A viewer’s guide to Supercross: Five things to watch in the 2023 season and Anaheim opener


With the 2023 Monster Energy Supercross season set to open Saturday night, a viewer’s guide to five key storylines when the gate drops at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California (10 p.m. ET, USA and Peacock):

New era brings big decisions: “Anaheim I” is synonymous with kicking off the Supercross season (as the event will for the 32nd time), but Saturday night also will harken the start of the SuperMotocross World Championship.

Running across 10 months, the 31-event season will encompass the Monster Energy AMA Supercross and Pro Motocross series. The SuperMotocross World Championship will conclude with a three-event playoff at a mix of new and storied venues that will be designed to determine an overall champion who blends the best skills of dirt bike racing — the technical precision needed at indoor stadiums and the grueling, wide-open endurance at outdoor layouts.

While there always has been plenty of crossover between Supercross and Pro Motocross — Eli Tomac won both 450 championships last year — this will create a more seamless bridge between the disciplines.

They now are bonded by a $1 million bonus for the 450 SuperMotocross world champion ($500,000 for the 250 crown), and that already is making an impression on how riders view their seasons before the first gate even drops.

Tomac initially hinted this Supercross could be his last and has yet to commit to defending his Pro Motocross crown — but would he pass up another opportunity at motocross greatness if he shines again in SX? He at least seemed open to continuing to ride beyond May during Friday’s preseason news conference.

“I’m not going to say right now if I’m going to be done this season or not,” Tomac, 30, said. “As you just get older in general, you start seeing things differently and enjoying it more. The racing has at least been that way for me. That’s just kind of happened since the middle of my 20s. We’ll see where it takes us, and obviously, I’m going to enjoy the moment as much as I can.”

SUPERCROSS 2023 OPENERHow to watch Anaheim I on USA, Peacock

Rising star Jett Lawrence also might be adjusting his career trajectory. The defending 250 East SX and Pro Motocross champ recently told NBC Sports announcer Leigh Diffey that he hopes to run the SuperMotocross playoffs as a 450 rider (and move into the premier category for good).

“I’m intrigued by what the racers’ mindsets are going to be into this new phase of the sport,” Diffey said in an SMX Insider interview with Jason Weigandt and Daniel Blair. “Do you just think about getting through the Supercross season, or are you in a season long mindset thinking about three playoff rounds at the end to have a chance at being the inaugural SMX world champion and $1 million on the line for the 450 winner.

“Does your mindset of just getting through January and having a solid foundation to build on? Will you compartmentalize this part of the season. There are a lot of topics to talk about for over 10 months.”

The 450 championship contenders at the Anaheim I news conference (Feld Entertainment, Inc./Align Media).

Battle at the top: After switching manufacturers, Tomac had a dream 2022 season with Yamaha that solidified his reputation as one of the all-time greats.

Jason Anderson (Feld Entertainment, Inc./Align Media)

The Colorado native became one of a dozen riders with multiple championships in Supercross’ premier division. His 44 career victories (including seven last year) now rank fourth all time behind Jeremy McGrath, James Stewart and Ricky Carmichael after Tomac passed Ryan Villopoto (41) and Chad Reed (44) last year, and he ranks fifth all time with 84 podiums in Supercross 450 (passing Stewart, Kevin Windham and Mike Larocco last year).

Only three years after Tomac admitted the lack of a title would have marred his legacy, his place in the Supercross pantheon is more than secure.

So how does will he stay motivated in 2023?

Perhaps because he is being viewed by some as an underdog to Chase Sexton, who seems poised to reach championship superstardom with Honda.

Jason Anderson (who finished second to Tomac in the 450 standings by nine points last year) also is being mentioned as a major title contender after the 2018 champion’s sudden resurgence with Kawasaki.

But Tomac vs. Sexton has been the primary focus when the topic arises of potential rider rivalries in 2023.

Aaron Plessinger, Dylan Ferrandis and Malcolm Stewart (Feld Entertainment, Inc./Align Media)

Sexton, 23, scored his first premier class victory last year, but the two-time 250 East champion again was hampered by an inconsistency that nullified his blinding speed. After taking six holeshots and leading seven main events in 2022, eliminating mistakes might be the simple key to Sexton’s first Supercross 450 crown.

“I’ve wanted to be in this position since I got on a 450,” Sexton said. “Winning only one race (last year) wasn’t enough. In Outdoors, I learned a lot about myself and racing Eli taught me something I never could have been taught otherwise. I’m looking forward to bringing that into the new year, taking everything from last year and putting it into a solid Supercross season.”

Aside from Anderson, who won the final four events of 2022 to match Tomac with a series-leading seven victories, there are other contenders lurking in the field.

Marvin Musquin also was a ’22 winner, and it seems like a matter of time before a winner’s circle appearance for Aaron Plessinger (who returns after ranking fifth in 2021), Malcolm Stewart (third in the 2022 standings) and Dylan Ferrandis (a past 250 and Pro Motocross champion who should be back at full strength).

But as Racer X editor and NBC Sports host Jason Weigandt also has noted, the past four seasons have delivered only five winners annually. So the top step of the podium likely will remain difficult to reach.

Chase Sexton (left) expects to challenge defending champion Eli Tomac (Feld Entertainment, Inc./Align Media).

Return of Roczen: The biggest X factor entering the 2023 season also is one of the most intriguing and compelling personalities in Supercross.

After a stunning split from Honda, Ken Roczen tried virtually every other bike in the offseason before settling on a return to Suzuki (which he rode in 2016 to a runner-up Supercross finish and then bulldozed to the Pro Motocross championship). The affable and colorful Roczen has overcome so much career-ending adversity while being dogged by questions about whether he ever will win a 450 title.

Supercross 2023 viewer's guide
Ken Roczen with his son, Griffin (Feld Entertainment, Inc./Align Media)

But that pressure might have lifted with the weight of being a factory Honda rider gone. “The lack of pressure on him maybe will yield results we’ve all wanted to see,” Diffey said. “The less people are asking about it, maybe it’ll put him in a more relaxed state of mind and carry him through the season. With SuperMotocross, you just have to be there at the end. It might work out well for him.”

Telling RacerX that “I just think it could make a super cool story if I can do what I think we can do,” Roczen, 28, seems buoyed by the move.

“I like being the underdog,” he said during the Friday news conference. “The expectations are a bit different. I feel I’ve shown in the offseason I still have got some speed.

“It was a change that was definitely needed for me. It kind of came out of nowhere, to be honest. But overall, I’ve been feeling really good.”

He has been riding his new Suzuki for only a month, and Roczen concedes it could take a while to find his form (though he has done more offseason races that have helped keep him in shape).

“I just want to reestablish myself because last year was really rough,” said Roczen, who won only the 2022 season opener. “The results weren’t there. A lot of struggles. Throughout this offseason, I have put in a lot of work. I started loving riding and especially racing again and traveling all over. So this change, I didn’t care if I was faster or better. It’s just I needed something.”

Roczen also will have the support of vaunted team manager Larry Brooks, who returns with Suzuki to the 450 category (where he previously worked with champions such as McGrath and Stewart).

“Going back to Suzuki, I’ve had really good results with them before, and I really want to put them back on the map,” Roczen said. “We might start off slow or might be right in the mix. I don’t really know, nor do I really care. I want to take it step by step and put in the work and re-establish myself and get back up to the front and just not let go. And charge hard.

“This entire offseason, I was able to charge more toward my goals and dreams. I’m mentally in a completely different spot than I was in years past. Overall, I’ve been feeling great on the bike. I’m going to have some fun with it and try to get back up to where I belong.”

Cooper comeback? Two-time Supercross champion Cooper Webb was seated on the last row for the Friday news conference.

“I’m washed up,” he joked when asked about the arrangement.

Supercross 2023 viewer's guide
Cooper Webb (Feld Entertainment, Inc./Align Media)

Certainly, few are doubting that Webb has the ability to rebound from a disappointing winless 2022 season for one of the toughest competitors in Supercross. But this will be a critical season for the North Carolina native, who re-signed with KTM on a one-year deal for 2023 and could find himself in the unsettling silly season with a slow start.

Webb’s biggest strength always has been his steely mental game, but a move away from renowned trainer Aldon Baker seemed to hurt his physical side.

Webb is back with Baker’s Factory this year, and he also has gotten hands-on about improving the bike for his fifth season with KTM.

“We’ve made a lot of progress,” said Webb, who outdueled Roczen to win the 2021 championship and also won the 2019 title. “I’ve definitely been very difficult this offseason with the team. I made it very clear that we needed to change a lot and started this summer. We got to work early.

“We went back to the basics, stepped back to a standard and have been going from there. That’s been good. I know what I felt in ’21 and what it takes to win. Where a bike needs to be. We got there within this last month. I’m really excited to get to it. Being back with Aldon, getting back into getting in good shape.”

After the 2022 Supercross season, Webb mostly stayed off his bike to clear his head (while also becoming a new father).

“I feel like I retired last year and took a year off,” Webb said. “It was much needed to regroup and come back to try to win. That’s really the only reason we’re racing. I feel we’re back at that point.”

Cianciarulo’s health: Once viewed as a surefire superstar, 2023 could be the last chance for Adam Cianciarulo to prove himself in 450. Since winning the Pro Motocross championship and finishing second in the 250 West Supercross in 2019, the injury-prone Cianciarulo has missed 33 of the past 51 events in the 450 category.

Feld Entertainment, Inc./Align Media
Adam Cianciarulo (Feld Entertainment, Inc./Align Media)

The Kawasaki rider considered retirement but has entered the 2023 season with a new philosophical attitude and measured expectations  about becoming a championship contender (“I would be an idiot to come into this season being like, ‘Oh, now it’s time to win the title, right?’ It’s like I haven’t really raced in a while,” Cianciarulo told Dan Beaver last month).

“I think we all have this idea of the way our career wants to go,” said Cianciarulo, whose No. 1 goal is remaining healthy after battling some recent arm problems.

“Everyone wants to do what Eli has done. As far as my results, it’s been unfortunate. I’ve had some crashes, injuries and taken time off.

“I love this stuff. These are my people. I like being here. It’s not fun to be away from it. Overall, I’m proud of the body of work and how I handled things. I still feel I have a lot left to give and a lot left in the tank. I’m excited to be here and present in the moment and be grateful.”

Jett Lawrence wins Hangtown Pro Motocross, remains perfect in 450s

Lawrence Hangtown Motocross
Align Media

Jett Lawrence remains perfect in the Pro Motocross series after recording another perfect round at Hangtown in Rancho Cordova, California. In his second start on a 450, Lawrence won his second National with his fourth consecutive moto win. It is getting increasingly difficult to find the right superlatives to describe the exploits on the reigning 250 West Supercross champion.

“The track was so brutal out there,” Lawrence told NBC Sports Jason Thomas. “The bike handles amazing even when it’s not too friendly. You had to be really patient; you couldn’t take too much. I didn’t eat enough before that second moto. I kind of lost energy halfway through, but luckily I could use technique and balance and just keep that flow going.”

Lawrence leaves Hangtown with an 18-point advantage over Ferrandis in the 450 Motocross standings, but perhaps more importantly, he climbed to 19th in the SuperMotocross standings and should he stay there, he has an automatic invitation to the Main events in the SMX Championship.

“On this track, you just have to manage,” Lawrence continued. “If you try to take too much and not respect the track, it will bite you very quickly. It was humbling on the first few laps. I got kicked on the cutout at the start of the third section, the tabletop going to the left. I had to get my focus because the boys were coming.”

Still in his first few races since returning from a concussion suffered at Houston in the Supercross series, Dylan Ferrandis finished second with results of third in Moto 1 and second in Moto 2. While Ferrandis was happy with the result, he remains hopeful that he will contend for victory shortly.

“The first moto was very hard for my physically, Ferrandis said. “I got arm pump and when you get arm pump your body gets tired. But I’m very happy because we made a big change for the second moto. We tried stuff every session today and in the last moto the bike was much better, but unfortunately I wasn’t sure what I could do with this bike because the track was very hard and difficult to pass.”

RESULTS: How they finished in the 450 Overall at Hangtown

With the rash of injuries at the end of the Supercross season, the podium was filled with heartwarming stories. Cooper Webb returned to action last week in Pala and failed to make the podium. He is steadily improving with a third-place finish in Hangtown. after finishing with a 4-2.

“It’s incredible what seven days can do,” Webb said. “Last week I felt like I was going to get lapped in the second moto. This week, I could see the leader. It was nice. I fought hard, learned how to suffer again there and that felt nice.

Moto 2 wasn’t pretty for Lawrence. On several occasions in the opening laps, he nearly high sided as he rode the front wheel through the ruts. The reward was worth the risk. By the halfway point, Lawrence had 4.5-second lead over Webb, who was embroiled in a tight three-rider battle for second with his teammate Aaron Plessinger pressuring him and Ferrandis ready to take advantage if those made contact.

It took 20 minutes for Plessinger to get around Webb and once he did, he trailed Lawrence by four seconds. But then, with three minutes remaining, Plessinger crashed and had difficulty restarting the bike, handing second back to Webb who has seven seconds behind Lawrence. Plessinger fell to fourth with results of third and sixth.

Adam Cianciarulo rounded out the top five with a 5-4.

Last week Hunter Lawrence won the overall with a 3-1. He repeated that feat in Hangtown in an exact replica of his Fox Raceway results last week. In Moto 1, Lawrence got off to a slow start and lost 10 seconds in the opening laps. Forced to overcome a sixth-place position in the race at the end of Lap 1, he once again caught the riders ahead of him when the field hit heavy traffic. For the second week, scored another 3-1 for the Hangtown National win.

“The start was crucial’ I knew I had to go,” Lawrence told NBC Sports’ Jason Thomas. “They laid a lot of water down, so I didn’t want to be behind any longer than [I was]. First hot one of the year, was a bit of a wakeup call, so I’m happy to get out of here safe and healthy.”

Lawrence’s third-place finish in Moto 1 featured a fierce battle for final spot on the podium when he caught Spain’s Guillem Farres and France’s Tom Vialle. With Lawrence hailing from Australia, the international nature of the sport was highlighted.

Lawrence left Hangtown with a 10-point advantage over Haiden Deegan in the Pro Motocross championship battle.

Click here for 250 overall results

Justin Cooper finished second in both motos to finish second overall. Hangtown represented a huge improvement from Fox Raceway where he finished fifth overall with a 5-4 finish in the two motos. Cooper pressured Haiden Deegan in the second half of Moto 1 and he earned the holeshot in the second moto and stayed within three seconds of Lawrence in that race.

“He was following me a little bit, checking out my lines, seeing where he was better,” Cooper said. “It’s disappointing to give up the lead like that but it was way better than last weekend. I will definitely take two seconds. I want to be on the top of the step. I feel like I get close to the top step but I never get it done. That’s building up the frustration – the fire. I really want to get one of these wins, so it’s time to start digging.”

Haiden Deegan earned the first holeshot of his career in Moto 1 and rode away from the field, building a four-second lead in the opening laps. Cooper trimmed the lead at the halfway point and for a while it leveled off at two seconds. Then Cooper made another charge with three to go and closed to within a second. Deegan was biding his time, however.

“I was saving a little. I knew at the end Justin was going to try and put a charge on. I let him get up close and then sent it super hard at the end to break him a little at the end.”

Deegan’s first moto win comes in only his fourth National and he remains perfect in regard to podiums this year.

“This was a dream since I was a little kid, to win,” Deegan said. “And in my fourth race, it’s gnarly. I was just sending it. I was getting a little tired at the end becasue I left my mouth open the whole time. It’s unreal; I’m so hyped. I wanted to win bad and I proved it to you guys.”

Chaos erupted in turn 1 in Moto 2 Jeremy Martin went and another rider ran over his arm. Michael Mosiman crashed further down the track on that same lap. Both riders were helped off course by the Alpinestars Medical team.

2023 Motocross Race Recaps

Fox Raceway: Jett Lawrence wins in first 450 start

2023 Supercross Race Recaps

Salt Lake City: Chase Sexton ends the season with win
Denver: Chase Sexton wins, takes points’ lead with Eli Tomac injury
Nashville: Chase Sexton keeps hope alive; Cooper Webb out
New Jersey: Justin Barcia wins muddy race; first in two years
Atlanta: Chase Sexton is back in the championship picture
Glendale: Eli Tomac wins 51st, breaks tie with James Stewart
Seattle: Eli Tomac wins and ties Webb for first
Detroit: Chase Sexton inherits win after Aaron Plessinger falls
Indianapolis: Ken Roczen gets first win in more than a year
Daytona: Eli Tomac extends Daytona record with seventh win
Arlington: Cooper Webb wins for second time, closes to two of Tomac
Oakland: Eli Tomac ties Ricky Carmichael with 48 wins
Tampa: Cooper Webb gets first 2023 win
Houston: Eli Tomac bounces back from A2 crash to win third race of 2023
Anaheim 2: Triple Crown produces new winners Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen
San Diego: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence double down
Anaheim 1: Eli Tomac wins opener for the first time

More SuperMotocross coverage

Chase Sexton is out for Hangtown
Enzo Lopes re-signs with Club MX for 2024
Record Supercross attendance reported in 2023
SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Pala
Results and points after Pala
Jett Lawrence wins Pala in his first MX start
450 Champion Chase Sexton takes back what he gave away
250 West Supercross champion Jett Lawrence ends dream career
250 East Supercross champion Hunter Lawrence overcomes doubt and injury