2022 Daytona Supercross | Kickstart Recap & Gallery
Everyone looks forward to Daytona. Racing at the super speedway feels sort of like Supercross Spring Break, as everyone spends the days leading up to it at the practice tracks that are within a few hours drive. Being outside and in the Florida sun is welcome, especially amid a run of cold rounds like Minneapolis-Arlington-Detroit, and the start of Bike Week adds a certain buzz to the air. What’d we take away from round nine, the halfway point of the 2022 Monster Energy Supercross Championship?
COURSE DESIGN & CONDITIONS
It’s no secret that Ricky Carmichael has to work within certain parameters when designing the Daytona Supercross track, but this year’s mix of dark dirt-sand-clay made into rhythm sections-roller pads-switchback lanes offered good racing. Riders had options everywhere, and though some were much better than others, there wasn’t a make-or-break line that broke up the pack. Things like wall jumps and the S-curves made it seem like riders were within inches of each other, even if the time difference between them was more like one second.
The length of the track kept the workers from refacing many of the obstacles before the 450 Main Event, something a handful of riders pointed out to us during the post-race How Was Your Weekend chats. Daytona is supposed to be rough, but damn.
Everyone was eager to see what Eli Tomac would do at Daytona, himself included. When we asked ET3 if the outlook on his place in the sport’s records has changed the higher up the list he gets, he downplayed the sureness shared by everyone else of possible sixth Daytona win. “If it happens, yeah, it’s cool,” he told us on Friday. “For one, I never really thought where I’d get to five. So, it’d be really neat, but we have a lot to do until then, and I’m going to enjoy it for what it is.” When we told him that we were looking forward to seeing him unleash the power of the YZ450F on the long track, he agreed with ease. “Yeah, this bike rips. It’s really fast and I’m excited to try it on here. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
We all got to see what we wanted, just maybe not in the way we thought we would. Tomac was noticeably off in Timed Qualifying, as a 1:11.272 lap put him fifth overall, and that led to a surprising fourth in 450 Heat Race Two. The 450 Main Event got off to a chaotic start as the rider literally found himself in the middle of the Anderson-Stewart ordeal, but as the laps clicked off, he settled into a rhythm and moved forward. It wasn’t “Tomac at Daytona” like we’re used to. It took eight and a half minutes to catch and pass Chase Sexton, then another eight or so to close on leader Cooper Webb.
We’ll spare you the “who would have won without a lapper” topic because the bigger point about Tomac’s push to the checkered flag came during the last four laps, when steam came out of the engine and he still hammered in a final set of 1:13 times (1:13.678,1:13.770, 1:13.010, 1:13.997). Was that the hardest we’ve seen someone ride a YZ450F?
Cooper Webb’s come around continues. A Heat Race win, the majority of the laps led in the 450 Main Event, and a second-place finish are Webb’s personal best results at Daytona, a positive that he pointed out to us during the How Was Your Weekend interview. But, unfortunately, this race will be remembered by how it came undone in the final laps after a complicated attempt to rip down the right side of the whoops-hold off Eli Tomac-negotiate traffic, and that won’t do justice the way Webb was riding.
A holeshot in the 450 Main Event got the Red Bull KTM rider up front and away from the drama, and from there, he made excellent use of one thing people love or hate about Daytona: inside lines. Webb kept the 450 SX-F in the lowest part of the turn or through the tightest rut for most of the Main Event; it would have been tough for Eli Tomac to get a wheel in had it come to that.
Like always, a look at the lap times reveals a lot about Webb’s race. His personal best lap (1:11.311) was faster than Tomac’s (1:33.377). His final two laps of the race, after the incident with McElrath, were faster than Sexton’s (1:15.060/1:15.858 to 1:15.482/1:15/890).
“It felt great,” he remarked about leading to us at the end of the night. “I felt super in control and that my pace was good. Me and Eli were going back and forth. I didn’t feel like he was catching me massively or anything. It was tough with the lappers because you would catch them and not know where to go. But I felt great and confidence-wise, it just felt natural.”
Webb is now ranked third overall in the championship, something he’s optimistic about as the East Coast swing continues.
The fight for the lead and battles happening further back overshadowed Chase Sexton’s third-place finish. If you replay the 450 Main Event, the Team Honda HRC rider was within two seconds of leader Webb through the first six laps, until he buried the bike in a corner, allowed Eli Tomac a chance to charge, and was bumped back to third place. The mistake was extremely costly because Sexton was heads-up faster than Tomac on lap four, when they both put in their best times (Sexton – 1:11.132, Tomac – 1:11.377), but he never was able to catch back up.
It wasn’t an easy race for Sexton, either. Although he ran alone in third place for the last 12 minutes of the Main Event, he had to push to pursue Webb and Tomac, who were five seconds up the track, and to keep a gap over Barcia and Ferrandis, who were five seconds behind him.
TOP-FIVE IN THE 450 MAIN EVENT
The 450 Main Event was a freight train. At the halfway point of the race, the top-five of Webb-Tomac-Sexton-Barcia-Ferrandis were within 10 seconds of each other at the scoring loop, while Roczen-Musquin were three seconds further back. For this many riders to run this close, on track as big and as challenging as Daytona, says a lot about the current generation.
Jason Anderson and Malcolm Stewart’s newfound rivalry reached its boiling point at Daytona. Amid career-best seasons and in championship contention, the two riders found each other multiple times in the 450 Main Event, and each incident proved to be more costly than the prior. The Florida fiasco started when Anderson used the tightest line while entering the second turn in the 450 Main Event, which led to him bumping into Eli Tomac and Stewart off the track. Stewart, infuriated, blasted down the infield, jumped back into the lane, and teed up Anderson at the exit of the hairpin turn in the sand, an impact that put them both on the ground. Another close call in the sand section, this one a few laps later, sent Anderson off track, while a fourth incident occurred after Stewart got hung up in a tight line, something that Dean Wilson was an innocent bystander in. Although they ultimately crossed the finish line with Stewart in seventh and Anderson in eighth place, the AMA docked them each a position for speeding while outside of track limits, and they were credited eighth and ninth.
The two riders and crew members from Kawasaki and Husqvarna convened between the team rigs in the pit area immediately after the race, but fortunately, cooler heads prevailed. Both copped to the aggressive riding and agreed that doing so was only allowing Tomac the chance to run away with the championship lead. They’re not wrong. Anderson is still second overall and trails Tomac by 18 points, while Stewart dropped to fourth overall and is 39 points back of the leader.
As ill-advised as this was for their title hopes, it was damn sure exciting. The two riders were among the fastest of the field in Daytona, Stewart through his P1 in Timed Qualifying and Heat Race win while Anderson hung around the top of the board all day. How quickly they got back on the charge and made moves through the pack was exciting to watch; they kept an eye on the other and used guys like Justin Brayton and Kyle Chisholm to set up moves.
Look, we’re as tired of the Jett hysteria on TV as anyone, but if he keeps riding like that, they’re gonna keep talking about him. The Team Honda HRC rider was virtually flawless, again, through Timed Qualifying, 250 Heat Race Two, and the 250 East Region Main Event. Even a snafu like misidentifying the white-checkered flag in the Heat didn’t matter much; he still crossed the line 5.4 seconds ahead of second place. It’s almost like Mirtl has a headset in his helmet coordinating the whole thing. “Hey mate, you’re winning by too much. Do something to make it interesting.”
The Main Event win puts Lawrence five points up in the championship standings going into Detroit.
“Daytona is a good place for me I guess. It’s going to be hard to race West Coast ever,” Stilez Robertson joked by the podium after his runner-up result in the 250 Main Event, his second second-place finish at Daytona. The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider has steadily improved in recent weeks, with good starts in his races and the ability to lead laps against anyone in the East Region. “I feel like I’m getting better, but it’s hard to describe,” he continued to us in HWYW. “Everyone thinks you can ride so much during the week, but it’s only two days. And I’ll be completely honest with you, I haven’t test one thing with this motorcycle. I’ve got a good base setting and I’m happy.”
Cameron McAdoo had a noticeable limp going up the stairs for the podum after the 250 Main Event, and when we saw him the garages at the end of the night, there was a heavy tape job on his knee. What’s up to the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider? “I jacked my knee up and it swelled up pretty bad. I had Doc G tape it up and kept moving it before the Main Event to keep the inflammation out. I knew I could ride because I finished the Heat Race with it, so the biggest thing was not letting it tighten up.” McAdoo was confident it’s more short-term impact swelling than it is something serious inside.
Getting a third place result, a finish he earned after a night of battles against RJ Hampshire-Jordon Smith-Phil Nicoletti-Enzo Lopes, keeps McAdoo in a good championship position. He’s second overall, down five to Lawrence but up 16 to Robertson.