MRTI: Saturday race recaps from Toronto

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

TORONTO – The first three Mazda Road to Indy races of the weekend are in the books from Exhibition Place in Toronto, with the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires races run in the early afternoon before this evening’s Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires race occurred later today.

The USF2000 race was first off, with the 30-minute affair seeing Victor Franzoni (ArmsUp Motorsports) get ahead of polesitter Anthony Martin (Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing) off the line, a key move by the Brazilian.

Meanwhile Jordan Lloyd was a man on the move in the backup car his Pabst Racing team used from John Cummiskey Racing, getting around Parker Thompson (Cape) for position before the first yellow flag when National class driver Brendan Puderbach crashed out.

While Lloyd then fell back behind Thompson after a restart, with Franzoni and Martin 1-2, the complexion of the race and the championship battle changed with just over 11 minutes to go. Martin, who’d also had an incident on Friday that damaged his left front, made another mistake on Saturday and lost his second position.

Thompson inherited it before Lloyd got back around the Canadian in the waning stages.

Franzoni. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
Franzoni. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Up front Franzoni continued unchallenged and finally secured his first win of the year after scoring five other non-win podium finishes. Lloyd was second with Thompson a pivotal third, breaking the tie he had with Martin for the points lead.

In solid drives of their own, Luke Gabin (JAY Motorsports) and Robert Megennis (Team Pelfrey) completed the top five – Megennis was particularly stout going from 18th on the grid up to fifth.

Indy Lights winner. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
Indy Lights winner. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

The Indy Lights race saw a dominant performance by series returnee Felix Rosenqvist of Belardi Auto Racing, and we’ll write his story simply by saying that from pole the Swede led all 35 laps en route to his second win of the year (Round 2 at St. Petersburg) and set the fastest race lap in the process.

Behind them, Felix Serralles (Carlin) made a pass down the inside of his Iowa sparring partner Zach Veach (Belardi) for second at Turn 3 on Lap 18. That netted the Puerto Rican driver another podium finish and put himself back in the title fight.

Veach was then working diligently to hold off Kyle Kaiser for third before Kaiser pulled off an identical move on Veach as Serralles had 17 laps earlier. While Kaiser of Juncos Racing was back on the podium for the first time since the Indianapolis Grand Prix weekend, Veach then made a mistake on the final lap when he nosed into the tire barriers at Turn 10. That dropped him from fourth place down to a lapped ninth, and has dealt a serious blow to his remaining title hopes.

As for the three title protagonists entering the weekend? Santiago Urrutia, Dean Stoneman and Ed Jones finished fourth, fifth and sixth with Stoneman’s drive standing out in particular.

The Englishman was lucky to be able to continue after Juan Piedrahita – his Freedom 100 sparring partner – went down the inside of him on the run to Turn 3 on Lap 9.

Problem was, the Colombian managed to hit Stoneman’s right rear wheel in the process and break his rear wishbone, then shot to the right and into the wall.

With Piedrahita unable to slow his now stricken Team Pelfrey machine with no brakes, he careened down the straight and then scrubbed off speed only once he struck Zachary Claman De Melo (Juncos), who had literally nowhere to go into Turn 3. Those two were done on the spot with Stoneman, somehow, able to keep going in another important drive – similar to his recovery at Road America when he switched to dry weather Cooper Tire slick tires and made up a couple positions late.

Jones (251) has an unofficial 21-point lead on Stoneman (230) with Urrutia (225) and Serralles (224) separated by only one point for third. Kaiser has 211 points and Veach is at 206, and both need to make some ground ahead with just six races to go.

The first of two Pro Mazda races ran later this evening from Toronto and was dramatic from a points standpoint, if uneventful from a race standpoint.

First lap contact took Pato O’Ward, the points leader, out of the race – and it’s left a wide open gap for Aaron Telitz to capitalize.

The Wisconsinite promptly delivered a flag-to-flag win from there, over 24 laps in the 30-minute race.

It’s the third straight win and fourth of the season for the driver of the No. 82 Rice Lake Weighing Systems entry for Team Pelfrey, who has unofficially closed to within five points (270-265) of O’Ward.

Nico Jamin and Jake Parsons completed the podium, the latter of whom had a trouble-free race after having two accidents earlier in the weekend.

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Motocross season opener: Jett Lawrence rockets to the top

SuperMotocross Rankings season opener
Align Media

As the SuperMotocross season heads outdoors, the NBC Power Rankings change significantly with results from the Motocross opener at Fox Raceway in Pala, California. The Power Rankings assign a numeric value to each individual moto (90 points maximum) as well as the overall standings (100 points) and averages that number over the past 45 days. Included in the Power Rankings are results from the final five Supercross rounds, which fit into that 45-day timeframe.

Dylan Ferrandis finished on the podium in his first race back after experience a concussion in Supercross Round 4 at Houston. – Align Media

It didn’t take long for Jett Lawrence to rocket to the top of the SuperMotocross rankings – only about 74 minutes in fact. Lawrence dominated his first moto and beat his teammate Chase Sexton, the 2023 Monster Energy Supercross champion, to the line by 10 seconds. He had to fight a little harder for the second moto win as Sexton stalked him throughout the race and ended up less than a second behind.

Beginning this week, we have added the SuperMotocross points’ ranking beside the rider’s name and in one fell swoop, Lawrence went from being unranked in the 450 class to 26th. To qualify for the inaugural SuperMotocross’ guaranteed 20 positions that automatically make the gate for the three-race championship series, Lawrence needs to be inside the top 20 in combined Supercross and Motocross points. The bubble is currently held by Justin Starling and Lawrence needs to make up 44 points to overtake him.

Sexton’s second-place finish in the overall standings at Fox Raceway marked his ninth consecutive top-five finish. After the race, Sexton compared the battle he had with Lawrence to the one he experienced with Eli Tomac in last year’s Pro Motocross championship. These two riders had a significant advantage over the field in Pala, but there is still a lot of racing to be completed.

MORE: Jett Lawrence wastes no time, wins first 450 race

After missing 13 rounds to a concussion, Dylan Ferrandis told NBC Sports that he was not going to do anything risky in the season opener at Fox Raceway. If he dialed back his effort at all, one would be hard-pressed to notice. He finished third in both motos and was third in the overall standings. Ferrandis began the weekend just outside the top 20 in combined SuperMotocross points and climbed to 19th. In the next few weeks, he will get a little more breathing room over the cutline and then challenge for wins.

Adam Cianciarulo’s three-race streak of top-five finishes ended with a sixth-place overall at Fox Raceway, but that was enough to advance him one position in the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings and land him eighth in the combined points standings. His individual motos were moderate, but Cianciarulo is still battling the effects of injury and a nagging loss of strength in his wrist.

Aaron Plessinger returned from injury in the Supercross season finale to finish second at Salt Lake City. He added another top-five to his season total and now has six of those in the 13 rounds he’s made. With Ken Roczen and Eli Tomac not currently racing in Motocross, Plessinger has an opportunity to rise to the third seeding in short order.

450 Rankings

Driver (SMX rank) Power
1. Jett Lawrence (26) 93.33 NA
2. Chase Sexton (1) 92.36 1 -1
3. Dylan Ferrandis (19) 89.00 NA
4. Adam Cianciarulo (8) 82.89 5 1
5. Aaron Plessinger (5) 81.20 9 4
6. Justin Hill (9)
Not racing MX
79.75 8 2
7. Ken Roczen (4)
injured | Not racing MX
79.13 3 -4
8. Jose Butron (30) 75.67 NA
9. Lorenzo Locurcio (29) 75.00 NA
10. Eli Tomac (2)
74.50 2 -8
11. Dean Wilson (10)
Not racing MX
72.88 7 -4
12. Cooper Webb (3) 71.17 6 -6
13. Jerry Robin (32) 70.33 NA
14. Justin Barcia (6)
70.00 4 -10
15. Kyle Chisholm (15) 65.36 11 -4
16. Dante Oliveira (36) 65.00 NA
17. Shane McElrath (11)
Not racing MX
63.63 12 -5
18. Ryan Surratt (38) 63.33 NA
19. Josh Hill (13)
Not racing MX
62.38 13 -6
20. Justin Starling (20)
Not racing MX
62.13 19 -1

Motocross 450 Points

A bad start to Moto 1 at Fox Raceway was not enough to deter Hunter Lawrence. Neither was the fact that he was riding with sore ribs after experiencing a practice crash earlier in the week. He was a distant 10th to start the first race and for most of the 30 minutes, it seemed he would finish off the podium. Lawrence did not win the 250 East Supercross championship by giving in to hopelessness or pain, however.

Lawrence picked off one rider and then another until he found the battle for the top five in front of him at the halfway point. Once the field started to lap riders, Lawrence used the opportunity to continue forward through the grid. He passed third-place Jo Shimoda with two laps remaining and challenged Maximus Vohland for second on the final trip around Fox Raceway, but had to settle for the final spot on the podium. Lawrence dominated Moto 2 and claimed the overall victory in Pala.

Justin Cooper made his first start of the season at Fox Raceway and earned enough NBC Power Average points to climb to second. Partly this was due to consistently strong runs in both motos and a 5-4 that gave him the fifth position overall, but he is also not weighed down with moderate Supercross results. It will take a week or two to see where his strength lands him on the grid.

Motocross 250 Points

In only his third Pro Motocross National, Haiden Deegan scored a second-place finish in the overall standings. – Align Media

RJ Hampshire may feel he has something to prove after finishing second to Jett Lawrence in the 250 SX West division. He certainly rode like that was the case in Moto 1 and easily outpaced the field on his way to victory lane. In Moto 2, he crashed twice on Lap 1 and dropped back to 39th. It took half of the race to get inside the top 20 and salvage points. By the end of the race, he was 11th and while that was enough to get him on the overall podium, it cost him points in the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings.

Haiden Deegan surprised the field in Houston in his 250 Supercross debut by finishing fifth. At the time, he said his strong result was because there were no expectations. He echoed that statement after the Motocross season opener. His second-place finish in the overall standings was enough to project him five positions up the SuperMotocross Rankings. In 11 rounds in the combined series, Deegan has earned seven top-fives and a worst finish of eighth.

Jo Shimoda did not make his first Supercross race of 2023 until late in the season. He finished fourth on the hybrid track of Atlanta, which had some similar elements to Fox Raceway. His fourth-place finish in Moto 1 of the Motocross opener made it seem likely he would score an overall podium, but a sixth in the second race cost him points in the NBC Power Rankings in a field that promises to be extremely tight.

250 Rankings

Driver (SMX rank) Power
1. Hunter Lawrence (1) 89.56 2 1
2. Justin Cooper (42) 84.67 NA
3. RJ Hampshire (3) 83.67 3 0
3. Haiden Deegan (4) 83.67 8 5
5. Jo Shimoda (16) 82.33 7 2
6. Guillem Farres (46) 79.33 NA
7. Levi Kitchen (6) 79.11 5 -2
8. Max Anstie (5) 77.83 12 4
9. Max Vohland (8) 77.50 14 5
10. Enzo Lopes (10) 76.00 11 1
11. Mitchell Oldenburg (13) 74.25 16 5
12. Carson Mumford (19) 71.22 17 5
13. Jordon Smith (7) 70.56 9 -4
14. Ryder DiFrancesco (48) 70.33 NA
15. Chris Blose (12) 67.00 13 -2
16. Chance Hymas (27) 66.00 19 3
17. Tom Vialle (9) 65.78 18 1
18. Jett Reynolds (55) 63.33 NA
19. Michael Mosiman (28) 62.33 20 1
20. Garrett Marchbanks (64) 59.00 NA

* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner in Supercross and overall winner in Motocross. It awards 90 points for each Moto, Heat and Triple Crown win. The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.

POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 13 AT ATLANTA: Justin Barcia leapfrogs the Big 3
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 11 AT SEATTLE: Cooper Webb, Eli Tomac overtake Chase Sexton
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 10 AT DETROIT: Chase Sexton narrowly leads Webb
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 8 AT DAYTONA: Chase Sexton unseats Eli Tomac
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 7 AT ARLINGTON: Jason Anderson narrowly trails Eli Tomac
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 6 AT OAKLAND: Perfect night keeps Eli Tomac first
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 5 AT TAMPA: Chase Sexton, Cooper Webb close in
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 4 AT HOUSTON: Eli Tomac rebounds from A2 crash, retakes lead
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 3 AT ANAHEIM 2: Consistency makes Ken Roczen king
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 2 AT SAN DIEGO: Ken Roczen moves up, Chase Sexton falls
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 1 AT ANAHEIM 1: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence gain an early advantage