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Sexton takes AMA series lead with Unadilla win

The Parts Unlimited Unadilla National signified the ninth round of the 2022 season and featured one of the summer’s toughest challenges with a rough and highly technical track, where Team Honda HRC’s Chase Sexton was able to reclaim the lead of the 450 Class point standings with a dominant 1-1 sweep of the motos. In the 250 Class, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Jo Shimoda prevailed with his second win of the season following a wild day of racing in the smaller displacement.
450 Class
Moto 1The opening moto in the premier class saw a new, yet familiar face at the head of the pack to start as defending champion and Monster Energy Star Yamaha Racing rider Dylan Ferrandis stormed to the Holeshot in his first gate drop of the season. He was followed by Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Jason Anderson and Team Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen. The German then went on the charge and made the pass on Anderson for second. He continued to push and grabbed control of the lead from Ferrandis before the completion of the first lap. A small miscue by Anderson caused him to lose third to point leader and Monster Energy Star Yamaha Racing rider Eli Tomac.

A determined Tomac got around his teammate to move into second and then looked to chase down Roczen for the lead. The Yamaha rider showed patience and waited for his opening, then made a successful pass on his longtime rival in his first attempt. Behind them, Anderson made the move on Ferrandis for third and brought Sexton along with him for fourth.

Tomac stabilized his lead to nearly three seconds over Roczen as the moto passed the halfway point. This is also when Sexton was able to make his move on Anderson for third. The Honda rider’s charge didn’t stop there as he then made quick work of his teammate Roczen for second not long after. Sexton continued to post the fastest laps on the track to chip away at Tomac’s lead.

As the battle for the lead started to heat up, Roczen continued to lose positions, giving up his hold of third to Anderson and fourth to Ferrandis. Back up front, Sexton successfully eliminated his deficit and passed Tomac with ease with about seven minutes left in the moto.

With the lead in hand, Sexton ran away from the field and went unchallenged the rest of the way. He easily claimed his fifth moto win of the season by 12.8 seconds over Tomac, in what was arguably the Honda rider’s most impressive single moto of the season. Anderson followed in third while Ferrandis parlayed his holeshot into a fourth-place result. Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Ryan Dungey crossed the line in fifth, but received a one-spot penalty for jumping on a red cross flag, which moved Roczen into fifth and Dungey sixth.
Moto 2The second and deciding moto got underway with Tomac leading the way for the Holeshot, followed by Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Aaron Plessinger, Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/GASGAS Factory Racing’s Justin Barcia, and Sexton. As Tomac looked to establish an early lead Sexton made the pass on Barcia for third and looked to continue moving forward, soon making the pass on Plessinger for second to start the second lap.

With the championship leaders out front all attention shifted to Sexton’s pursuit of Tomac. They settled in through the opening 10 minutes of the moto until Sexton decided to drop the hammer and go on the attack. He quickly erased his deficit to the lead and made a quick move that appeared to catch Tomac off guard and allowed Sexton to make an easy pass for the top spot. Moments later, Anderson made the pass on Plessinger for third after several laps of pressure.

Sexton quickly built a lead of almost two seconds but was unable to check out on Tomac, who stalked the lead and studied his rival’s lines. The leaders traded fast throughout the middle portion of the moto before Sexton inched away as they approached lapped riders. The lead continued to build from there and soon surpassed 10 seconds.

The Honda rider put it on cruise control in the closing stages to take the moto win by 15.8 seconds over Tomac. Anderson finished in a distant third.
OverallSexton’s second 1-1 sweep of the summer brought him his third victory of the season and his second in a row. It’s the fifth win of his career. Tomac (2-2) settled for the runner-up spot, while Anderson (3-3) completed the overall podium.

The winning effort vaulted Sexton back atop the championship standings, where he reclaimed his hold of the red plate with a one-point edge over Tomac with three rounds and six motos remaining. Anderson further strengthened his hold of third, 84 points out of the lead.

Chase Sexton, Team Honda HRC
“It was an awesome day. I struggled this morning in qualifying but we made some bike changes that worked out really well. This track really suited my style and I just couldn’t be happier with how the day went. I’m having an awesome summer and I’m so happy on my bike. I just want this to keep going.”

Eli Tomac, Monster Energy Star Yamaha Racing
I did what I could. Chase [Sexton] was just really strong today. This was a big improvement for me here [at Unadilla]. I haven’t had the best results in the past, but Chase was just riding so well. We’ll take second and try to come out stronger next weekend.”

Jason Anderson, Monster Energy Kawasaki
After you get third enough times this step of the podium can kind of feel like a bummer. I’m happy to be up here and I feel like I’m making progress, but those guys in front of me are just ripping right now.”
Photos: Align Media
450 Class Overall Results (Moto Finish // Points)Chase Sexton, La Moille, Ill., Honda (1-1 // 50)Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Yamaha (2-2 // 44)Jason Anderson, Edgewood, N.M., Kawasaki (3-3 // 40)Aaron Plessinger, Hamilton, Ohio, KTM (7-4 // 32)Ryan Dungey, Belle Plaine, Minn., KTM (6-6 // 30)Ken Roczen, Germany, Honda (5-7 // 30)Dylan Ferrandis, France, Yamaha (4-10 // 29)Justin Barcia, Monroe, N.Y., GASGAS (10-5 // 27)Joey Savatgy, Thomasville, Ga., Kawasaki (9-8 // 25)Christian Craig, El Cajon, Calif., Yamaha (11-9 // 22)450 Class Championship Standings (Round 9 of 12)Chase Sexton, La Moille, Ill., Honda – 409Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Yamaha – 408Jason Anderson, Edgewood, N.M., Kawasaki – 325Ken Roczen, Germany, Honda – 304Christian Craig, El Cajon, Calif., Yamaha – 273Ryan Dungey, Belle Plaine, Minn., KTM – 266Justin Barcia, Monroe, N.Y., GASGAS – 246Aaron Plessinger, Hamilton, Ohio, KTM – 230Joey Savatgy, Thomasville, Ga., Kawasaki – 191Shane McElrath, Canton, N.C., Husqvarna – 165
250 Class
Moto 1The first moto of the afternoon got underway with Monster Energy Star Yamaha Racing’s Nick Romano at the head of the pack, only to be passed by his teammate Justin Cooper for the Holeshot. Romano then dropped another spot to Shimoda, who initially started third. Point leader and Team Honda HRC rider Jett Lawrence started just outside the top five. Cooper then crashed out of the lead but remounted quickly, resuming deep inside the top 10 of the running order.

Shimoda assumed the lead, with Romano second and Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Seth Hammaker third, followed by Lawrence in fourth. Lawrence made the pass for third and then engaged in a spirited battle with Romano for second, which allowed Shimoda to extend his lead. Lawrence finally appeared to have the pass made but then went down as he looked to solidify the move, which dropped him just outside the top five.

As Shimoda continued to pull away and soon built a lead of more than 10 seconds the battle for the remaining spots on the moto podium heated up between Romano and the Honda siblings of Hunter and Jett Lawrence. As Hunter looked for a way past Romano it allowed Jett to slip by for third. However, he crashed again and remounted in eighth. With the pressure from his brother gone, Hunter Lawrence bided his time and then made the pass on Romano for second. The rookie then lost his hold of third to Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s RJ Hampshire.

While the action behind him was intense, Shimoda enjoyed a smooth ride out front and cruised to his second moto win of the season by 7.8 seconds over Lawrence, with Hampshire third. Romano followed in fourth, while Cooper rebounded to finish in the top five. Jett Lawrence soldiered home in seventh.
Moto 2As the field roared out the gate for the second moto it was the same rider leading the field to the Holeshot with Cooper out front, this time with the Lawrence brothers in tow. Shimoda emerged in seventh and had his work cut out for him from the outset of the moto.

The lead trio settled into their positions quickly and established a steady pace through the opening five minutes, with each finding a rhythm. Jett Lawrence then slowly inched toward his Yamaha rival and began to apply pressure at the 10-minute mark. From there the chess match started to unfold. Lawrence attempted several passes, but Cooper defended, which caused Lawrence to lose ground and forced him to restart his pursuit.

As the battle for the lead intensified, Hunter Lawrence appeared to encounter an issue with his Honda and slowed, which caused him to lose a position to Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Cameron McAdoo. Meanwhile, back up front, Jett Lawrence crashed trying to track down Cooper and lost multiple positions. A couple laps later, Shimoda crashed while running third and dropped to fourth.

The wild action worked heavily into Cooper’s favor as he soon moved clear of the field by more than 10 seconds. McAdoo settled into second in just his second race of the season, while Jett Lawrence recovered to challenge him from third. The championship leader was persistent and successfully made the pass as the moto entered its final 10 minutes. In the closing minutes of the moto, the Pro Circuit teammates of McAdoo and Shimoda waged battle for third. The entertaining fight saw McAdoo fend off multiple pass attempts before Shimoda finally appeared to give in.

Back up front, Cooper put together an impressive wire-to-wire effort that saw him capture his second moto win in his last three attempts. He took the checkered flag seven seconds ahead of Lawrence, while Shimoda was able to mount one final attack and make a successful last lap pass on McAdoo for third.
OverallThe wildest and most unpredictable afternoon of racing of the season thus far saw Shimoda prevail with his second victory of the season and of his career following 1-3 finishes. Cooper’s dominant second moto landed him in the runner-up spot (5-1), while Hunter Lawrence edged out his brother for the final spot on the overall podium in third (2-5).

Despite missing out on the overall podium for just the second time this season in fourth (7-2), Jett Lawrence lost just two points to his brother in the championship battle. A total of 26 points now separates the siblings with six motos remaining, as Shimoda sits 40 points behind in third.

Jo Shimoda, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki
“I judged where I was at and knew I was in the overall position [for the win]. I just wanted to keep fighting and finish the [second] moto strong. I ended up tipping over and made it harder on myself, but I’m really happy with this result.”

Justin Cooper, Monster Energy Star Yamaha Racing
“I can’t be too disappointed, but I wanted to go 1-1 here today. I’ve never won here [at my home race] and really wanted to, but we rebounded in the second moto and rode the way I know I can. I’m feeling more and more like myself as the season goes on.”

Hunter Lawrence, Team Honda HRC
“It was a rough situation. I kept thinking it was something with the engine [in Moto 2] but the motor never stopped, so it must have been something with the brake. I’m bummed because I feel like I had an overall win in me today.”
Photos: Align Media
250 Class Overall Results (Moto Finishes // Points)Jo Shimoda, Japan, Kawasaki (1-3 // 45)Justin Cooper, Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., Yamaha (5-1 // 41)Hunter Lawrence, Australia, Honda (2-5 // 38)Jett Lawrence, Australia, Honda (7-2 // 36)RJ Hampshire, Hudson, Fla., Husqvarna (2-8 // 33)Max Vohland, Sacramento, Calif., KTM (6-6 // 30)Nick Romano, Bayside, N.Y., Yamaha (4-9 // 30)Cameron McAdoo, Sioux City, Iowa, Kawasaki (11-4 // 28)Nate Thrasher, Livingston, Tenn., Yamaha (10-7 // 25)Pierce Brown, Sandy, Utah, GASGAS (9-10 // 23)250 Class Championship Standings (Round 9 of 12)Jett Lawrence, Australia, Honda – 391Hunter Lawrence, Australia, Honda – 365Jo Shimoda, Japan, Kawasaki – 351Justin Cooper, Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., Yamaha – 316RJ Hampshire, Hudson, Fla., Husqvarna – 227Max Vohland, Sacramento, Calif., KTM – 222Seth Hammaker, Bainbridge, Pa., Kawasaki – 207Levi Kitchen, Washougal, Wash., Yamaha – 180Michael Mosiman, Sebastopol, Calif., GASGAS – 169Stilez Robertson, Bakersfield, Calif., Husqvarna – 169Nate Thrasher, Livingston, Tenn., Yamaha – 169