One week removed from becoming the eighth different rider in the history of the Pro Motocross Championship, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, to capture the 450 Class title his first year in the division, Team Honda HRC pilot Jett Lawrence’s quest for a perfect season moved one round closer to completion at the Yamaha Budds Creek National. The young Australian withstood his toughest challenge to date at Southern Maryland’s Budds Creek Motocross Park, but ultimately prevailed with his 10th consecutive 1-1 outing to move within two motos of the fourth unbeaten campaign in series history. In the 250 Class, Team Honda HRC’s Hunter Lawrence once again complemented his younger brother’s victorious effort with his seventh victory of the season, to put the Gary Jones Cup within reach ahead of next weekend’s finale.
450 Moto 1
The first 450 Class moto got underway with the Monster Energy Kawasaki of Adam Cianciarulo leading the way to the MotoSport.com Holeshot, followed my Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing’s Jay Wilson and Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Aaron Plessinger, who soon moved into second. Third was then occupied by Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/GASGAS Factory Racing’s Justin Barcia. A bit further back, Lawrence started sixth.
The top three settled in through the opening portion of the moto but Plessinger started to chip away at the deficit and was able to make the pass for the lead a little more than eight minutes into the moto. Cianciarulo and Barcia gave chase from second and third, respectively, while Lawrence closed in from fourth. The champ persistently pressured Barcia for a few laps and made the move for third just before the halfway point. He then made quick work of Cianciarulo to move into second.
Less than a second separated Plessinger and Lawrence, but the Australian quickly closed onto the rear fender of the KTM and relied on some savvy racecraft to slip into the lead and seize control of the moto with 13 minutes remaining. From there he quickly moved out to a multi-second advantage. As Lawrence pulled away, the battle for the remaining podium spots tightened up between Plessinger, Cianciarulo, Barcia, and Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Jason Anderson.
Anderson made the first move of the group with a pass on Barcia to drop the GASGAS rider to fifth. The Kawasaki rider’s forward momentum continued with a pass on his teammate for third and continued with a quick push to pass Plessinger for second. This late battle added a new rider in Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing’s Dylan Ferrandis, as the Frenchman was on a charge into podium contention. The former champ marched his way past multiple riders and moved within striking distance of Plessinger as time expired on the moto. Ferrandis went on the attack and completed the pass.
Lawrence easily controlled the second half of the race to bring home moto win 19 by 4.3 seconds over Anderson, followed by Ferrandis in third. Plessinger and Barcia battled all the way to the checkered flag for fourth, with the KTM coming out ahead of the GASGAS.
450 Moto 2
The final moto of the day began with Lawrence clear of the field to easily grab the MotoSport.com Holeshot over Cianciarulo and Barcia. Barcia quickly slotted into second, followed by Plessinger in third, while Cianciarulo settled into fourth. After a challenging first moto filled with adversity, Team Honda HRC’s Chase Sexton started fifth but made quick work to jump up to third behind Barcia and his teammate.
Sexton showed patience in his pursuit of Barcia for second but once he went on the attack he wasted no time making the pass and moved into second just a handful of minutes into the moto. From there Sexton inched closer to his teammate and as the moto surpassed the 10-minute mark less than 1.5 seconds separated the Honda duo. As they traded momentum, Sexton appeared to have slightly more speed and closed in to within less than a second. However, the battle ended when Sexton tipped over while navigating one of the track’s many downhills.
The lead duo was well ahead of the rest of the field, but a multi-ride affair for third headlined the halfway point of the moto as Barcia was forced to contend with Plessinger, Cianciarulo, and Anderson. As the moto wore on Barcia and Plessinger were able to inch away from the Kawasakis, but their battle persisted. No matter what Plessinger tried Barcia seemed to have an answer, but as the moto reached its final five minutes Plessinger finally got the upper hand and made the pass, while Barcia stayed close.
Back up front, Sexton’s never-give-up mentality saw him erase an eight-second deficit to close within striking distance of Lawrence. Mere bike lengths separated the teammates on the final lap, but Lawrence did enough to keep Sexton at bay and secure his 20th moto win to extend the perfect season.
The 10th overall victory of the season for Lawrence was arguably his toughest of the summer, as he was forced to dig deep to pull out the 1-1 sweep and keep his unblemished record intact. With his third-place finish in the final moto Plessinger was able to secure a season-best runner-up finish (4-3), while Anderson’s resilient charges through the field in both motos was rewarded with third overall (2-5).
Lawrence needs to win the final two motos of the summer to become the third different rider to amass a perfect season, in what has been a historic first season of premier class competition.
Jett Lawrence, Team Honda HRC
“I had a spot where I could see Chase [Sexton] each lap, but then [one lap] I just didn’t see him there. Then I knew he was closing in. I had a bit of bad luck with lappers, but we got away with it. It was a close one there, but that was good at the end.”
Aaron Plessinger, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
“I knew [Barcia] was going to be hard to pass and this track is a bit one lined. He’s such a great competitor and I really enjoyed racing with him in that second moto. I rode a bit tight in that first moto, but we came out and proved it in the second one. I’m just so grateful to be up here again [on the podium].”
Jason Anderson, Monster Energy Kawasaki
“I feel like I’m getting better. I had to work hard and come from behind a couple times today. It feels good to be back on the podium. We just need to keep piecing it together.”
250 Moto 1
The opening moto of the day began with the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki of Jo Shimoda leading the field out of the first turn to grab the MotoSport.com Holeshot just ahead of Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing rookie Haiden Deegan. The lead pair engaged in a spirited battle on the opening lap, swapping lines throughout the track layout, from which Deegan was able to slip past and take control of the early stage of the moto. Shimoda then settled into second ahead of Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Tom Vialle in third and Hunter Lawrence in fifth.
With no pressure from behind, Deegan was able to open up a comfortable margin on the field through the opening 10 minutes of the moto, with more than five seconds between him and Shimoda. The top two asserted themselves at the head of the pack while the battle for third picked up as the moto reached its halfway point. However, the entire complexion of the race changed when the red flag flew for a downed rider and brought the moto to a halt.
With mere seconds before the moto reached the 15-minute mark, the formal halfway point, the red flag resulted in a restart out the starting gate for a 15-minute sprint to the finish.
As the field approached the first turn off the second gate drop Deegan made contact with Vialle, which hampered the Frenchman’s start and sent Deegan to the ground and to the rear of the field. Out front, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Jalek Swoll emerged with the lead ahead of Lawrence, with Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing’s Justin Cooper in third. With invaluable championship points on the line, Cooper, who sits second in the standings, made an aggressive pass on Lawrence to move into second.
Cooper continued his push to the front and made his way past Swoll, only to have the Husqvarna rider counter to reclaim the position. Cooper looked to recompose himself, which brought Lawrence into the mix from third to initiate a three-rider battle for the lead. Cooper waited for his opportunity and then made a savvy pass with six minutes left in the moto. Not long after Lawrence made his way around Swoll for second. With five minutes to go the championship rivals were separated by 1.3 seconds.
Lawrence closed the gap to within a second of Cooper and started to look for potential lines to mount an attack, but Cooper didn’t flinch and was consistent through the closing stages to keep Lawrence at bay. The lead grew over the final two laps as Cooper brought home his third moto win of the season 2.1 seconds ahead of Lawrence. Swoll completed his best effort of the season in third, with Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing’s Daxton Bennick in fourth and Vialle in fifth. Further back, Deegan recovered from the first-turn incident to finish 16th.
250 Moto 2
As the field stormed into the first turn to start the second and deciding 250 Class moto it was Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Austin Forkner who led the field to the MotoSport.com Holeshot, just ahead of Lawrence and Cooper. Forkner looked to lead his first lap of the season, but he missed an obstacle, which helped Lawrence to take over the top spot. The clear track allowed Lawrence to sprint away from the field.
Each of the top three riders proceeded to settle into their respective positions on the track through the first 10 minutes of the moto until Cooper looked to apply some pressure on Forkner for second. The Kawasaki rider responded and kept Cooper at bay, while Shimoda bided his time from fourth. At the turn of the midway point of the moto Cooper finally made the move on Forkner to grab control of second. Shimoda then proceeded to challenge his teammate for third. A slingshot move on an outside line allowed Shimoda to surge past and give chase to Cooper with less than 10 minutes to go.
Shimoda was one of the fastest riders on the track and soon closed in on Cooper to mount an attack for second. As soon as Shimoda appeared to have the Yamaha in his sights, Cooper responded to stabilize the margin with an increase in his own pace to become the fastest rider on the track. With the drop in his lap times Cooper was able to inch back towards Lawrence but couldn’t gain enough ground to pressure for the lead.
Lawrence closed strong to take his seventh moto win of the season, just 1.5 seconds ahead of Cooper at the finish. Shimoda followed with a solid third-place effort.
With identical moto finishes Lawrence (2-1) and Cooper (1-2) finished tied atop the overall standings, but the second-moto tiebreaker went to Lawrence for his seventh win of the season and forced Cooper to settle for his sixth runner-up effort of the summer. Shimoda rounded out the overall podium with his third top-three performance of the year (7-3).
Lawrence, Cooper, and Shimoda remain the only riders mathematically eligible for the 250 Class title entering the finale next weekend. With no points lost or gained on Cooper, Lawrence will carry a 22-point advantage into Indiana’s Ironman Raceway in search of his first national championship.
Hunter Lawrence, Team Honda HRC
“It’s awesome [to get another win]. It was a tough day, but a good day at the end. We went out and made it happen. Looking forward to next weekend to try and close this out.”
Justin Cooper, Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing
“I gave it everything I had today. I got into second, but Hunter [Lawrence] was riding really good. I tried to close the gap and got a bit sketchy out there but did everything I could. We’ll see what we can do next weekend.”
Jo Shimoda, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki
“The track was tough. I chose a paddle tire to try and help with the start, but that made things sketchy out there at times. I’m happy to get another podium and looking forward to closing out the season next week.”
Words: Pro Motocross – Photo Credit: Align Media