MRLS Friday: Practice, qualifying and a PWC TC thriller

Pro Mazda practice. Photos @ Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MONTEREY, Calif. – Action wasn’t completely intense during Friday’s sessions at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, since it was primarily practice for the three Mazda Road to Indy series and only practice for the Pirelli World Challenge GT and GTS classes. However, the PWC Touring Car classes staged a thriller in the lone race of the day.

Mazda Road to Indy

Kyle Kaiser, who probably has more track experience than the rest of the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires field combined at Mazda Raceway, set the pace in Friday’s opening 30-minute session from 10:30 to 11 a.m. in the No. 18 Juncos Racing Dallara IL-15 Mazda at 1:16.0457. Ed Jones and Sean Rayhall completed the top three, with Jones’ title rivals Spencer Pigot fourth, RC Enerson ninth and Jack Harvey 12th. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ fifth driver and series debutante Heamin Choi had an off course excursion at Turn 9 roughly halfway through the session, and returned to the paddock.

Max Chilton lowered the bar in session two to the day’s best time of 1:15.8720 in the No. 14 Carlin entry, and Jones was second at 1:16.0448. Kaiser’s morning time meant he ended the day third on the combined timesheets. Pigot was fifth, Enerson sixth and Harvey ninth on the combined times.

Chilton has new signage on his car this weekend, in the form of Activision’s Skylanders franchise.

In Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, Juncos Racing also topped the timesheets with Will Owen  posting a 1:23.424 in the second session. Pato O’Ward led a Team Pelfrey 1-2-3 in the morning session, at 1:23.445 over teammates Raoul Owens and Santi Urrutia, driving at Mazda Raceway 16 years to the day after his hero, Uruguayan countryman Gonzalo Rodriguez, lost his life at the circuit going into the Corkscrew. Urrutia was fourth in the afternoon session, while title rival Neil Alberico was ninth and sixth in the two sessions.

Jake Eidson (1:26.207) and Nico Jamin (1:25.489) led the two Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda practice sessions, with Jamin some 0.787 of a second faster than the field in the second session. In the final session of the day, qualifying, Jamin took the pole position for the first of two races this weekend, and set a season pole record in the process (11 straight, 12 overall).

Pirelli World Challenge 

The first of three PWC TC/TCA/TCB races during the weekend was nothing short of a barnburner. Late race contact occurred between TC class leaders Ernie Francis Jr. and Vesko Kozarov, with Adam Poland then sneaking through following a two-lap shootout for the win after a late yellow. Poland’s first win of the season came after he’d made a crazy save through Turn 8, going into the gravel but catching the car before spinning out.

“In turn eight, the car got pulled right and I couldn’t catch it in time. Then I ended up in the gravel trap,” Poland said.  “Winning today’s race has made for a much better mindset for the weekend.”

Jason Wolfe and Joey Jordan won in TCA and TCB, the latter driver having completed an impressive last-to-first drive after his car was found out of compliance following post-qualfiying tech inspection (right front wheel with too much camber).

“Coming from the back is never easy, especially here at Mazda Raceway.  I definitely planned out how I was going make my moves for passing,” Jordan said.

Alessandro Pier Guidi (GT) and Ben Clucas (GTS) led the individual practice sessions for those classes. Both classes have qualifying tomorrow before their sole races of the weekend on Sunday.

Chase Sexton wins Triple Crown Anaheim 2 Supercross: Levi Kitchen unseats Jett Lawrence in 250s

Supercross Anaheim 2
Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Chase Sexton won two of the three races in the Monster Energy Supercross Anaheim 2 Triple Crown, which was enough to overcome a fifth-place finish in Race 2 and give him the overall victory. It was the second Supercross win of his career.

“Super big night for me,” Sexton told NBC Sports’ Will Christien. “After last weekend with that being a struggle, I just need to come out here and stop the bleeding a little bit and I did that tonight.”

Sexton suffered a crash on Lap 1 of his heat, sending him into Last Chance Qualifier. The bad gate pick put him in a difficult position to start the race and he was able to climb to only fifth at the checkers.

At Anaheim 2, three riders entered the final race of the Triple Crown in a winner-take-all scenario. Sexton, Jason Anderson and Eli Tomac each had a shot at victory. It raised the intensity level for all riders in an evening that featured a lot of comers and goers.

Jason Anderson took the early lead in Race 3, which set him up for the overall victory. Sexton stalked and passed him midway through the race and then a minor mistake late allowed Webb to slip around as well. Anderson’s 5-1-3 gave him second overall.

“I had a tough couple of rounds, getting off that Anaheim 1 crash and then last week weekend I fumbled a little bit, but I’m excited to get back on the box and start moving forward,” Anderson told Jason Thomas.

Anderson finished seventh in the first two rounds of 2023.

RESULTS: How they finished for the 450 Main in Anaheim 2

Ken Roczen was the model of consistency in the opening rounds and at Anaheim 2. In three races so far this year, he’s gotten progressively better each time with a fifth in A1, a fourth last week in San Deigo and a third this week.

With results of 2-3-4, he earned his first podium of the season, which lands him fourth in the standings.

“This was hard earned,” Roczen said after the race. “I completely botched the start and then to have to work my way up. I only happen on the very last lap to step up here on the podium.”

Webb’s solid second-place finish in the third race allowed him to leapfrog several riders and finish fourth overall, but a seventh in Race 1 kept him off the podium. He improved in each race in Anaheim, however, with a 7-4-2.

With a 4-6-5, Dylan Ferrandis rounded out the top five.

The intensity of the race was a little too much for Tomac.

While battling side-by-side with Webb in Race 3 at the one-third mark, Tomac jumped wide and crashed hard. He fell to 14th, doing some damage to his bike in the process. He advanced only one position in that race to 13th. His first two races, a third and second, were strong enough to give him sixth overall. He retains the points lead, but it has shrunk to a gap of only four over Sexton and Webb.

Malcolm Stewart injured late in the week and was not able to mount.

Levi Kitchen became the first rider to unseat Jett Lawrence in the Triple Crown format at Anaheim 2 and won the overall with consistency. In his three races, Kitchen finished 4-2-2 to narrowly edge the winner of the first two races.

“This whole day; this is unbelievable. I took a few good slams in practice and I was down on myself,” Kitchen told NBC Sports Jason Thomas afterward. “The first moto I got a good start and got shuffled back, then I knew I just needed to be consistent.”

Jett Lawrence saved his best for last – which wasn’t hard given the struggles he experienced in the first two races.

Despite those problems, he entered Race 3 of the Triple Crown three points behind Kitchen after suffering a pair of disappointing races by his personal measuring stick. In the first and second 250 races of the night, Lawrence hit the ground. He dropped to the final rider in the running order in Race 2 with a Lap 1 fall. But in both races, he was able to overcome his mistake and close the gap so that he had a chance to take his first Triple Crown win of his career.

Click here for full 250 West Main Results

Lawrence rode to third in Race 1 and sixth in Race 2. In the final race of the night, Lawrence did all he could. He earned the holeshot, but when Kitchen fell in behind him, Lawrence’s fate was sealed. His 3-6-1 tied him in points with Stilez Robertson, but the tiebreaker goes to the final round and his win secured second-place.

“I can definitely say Triple Crowns are not my thing,” Lawrence told NBC Sports Will Christien. “We have one more to try and fix this, so hopefully we can get that done.”

Lawrence will move into the 450 class for the Lucas Oil Motocross outdoor season and his 250 record book will be closed.

The best news for Lawrence is the other riders who entered this round in the top three had a worse night, so Lawrence leaves Anaheim with a 16-point gap on Cameron McAdoo and 17 over RJ Hampshire.

Roberston finished 6-1-3 to take the final step of the podium.

“Getting that win in the second Main meant a lot,” Roberston told Thomas. “I wish I could have done a little better in the third one, but we’re still up here on the box.”

Mitchell Oldenburg used consistency to earn fourth in the overall. He finished 5-4-6.

After missing the Main last week in San Diego, Max Vohland finished 7-8-4 to round out the top five.

RJ Hampshire set himself up as the early favorite with his Race 1 win. In Race 2, it all fell apart. He fell in the sand section and damaged his bike, finishing last in that race. The final event of the night for the 250s provided only a 13th-place finish, leaving Hampshire deep in the points.

Cameron McAdoo hard crash in qualification, which was scary news for a team that has seen three of their riders sidelined with injury. McAdoo was never quite able to get his rhythm with an 8-7-5.

2023 Race Recaps

San Diego: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence double down
Anaheim 1: Tomac wins opener for the first time

Anaheim 2 coverage

Power Rankings Week 2
SuperMotocross tightens playoff schedule
Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence go two-for-two in San Diego
Results and points after San Diego
Seth Hammaker to miss 250 E season opener with wrist injury
Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner with injury
Injury sidelines Austin Forkner for remainder of 2023 SX