Supercross: Ken Roczen aiming to complete another comeback story


Coming off his three most disappointing rides of the season and wrestling with a debilitating illness sapping his normally redoubtable spirit, Ken Roczen started Sunday with a surprising text.

“My dad messaged me in the morning and wished me good luck and everything, and I told him ‘I’m winning today,’ ” Roczen said after his Round 15 victory, the first Supercross event he’d won in 14 weeks. “I kind of just put it in my head.”

In doing so, the Honda rider put himself in long-shot range of the 450 championship again – at least enough to give him a chance at beating the odds as he already has done often in his career.

ROUND 16 PRIMER: All the info for watching Wednesday’s event

With his fourth victory this year (and first since Feb. 29 at Atlanta), Roczen moved back into second in the points standings with two races remaining at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah.

He still will need an even bigger rally than his surprising comeback from a shingles diagnosis to catch Eli Tomac, who has a 24-point lead and can clinch his first championship with a victory Wednesday in Round 16.

“I think I’m in a good spot right now,” Tomac said. “I can control my own destiny. So yeah, I’m happy right now. That’s all I have to say. I’m in a good spot, I think.”

The Kawasaki rider was reticent to discuss his championship chances or his place in history  –with two victories in Utah and seven this season, Tomac has moved into a tie with four-time champion Ryan Dungey for fifth on the career 450 wins list with 34.

Eli Tomac celebrates after a 450 victory in Arlington, Texas (Feld Entertainment, Inc.).

He did concede that he’d like to wrap the championship early as he did in the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship last year. “It would be nice,” Tomac said. “Would be really nice. If the start is there, and I’m in position, heck yeah, I’m going to go for it. But got to think long game at this point.”

The third championship contender might be the favorite Wednesday, considering Cooper Webb is unbeaten in the past two midweek races in Salt Lake City. He also has something to fight for with Roczen, whom he trails by a point.

Webb (two victories), Tomac (two) and Roczen have accounted for all five wins in Utah.

“I know it’s getting tight with me and Ken for second,” Webb said. “The championship is the goal, but second is a plus.”

The 2019 series champion hasn’t given up on his long-shot title defense, but it does feel as if this is the year of Tomac, who has five consecutive podiums in Utah (and six since March).

Unless the misfortune he’s managed to avoid (Tomac fortunately avoided a crash in his path Sunday) suddenly befalls him, it might take an aggressive maneuver by Roczen or Webb to knock him out.

“I’m not in those guys’ heads,” Tomac said. “I still have a really nice points lead, and (the three contenders) are going to be racing each other for a few more years. So there’s always a chance of retaliation and wrecking other people’s day.”

After an 85-day layoff for the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series, the 450 podium after Round 11 featured the three championship contenders (Feld Entertainment, Inc.).

Roczen seems to be feeding off only positive energy anyway. After opening Utah with a third, he finished fifth in Round 12 and a season-worst 10th in Round 13 – four spots below his previous low this year – while feeling “super lethargic.

“I’ve never seen anything like it, but I just had no aggression and felt tired,” he said. “It was like I was out of body. It was crazy.”

His wife noticed that morning that he had a red mark on his tailbone that was blistering, and a doctor recommended a blood test after the June 7 race. It came back positive for shingles, and he immediately began treatment, which might have blunted some symptoms. Roczen hasn’t felt much pain, and the blemishes are fading.

Ken Roczen celebrates after winning in Glendale, Arizona (Feld Entertainment, Inc.).

Getting proactive with injuries and illness, unfortunately, has been a way of life for Roczen, who also battled the Epstein-Barr virus and its accompanying fatigue and immune deficiencies last year.

In 2017, he suffered a wicked crash in Anaheim, California, that nearly resulted in the amputation of his left arm. After recovering, his 2018 season was derailed by a broken right hand in a wreck with Webb.

Like many professional sports athletes, Supercross riders typically are wary to disclose injuries, but Roczen is remarkably candid about his issues. He revealed the shingles diagnosis in an Instagram post last Friday.

“I’ve struggled with this before and managed it just fine, and I think I just got to a point right now where it’s backed off enough or suppressed enough to where I can handle it,” he said. “It is what it is. If you’re out there doing good and winning races and getting on the podium and all of a sudden you get lapped twice and 10th and fading after 8 minutes, it’s obvious. It is what it is. I’m hoping to get that definitely in check. I’m trying.

“We’re going to get there. … Always struggling with some kind of issue going on, it’s super annoying. Trust me. I’m sick of hearing it. I’m sure everybody else is. But again, I can only control so many things. I’m trying my best. There’s some people that had Epstein-Barr before and it’s ruined their entire career. We’re trying and doing our best to keep everything dormant.”

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