Aleshin, Munoz, Hawksworth lament early race contact at Barber

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It’s a good thing we’re still in April.

After a tangle heading to the start of Sunday’s IndyCar race at Barber Motorsports Park, it’s questionable if Mikhail Aleshin, Carlos Munoz and Jack Hawksworth will be sending Christmas cards to each other this year.

The three drivers were involved in a wreck heading to the green flag to start Sunday’s Honda Grand Prix of Alabama.

And of course, what manifested itself was a he said, he said and he said analogy that left observers still wondering who did what and who caused it.

For those of you who missed it, Munoz got into the rear of Aleshin’s race car. Hawksworth missed contact but was forced off-track to avoid becoming part of the incident.

First, let’s hear from Aleshin on Munoz:

“That’s what happens when someone doesn’t use their brain,” Aleshin said. “The rest of the race was bad because I got hit in the back of the car at the start and then someone hit me on my front wheel. The car was completely unbalanced after that. Something was bent, so the job was done before it even started.”

Aleshin finished 17th and Hawksworth was 19th. Munoz didn’t end up much better, finishing 14th, yet had a completely different perspective on what happened in the early wreck:

“On the first start everyone started to pack up and brake,” Munoz said. “I couldn’t avoid hitting Aleshin. They put us in the back of the grid, that didn’t help at all. After that the rest of the race had no yellows, and with no yellows it’s hard to move to the front or do any strategy, so it is what it is.”

Hawksworth was somewhat more diplomatic in his thoughts about the early incident, not laying blame upon either driver:

“We didn’t get a good start because (Aleshin got hit (by Munoz) and spun in front of us and I had to go off-track to miss him,” Hawksworth said. “They sent all of us to the back.”

It was the start of what would become a bad day for Hawksworth, who made contact with Aleshin late in the race and, as Hawksworth said, “That was it.”

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Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field

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Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.

Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.

Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.

By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.

With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.

This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit. Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome in 1974. Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.

Two privateers have started the season on a high note.

Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.

Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.

In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

450s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

250s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

More SuperMotocross coverage

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Haiden Deegan makes Supercross debut in Houston, Justin Cooper to 450s
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Results and points from Anaheim 2