Jett Lawrence aims to carry 250 East title momentum outdoors, help Hunter Lawrence

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With his second-place finish two weeks ago in Foxborough, Massachusetts, Jett Lawrence wrapped up the Monster Energy 250 East championship with one round remaining, but he has not had any time to rest on his laurels.

After a quick round of Top Golf, Lawrence and crew “came back and went to the chalkboard,” he told NBC Sports before the 250 West riders mounted up to tackle Denver for their penultimate race. “I still have to back up my other title.” 

Lawrence referenced his impending defense of the Lucas Oil Motocross championship that he won in 2021.

To refer to any athlete as an overnight success does them a disservice, but it’s difficult to avoid noticing how quickly Lawrence became a threat to win races and titles.

After a 2019 Motocross season that saw him ride only three rounds at the end of the year, he posted modest results in 250 West the following spring with only one podium finish in six rounds. Later that year, he finished fourth in Motocross points and won his first race in his final attempt at Fox Raceway.

He continued to win in 2021 with a victory in his second Supercross race that season and a third-place finish in the points. Then came the 2021 Motocross championship, and now back-to-back titles in the stadium series.

But success has not gone to Lawrence’s head because there are other things to consider.

“I don’t know actually, because I haven’t really stopped and thought about it much,” Lawrence said. “I’ve just been working, working, working, working. So, it’s like I haven’t had time to stop and think about it – but coming into this, in America, my goal has always been to be successful and that hasn’t changed while it’s playing out.

“It still is the same now. But to have this much success this early, I’m definitely a bit blown away. … I’d say talent had a little bit of helping hand in it, but I would definitely say (my success is) more work ethic.”

Lawrence, 18, shows composure that belies his age. Even without the goals that still lie ahead, he knows how to balance confidence with humility.

“I kind of think there’s always one guy that’s better than me, or multiple guys that are better than me and that’s what keeps me charging,” Lawrence said. “I don’t really think about it so much. People always talk about social media being a distraction, but realistically I was born in 2003 so I was born into the iPhone, iPod stuff – into Instagram. It’s all natural to me.

“What keeps me going and keeps it from going to my head is being with my family and talking smack all day.”

Now the focus shifts to taking some momentum into the outdoor season, which begins May 28 on the track where Lawrence earned his first win, Fox Raceway in Pala, California.

But even that is a secondary concern. This week in the season finale, he will do everything he can to help his brother Hunter Lawrence erase an 18-point gap to the 250 West leader, Christian Craig.

“We work very well together, we can bounce ideas off each other,” Jett said. “Whoever wins the race, the other is not going to be butt hurt after. It’s definitely a bit of a sting, like ‘dammit I wish I could’ve got him,’ but the excitement of him winning takes over.”

Racing is the family business and it pays most to have two strong riders in contention. The Lawrences mortgaged their assets and moved from Australia to Europe to give Jett and Hunter the best opportunity to showcase their talents. And it worked, with both riders securing high-profile, extremely strong mounts with Team Honda HRC.

Originally Jett was schedule to race in the West, but a minor injury – minor by Supercross standards, in any event – caused the brothers to swap series. While Jett had strong competition throughout the season in each event, he swept the podium in the first eight rounds as his closest rivals in the points experienced injuries that kept them off the bike for multiple rounds.

Meanwhile, Hunter walked into a buzz saw in the form of Craig, who has also swept the podium in the West.

Hunter was almost perfect as well, but a crash in Anaheim 3 sent him to the hauler with an 18th-place finish. He responded with three consecutive wins, including the East/West Showdown in Atlanta.

“You can never count out Hunter, so this weekend I’m pretty sure he is going to give it to us,” Jett said. “You really can’t say that Craig doesn’t have to worry about it. I think everyone knows how much of a hard charger Hunter is.

“Going into the East/West Shootout (finale in Salt Lake City), if it’s close then I’m just going to be a helping hand. It’s going to be like there’s two Hunter’s out there. I’m going to make sure I can keep an extra gap between Christan to give Hunter the best chance of winning the title. Craig doesn’t have it wrapped up just yet.

“If my family can get more money then that’s what I’ll do.”

Miguel Oliveira wins MotoGP Thai Grand Prix, Bagnaia closes to two points in championship

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
Mirco Lazzari / Getty Images
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Miguel Oliveira mastered mixed conditions on the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to win the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix. Oliveira showed the adaptability as he navigated a race that began in wet conditions and turned dry over the course of the race. Oliveira won the Indonesian GP in similar conditions.

“It was a long race, but I can’t complain,” Oliveira said on CNBC. “Every time we get to ride in the wet, I’m always super-fast. When it started raining, I had flashbacks of Indonesia. I tried to keep my feet on the ground, make a good start and not make mistakes and carry the bike to the end.”

All eyes were on the championship, however. Francesco Bagnaia got a great start to slot into second in Turn 1.

Meanwhile Fabio Quartararo had a disastrous first lap. He lost five positions in the first couple of turns and then rode over the rumble strips and fell back to 17th. At the end of the first lap, Bagnaia had the points’ lead by two. A win would have added to the gain and for a moment, it appeared Bagnaia might assume the lead.

Early leader Marco Bezzecchi was penalized for exceeding track limits, but before that happened, Jack Miller got around Bagnaia and pushed him back to third. Oliveira was not far behind.

After throwing away ninth-place and seven points on the last lap of the Japanese GP last week, Bagnaia did not allow the competition to press him into a mistake. He fell back as far as fourth before retaking the final position on the podium.

“It’s like a win for me, this podium,” Bagnaia. “My first podium in the wet and then there was a mix of conditions, so I’m very happy. I want to thank Jack Miller. Before the race, he gave me a motivational chat.”

Miller led the first half of the Thai Grand Prix before giving up the top spot to Oliveira and then held on to finish second. Coupled with his Japanese GP win, Miller is now fully in the MotoGP championship battle with a 40-point deficit, but he will need a string of results like Bagnaia has put together in recent weeks – and he needs Bagnaia to lose momentum.

Miller’s home Grand Prix in Australia is next up on the calendar in two weeks.

Bagnaia entered the race 18 points behind Quartararo after he failed to score any in Japan. The balance of power has rapidly shifted, however, with Quartararo now failing to earn points in two of the last three rounds. Bagnaia won four consecutive races and finished second in the five races leading up to Japan. His third-place finish in Thailand is now his sixth MotoGP podium in the last seven rounds.

Aleix Espargaro entered the race third in the standings with a 25-point deficit to Quartararo, but was able to close the gap by only five after getting hit with a long-lap penalty for aggressive riding when he pushed Darryn Binder off course during a pass for position. Espargaro finished 11th.

Rain mixed up the Moto2 running order in the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix as well. Starting on a wet track, Somkiat Chantra led the opening lap in his home Grand Prix. He could not hold onto it and crashed one circuit later, but still gave his countrymen a moment of pride by winning the pole.

Half points were awarded as the race went only eight laps before Tony Arbolino crossed under the checkers first with Filip Salac and Aron Canet rounding out the podium.

American Joe Roberts earned another top-10 in eighth with Sean Dylan Kelly finishing just outside the top 10 in 11th.