Joey Savatgy wins WSX Australian GP; Ken Roczen takes home the inaugural title

World Supercross Championship
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Joey Savatgy won two of three features in the World Supercross Championship (WSX) Australian GP at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne to capture the overall race victory, while Ken Roczen narrowly edged him for the inaugural championship.

“It was an amazing race,” Roczen told Fox Sports’ Kristen Beat after the final feature was in the books. “I really tried hard, Joey was going really good, the track was deteriorating. A lot of stuff going on. I really had a good start and went first into the turn, but Joey popped out with the holeshot. We collided and I almost went down.”

For the champion Roczen, each feature told a different tale. He earned the holeshot in the eight-lap Race 1 and led flag to flag. Race 2 got off to an equally strong start, but Roczen caught a rock and suffered a flat tire that kept him from earning any points. That set up Race 3 to be the decider.

Roczen burst out of the gate fast and led the field into Turn 1, but it was Savatgy who earned the holeshot and clean track. Savatgy led all 12 laps of the Superfinal with Roczen slotting into second.

Roczen needed to hold that position. If he fell to third, Savatgy would have had enough points to take the title. He beat Savatgy and Vince Friese by a slim margin of two points to become the first champion of the new international supercross league in what WSX described as a pilot season.

“I’ve had such an amazing experience. It’s been a tough ride the last few years, and that’s why I did this. I don’t regret it,” Roczen said, referencing his decision to forego a contract extension with Honda HRC in order to free himself to run in the international series. “I’ve had so much fun here.”

“I love coming to Australia, and I can’t wait to come back again. Finally getting a title again, especially the first one for my team, is nothing short of amazing.”

Savatgy settled for the overall win in Australia over Roczen and Justin Brayton rounding out the podium.

Next year’s schedule has not yet been announced.

MORE: Eli Tomac wins WSX British GP with a perfect score

Shane McElrath and Max Anstie entered Race 3 of the SX2 division of the Australian GP with one point separating them for the overall win. Fittingly, the two riders both jumped out of the gate fast and as the first lap was in the books, McElrath and Anstie ran 1-2 in that division’s Superfinal.

Championship points featured a little wider gap. McElrath entered this feature with a seven-point advantage over Anstie and did not need the win to clinch the title. He did not want to be a winless champion, however, and rode on the limit until the checkered flag waved at the end of the 10-lap race.

“A win is a win; it’s never easy,” McElrath said in a release. “These guys made it tough. We had minimal prep time but the Rick Ware Racing team literally never stopped working.

“To come out on top, and to get better every single time on the track, that’s really what we worked for. Praise God we’re here. Number one baby. I am proud of this team and what they’ve done in a few short weeks.”

Anstie took the early lead in Race 1 and held it until the end with McElrath earning second-place points.

Australian native Aaron Tanti won Race 2 over the roar of cheers from the home crowd. Running second, McElrath kept the pressure on Tanti throughout the race as the most meaningful pass of the night was delivered by Anstie over Mitchell Oldenburg in the final laps to keep the points’ battle tight for both the overall race win and championship.

The world championship is the first major title for McElrath.

MotoConcepts won the Team Championship with Honda taking Manufacturer’s Championship after points were tallied from the two rounds.

“Fans across the world were hungry to see supercross racing, and you need the courage of your convictions to take these things on,” said SX Global President Tony Cochrane. “These athletes are so talented, and the world wants to see that. We’re prepared to put that to the test. You’re going to see, in my humble belief, this championship grow enormously in the next two to four years.”

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”