A multitude of history was made at Indiana’s Ironman Raceway on Saturday as the 2023 Pro Motocross Championship, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, came to a close with the Tucker Freight Lines Ironman National. Headlining the 11th and final round of the summer was the completion of the fourth perfect season in American motocross history as Team Honda HRC’s Jett Lawrence captured moto wins 21 and 22 to put the finishing touch on what will be one of the most memorable championship campaigns the sport has ever witnessed. In the 250 Class, Team Honda HRC’s Hunter Lawrence completed his own championship journey to cap off a historic feat for the Australian duo as the first ever siblings to sweep each respective title. To top it all off, Honda became the first manufacturer to successfully claim every championship in a single season following a sweep of the trio of titles up for grabs in Monster Energy Supercross earlier this year.
450 Moto 1
The penultimate moto of the season for the 450 Class kicked off with an incredible start by Jett Lawrence who easily grabbed the MotoSport.com Holeshot ahead of Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Aaron Plessinger and Team Honda HRC’s Chase Sexton. A torrid pace in the opening laps saw Lawrence move out to a 1.7 second lead while Sexton was able to fight his way around Plessinger for second.
The Honda duo were in a class of their own and easily distanced themselves from the rest of the field. They traded fast laps, and each enjoyed better sections of the track, creating a bit of a yo-yo effect with the gap. Sexton was able to move within just over a second, but Lawrence responded and picked up the pace significantly to move out 4.4 seconds ahead of his teammate. Behind them, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Jason Anderson made moves from a fifth place start to break into podium position with a pass on Plessinger.
Back up front, Lawrence added to his lead over the second half of the moto and soon found himself more than nine seconds ahead of Sexton as time ran out on the moto clock. While the leaders found themselves well ahead of the rest of the field, the battle for third persisted as Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing’s Dylan Ferrandis was on a torrid charge to the podium. The Frenchman started ninth and was impressive in his forward progression, which culminated with a pass on Anderson for third inside the final 10 minutes of the moto.
Lawrence enjoyed another wire-to-wire effort to capture moto win 21, crossing the line 5.8 seconds ahead of Sexton, with Ferrandis a distant third. Anderson followed in fourth, while Plessinger rounded out the top five.
450 Moto 2
All the key players emerged at the front of the field to start the final moto of the season, with Ferrandis snagging the MotoSport.com Holeshot ahead of Lawrence, Sexton, and Plessinger. Just a few turns into the race Ferrandis crashed hard, which ended the Frenchman’s race and handed the lead to Lawrence as Sexton and Plessinger settled into second and third, respectively.
Lawrence put the hammer down on the opening laps to establish a 1.5 second lead over Sexton as the rest of the field settled into race pace. As each lap passed, Lawrence’s margin grew, little by little, and soon sat at more than four seconds approaching the halfway point of the moto. Sexton kept his teammate honest, which allowed both riders to distance themselves from Plessinger in third.
As the final 10 minutes of the season approached Sexton had chipped away to gain about a second on Lawrence and was the fastest rider on the track at this point of the moto. The gap between the teammates continued to shrink and soon dipped under three seconds, partially impacted by the leaders navigating through lapped traffic. As the final five minutes approached the gap was just 1.4 seconds, but as he’s done for much of the year Lawrence was able to pick up the pace again and pull back out. As time ran out on the moto clock the lead had grown to 3.4 seconds with just two laps to go.
Lawrence looked to manage the lead on the final lap as Sexton went all out and started to gain ground. However, it was too little too late for Sexton as Lawrence completed the perfect season with moto win 22. The final margin of victory was 1.7 seconds. Plessinger finished in a distant third.
The most dominant and impressive rookie season in 450 Class history saw Lawrence join elite company with the sport’s rarest feat. He becomes just the third rider in 52 seasons to go undefeated, joining AMA Hall of Famers Ricky Carmichael, who compiled two perfect seasons, and James Stewart. Lawrence’s 11 career wins already place him into a tie for 15th all time after just one season of competition.
Sexton’s sixth runner-up finish (2-2) of the season capped off an impressive summer for the Supercross Champion, despite missing three races with injury. He failed to finish off the podium just once in eight starts. Plessinger rounded out the overall podium in third (5-3) for his third podium result of the season.
Lawrence’s final margin in the 450 Class standings is 151 points over Ferrandis, while Plessinger earned his best-career championship finish in the premier class in third.
Jett Lawrence, Team Honda HRC
“[The perfect season] doesn’t feel real. I started off so nervous hitting the gate [in Moto 2]. I don’t know how I led the first lap. Now we’re undefeated. To all the people who doubted me, here we are now. Also, congrats to Hunter [Lawrence]. No one deserved that [250 Class] title more than him.”
Chase Sexton, Team Honda HRC
“Jett upped the game a bit [this season]. I had to play catch up when I came back [from injury], but then he got better. You haven’t seen the last of me winning [in Pro Motocross]. I’m determined to come back stronger next season.”
Aaron Plessinger, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
“I don’t know what it is, but I love these second motos. I ride way better in the second motos than the first, so I’ve got to get that figured out. I heard these home fans every lap, it was amazing. I’m really happy with what we accomplished this season.”
250 Moto 1
The first moto of the 250 Class saw Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Ryder DiFrancesco lead the field to the MotoSport.com Holeshot ahead of the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing ride of Tom Vialle and the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki duo of Seth Hammaker and Jo Shimoda. Deep in the field was championship point leader Hunter Lawrence, who started 17th aboard after being forced to avoid a crash in the first turn. The early adversity also impacted Lawrence’s primary title rival, Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing’s Justin Cooper, who was one of several riders collected in the incident and forced to fight his way forward from well outside the top 20.
With his first opportunity to lead a Pro Motocross moto DiFrancesco took hold of the top spot and managed a lead for the opening nine minutes before Vialle closed in and made the pass. Vialle was followed by Shimoda, who dropped his teammate to third. From there a battle for lead ensued as the international duo engaged in a spirited fight, with Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing rookie Haiden Deegan lurking in third. As the moto approached its halfway point the top three on the track were separated by a mere 1.5 seconds.
Shimoda ramped up his aggression and managed to make the pass on Vialle, which put the Frenchman into the clutches of Deegan. The battle for second saw both riders swap lines throughout the track, trading bursts of momentum. Meanwhile, Shimoda moved out to a one-second lead. Behind them, Lawrence broke into the top 10, while Cooper remained mired in 15th.
Deegan mounted another charge to make the pass on Vialle and then looked to erase a 2.1 second deficit to Shimoda with less than 12 minutes remaining. Deegan made an initial push to close the gap, but Shimoda responded and continued to build on his advantage as the moto wore on and eventually moved ahead by nearly 7.5 seconds. From there the top three settled into their respective positions while Lawrence’s climb through the field continued to the cusp of the top five in sixth.
Shimoda’s single-best-moto of the season saw the Japanese rider take the seventh moto win of his career and his second of the season, crossing the line 7.6 seconds ahead of Deegan, followed by Vialle in third. Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Austin Forkner finished in fourth, while Lawrence clawed his way up to fifth. Cooper managed to fight his way back to 13th, but it wasn’t enough to keep Lawrence from clinching the championship with his top-five result.
250 Moto 2
The final 250 Class moto of the summer started off with a sweep of the MotoSport.com Holeshots by DiFrancesco with Shimoda right on his rear fender ahead of Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing’s Levi Kitchen. A persistent Kitchen went on the attack against Shimoda and made the pass before setting his sights on DiFrancesco. Shimoda bided his time in third, several positions ahead of all his rivals in the battle for the overall as Vialle sat sixth, Deegan seventh, and Lawrence 10th.
After settling into a groove Shimoda’s pace ramped up again. He caught the leaders and made a quick, savvy move to reclaim second from Kitchen. He proceeded to close in on his teammate for the lead and apply pressure. The top three pulled away from the rest of the field and sat more than five seconds clear of fourth.
Shimoda started to look for a way around DiFrancesco, but the rookie withstood the attack initially. However, Shimoda’s persistence paid off and he took control of the lead with 18 minutes remaining. Kitchen then made the move on DiFrancesco for second and looked to track down Shimoda once more. At the turn of the midway point of the moto Shimoda’s lead hovered around two seconds over Kitchen, while Cooper rebounded from his adversity filled first moto with a move into podium position, which dropped DiFrancesco to fourth.
With a little more than 10 minutes to go Kitchen crashed out of second and was forced to retire from the moto, which moved Cooper up to second and Vialle up to third. For Shimoda the dominance continued through the remainder of the race as he wrapped up the first moto sweep of his career, finishing 2.1 seconds ahead of Cooper, while Deegan made a late pass on Vialle to nab third. In his first moto as champion, Lawrence savored the moment and cruised home to a ninth-place finish.
Shimoda’s maiden 1-1 performance and third career win proved significant for Kawasaki, which had yet to win throughout Monster Energy Supercross and the first 10 rounds of Pro Motocross, and helped the manufacturer avoid its first winless season since 1981. Deegan’s late pass for third in Moto 2 allowed the newly crowned Rookie of the Year to finish in the runner-up spot (2-3), while Vialle ended his first year on American soil with his third podium result in third (3-4).
While Shimoda enjoyed the spoils of victory, it was Lawrence who savored the celebration of a championship. The veteran Australian captured seven victories over the course of the summer and eight podium finishes to finish the season with a final margin of 20 points over Cooper, who earned his fourth career championship podium result, while Shimoda earned a second straight championship podium finish in third.
Team Honda HRC is now in the midst of a three-year winning streak for 250 Class titles following back-to-back crowns by Jett Lawrence in 2021 and 2022.
Hunter Lawrence, Team Honda HRC
“I saw the chaos in the second turn. I saw blue bikes and then the No. 32 and thought, ‘That sucks.’ I was way, way back, trying to be patient and trying not to rush anything. Man, what a year. Never say die, never give up. It’s unbelievable. So honored to thank the team with five championships, and the year’s not done.”
Jo Shimoda, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki
“I’m so happy to end the last race like this. I got two good starts and it turned into a 1-1. It’s been a long, great season and I’m excited for the SMX rounds.”
Haiden Deegan, Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing
“This year’s been crazy. To be honest, I woke up sick as a dog, but there ain’t no quit in me. I’m going to fight until the end. This year’s been hard, but I never gave up. I’m going to go home, work my butt off, and come back swinging next year.”
Tom Vialle, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
“It’s nice to finish the season on the podium. This track was sick. I’m really looking forward to coming back and having a better season next summer.”