- Team riders take 1-2 finishes in all four motos at Fox Raceway
- Victories cap off Honda’s celebration of five decades in motocross
- 2023 CRF450R and CRF450R 50th Anniversary Edition unveiled
On a magical weekend during which Honda commemorated its 50th anniversary in motocross and unveiled the 2023 C.R.F. Performance family, Team Honda H.R.C. riders were perfect at Fox Raceway’s opening round of A.M.A. Pro Motocross (which was celebrating its 50th anniversary), sweeping the top two positions in both 450 motos and both 250 motos.
The teammates were each other’s only real rivals for much of the day at the Pala, California, track. Still, in the end, it was Chase Sexton and Jett Lawrence winning the two classes to take early points leads, while Ken Roczen and Hunter Lawrence each notched a pair of impressive second-place results.
The Red Riders enjoyed strong starts in their motos, with Sexton and Roczen trading holeshots in 450 and Jett Lawrence second early on in both 250 races. Hunter Lawrence had the most overtaking work, including a moto two charge from seventh to second, highlighted by a dramatic last-lap pass on Jo Shimoda that kept the team’s impeccable results intact. Sexton had to make passes on Roczen in both 450 motos, whereas Jett ran relatively comfortably at the front in the 250 races.
Both Sexton and Jett had relatively narrow winning margins over their teammates (averaging 10.3 seconds and 6.1 seconds, respectively). In contrast, in the 450 motos, the gaps from Roczen to the first non-Honda riders averaged a notable 32.0 seconds!
The special day meant different things to the four riders:
- For Sexton, it was a statement performance that showed he was ready to run at the front of the premier class.
- For Roczen, it was a triumphant return to racing after he withdrew from supercross in early March to rebuild his health.
- For Jett, it was a commanding beginning to his defence of the Gary Jones Cup held by the reigning 250 champ.
- For Hunter, it was evident that he was a legitimate threat to challenge his brother for that trophy.
For anyone who witnessed the exhibition, it had the makings of motocross lore for another 50 years.
- The opening round was a home race for Team Honda H.R.C., and Honda was the title sponsor. The official name of the event was the Honda Fox Raceway I National, Presented by Fox.
- The week leading up to the opener was a busy one for the Team Honda H.R.C. riders. Monday found them starring in an advertising photoshoot with the then-secret 2023 C.R.F. motocross models. Tuesday was A.M.A. Pro Motocross’s pre-season Ride Day at Fox Raceway. They took part in the unveiling of the C.R.F. above lineup on Friday evening at Temecula’s Peltzer Winery. That event also featured several past Honda champions, including Gary Jones, Johnny O’Mara, Rick Johnson and Trey Canard, and past Team Honda manager Dave Arnold. When it was time for the unveiling, Jones and Jett Lawrence – Honda’s first and most recent A.M.A. Pro Motocross Champions, respectively – had the honours of pulling the cover off the new CRF450R 50th Anniversary Edition. The evening also saw 11-time Baja 1000 winner Johnny Campbell recognized for his 30th anniversary with American Honda.
- The 2023 CRF450R and the CRF450R 50th Anniversary Edition made their public debut on race day at the Honda booth, displaying several factory Honda motocross bikes from the past. Included were Jones’s ’73 RC250 Elsinore, Marty Smith’s ’74 RC125 Elsinore, David Bailey’s ’84 RC500 (recently restored by Arnold in a project coordinated by photographer David Dewhurst), the ’86 CR125R raced by both Micky Dymond and O’Mara, Jeremy McGrath’s ’96 CR250R, Ricky Carmichael’s ’03 CR250R, Canard’s ’08 CRF250R and Jett Lawrence’s ’21 CRF250R. Thousands of fans stopped by to check out the bikes and pick up a free souvenir sticker commemorating Honda’s 50th anniversary in motocross.
- In a nod to great past champions in Honda’s history, the factory CRF450R and CRF250R machines of Team Honda H.R.C. featured throwback liveries reminiscent of the ’80s-era C.R. models that ruled motocross and supercross. Updates included blue Throttle Jockey seat covers, old-style race numbers, and gold D.I.D. Rims and gold Renthal handlebars. In addition, the riders wore special retro gear prepared by Fox and Alpinestars, and the crew wore ’80s-style Fox team shirts.
- To celebrate the 50th anniversary of A.M.A. Pro Motocross, series organizers feature different champions from the past in the broadcast booth alongside announcer Jason Weigandt. Appropriately for this event, the celebrity guests were Rick Johnson and Jeremy McGrath, two great champions from Honda’s past.
- Hunter and Jett Lawrence organized a particular trackside hospitality area for a lucky 175 of their fans at Fox Raceway. Perks included food, drinks, gifts and a personal visit by the brothers.
- Team Honda H.R.C. test rider Trey Canard did an exhibition lap on the just-unveiled 2023 CRF450R 50th Anniversary Edition during the opening ceremonies, while American Honda Senior Manager of Customer Engagement Bill Savino was interviewed on the podium.
- For the 2022 A.M.A. Pro Motocross season, at the suggestion of Roczen’s wife Courtney, Team Honda H.R.C. has revived a custom started in 2017 by Andrew Short, in which an Award of Excellence is presented to a different team member after every race. Following the Fox Raceway opener, the award was presented to Sexton’s mechanic, Brandon Zimmerman, with Canard summing the situation up nicely in an Instagram post: “The only problem yesterday was that every one of our crew deserved an award of excellence. It was incredible to see everyone’s hard work pay off. Although everyone deserved a trophy, we had to pick somebody for the award this weekend, and @zimm763 was our guy! Congratulations on your first 450 MX overall win and red plate, Zimm!”
- Sexton turned the fastest lap time in both 450 motos, with Roczen second-best both times out. Jett and Hunter Lawrence did likewise in 250 motos 2, after notching the second-and third-fastest laps of moto 1.
- While the weekend saw American Honda celebrating the company’s motocross history in Southern California, Honda’s MXGP squad – Team H.R.C. – was doing likewise at the Spanish Grand Prix outside of Madrid. Running the same retro look as his U.S.-based counterparts, Tim Gajser rode his CRF450R to 2-6 moto finishes, maintaining a healthy points lead in the series.
- One Honda legend who unfortunately wasn’t able to be a part of the activities – but who was nonetheless on the minds of the whole team – is David Bailey, who is recovering from shoulder surgery. Bailey sent the following note to the team following the race, referencing the 1986 Motocross des Nations in Italy, where he and fellow Honda riders Rick Johnson and Johnny O’Mara swept the top two positions in every moto: “Wow! That was an amazing day. You guys looked great, the bikes looked great, the riders’ gear looked great – and the results!!!! That was a Maggiora 1986 type day ️ # honoured #proud.”
- The day after the race, Johnson sent out an Instagram post showing a photo of Sexton from the Fox Raceway round alongside an early photo of Bailey, both running No. 23 – and exhibiting similarly textbook riding styles.
- Sexton’s impressive performance was the first 1-1 showing of his career, and it increased his tally of A.M.A. Pro Motocross 450 overall victories to three. One of his other wins also came at Fox Raceway in 2020.
- Jett Lawrence’s rides at Fox Raceway boosted his 250 overall and moto win totals to six and 11, and they also extended his perfect overall-win record at the track. The young Australian has now raced at the venue on four occasions, and he has scored the overall win each time.
- Following the podium celebrations, all four Team Honda H.R.C. riders took part in a press conference for MavTV.
- Team Honda H.R.C. won’t have much time to enjoy their incredible success at the A.M.A. Pro Motocross opener. Round 2 takes place this coming weekend, about 500 miles north, at Prairie City State Vehicle Recreation Area. Rather than returning home, all four riders will stay in Southern California during the week.
“Man, it was a dream day for me. All supercross season, I wanted to do the fastest qualifying, win the heat race and win the main, and I never did it. Think outdoors. It’s even harder to go 1-1, with two starts and two full motos. It’s tough. Felt perfect out there today.
Kenny and I are on another level, and it was awesome. The whole Honda team has put in a lot of hard work this off-season and this year to get us comfortable, and I feel like we’re at a good point right now. I want to give it up to them. Pala and the fans here in Southern California have treated me well, and I’m just stoked. It was a big day for me, with my first 1-1, and I’m excited to get this championship going.”
“I fought hard; that was my game plan. I passed him in the beginning [of moto 2]; I had perfect lines and speed, and I hung in there the whole way. He’s solid right now and fast, so the most important thing for me was not giving up. This track was challenging – really tricky and sketchy. I’m glad we came out on the podium and safe, especially. On top of that, with Jett and Hunter going 1-2, the factory Honda Racing has done such a good job. I am pumped to get all the retro bikes on the podium with 1 and 2. I thank those guys a lot, along with everyone in my corner.”
“That H.R.C. Honda bike is hooking up out of the gate, giving me better opportunities. It’s a good feeling that four times undefeated here, even though it’s not one of my favourite tracks. It’s awesome. Congrats to Hunter; I was trying to race and look back to see if he got Shimoda. It was great to have Honda go 1-2, and it was almost like we were having a little competition with the 450 guys.”
“It was tough; it’s a tough track to pass on, as it’s pretty one-lined. It’s not one that you can over-ride and muscle the bike around; you have to be smooth and technical. I’m happy. The 1-2 is great for the family and a great way to start the season, and I can’t thank the team enough.”
Lars Lindstrom – Team Manager
“I guess all I have to say is, `Wow!’ What an incredible, fantastic weekend. I still feel like someone will wake me up out of this dream. We could not have done any better – absolutely dominated, with Kenny and Chase beating everybody by 30 seconds.
This kind of stuff doesn’t happen ever. We had to squeeze in as much preparation as possible after supercross, and I think it was quality testing. We have four of the worst dudes on the track, is what it comes down to, and obviously, the bikes are equally as impressive.
This week was hectic for everybody, with some media things as we debuted the new 50th Anniversary 450 model. We raced with that look too, so it was an ’80s weekend for us, and they had an ’80s-worthy performance.
We had legends here like Rick Johnson, Johnny O’Mara, Gary Jones, Steve Lamson, Jeremy McGrath and more, and everyone seemed so stoked that it just made the weekend super special.”
450 Overall Results
- Chase Sexton (Hon)
- Ken Roczen (Hon)
- Christian Craig (Yam)
- Eli Tomac (Yam)
- Ryan Dungey (K.T.M.)
- Jason Anderson (Kaw)
- Antonio Cairoli (K.T.M.)
- Aaron Plessinger (K.T.M.)
- Justin Barcia (Gas)
- Shane McElrath (Hus)
- 23. Bryson Gardner (Hon)
- 26. Matthew Curler (Hon)
- 30. Josh Mosiman (Hon)
- 37. Jacob Runkles (Hon)
- 40. Bryce Hammond (Hon)
450 Championship Points (after 1 of 12 rounds)
- Chase Sexton: 50
- Ken Roczen: 44
- Christian Craig: 40
- Eli Tomac: 32
- Ryan Dungey: 32
- Jason Anderson: 31
- Antonio Cairoli: 26
- Aaron Plessinger: 26
- Justin Barcia: 25
- Shane McElrath: 24
250 Overall Results
- Jett Lawrence (Hon)
- Hunter Lawrence (Hon)
- Jo Shimoda (Kaw)
- RJ Hampshire (Hus)
- Michael Mosiman (Gas)
- Austin Forkner (Kaw)
- Seth Hammaker (Kaw)
- Levi Kitchen (Yam)
- Pierce Brown (Gas)
- Stilez Robertson (Hus)
- 21. Lance Kobusch (Hon)
- 36. Noah Viney (Hon)
- 39. Gavin Brough (Hon)
250 Championship Points (after 1 of 12 rounds)
- Jett Lawrence: 50
- Hunter Lawrence: 44
- Jo Shimoda: 38
- RJ Hampshire: 32
- Michael Mosiman: 30
- Austin Forkner: 30
- Seth Hammaker: 29
- Levi Kitchen: 29
- Pierce Brown: 28
- Stilez Robertson: 21