Confidence built on a strong 2021 season has Jett Lawrence eying 250 Supercross championship

Lawrence confidence Supercross
Red Bull

Racing Supercross (SX) requires balance in every aspect and entering his third season in the 250 series, Team Honda HRC rider Jett Lawrence has learned to temper his natural confidence with humility.

The first personality trait was not difficult to obtain. Confidence was bred into him at an early age and reinforced by a third-place finish in the SX East division last year and the 2021 Motocross championship. Lawrence believes humility comes just as naturally – although it can be difficult to express at times in a sport where the winning rider has to believe he is the best in the field.

“Expectations were pretty high coming (into 2021),” Lawrence told NBC Sports. “I didn’t really like how it was picked up on at all. I had my expectations. I am who I am, and I want to always be better, so I didn’t really worry about it too much.

Jett Lawrence led the pack in Supercross Round 2 of the 2021 season at Houston. (Feld Entertainment)

“I didn’t feel like it fazed me too much, to be honest. People like to try to pressure you, but I feel like it’s more of a ‘you’ thing. You can say you got pressured, and if you believe it, it’s pressure. If you don’t, then don’t overthink it.”

After literally mortgaging the family future, the Lawrence brothers burst onto the scene in 2020 with Jett and Hunter Lawrence touted as two of the most promising riders to join the series in several seasons. For Jett, the speed was there, but 2020 was not the debut many anticipated.

Lawrence earned one podium in six 250 SX West starts and finished 10th in the standings. A broken collarbone after getting pitched from his bike in the whoops in Round 3 of 2020 kept him from entering all of the races that year.

His second season was much stronger. Making every race and earning nearly twice as many points, Lawrence finished third in the standings behind champion Colt Nichols and Jo Shimoda, who became the first Japanese-born racer to win a race in the series last year.

More importantly, Lawrence learned to win and stand on the podium with greater frequency. He won the second race of the season and earned podiums in two of three races in the season opener at Houston. He closed the season with a pair of wins and a second-place finish at Salt Lake City.

If not for a disastrous race in Indianapolis when he finished outside of the points in 23rd, he might have won the title.

“(Aggressiveness) is probably one of my biggest problems,” Lawrence said. “We all want to be better than each other so it’s a very hard thing. It’s probably my strength and weakness at the same time. That’s what kind of cost me (in 2021) in supercross.

“Trying to go faster than anyone else on the track and it ends up catching me. The more mature side needs realize I’m fine. I definitely, at times, get a little carried away because I want to be the best at what I do. Sometimes it definitely bites me, but sometimes it pays off.”

Three consecutive top-two finishes at the end of the season propelled him into the Motocross with a ton of momentum. Lawrence won the season opener at Fox Raceway in Pala, Calif. and finished on the podium in three consecutive races. He also won three of the final five motocross races to put him in a position to ride smartly at Hangtown at Rancho Cordova, Calif. in the finale.

Lawrence won the outdoor championship by six points over Justin Cooper.

Once Jett Lawrence learned to trust the process, wins quickly followed. (Feld Entertainment)

It wasn’t as simple as it sounds. Lawrence and Cooper swapped the points’ lead during the season and a run of three modest showings of fourth or sixth forced Lawrence to dig deep and close strong.

But that is also what contributed to Lawrence’s confidence.

“I’m confident because I know I put the work in,” Lawrence said. “I don’t need someone to tell me I’m good. I know I’m decent at what I do because I put the work in – so I’m confident as a person.

“Sometimes I try to hide that, because sometimes it seems cocky. It’s a bit of a struggle with that. But I feel like confidence is definitely a good thing to have in your back pocket. It’s kind of funny when people think I’m like this cocky kid, but people who know me are like, ‘he just comes off like that.’ ”

“It’s okay (to be confident) but it’s more like being mentally strong. I feel like my dad is very mentally strong and I take a bit from him – and just being mentally strong and knowing that I’m supposed to be here, and I deserve everything that I get. Not to sound like a spoiled brat, but everything I’ve achieved, I deserve.”

With a 450 ride imminent, Lawrence has one last goal to achieve as the 2022 season gets ready to kick off.

When asked what he would like to have written about him at the end of the season, Lawrence replied, “(I’d like to be known at the end of the season as) the world’s greatest all around 250 rider. It would be awesome to have that.

“But I also hate saying that because I’m just not that person trying to toot my own horn. So it’s weird, but a perfect season would be getting both championships.

“Race wins are obviously awesome, but the biggest goal is championships and if I can get both, the goals are completed in 250.”

Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night / DB3 Inc.

On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.

Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)