MRTI: RJB Motorsports names Michai Stephens as second driver in USF2000

Photo: RJB Motorsports

Following the team announcement and initial confirmation of Clint McMahan as one of its drivers, RJB Motorsports has confirmed its second driver for the 2016 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda season in rising American talent Michai Stephens.

The announcement was confirmed today at the Performance Racing Industry trade show in Indianapolis.

RJB dipped its toes into the water in 2015 and also enjoyed a solid test at the Chris Griffis Memorial Test at Austin’s Circuit of The Americas in late November.

This signing joins others such as Garth Rickards (Pabst Racing) and Team Pelfrey’s first two drivers (Robert Megennis and Jordan Cane) confirmed for the 2016 USF2000 season.

RJB’s full release is below:

In a press conference today at the PRI Show, RJB Motorsports and Metalloid Corporation announced that talented up-and-coming American Michai Stephens will join SCCA champion Clint McMahan as the Sturgis, Mich-based team steps up full-time into the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda in 2016.

Stephens, 23, from Evanston, Ill., gained his introduction to the sport as a 4-year-old when he spied an Indy car on display during a family visit to the Chicago Auto Show. Hailing from a background with no ties to the racing industry, nor the means to pursue his new-found passion, Stephens finally found an opportunity 16 years later, in 2012, when he discovered information about the Skip Barber Racing School’s INDYCAR Academy – aimed specifically at drivers without any previous background in car racing or even karting.

Stephens’ progress since then has been impressive. After winning an academy scholarship, he took part in his very first race – in the Skip Barber Summer Series – in May 2014. His first win came in just his second race weekend, leading to an invitation to a shootout for the Team USA Scholarship. Stephens again made the most of his opportunity and went on to finish an astonishing third at the prestigious Walter Hayes Trophy Formula Ford race at Silverstone in England – from a field of almost 120 drivers from around the world.

He has spent this year building his network of connections and continuing to work toward his dream. Stephens raced only sporadically in 2015 but secured another Team USA Scholarship which he again used to excellent effect, claiming podium finishes both at Brands Hatch and Silverstone.

“We are excited about having Michai Stephens drive our second car in USF2000, the first step on the Mazda Road to Indy, for 2016,” said Fred Edwards, CEO of Metalloid Corporation. “Michai is the type of individual we want to help grow within the racing community. Based on his short racing career so far, he has clearly been blessed with natural talent and a burning desire to become a champion. We feel Michai will be a great ambassador in and out of the car for RJB Motorsports and Metalloid Corporation.”

“An incredible and priceless opportunity has magically fallen into place,” said Stephens. “Thanks to Metalloid and RJB Motorsports, we will join forces and encourage one another to the best results possible. To have been selected for a once-in-a-blue-moon opportunity like this by Fred and RJB only fuels the fire that burns bright inside. I am beyond grateful to have this fairytale come to life and will do my very best to repay the faith that has been shown in me. I can hardly wait to get started.”

The team is making plans for McMahan and Stephens to conduct an extensive test program prior to the season-opening event in St. Petersburg, Fla., in support of the Verizon IndyCar Series, on March 12-13.

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