Max Chilton high on life heading into tonight’s Phoenix race

Photo: IndyCar

AVONDALE, Ariz. – Things are looking fairly great for IndyCar’s new No. 8 – rookie Max Chilton of Chip Ganassi Racing Teams.

The 24-year-old Englishman will roll off eighth for today’s Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix in the No. 8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet (8:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN), the best start of his thus far two-race Verizon IndyCar Series career.

He’s actually the first driver who broke Luyendyk’s prior track record at Phoenix from 1996 in Friday qualifying, when he clicked off a 190.006 mph lap on the first of qualifying (although it was beaten as the day went on).

He’s also nearly eight years into a relationship with girlfriend Chloe Roberts, who he proposed to in the break between the St. Petersburg season opener and Phoenix this weekend.

For Chilton, life is good as he continues to appreciate the comfort level he has racing in America while still maintaining his UK roots.

“Ever since I came here for the start of last year, in Indy Lights, it’s so open and welcoming,” Chilton told NBC Sports.

And one of the luminaries who’ve made Chilton feel right at home is Mario Andretti.

In a recent Autosport article, Andretti said Chilton arrived with his Iowa Speedway win in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires.

“Here again, it shows the moments of brilliance,” Andretti told Autosport’s Bruce Martin. “It shows that he can be versatile, which is huge. I think it is a huge attribute to any driver to show versatility. That is why Chip Ganassi hired him.

“Chip has always had a very good eye for drivers. Here is a guy with a bright future ahead of him and the best is yet to be seen.”

Ganassi, too, took the opportunity to praise him at St. Petersburg.

“We try to find successful guys with their future and want to do well, want to grow and be part of the team. I think Max has certainly some potential,” Ganassi told assembled reporters in St. Petersburg.

Chilton, understandably, was flattered by the praise.

“(Andretti’s) comments prove it! I’ve never done him any favors. He’s given me such kind words. It’s nice to know,” he said.

Things are a bit different for Chilton this week, with a new spotter and with team driver coach Dario Franchitti not at Phoenix owing to his commentary commitments for the FIA Formula E Championship. Franchitti still busts his chops, though…

But he’s still focused and determined to do his best even with the changes.

“Every race weekend is different. For the spotter, at the end of the day, you’re telling them what you want them to say, and thus far the spotter is doing a good job,” he said.

“And Dario gave me a lot of info before I came here, and he said he’s only a phone call away. That gives you a lot of confidence.”

As for the engagement? Chilton’s had it planned.

“It was the plan – seven years in the making!” Chilton said. “I always knew where I’d do it.

“I’m just glad I put the GoPro there. There’s things you just don’t remember! It’s great to see where it was.

“It was worse for her. She was so shocked. But I was planning it!”

He’ll be looking for more celebration tonight, as he’s already more comfortable at Phoenix in his second trip to the 1.022-mile oval after his first test there in February.

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