Motocross Round 12 season finale at Fox Raceway crowns Eli Tomac and Jett Lawrence

Tomac Motocross Round 12

The first moto of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Round 12 at Fox Raceway in Pala, Calif. told the story of the 2022 season as Eli Tomac and Chase Sexton finished nose-to-tail in that race with a more than one minute gap on the field.

Other riders have won the occasional moto and when Tomac and Sexton struggled unaccustomedly, they were even capable of winning an overall, but between the two championship contenders, they won 22 of 24 motos and finished 1-2 on 17 occasions.

The swapped the red plate in three of the five rounds heading into the season finale and stayed within a point of one another for most of that time.

When the checkers waved over Moto 2 of Round 12, Tomac easily won the overall with a pair of race wins, but the drama never evaporated.

Sexton took the early lead in Moto 1, but Tomac stayed on his back tire. They were evenly matched for most of the race until the pair caught traffic, and with typically bad starts throughout the season, Tomac had the advantage navigating these rolling obstacles. Tomac pounced on Sexton but could not create much separation until a slight bobble by the Honda in the closing laps gave Tomac a two-second gap on his Yamaha.

For Tomac, the race was about pressure release. Trailing Sexton halfway through Moto 1, a loss would mean he would most likely be forced to win the second race to maintain his one-point advantage. And Sexton’s bobble also took the pressure off the Race 1 win.

In fact, it shifted the pressure to Sexton. In Moto 2, both riders had modest starts, but Sexton overcame his early and climbed to third with Tomac in eighth. Sexton crashed before the halfway point to allow Tomac to slip past and maintain the head-to-head advantage for the remainder of the day.

“I think of this whole season as its entirety, it’s been the most enjoyable year by far of my career,” Tomac told MavTV’s Jason Thomas. “I had so much fun doing it. Starting with Supercross and now Motocross. The competition was unbelievable from Chase. He is the next 450 guy, hands down. We pushed ourselves to the limit. I feel like when even raised the bar this year.”

Sexton’s second accident came later on the same lap as his first. He regained his mount and rode like he had nothing to lose.

With 11 minutes remaining on the clock, Sexton caught Tomac again and was about to pass him, which would have forced the eventual champion into a defensive mode. Then Sexton hit the ground for the third time.

“That was a never quit attitude all year,” Sexton said. “Eli is so tough and he obviously got the upper hand with me.

“That second moto was frustrating. I knew I had to pass Eli and try to get to the front. I fell three times. We have to stop with those mistakes, but it’s been an awesome summer. I’ve made some big strides. I feel like I’m a different person than I was when we started.”

Winning the second moto provided bookends for Tomac’s career. He won his first Motocross race in 2010 at Hangtown. Tomac has announced he will race Supercross only in 2023 and, if he does not change his mind, this will be his last race in the outdoor season. This is 45th overall win, which puts him fourth on the all-time list.

The defending champion of the Monster Energy Supercross series, Tomac is the first rider to sweep the titles since Ryan Dungey won both in 2015. This is Tomac’s fourth Motocross title with other championships coming in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Fittingly, Jason Anderson finished third overall with a 3-3. Anderson is the only other rider to win multiple overall races this season with victories in Round 2 at Hangtown and Round 10 two weeks at Budds Creek.

With a 3-4, Christian Craig finished fourth overall.

Justin Barcia was fifth with a 5-6.

450 results (moto finish)

  1. Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Yamaha (1-1)
  2. Chase Sexton, La Moille, Ill., Honda (2-2)
  3. Jason Anderson, Edgewood, N.M., Kawasaki (4-3)
  4. Christian Craig, Temecula, Calif., Yamaha (3-4)
  5. Justin Barcia, Monroe, N.Y., GasGas (5-6)
  6. Aaron Plessinger, Hamilton, Ohio, KTM (7-7)
  7. Benny Bloss, Oak Grove, Mo., KTM (6-8)
  8. Ryan Dungey, Belle Plaine, Minn., KTM (10-5)
  9. Ken Roczen, Germany, Honda (8-13)
  10. Dean Wilson, Scotland, Husqvarna, (13-9)

450 points standings

  1. Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Yamaha – 546
  2. Chase Sexton, La Moille, Ill., Honda – 539
  3. Jason Anderson, Edgewood, N.M., Kawasaki – 440
  4. Ken Roczen, Germany, Honda – 394
  5. Christian Craig, Temecula, Calif., Yamaha – 373
  6. Ryan Dungey, Belle Plain, Minn., KTM – 359
  7. Aaron Plessinger, Hamilton, Ohio, KTM – 332
  8. Justin Barcia, Monroe, N.Y., GasGas – 303
  9. Joey Savatgy, Thomasville, Ga., Kawasaki – 218
  10. Shane McElrath, Cantaon, NC, Husqvarna – 213

In a 250 season dominated by Jett Lawrence, it is fitting that he finished 1-2 at Fox Raceway to score his ninth overall win in Motocross Round 12 while Tomac waited anxiously in the pit area to contest the razor thin championship in 450s.

Lawrence entered the weekend with a substantial lead in the points and needed to finish only 12th to wrap up the title. That was not the way the rider who led this division since winning the opening round on this same track wanted to take the title, though.

In May, Lawrence finished 1-1 to earn maximum points. His brother Hunter Lawrence and Jo Shimoda rounded out the podium. Those three riders would continue to be the class leaders as the field battled for fourth in the standings.

At Fox Raceway, Jett left nothing to the imagination. He grabbed the holeshot and early lead in Moto 1, but was in a tricky position of needing to balance caution with his desire to win.

“I’m just glad it wasn’t like last year’s last round,” Lawrence said after the second moto was in the books and he was awarded the No. 1 plate. “Thankfully I didn’t see the ground much. I did over jump (at one point) and thought my eye popped out.

“In the second one I got a good start like the first one, but me and [Seth] Hammaker banged bars a little bit, but I was able to pull out a little bit. I had that Dunlop paddle tire so I really pulled. I tried to get into second spot, but Jo just put on the boost and he was out of there.”

Jett did not ride away from Shimoda in Moto 1, but he had an ulterior motive. While he was safe with the championship lead, Hunter and Shimoda were embroiled in a tight battle for second.

“In the first [race] I was trying to use the least amount of energy possible,” Jett said. “I tried to play around with Jo a little and let Hunter catch up; I could see him in the background.”

Jett successfully held Shimoda up and allowed Hunter to catch the pair. An aggressive pass by Hunter sent Shimoda to the ground, but the Japanese rider remounted and finish fourth. He was not happy with the move.

“I don’t know about the pass,” Shimoda said. “I don’t think you could call it a clean pass. He put me over the berm and it hurt my shoulder a little bit and that kind of made me a little pissed off, so in the second moto I just got a start and charged to the end.”

Hunter finished second in Moto 1, but was unable to mount up for the second race and settled for ninth overall.

Justin Cooper finished third in both races to score his fifth podium of the season.

RJ Hampshire finished fourth overall with a 7-4.

Marvin Musquin made his first Motocross start of 2022 as a warmup for his effort to help France win the MX of Nations. He rode well in the first moto and was comfortably in third until he steered off course at the 18-minute mark. He finished fifth in that race and seventh in Moto 2 for fifth overall.

250 results (moto finish)

  1. Jett Lawrence, Australia, Honda (1-2)
  2. Jo Shimoda, Japan, Kawasaki (4-1)
  3. Justin Cooper, Cold Spring Harbor, NY, Yamaha (3-3)
  4. RJ Hampshire, Hudson, Fla., Husqvarna (7-4)
  5. Marvin Musquin, France, KTM (5-7)
  6. Max Vohland, Sacramento, Calif., KTM (12-5)
  7. Cameron McAdoo, Sioux City, Iowa, Kawasaki (8-11)
  8. Nate Thrasher, Livingston, Tenn., Yamaha (14-6)
  9. Hunter Lawrence, Australia, Honda (2-DNS)
  10. Jalek Swoll, Belleview, Fla., KTM (13-12)

250 points standings

  1. Jett Lawrence, Australia, Honda – 525
  2. Jo Shimoda, Japan, Kawasaki – 480
  3. Hunter Lawrence, Australia, Honda – 452
  4. Justin Cooper, Cold Spring Harbor, NY – 415
  5. RJ Hampshire, Hudson, Fla., Husqvarna – 346
  6. Max Vohland, Sacramento, Calif., KTM – 304
  7. Nate Thrasher, Livingston, Tenn., Yamaha – 253
  8. Seth Hammaker, Bainbridge, Penn., Kawasaki – 242
  9. Michael Mosiman, Sebastapol, Calif., GasGas – 208
  10. Pierce Brown, Sandy, Utah, GasGas, 196

Round 1, Fox Raceway: Chase Sexton takes early lead in the championship hunt
Round 2, Hangtown: After 12 years of trying, Jason Anderson wins a Motocross race
Round 3, Thunder Valley: Three races, three winners as Ken Roczen takes the top spot
Round 4, High Point: Now four-for-four, Eli Tomac takes the trophy
Round 5, RedBud: Tomac becomes first in 2022 with two wins; Hunter Lawrence takes red plate in 250s
Round 6, Southwick: Tomac’s domination continues with a second perfect round
Round 7, Spring Creek: Tomac takes points’ lead with another 1-1 day
Round 8, Washougal: Sexton brackets the first eight weeks with second win
Round 9, Unadilla: Sexton retakes points’ lead by one with back-to-back wins
Round 10, Budds Creek: Anderson wins as points lead swaps for third time in four weeks
Round 11, Ironman: Nothing changes as Tomac and Sexton split motos again

With throaty roar, NASCAR Next Gen Camaro is taking Le Mans by storm on global stage

Le Mans 24 Hour Race - Car Parade
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

LE MANS, France — The V8 engine of the NASCAR Chevrolet Camaro has a distinct growl that cannot go unnoticed even among the most elite sports cars in the world at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

When the Hendrick Motorsports crew fired up the car inside Garage 56, NASCAR chairman Jim France broke into a huge grin and gave a thumbs up.

“The only guy who didn’t cover his ears,” laughed seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson.

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France has been waiting since 1962 – the year his father, NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., brought him to his first 24 Hours of Le Mans – to hear the roar of a stock car at the most prestigious endurance race in the world.

A path finally opened when NASCAR developed its Next Gen car, which debuted last year. France worked out a deal to enter a car in a specialized “Innovative Car” class designed to showcase technology and development. The effort would be part of NASCAR’s 75th celebration and it comes as Le Mans marks its 100th.

Once he had the approval, France persuaded Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear – NASCAR’s winningest team, manufacturer and tire supplier – to build a car capable of running the twice-around-the-clock race.

The race doesn’t start until Saturday, but NASCAR’s arrival has already been wildly embraced and France could not be more thrilled.

“Dad’s vision, to be able to follow it, it took awhile to follow it up, and my goal was to outdo what he accomplished,” France told The Associated Press. “I just hope we don’t fall on our ass.”

The car is in a class of its own and not racing anyone else in the 62-car field. But the lineup of 2010 Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller, 2009 Formula One champion Jenson Button and Johnson has been fast enough; Rockenfeller put down a qualifying lap that was faster than every car in the GTE AM class by a full three seconds.

The Hendrick Motorsports crew won its class in the pit stop competition and finished fifth overall as the only team using a manual jack against teams exclusively using air jacks. Rick Hendrick said he could not be prouder of the showing his organization has made even before race day.

“When we said we’re gonna do it, I said, ‘Look, we can’t do this half-assed. I want to be as sharp as anybody out there,” Hendrick told AP. “I don’t want to be any less than any other team here. And just to see the reaction from the crowd, people are so excited about this car. My granddaughter has been sending me all these TikTok things that fans are making about NASCAR being at Le Mans.”

This isn’t NASCAR’s first attempt to run Le Mans. The late France Sr. brokered a deal in 1976, as America celebrated its bicentennial, to bring two cars to compete in the Grand International class and NASCAR selected the teams. Herschel McGriff and his son, Doug, drove a Wedge-powered, Olympia Beer-sponsored Dodge Charger, and Junie Donlavey piloted a Ford Torino shared by Richard Brooks and Dick Hutcherson.

Neither car came close to finishing the race. McGriff, now 95 and inducted into NASCAR’s Hall of Fame in January, is in Le Mans as France’s guest, clad head-to-toe in the noticeable Garage 56 uniforms.

“I threw a lot of hints that I would like to come. And I’ve been treated as royalty,” McGriff said. “This is unbelievable to me. I recognize nothing but I’m anxious to see everything. I’ve been watching and seeing pictures and I can certainly see the fans love their NASCAR.”

The goal is to finish the full race Sunday and, just maybe, beat cars from other classes. Should they pull off the feat, the driver trio wants its own podium celebration.

“I think people will talk about this car for a long, long time,” said Rockenfeller, who along with sports car driver Jordan Taylor did much of the development alongside crew chief Chad Knaus and Greg Ives, a former crew chief who stepped into a projects role at Hendrick this year.

“When we started with the Cup car, we felt already there was so much potential,” Rockenfeller said. “And then we tweaked it. And we go faster, and faster, at Le Mans on the SIM. But you never know until you hit the real track, and to be actually faster than the SIM. Everybody in the paddock, all the drivers, they come up and they are, ‘Wow, this is so cool,’ and they were impressed by the pit stops. We’ve overachieved, almost, and now of course the goal is to run for 24 hours.”

The car completed a full 24-hour test at Sebring, Florida, earlier this year, Knaus said, and is capable of finishing the race. Button believes NASCAR will leave a lasting impression no matter what happens.

“If you haven’t seen this car live yet, it’s an absolute beast,” Button said. “When you see and hear it go by, it just puts a massive smile on your face.”

For Hendrick, the effort is the first in his newfound embrace of racing outside NASCAR, the stock car series founded long ago in the American South. Aside from the Le Mans project, he will own the Indy car that Kyle Larson drives for Arrow McLaren in next year’s Indianapolis 500 and it will be sponsored by his automotive company.

“If you’d have told me I’d be racing at Le Mans and Indianapolis within the same year, I’d never have believed you,” Hendrick told AP. “But we’re doing both and we’re going to do it right.”

Le Mans 24 Hour Race - Car Parade
Fans gather around the NASCAR Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 that is the Garage 56 entry for the 100th 24 Hours of Le Mans at the Circuit de la Sarthe (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).

General Motors is celebrating the achievement with a 2024 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Garage 56 Edition and only 56 will be available to collectors later this year.

“Even though Chevrolet has been racing since its inception in 1911, we’ve never done anything quite like Garage 56,” said GM President Mark Reuss. “A NASCAR stock car running at Le Mans is something fans doubted they would see again.”

The race hasn’t even started yet, but Hendrick has enjoyed it so much that he doesn’t want the project to end.

“It’s like a shame to go through all this and do all this, and then Sunday it’s done,” Hendrick said. “It’s just really special to be here.”