2022 Denver Supercross | Kickstart Recap & Photo Gallery
The weekend in Denver was always going to be a little off, partly due to the plan to hold track walk and some practice on Friday to adjust for Saturday’s even-earlier-than-normal start. Although Friday’s pair of Free Practice sessions got axed after high winds came from the mountains and into Empower Field, Saturday’s limited riding sessions was more than enough time for most riders to figure out the obstacles on the simple layout. Less laps on that track were for the better.
The terrain was exactly what one would expect of Colorado: a hard, slightly rocky, and bone-dry clay that didn’t absorb much water but took on rubber. Dirt Wurx tried a few different things to build traction, including a fluff of topsoil near the mechanic’s area, yet opted against using the water trucks or hoses to add moisture. As bad as the dust was at the start of the Main Events, a rarity in SX, the momentary lapse in visibility is better than subjecting riders to icy-slick conditions in the hectic early moments of a race.
Some of the riders we talked to relied on the techniques they’ve perfected on the sunbaked practice tracks in Southern California, which was to get into decent position among the pack, run a manageable pace, don’t push the limits, and click off consistent laps.
Hunter Lawrence is back to his “best.” The Team Honda HRC rider told us this after a career-first perfect day in Denver saw him click off the quickest laps in Timed Qualifying, get a dub in the Heat Race, and run at the front for a third consecutive Main Event and fourth win of the 250 West Region. It might not earn him the 1W plate, as Craig still has a sizeable gap going into the final round, but the way Lawrence has performed and felt this year makes it all okay.
“If we win it, we win it, amazing. Fuck, great, actually,” he said with a laugh in HWYW. “But if we don’t, we don’t. Last year was my first season, this year is my second, and both years to be second. A3 is whatever, but my stat now is something like 20 races and 15 or 14 podiums.”
“For myself, it’s awesome. I’m stoked, my family is stoked, the whole team,” he continued. “Everyone that believed in me when we were struggling, when I couldn’t even do 20-minute Motos for outdoors because my body was so bad, ‘We’re going to get him to 100-percent.’ No one knew where 100-percent was, because it was in Europe that I was 100-percent. It had been so long. It feels so good to be 100-percent. What my mind and brain want to do on the motorcycle, my body can support and execute that, which is an incredible feeling.”
Michael Mosiman earned his fifth trophy of the year in Denver through a second place run in the final “normal” Main Event of the 250 West Region. It was a typical day for the Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/GASGAS Factory Racing rider, including top-five pace in Timed Qualifying, a minor washout in the Heat Race that he states doesn’t deserve much reflection (“You look at the rock, you’re going to hit the rock”), and a solid albeit quiet 20-lap push in the Main Event.
This year’s West Region saw Mosiman get a career-first Main Event win, a milestone for GASGAS, lead lots of laps, avoid serious injury or issue, and learn the importance of whoops speed. So, should 2023 be a title year?
Christian Craig could have clinched the West Region championship in Denver, as three-position difference between he and Hunter Lawrence in the 250 Main Event would have gotten the Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider the 1W plate. But that seemed unlikely, especially considering the podium results both have logged in recent weeks and the head-to-head they got into during the early minutes of the feature.
Craig and Lawrence admitted they were feeling each other out during the duel. “I felt like he checked up in the whoops and was going to give me the pass,” said Craig. “I knew that he would have been right there and could have put the front-end in at any time, and so be it. He’s in a position where he’s got to do that and that’s why I was patient with it. My plan before I fell was to pressure him into a mistake hopefully, and if that happened, I was going to try and run away quick so that he couldn’t rebound.”
That strategy and the celebratory plans got delayed when Craig hit a rock at the end of a long rhythm lane, landed sideways in the sand, and went down on lap six. “A costly mistake on my side. I hit a rock, caught an edge, and went down in the sand,” he told us after the race. “I got up as fast as I could and pushed through the pack. Fortunately, I’ve done that more often than not this year, so I knew that if I rode like I know how to, I could get back to the podium. Luckily, we’re in a good spot, 18 points ahead going into Salt Lake.”
SLC will be Craig’s last 250 SX race, and if things go to plan, as in he finishes 18th or better in the Showdown, he’ll complete his storied small-bore career with a title.
Jason Anderson is still in SX mode, and for good reason: he’s planning for 2023. “I’m still trying to make bike changes to have consistent progress with it. This is the bike I’m going to be racing next year,” said the Monster Energy Kawasaki rider, news that was confirmed later in the week through the green OEM’s unchanged 450 for 2023. “Right now I think I’m as race fit as I’m going to be before going to A1 next year. For me, I think it’s fresh in my brain, so I really feel like I’m still trying to make strides forward to be able to have my bike set up to avoid some of my crashes or some mistakes that I’ve had this year.”
The New Mexico native had an ideal weekend at his “home” race: he drove there from his new HQ in NM, battled closely matched rivals Sexton and Tomac, carved quick laps on the slick track (he’s led 109 laps this season, minus Triple Crowns), and earned a third Main Event win in a row/sixth of the season.
Considering Anderson’s late season form and Tomac’s now confirmed knee injury, it’s fair to wonder what could have happened had El Hombre avoided a few incidents early in the year, including the tension with Stewart, the Indy takeout by Barcia, and the Detroit DNF. “We’re just trying our hardest and sometimes egos maybe get in the way a little bit. I really think that I’ve put my best foot forward,” he acknowledged in the press conference. “There are some mistakes that I had. I think Detroit was the one that really kind of put a fork in it for me as far as the championship and the points and everything like that, and that was completely on me. That kind of was tough. It was honestly tough to bounce back the next weekend, and stuff like that.
“If I’m being honest, I felt like my speed and stuff was really good and good enough to be able to take this thing all the way to the end. I think it’s just Eli played it really cool and he took the opportunity when the opportunity was there, and if it wasn’t there, he kind of stuck to his guns and just kept doing his thing. That’s where he beat me. That’s part of it. That’s part of racing. We love it, and we’ll come back for more next year. It’s cool.”
Malcolm Stewart had reason to celebrate a second-place finish in Denver, his third of the season. Instead, he was one of the first to congratulate Eli Tomac and the Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha team on the 450 SX championship, then took time out of his HWYW interview to give respect to ET1 for the accomplishment.
The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider looks like he will end the SX season ranked third overall; he’s got a small points advantage on Barcia and Musquin, plus a good run of results in SLC/on hard pack. It’s hard not to overstate this for Stewart, who’s potential has long been talked about and improves considerably from year to year.
It’ll be interesting to see how Stewart stacks up this summer. It’s been seven years since he lined up for a 450 MX round, when health concerns killed any interest the rider or teams had in doing long, hot motos. Fair to say a fully fit, Baker-trained Stewart gets a win at some point in the 12-round series?
“How much longer will Marvin Musquin race?” is, once again, a talking point of the post-race press conference. The rider has gone through this every time his deal with Red Bull KTM is up for renegotiation, a perceived stalemate between the two parties that has always ended in a slightly different agreement than before. It seems like that might be the case again this time, as Musquin said that he’s still interested in racing in 2023 and that he’s working on details of a deal to make that possible.
But no, he won’t be on the starting line this summer. Musquin said that SX-only contract he signed for 2022 meant that he’s only focused on SX and that preparations never accommodated for Pro Motocross.
Hearing the crowd cheer when Eli Tomac took the holeshot in the 450 Heat Race was wild. Look, we’d heard so much of the “Wait til Eli clinches in Denver” talk that we’d started to tune it out, but it lived up to the hype every time the Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider made a move, good or bad, on the track. That had to make up for Tomac’s prior championship day, a muted celebration in an empty stadium on a Sunday afternoon in 2020.
His announcement of a knee injury came as a surprise and made total sense. Something was definitely off, as the rider hadn’t been the same since ATL, but it wasn’t the same sort of strange finishes we’d seen him put in when under pressure. And with Tomac’s hard-charging style, it had to be hard to handle to big YZF with a bum knee.
This year was always going to be the deciding point in Tomac’s career, a decision made more real by the one-year contract he inked with Star Racing. Any concerns ET would stop after 2022 seemed to ease when he got his first Main Event early in the year, while the string of wins through the middle of the season served as added motivation to climb the all-time list. So it came as no surprise when Eli said he wants to keep going for a little while longer and that he was in the negotiation process with the team in the post-race press conference. There are a few interesting factors to keep in mind for this, including Tomac’s recent interest in the World SX series and Yamaha’s production schedule for an all-new YZ450F.