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.
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.”
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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.
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.”