Eli Tomac wins first championship in 450 as Zach Osborne claims first win

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Eli Tomac finally won the championship to validate his career at Supercross’ top level, while Zach Osborne made a statement his career is just getting started.

Tomac, 27, became the oldest rider to win in the 450 division of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series, clinching with an uneventful fifth-place finish Sunday at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah.

It capped a remarkable season on Father’s Day for the Kawasaki rider, whose daughter, Levi, was born April 26. After four runner-up points finishes and winning the most races in 2017 and ’18, Tomac finally put together the championship consistency in his sixth full season.

POINTS, RESULTS: Final statistical breakdown from the season finale

“Just unbelievable circumstances,” Tomac, who led the series with seven victories, told NBC. “I just always think back to this whole lifetime of riding. Going through everything. The failures with the team. Coming here with the whole COVID going on right now. So pretty unbelievable.

“There was a time we didn’t even know if we were going to be able to ride or not. Between Daytona and this swing of the series. So it’s finally here and unbelievable.”

After an 85-day layoff from March through May because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the season finale capped a stretch of seven events in 22 days without any fans at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The first six events in Salt Lake City were won by the top three riders in the points: Tomac, Cooper Webb and Ken Roczen.

Osborne interrupted that run Sunday with the first 450 victory of his career. His Husqvarna teammates Jason Anderson, who had been leading until late in the main event when he lost his seat, and Dean Wilson made it a sweep of the top three for the team. Malcolm Stewart finished fourth.

Osborne rebounded after a hard crash in the first practice that required an MRI on his chest after he landed on his handlebars.

“That’s normally a game-changer on race day, but I was able to turn it around,” said Osborne, who added that he “got a little bit lucky” because he lost a side panel on his No. 16 and would have finished second if Anderson hadn’t lost his seat.

The win came at the end of a mostly disappointing second season in which he missed two races with an injury.

“I think it’s huge to get that out of the way and win one before the end,” Osborne told NBC Sports Gold’s Will Christien about the win. “I was rather mediocre until the break. I’ve enjoyed my time in Salt Lake. It’s been an incredible time and learned a lot and been a new way of racing.”

Chad Reed (Feld Entertainment, Inc.).

Chad Reed finished 10th in what could be the final 450 start of his illustrious career and gave an emotional salute to his fans during the NBC Sports Gold postrace show.

In an emotional interview with Daniel Blair on NBC Sports Gold (video above), Reed said this might have been his last race because the slog of getting through practice and qualifying was wearing thin (Reed jokingly has been lobbying series promoter Feld to add a champion’s provisional for the main event).

“It’s so hard to put it into feelings,” Reed said. “The whole last couple of days have just been steamrolling. When you start getting text messages and social media stuff, it starts to hit home.

“When you start off a day when the track is muddy and nasty, this may be the last one. I don’t enjoy practice to the main event anymore. I just love racing main events. That’s when it’s real. The track was brutal.

“When you see the champ in front of me, Ken Roczen struggling. I just was ticking away, putting laps together. Probably my best ride of the season, and it’s on Father’s Day.

“I think it’s time to go be a good dad.”

The 250 East/West Showdown finale delivered a pair of back-to-back champions after the main event was restarted because of a red flag for championship contender Austin Forkner (who was injured in a crash and withdrew).

Chase Sexton of La Moille, Illinois, scored his fifth victory of the season, outdueling runner-up Shane McElrath to win his second consecutive 250 East championship. Sexton and McElrath ceded the lead to each other midway through before Sexton pulled away for good on his Honda.

Everyone said I got lucky (last) year, and that fired me up coming into this season,” said Sexton, who will move up to the 450 class next year with HRC Honda. “As a kid from Illinois who grew up in a town of 800 people, it feels so good. Man, I could not be more excited.

“Shane was trying to play a little bit of games, which is whatever. I pulled away and made it happen. Can’t thank my team enough; they’ve been behind me since I turned pro. Man, this feels so good. I can not begin to explain where I’m at right now.”

Dylan Ferrandis survived a tumultuous finale, finishing fourth after wiping out in the head. The French rider made the main event after winning the Last Chance Qualifier. He was trailing early in the first attempt at the main event before Forkner crashed while running second. That ensured Ferrandis would win his second consecutive championship.

“The most difficult day of my life,” Ferrandis told NBC while getting choked up with emotion. “So much emotion today after winning the LCQ. That was tough. Main, got a good start, I wanted to push, and when I saw Austin, it breaks my heart honestly for him.

“So amazing. Never expected to do back-to-back championships in my life. It’s unbelievable. Just thank my team, my wife, my trainer. I can’t talk anymore.”

Ken Roczen signs with HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki for 2023

Roczen Progressive Ecstar Suzuki
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ANAHEIM, California – Ken Roczen will make the move from HRC Honda to H.E.P. Motorsports with the Progressive Ecstar Suzuki team, ending a long and eventful offseason that saw his split from his longstanding team after he committed to running World Supercross (WSX).

“H.E.P. Motorsports is thrilled to announce that the team has signed Ken Roczen as its premier rider for the 2023 season,” the team announced on Instagram. “Former AMA Motocross champion Roczen will be aboard a Suzuki RM-Z450. Roczen, who won his most recent championship on a Suzuki, will be reunited with the brand and bring his exciting style, determination, and grit back to the RM Army.

“Ken Roczen will compete in the upcoming 2023 Supercross and Motocross Championship series which is set to start on January 7 at Anaheim Stadium in Southern California.”

For Roczen, it is a return to the bike of his youth and on which he had some of his greatest professional success.

“This thing has been going on for weeks and weeks and weeks in the making, but there was so much uncertainty,” Roczen told NBC Sports during Monster Energy Supercross Media Sessions. “It was a very unique situation. I just finally signed two nights ago, so it’s really only legit once the ink hits the paper. It’s been in the works for a long time, but there were just a lot of questions and a lot of input from a lot of other teams too.

“Good things take time, and I’m okay with that. I grew up riding Suzuki. Ot’s like a homecoming. It’s a special feeling”

Roczen won the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on a Suzuki before making the move to Honda. That year he won nine of 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second as he easily outpaced Eli Tomac by 86 points. He finished third in his next Pro Motocross outing in 2018 after sitting out the outdoor season in 2017.

“I am beyond excited to reconnect with Suzuki for the 3rd time in my career. We’ve had a lot of success in the past and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together in our future.” Roczen said in the Instagram post.