Chase Sexton wins Denver Supercross; Jett Lawrence joins brother as 250 champion


DENVER, Colorado – Chase Sexton won his second consecutive Monster Energy Supercross race at Empower Stadium at Mile High in Denver in an event marred by a season-ending injury to Eli Tomac. The injury and Sexton’s win effectively clinches the 2023 title for Sexton.

Tomac got a good start to the main as Sexton struggled during the opening lap. Hitting Turn 1 in third, Tomac ripped through the whoops heading into the Finish Turn, executed the wall jump perfectly and took the lead by the end of Lap 1, a position he held for three laps. At that point, tragedy struck for the rider who entered the race with an 18-point lead and as the favorite to win the 2023 Supercross championship. Tomac landed hard in one of the rhythm sections. His foot hit the ground. Tomac immediately slowed, headed off track and rode to the Alpinestars Medical trailer with his left foot raised.

After being helped into the trailer and treated, team manager Jeremy Coker reported to NBC Sports’ Daniel Blair that Tomac ruptured his Achilles tendon, an uncommon injury that will end his season.

While Tomac led the opening laps, Sexton was trailing outside the top five. As Tomac was being treated, Sexton worked his way forward and at the time Tomac’s injury was announced, Sexton had the lead and a seven-point advantage over his challenger.

A stunned Sexton was alerted to the turn of events on the top step of the podium.

“It’s definitely a lot of mixed emotions right now,” Sexton told Will Christien. “It’s definitely not the way you want to see someone go out. Eli is obviously an awesome competitor. We had a lot of good battles this year and he had a good points’ lead and I was trying to do the best I can. It’s a bummer to see him go out like that. For me that race was okay. I’ve been struggling all day with the altitude, and I was happy with the way I was riding in the middle of that race.”

Tomac’s departure from the race elevated Adam Cianciarulo to the top spot. He began the season with some lingering health issues after missing much of 2022 to injury. Cianciarulo scored 10 top-10s in the 12 rounds he made this season, but had not really come close to cracking the top five. The three rounds Cianciarulo missed earlier this year were also because of injury, and given the ebb and flow of the last couple of races, Cianciarulo had to wonder if he would get to the checkers unscathed.

In the late going, Cianciarulo lost second-place to Ken Roczen, but held onto his first podium of the year.

“I’m at a loss for words,” Cianciarulo said. These last couple of years has taught me a lot; taught me about myself. I’m going to be honest, I wasn’t sure if I would ever be up here again. Obviously I got a bit of a gift there with Eli. I hate to see someone go out like that.  … I just wanted to take it home. That was the longest 20 minutes of my life.”

RESULTS: How they finished in the 450 Overall in Denver

Cianciarulo broke into tears.

“I can’t say enough good things about the people around me, that believed in me when nobody else did. I believed in myself. I fought everyday. I’m going to keep fighting. They say a winner is just a loser that kept trying, so this is for all the losers out there.”

For Roczen, the Denver Supercross race was a continuation of his recent strong run. Roczen finished third in three consecutive races from Atlanta through Nashville and with this second-place finish, Roczen trails Cooper Webb by a single point for third in the championship standings.

It didn’t come easy. Roczen crashed on the first lap and had to make his way forward, but he caught and passed Cianciarulo only on the last lap.

“I gave it everything I had,” Roczen said. “I went really far inside of the gate because they were all messed up. I took a chance because it was one of the better ruts. That’s what I needed to get a drop, which I did. I just got closed off in the front. I ran it in hard and slid it out.

“I was happy to lay it over that way rather than clipping a wheel and falling over the side. I had the clutch and kept the bike running. I went down the rhythm lane and people went down in front of me, which I came to a dead stop again and had to pull my bike out and keep going. But I didn’t allow that to destroy my whole main.”

One week after scoring a career-best finish of fifth in Nashville, Justin Hill improved that mark by one position and finished fourth.

Shane McElrath rounded out the top five.

Last week Hunter Lawrence bested the 250 East field to score his first championship.

In Denver, Jett Lawrence needed only to ride a smart race to secure his fourth consecutive 250 title. He is the defending 250 East Supercross champion and led the points in the last two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross championships. Lawrence’s night got off to a rocky start when he was squeezed on Lap 1 of his heat and fell to 14th in the running order.

Lawrence climbed to fourth at the end of his heat, but that gave him a terrible gate pick. Pinched on the inside line, he ended Lap 1 10th in the order. Lawrence picked his way through the field and denied Enzo Lopes of his first podium finish with seven minutes remaining on the clock.

Lawrence was 12 seconds behind a fierce battle for the top spot between Levin Kitchen, winner of Heat 1, and RJ Hampshire. The most important thing for Lawrence was to protect his position and secure the title.

“That bike has treated me so well,” Lawrence said. “This team, we could be put out of tenth. It’s not even a team anymore, it’s a family. They’ve done everything for me and my brother and I’m bowing down to the bike.”

The battle for the top spot was one of the closest from start to finish this season.

Hampshire and Kitchen were in contact throughout the event and just past the midway point Hampshire was mounting a charge. He rode wide heading into a rhythm section and lost momentum going up a jump after inadvertently hitting neutral. Hampshire cased the landing and was bounced off course before making a miraculously save. Hampshire was not content with holding onto second. He chased down Kitchen and made the pass for the lead when Kitchen got loose on the wall jump.

Click here for 250 overall results

Hampshire scored his first win of the season and beamed ear to ear.

“It’s such a big difference from last year,” Hampshire said. “I show up and I enjoy my weekends. I love riding my dirt bikes right now. … I hit neutral off that double and thought I might have lost it and I started clicking them off right after.”

Kitchen held on to finish second.

“I executed the start again, so I’m stoked on that,” Kitchen said. “I hit my marks well for the first half of that race. RJ caught me, had a little mishap there, but after I got that gap I probably looked over my shoulder too many times. I haven’t been in that position too many times and I kind of froze up, but overall I have to take the positives.”

Denied the podium, Lopes finished fourth after scoring the first heat win of his career.

“The first time feels super good,” Lope said after winning the heat.. “I’m just so out of it, I’m speechless.”

Mitchell Oldenburg rounded out the top five.

2023 Race Recaps

Nashville: Chase Sexton keeps hope alive; Cooper Webb out
New Jersey: Justin Barcia wins muddy race; first in two years
Atlanta: Sexton is back in the championship picture
Glendale: Eli Tomac wins 51st, breaks tie with James Stewart
Seattle: Tomac wins and ties Webb for first
Detroit: 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

Justin Barcia, Jason Anderson out for Denver
Joshua Cartwright wins PulpMX LCQ Challenge
Cooper Webb sustains concussion, out for season
Adam Cianciarulo, Aaron Plessinger detail New Jersey injuries
Power Rankings after Nashville
Results and points after Nashville
Chase Sexton wins crash marred New Jersey race

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

IndyCar Detroit downtown
James Black/Penske Entertainment
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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

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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 six 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