the 16th and final go-around, the Australian moved into a podium position, and he nearly took over second in the final turn before ultimately settling for third. Also impressive was SmarTop/Bullfrog Spas/MCR Honda’s Vince Friese, who made the top five after leading the early laps aboard his CRF250R.
• Ken Roczen’s Anaheim 1 win was his fourth at the Southern California opener (tying him for second with James Stewart), his other Anaheim 1 wins having come in 2014, ’15 and ’17 (his Honda debut). Overall, Roczen has five wins at the venue, as he also topped Anaheim 2 in 2015. This was also the 14th by a Honda rider at Anaheim 1, tying Yamaha for the record. Overall at Anaheim, Honda has 21 wins, one behind Yamaha. In addition, it was the 20th premier-class main-event win of Roczen’s career. Hunter Lawrence’s third-place finish was the fifth 250SX podium result of his career.
• Roczen’s mechanic Jordan Troxell was absent, substituted by Roczen’s practice mechanic, Payton Stevenson.
• During daytime qualifying, Chase Sexton was the fourth-best 450SX rider with a 57.561” lap after posting the best time in the first timed session, while Roczen was seventh at 57.701”. SmarTop/Bullfrog Spas/MCR Honda riders Justin Brayton and Mitchell Oldenburg were ninth and 14th, respectively, and SGB Unlimited’s Cade Clason was 20th.
• In 250SX West qualifying, Lawrence’s 57.947” lap was the third-best time, while SmarTop/Bullfrog Spas/MCR Honda’s Vince Friese was eighth-quickest at 59.201”.
• Team Honda HRC riders were dominant in the 450SX heat races, with Sexton and Roczen both taking convincing wins. Sexton had to make one pass in his race, while Roczen led all eight laps of his, with Brayton posting a solid runner-up result. Oldenburg also qualified directly to the main, while Clason made it through via the LCQ.
• Friese took the first 250SX heat-race holeshot of the year and led the early laps before slipping back to third place by the finish. Lawrence took advantage of a heat 2 red flag to holeshot the restart, but he went down after coming together with Christian Craig and eventually finished fourth.
• In the week leading up to Anaheim 1, Team Honda HRC made the decision to move Hunter Lawrence to the AMA Supercross 250SX West Region, after his brother and teammate Jett Lawrence sustained a rib injury in a December 27 training crash. Jett is now scheduled to kick off his season at the February 19 East Region opener in Minneapolis.
• Jett made an appearance in the broadcast booth at Anaheim 1, and he also had the chance to meet actors Austin North and Madelyn Cline.
• Anaheim 1 race week marked the 30th anniversary of the collaboration between Honda and graphics partner Throttle Jockey. At the 1992 Orlando round, Jeromy Buehl and Mike Brown ran Throttle Jockey graphics on their Team Peak Pro Circuit Honda CR125R race machines, and teammate Jeremy McGrath would do likewise in the West Region. Throttle Jockey currently supplies graphics and seat covers for all four Team Honda HRC riders.
• Anaheim 1 marked the 177th start for SmarTop/Bullfrog Spas Honda’s Justin Brayton, the most of any active racer. Brayton will turn 38 in March.
Ken Roczen 94
“My weekend and the team’s weekend went great here at Anaheim 1. I didn’t really know which way it was going to go. We had a little bit of a difficult December, but this couldn’t have gone any better. Our practice was okay – nothing to really rave about, but we executed every single start tonight. We won the heat race, and then in the main event, I knew it was going to be a long battle. The track was really, really rough tonight, and it made for some crazy racing. There was a lot of carnage and crazy stuff going on behind me. I was actually really glad we had those good starts because it helped me stay away from that and really ride my own race. Chase, my teammate, was putting a lot of pressure on me, and we had a really good battle for the first half of the race. Luckily I came away with the win, and I couldn’t ask for anything better. I’m just really happy with how the team and I excelled today.”
Chase Sexton 23
“Today was pretty good – practice was good, heat race was good. In the main event, I made a few costly mistakes, which was frustrating. My speed is really good, and I feel really good on the bike; we did a lot of good work during the off-season, and it’s looking promising. Finishing fifth after crashing twice is pretty good I guess, but I have to figure out how to get my marks up and not make bonehead mistakes. The track was really good; I actually had fun on it all day. The mistakes I made were my fault. The bike felt good on the track; we had a good base, and I just really enjoyed it. I won a heat and got fifth in the main because of my mistakes, so I’m looking forward to improving. Kenny won, so it proved that we put in some good work on the bike. We’re healthy, and on to the next round.”
Hunter Lawrence 96
“My night was okay. I just kept pushing and charging, and doing everything I could. It was close to second, and I hope it was interesting to watch! I’m a little frustrated, a little satisfied, not just with the result but where I’m at. I think I’m riding great, and I can’t wait to go to the next race.”
“Wow, what a day! For my first race in my new position as Team Manager, I couldn’t have asked for more. I really wanted to get this out of the way and get the ball rolling, and to do it this way just made it so memorable and great. First off, having Hunter switch coasts on short notice and have a strong ride was awesome. After the difficult start, he put his head down and started clicking off laps that just kept improving through the main event. Seeing his speed and fitness, it showed that he’ll be a podium guy every weekend. Chase and Kenny showed that they’ll be two of the best riders in the class again. Winning both of the heats was key for picking good starting spots, and the main event was incredibly exciting. I’ve had a lot of people ask if I was nervous about them racing each other hard, but I feel like they were giving each other room and are smart enough to not take each other out, especially at the first race. Both rode incredibly well, and Kenny never ceases to amaze me. Chase has really improved his game though, and I think that it won’t be long before he gets to stand on the top step. Even though we won the first race, we still have a long way to go, and we’ll just focus on doing the best we can every weekend.”