Chase Sexton wins Nashville Supercross; Hunter Lawrence clinches 250 East title


Chase Sexton kept his name in the 450 championship conversation with his fourth win of the season in Round 15 of Monster Energy Supercross at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee, in a race marred by a hard crash and injury for title contender Cooper Webb.

With his win, Sexton moved into second in the standings and is 18 points behind defending series champion Eli Tomac.

Webb, who missed the main event, fell to third, 34 points behind. The status of his injury was uncertain Saturday.

Tomac hoped to take full advantage of Webb’s absence. He grabbed his sixth holeshot of the season but had a big moment while leading through 5 minutes. His front tire dug in the dirt on a landing and nearly threw him over the handlebars. That near-miss seemingly tamed his aggression and allowed Sexton to shave 3 seconds off in the next few laps. At the halfway point, Sexton swept around Tomac for the lead.

“I just wanted to be consistent and hit my marks,” Sexton told NBC Sports Will Christien. “I didn’t get the best start, but I made my way up and saw Eli offline, wanted to click off good laps and get close. With the track being this sketchy, it’s hard to be out front the whole time and for me it allowed me to see some different lines. That was a tough track, but I felt super smooth, really locked in and I feel like I’m making big strides.”

RESULTS: How they finished in the 450 Overall in Nashville

Tomac finished runner-up for the second consecutive week and earned his fifth podium in the last six rounds. Next week the series will head to his home track in Denver before the season finale in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Tomac excels in races at elevation, making him a favorite to win a third championship and his second consecutive.

“We launched out of the start there; had two great starts during the day,” Tomac told NBC Sports Daniel Blair. “I was trying to do what I can, and honestly I had a bobble in the whoops and that is when I started to take it easy. The track got really torn up, and Chase was riding really good, so I was just riding in my zone.”

Ken Roczen (third) scored his third conesecutive podium but still wanted more.

“That was a bummer,” Roczen said. “I completely botched my start, and my first two laps were probably my worst all year. I was just going backwards at the beginning. I wasn’t riding my best, either. I’m stoked to get away with third place. Podiums are tough to get out there on a tricky track. It claimed a couple of guys, so I just played it safe.”

Justin Barcia, last week’s winner in New Jersey, crashed at the halfway point when he cased a jump. Barcia was carted off the track holding his left shoulder. He finished 21st and is now 13 points behind Roczen in their battle to finish fourth.

Colt Nichols and Justin Hill rounded out the top five.

Cooper Webb went down on Lap 1 of Heat 1 and was run into by Adam Cianciarulo, whose front wheel made hard contact with Webb’s helmet. Webb was helped to the Alpinestars medical cart.

Webb was taken to the hospital for evaluation and did not start the main.

Heat 2 continued to take a toll. Early in that race, Jason Anderson cross-rutted and was pitched off the front of his bike. An earlier incident in qualification injured his left shoulder. He was unable to finish his heat and had to race his way into the main via the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ).

Hunter Lawrence didn’t need to win the Nashville 250 East Supercross race to take the championship, but he wanted the victory. Needing only a 20th or better, Lawrence cruised behind Jordon Smith and waited until that rider made a mistake by jumping off course. Once out front, Lawrence clicked off the final laps and won his seventh race in nine rounds of the season.

Lawrence will head to the season finale in Salt Lake City with only one thing in mind. In their final head-to-head battle on a 250 bike, Hunter and Jett Lawrence will fight for supremacy in the East/West Showdown.

After receiving congratulations from his competitors on the track, Hunter headed to the mechanics area, gently placed his bike on the ground and hugged Jett, who is expected to wrap up the 250 West division next week in Denver.

“I just want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart,” Lawrence said. “Everyone that is with me now was with me when I was at my lowest, so this is incredible. I can’t say I ever dreamed of this as a kid because I didn’t know this was possible. I’m choked up; this is surreal.”

Click here for 250 overall results

Returning from injury only two rounds ago, Jo Shimoda stood on the podium for the first time this season with a second-place finish. While Lawrence was following Smith in the opening laps, Shimoda seemed to have the faster bike. Even after Lawrence took the lead, Shimoda refused to fall back significantly and finished less than four seconds behind.

“The last couple of months was a lot of couch sitting, and it wasn’t fun,” Shimoda said. “Just to be out here is awesome to me. We’ll just keep pushing and do this thing.”

Smith’s last win was 2018 in Daytona. He was leading until he jumped off course and handed over the top spot to Lawrence on Lap 6.

“The Yamaha got off to a good start,” Smith said. “That felt good. I’ve been struggling with the starts as of late and we did a lot this week. … That’s where I want to be, battling for the win. I just have to eliminate those mistakes, but I’m not going to take these podiums for granted. It’s been a while since I’ve been consistently up here.”

Haiden Deegan finished fourth and earned his sixth top-five.

Last week’s winner Max Anstie rounded out the top five.

2023 Race Recaps

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: Tomac wins and ties Cooper Webb for first
Detroit: Chase Sexton inherits win after Aaron Plessinger falls
Indianapolis: Ken Roczen gets first win in more than a year
Daytona: Tomac extends Daytona record with seventh win
Arlington: Webb wins for second time, closes to two of Tomac
Oakland: Tomac ties Ricky Carmichael with 48 wins
Tampa: Webb gets first 2023 win
Houston: Tomac bounces back from A2 crash to win third race of 2023
Anaheim 2: Triple Crown produces new winners Sexton, Levi Kitchen
San Diego: Tomac, Jett Lawrence double down
Anaheim 1: Tomac wins opener for the first time

More SuperMotocross coverage

Ken Roczen teaches NBC Today Show’s Joe Fryer about Supercross
Adam Cianciarulo, Aaron Plessinger detail New Jersey injuries
Justin Barcia on becoming an avatar
Nate Thrasher injured at Atlanta
Power Rankings after New Jersey
Results and points after New Jersey
Justin Barcia wins muddy New Jersey race

‘It’s gnarly, bro’: IndyCar drivers face new challenge on streets of downtown Detroit

IndyCar Detroit downtown
James Black/Penske Entertainment

DETROIT – It was the 1968 motion picture, “Winning” when actress Joanne Woodward asked Paul Newman if he were going to Milwaukee in the days after he won the Indianapolis 500 as driver Frank Capua.

“Everybody goes to Milwaukee after Indianapolis,” Newman responded near the end of the film.

Milwaukee was a mainstay as the race on the weekend after the Indianapolis 500 for decades, but since 2012, the first race after the Indy 500 has been Detroit at Belle Isle Park.

This year, there is a twist.

Instead of IndyCar racing at the Belle Isle State Park, it’s the streets of downtown Detroit on a race course that is quite reminiscent of the old Formula One and CART race course that was used from 1982 to 1991.

Formula One competed in the United States Grand Prix from 1982 to 1988. Beginning in 1989, CART took over the famed street race through 1991. In 1992, the race was moved to Belle Isle, where it was held through last year (with a 2009-2011 hiatus after the Great Recession).

The Penske Corp. is the promoter of this race, and they did a lot of good at Belle Isle, including saving the Scott Fountain, modernizing the Belle Isle Casino, and basically cleaning up the park for Detroit citizens to enjoy.

The race, however, had outgrown the venue. Roger Penske had big ideas to create an even bigger event and moving it back to downtown Detroit benefitted race sponsor Chevrolet. The footprint of the race course goes around General Motors world headquarters in the GM Renaissance Center – the centerpiece building of Detroit’s modernized skyline.

INDYCAR IN DETROITEntry list, schedule, TV info for this weekend

JOSEF’S FAMILY TIESNewgarden wins Indy 500 with wisdom of father, wife

Motor City is about to roar with the sound of Chevrolet and Honda engines this weekend as the NTT IndyCar Series is the featured race on the nine-turn, 1.7-mile temporary street course.

It’s perhaps the most unique street course on the IndyCar schedule because of the bumps on the streets and the only split pit lane in the series.

The pit lanes has stalls on opposing sides and four lanes across an unusual rectangular pit area (but still only one entry and exit).

Combine that, with the bumps and the NTT IndyCar Series drivers look forward to a wild ride in Motor City.

“It’s gnarly, bro,” Arrow McLaren driver Pato O’Ward said before posting the fastest time in Friday’s first practice. “It will be very interesting because the closest thing that I can see it being like is Toronto-like surfaces with more of a Long Beach-esque layout.

“There’s less room for error than Long Beach. There’s no curbs. You’ve got walls. I think very unique to this place.

PRACTICE RESULTS: Speeds from the first session

“Then it’s a bit of Nashville built into it. The braking zones look really very bumpy. Certain pavements don’t look bumpy but with how the asphalt and concrete is laid out, there’s undulation with it. So, you can imagine the cars are going to be smashing on every single undulation because we’re going to go through those sections fairly fast, and obviously the cars are pretty low. I don’t know.

“It looks fun, man. It’s definitely going to be a challenge. It’s going to be learning through every single session, not just for drivers and teams but for race control. For everyone.

“Everybody has to go into it knowing not every call is going to be smooth. It’s a tall task to ask from such a demanding racetrack. I think it’ll ask a lot from the race cars as well.”

The track is bumpy, but O’Ward indicated he would be surprised if it is bumper than Nashville. By comparison to Toronto, driving at slow speed is quite smooth, but fast speed is very bumpy.

“This is a mix of Nashville high-speed characteristics and Toronto slow speed in significant areas,” O’Ward said. “I think it’ll be a mix of a lot of street courses we go to, and the layout looks like more space than Nashville, which is really tight from Turn 4 to 8. It looks to be a bit more spacious as a whole track, but it’ll get tight in multiple areas.”

The concept of having four-wide pit stops is something that excites the 24-year-old driver from Monterey, Mexico.

“I think it’s innovation, bro,” O’Ward said. “If it works out, we’ll look like heroes.

“If it doesn’t, we tried.”

Because of the four lanes on pit road, there is a blend line the drivers will have to adhere to. Otherwise, it would be chaos leaving the pits compared to a normal two-lane pit road.

“If it wasn’t there, there’d be guys fighting for real estate where there’s one car that fits, and there’d be cars crashing in pit lane,” O’Ward said. “I get why they did that. It’s the same for everybody. I don’t think there’s a lot of room to play with. That’s the problem.

“But it looks freaking gnarly for sure. Oh my God, that’s going to be crazy.”

Alex Palou of Chip Ganassi Racing believes the best passing areas will be on the long straights because of the bumps in the turns. That is where much of the action will be in terms of gaining or losing a position in the race.

“It will also be really easy to defend in my opinion,” Palou said. “Being a 180-degree corner, you just have to go on the inside and that’s it. There’s going to be passes for sure but its’ going to be risky.

“Turn 1, if someone dives in, you end up in the wall. They’re not going to be able to pass you on the exit, so maybe with the straight being so long you can actually pass before you end up on the braking zone.”

Palou’s teammate, Marcus Ericsson, was at the Honda simulator in Brownsburg, Indiana, before coming to Detroit and said he was shocked by the amount of bumps on the simulator.

Race promoter Bud Denker, the President of Penske Corporation, and Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix President Michael Montri, sent the track crews onto the streets with grinders to smooth out the bumps on the race course several weeks ago.

“They’ve done a decent amount of work, and even doing the track walk, it looked a lot better than what we expected,” Ericsson said. “I don’t think it’ll be too bad. I hope not. That’ll be something to take into account.

“I think the track layout doesn’t look like the most fun. Maybe not the most challenging. But I love these types of tracks with rules everywhere. It’s a big challenge, and you have to build up to it. That’s the types of tracks that I love to drive. It’s a very much Marcus Ericsson type of track. I like it.”

Scott Dixon, who was second fastest in the opening session, has competed on many new street circuits throughout his legendary racing career. The six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion for Chip Ganassi Racing likes the track layout, even with the unusual pit lane.

I don’t think that’s going to be something that catches on where every track becomes a double barrel,” Dixon said. “It’s new and interesting.

“As far as pit exit, I think Toronto exit is worse with how the wall sticks out. I think in both lanes, you’ve got enough lead time to make it and most guys will make a good decision.”

It wasn’t until shortly after 3 p.m. ET on Friday that the IndyCar drivers began the extended 90-minute practice session to try out the race course for the first time in real life.

As expected, there were several sketchy moments, but no major crashes during the first session despite 19 local yellow flags for incidents and two red flags.

Rookie Agustin Canapino had to cut his practice short after some damage to his No. 78 Dallara-Chevrolet, but he was among many who emerged mostly unscathed from scrapes with the wall.

“It was honestly less carnage than I expected,” said Andretti Autosport’s Kyle Kirkwood, who was third fastest in the practice after coming off his first career IndyCar victory in the most recent street race at Long Beach in April. “I think a lot of people went off in the runoffs, but no one actually hit the wall (too hard), which actually surprised me. Hats off to them for keeping it clean, including myself.

“It was quite a bit less grip than I think everyone expected. Maybe a little bit more bumpy down into Turn 3 than everyone expected. But overall they did a good job between the two manufacturers. I’m sure everyone had pretty much the same we were able to base everything off of. We felt pretty close to maximum right away.”

Most of the preparation for this event was done either on the General Motors Simulator in Huntersville, North Carolina, or the Honda Performance Development simulator in Brownsburg, Indiana.

“Now, we have simulators that can scan the track, so we have done plenty of laps already,” Power told NBC Sports. “They have ground and resurfaced a lot of the track, so it should be smoother.

“But nothing beats real-world experience. It’s going to be a learning experience in the first session.”

As a Team Penske driver, Power and his teammates were consulted about the progress and layout of the Detroit street course. They were shown what was possible with the streets that were available.

“We gave some input back after we were on the similar what might be ground and things like that,” Power said.

Racing on the streets of Belle Isle was a fairly pleasant experience for the fans and corporate sponsor that compete in the race.

But the vibe at the new location gives this a “big event” feel.

“The atmosphere is a lot better,” Power said. “The location, the accessibility for the fans, the crowd that will be here, it’s much easier. I think it will be a much better event.

“It feels like a Long Beach, only in a much bigger city. That is what street course racing is all about.”

Because the track promoter is also the team owner, Power and teammates Scott McLaughlin and Indy 500 winner Josef Newgarden will have a very busy weekend on the track, and with sponsor and personal appearances.

“That’s what pays the bills and allows us to do this,” Power said.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500