Chase Sexton will use outdoor season to gain strength for title bid

Feld Entertainment, Inc.
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The 2020 Monster Energy Supercross season will be run in two parts, and that may well be the added advantage Chase Sexton needs to run away with his second championship.

Instead of 11 rounds of motocross draining energy, Sexton expects to gain strength and sharpen his reflexes during a full season against faster and sharper competitors.

Sexton entered last season’s 250 East Supercross finale with a lead. It was a comfortable lead, but certainly not insurmountable.

Insurmountable leads are hard to achieve in a nine-race season. But all Sexton needed to do in 2019 was ride a clean race and finish ahead of Justin Cooper.

Sexton was fourth at Las Vegas. Cooper was eighth.

Chase Sexton has been close to perfect, but he would like to have won all four of the opening 250 East races. Feld Entertainment, Inc.

This year, Sexton not only wants to win the championship in his final season on a 250 bike, if his results from the first four races are an indication, he wants to make a statement.

Sexton has been almost perfect this year. He was second in the opener at Tampa, won at Arlington and Atlanta in the next two races, and finished second at Daytona.

Typical of a racer, those two second-place finishes are the ones that stick out.

“We would like to have gotten all four wins,” Sexton told NBCSports.com. “We left six points on the table. But it’s been really good. We put a lot of work and focus on this year because this will be my final year on a 250 and my last chance to get a Supercross championship (in that division), so it was now or never.

“It’s pretty stressful, going to the race and knowing that if you’re off the podium it’s not a very good weekend. So I put a lot of focus into having consistent races and trying to put myself in a good position each race. It’s been tough. I think my worst finish was in a heat race when I got third when I crashed the first lap.

“It’s been pretty good.”

Pretty Good? Almost Perfect? Success is in the eye of the beholder.

“I’m happy with it,” Sexton said. “It’s a little bit of a bummer that the season got put on hold. But I feel like I can do the same thing when we get back racing, so I’m just enjoying the off time. But I wish I was at the races still. We had two races before our break. I’m just trying to refocus and put the work in to be better for the last remaining rounds.”

MORE: Dylan Ferrandis will have to wait to defend his 2019 Supercross title

MORE: Eli Tomac has the long game in mind for title

With the season on pause because of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, Supercross racing will not resume until after the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross season is complete. That will create some issues for other riders because of the toll the longer, rougher outdoor tracks take on a body.

But Sexton sees it as his ace in the hole.

If things had gone to plan, he would have wrapped up his 250 career with back-to-back championships and then climbed aboard a 450 to start the new chapter of his life. Now, the 450 season is inserted in the middle of his title bid.

“This year I’ll be on a 450 (in Motocross) and it will be good racing the 450 guys compared to the 250,” Sexton said. “Racing the best guys all day with that pace. Racing those guys and then coming back to a 250 in the Supercross series will honestly make me better and close out this championship. … My fitness will be better, hanging onto a 450. And it’ll just make me a bit stronger.”

Last year’s outdoor season wasn’t the best for Sexton. He stood on the podium only twice, at High Point in June and Unadilla in August with third-place finishes each time. Statistically, this season will probably look worse since he will be racing against Eli Tomac, Ken Roczen, Jason Anderson and a field of veterans with far more laps in that circuit. But that’s not how success is gauged for a rookie contender.

Instead of being an opening act of his 450 play, it will be an intermission for his 250 championship bid.

The 250 East/West Shootouts give riders at this level to compete against the nation’s best. Feld Entertainment, Inc.

And Sexton will enter the finale with a different mindset.

Last year he just needed a safe ride to score his first championship. This year, no matter where he stands in the points, he will have only one more opportunity to add to his 250 record.

While the revised Supercross schedule has not been released, rest assured they will do everything in their power to finish with an East/West Shootout. The lure of crowning three champions in one night is irresistible.

Specifically for the 250 riders, the Shootouts give them a taste of the breadth of competition they will eventually face at the next level since the best in each division qualify for the Main.

“The East class is really stacked having Shane (McElrath) and (Jeremy Martin) and a couple of other guys who have been really competitive,” Sexton said. “But I want race everybody and the East/West shootout is the only chance we get at it. I was looking forward to those and still am looking forward to racing with those guys and put myself to the test against the best guys. I definitely means a lot. I wanted to try and win at least one of those. Kind of put a stamp on it and move on. I want to race Austin (Forkner) and Dylan (Ferrandis) and give it my best shot.”

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Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023; leaves open possibility of returning at Ganassi

Jimmie Johnson race 2023
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Though he remains uncertain of his plans for next year, Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023, scaling back his schedule after running a full 17-race NTT IndyCar Series season.

“This was a difficult choice for me, but in my heart, I know it’s the right one,” Johnson said in a statement Monday morning. “I’m not exactly sure what the next chapter holds, but if an opportunity comes along that makes sense, I will consider it. I still have a bucket list of racing events I would like to take part in. Competing at this level in IndyCar has been such a great experience.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better team to race for than Chip Ganassi and Chip Ganassi Racing. Everyone worked extremely hard for the last two seasons, pushing to get the best performances out of me every single week. The support from my crew and teammates Dario (Franchitti), Scott (Dixon), Tony (Kanaan), Marcus (Ericsson) and Alex (Palou) went above and beyond anything I could have ever asked for.”

WHAT’S NEXT FOR JIMMIE JOHNSON: An analysis of his racing options for the 2023 season

Driving the No. 48 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing, Johnson ranked 21st in the 2022 points standings with a career-best fifth place July 24 at Iowa Speedway.

After running only road and street courses for Ganassi in 2021, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion added ovals this year. In his Indy 500 debut, he qualified 12th and finished 28th after a late crash.

“I do have a desire to go back (to IndyCar), it’s just at this point, I know what’s required to do a full schedule, and I don’t have that in me,” Johnson told AP. “I don’t have that passion that I need for myself to commit myself to a full season.”

That leaves open the concept of Johnson returning part time with Ganassi, perhaps exclusively on ovals.

“We are fully supportive of Jimmie,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a statement. “He has been a valued member of our team and if we can find a way to continue working together, we would like to do so.”

During IndyCar’s season finale race weekend, Johnson told reporters Sept. 9 that he planned to explore his options with wife Chandra and daughters Evie and Lydia. Johnson told the Associated Press that his family is considering living abroad for a year or two, and he has toyed with the idea of running in the World Endurance Championship sports car series because of its international locales.

Johnson hasn’t ruled out IndyCar, IMSA sports cars or even a cameo in NASCAR next year. Since retiring from full-time NASCAR after the 2020 season, he has entered the endurance races of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac (including Saturday’s Petit Le Mans season finale). Johnson also wants to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and is a prime candidate for the Garage 56 entry (a joint project of NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports).

Johnson told the AP he is interested in becoming the latest driver to try “The Double” and run both the Coca-Cola 600 and Indy 500 on the same day (the most recent was Kurt Busch in 2014).

“You know me and endurance sports, and ‘The Double’ sounds awesome,” Johnson, a four-time Coke 600 winner, told AP. “I’ve always had this respect for the guys who have done ‘The Double.’ I would say it is more of a respect thing than a bucket-list item, and I’d love to put some energy into that idea and see if I can pull it off.”

It is less likely that he would return to IMSA’s endurance events because its top prototype series is being overhauled, limiting the amount of inventory available for the new LMDh cars in the rebranded GTP division.

Johnson has confirmed that he would retain primary sponsor Carvana, which has backed him in IndyCar the past two years. He revealed his decision Monday during the last episode of “Reinventing the Wheel,” Carvana Racing’s eight-part docuseries about his 2023 season.

“I’m thankful for the partnership with a company like Carvana for allowing me to take this journey in IndyCar, for seeing the value in our partnership and being open to future opportunities together,” Johnson said. “They have truly showed me that there are no finish lines in life. Along with Carvana, The American Legion, Ally, cbdMD and Frank August were there every step of the way, and I couldn’t have done it without all of them. Most importantly — and the true rockstars in all of this –my family, Chani, Evie and Lydia. They have always allowed me to chase my dreams, and we are all just really excited about what the future holds for all of us. I have enjoyed every minute of these last two years.”

Said Carvana co-founder Ryan Keeton: “During the past two years, Jimmie Johnson has been so amazing to collaborate with. Our team admires his passion, hard work and commitment to continuous improvement while also having fun, and we look forward to continuing to support him next year in this new chapter.”