Detroit Look Back, Glendale Supercross Look Forward
With Rick Johnson
Story by Pete Peterson
Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan hosted Round 5 of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship. The track was tacky, rutted, and challenging. When the gate dropped Team Honda HRC’s Jett Lawrence grabbed the holeshot with Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Chase Sexton and Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing’s Eli Tomac in tow. With 52,961 fans packed into the stadium, it was the 3-rider match-up everyone had been waiting to see. Early in the race, Tomac fell off the pace and soon gave up third place to Progressive Insurance ECSTAR Suzuki’s Ken Roczen, who had recovered quickly from a mid-pack start. Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing’s Cooper Webb and Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Aaron Plessinger steadily moved through the pack, earning fourth place and sixth place, respectively. Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Jason Anderson took a fifth place finish. By the time the checkered flag came out Tomac had fallen back to tenth place, leaving fans speculating as to what caused him to drop so far off the pace he held early in the race. Jett Lawrence took the win and with that became 2024’s first repeat winner.
Jett Lawrence – First Place – 450SX Class. Photo Credit: Feld Motor Sports, Inc.
Rick Johnson’s insights: “I feel that Jett Lawrence is back on track. I think this is, at the end of the day, very good for him. Everything that Jett has been doing up to this point has been nothing but positive; he’s been everybody’s sweetheart, when it comes to the donuts, when it comes to he’s a good-looking, well-spoken guy, and he’s unbelievably talented and fast. So everything has always been positive, positive, positive. And I am happy for him that he’s made it through some negativity. Through people putting memes up of him, getting upset of all the controversy about him and Jason Anderson, and all that. So it’s great to see him back on track and doing what he needs to do, and showing the talent that he is.”
Chase Sexton – Second Place – 450SX Class. Photo Credit: Feld Motor Sports, Inc.
Rick Johnson’s insights: “Chase Sexton, I feel, is one of the most talented riders to ever get on a motorcycle – but he’s putting out there excuses that he doesn’t need to put out, and he shouldn’t put them out. He signed with KTM, more than likely he test rode the bike before he signed the contract; as a factory rider he shouldn’t mention anything bad about the motorcycle. He should ride it and go. He’s done enough testing, so the excuse of, ‘It’s a new bike,’ doesn’t fly. I feel with him, and amongst some of the younger generation of riders – they’re afraid to step out because they’re afraid to be wrong. For instance, ‘I feel like I’m going to win,’ versus, ‘These guys are terrible,’ are two different statements. One is stating confidence, one is arrogance. And I think a confident Chase Sexton is a dangerous Chase Sexton, and he needs to work on that. Now, I think it was completely ridiculous that he – not ridiculous that he let Jett by [at A2], but the fact that he didn’t do everything that Jett did. In racing strategy, if there’s somebody faster than you, you need to have the confidence, AKA arrogance, to know that nobody’s better than you, they just have a better line. If it’s early in the race, you let ‘em by, you use your line, you use their line, and then you go right back after them. But you never let them get comfortable. If it’s the end of the race, you do everything you can to keep them back. And by letting Jett by, he just put Jett in the alpha male position, which is not a good place to put your competition.”
Ken Roczen – Third Place – 450SX Class. Photo Credit: Feld Motor Sports, Inc.
Rick Johnson’s insights: “He had unbelievable speed [in Detroit], he just once again is having trouble finding that checkered flag on the top spot. What I’m excited about, and what I think is good for him, is that bike is the same bike – the chassis and things like that – that he rode last year. [He’s] making small adjustments to make it better, but the general feel and the ride of the bike is the same, and so he’s very comfortable with it. He’s not adapting to something new. What I was encouraged about with Ken was that he was putting in, multiple times during the race, the fastest laps. If I were in his shoes, that would do wonders for me. Because I always felt as a past racer, if I can do it once, I can train myself to do it twenty times, or twenty four times, or whatever that lap count is. That’s on me. But the bike is fast enough, he is fast enough, he just has to get it all the way to the finish line, and I think we’re going to see him win a race this year for sure.”
Cooper Webb – Fourth Place – 450SX Class. Photo Credit: Feld Motor Sports, Inc.
Rick Johnson’s insights: “What I like about Cooper Webb is that he’s gritty. He’s not dirty. People say, ‘Oh, he’ll rough people up.’ Absolutely. You should. If I was Cooper Webb I would be roughing Jett Lawrence up in practice. I would try to do something to get him off his game a little bit. I wouldn’t take him out, I wouldn’t try to break his leg, I wouldn’t crash him, I wouldn’t cross over on the triple jump; but I would ride close to him, I would bump him, I would do things that would slightly disrespect him. And Cooper is the guy that’s not afraid to do that with anybody, so he’s another rider that we’re going to see win again.”
Jason Anderson – Fifth Place – 450SX Class. Photo Credit: Feld Motor Sports, Inc.
Rick Johnson’s insights: “I feel Jason had a lot of weight on his shoulders. Everybody was looking at him like, ‘Oh, you’re the guy to take down Jett Lawrence.’ And even though Jason’s a little older and has been through a lot of this stuff, I loved his interview on Gypsy Tales. I felt he said a lot of insightful, great things. I just felt he was a little off [in Detroit] and I don’t know if they missed the set-up by a little bit. He just wasn’t flowing as quick as I think he could’ve been. To me, if he gets a little bit smoother roll through the middle of the corner, he’s matching Jett’s times. It’s not two seconds off; it’s a tenth here, a tenth there, and he’ll be right back in the game. But Detroit was not his best showing.”
Aaron Plessinger – Sixth Place – 450SX Class. Photo Credit: Feld Motor Sports, Inc.
Rick Johnson’s insights: “I love that Aaron Plessinger is accepting the role that he’s in, and that is being a top contender. You’ve seen in history, John Down, Doug Henry, you’ve seen other people, win races and then all of the sudden they’re a different rider. And I think you’re seeing that now with Aaron. Now he’s seen the checkered flag, he’s felt the checkered flag; because when you don’t win for that long, you think, ‘I’m jinxed, I’m cursed, I’m unlucky, maybe I’m not the champion that I thought I was.’ All of these things flood a rider’s head. And when he won his Supercross race he did it convincingly. He earned the race. He won the race, it wasn’t a gimme. And now when I’m watching him, if he gets passed, he’s coming right back after the guys. So he’s the gritty guy that is getting better and better. And what I love about him is I’ve never heard one negative thing about the bike, one negative thing about his competitors, one negative thing about anything. To me, that’s why he’s the people’s champion.”
Eli Tomac – Tenth Place – 450SX Class. Photo Credit: Feld Motor Sports, Inc.
Rick Johnson’s insights: “So many question marks about Eli’s performance. Which I don’t know [the answer to]. I was looking: was he favoring a leg? was he – he just looked off. And we’ve seen this in the past with Eli… one race he would damn near lap the field and the next race he’d… almost get lapped. When he’s uncomfortable he holds back. And not saying that that’s a bad thing. …that’s better than a DNF or being hurt. So sometimes you have to, to win championships, you have to accept your bad days. Get through it, manage as many points as you can, and then figure out your problem to come back. So I don’t have a doubt in Eli, or his camp, or the bike, or anything about him. I think he’ll go back to the drawing board and come back stronger next week.”
This weekend State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona hosts Round 6 of the 17-round Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship, which also pays points to the 31-round SuperMotocross World Championship.
Every 2024 Supercross and SuperMotocross race is streamed live and on-demand on Peacock TV. Select races are also available on NBC, USA Network, CNBC, NBCSports.com and the NBC Sport app. International coverage is available through the SuperMotocross Video Pass (supermotocross.tv), with race commentary options in English and Spanish.
Tickets for every round are available now, right here on SupercrossLIVE.com.