When we pulled into the parking lot at Empower Field for the 2023 Denver Supercross on Saturday morning, we expected an uneventful day at the races. Sure, Jettson was probably going to be awarded the fourth title of his 250 Class career and there were plenty of riders eyeing up career-best finishes at round sixteen of the Monster Energy Supercross Championship, but all of that was overshadowed by what appeared to be an already-decided title in the 450 Class.
By the time we got back to the rental car at midnight, everything, from the point standings in the premier class to the overall future of the sport, had changed dramatically.
Friday afternoon was highlighted by the PulpMX/Yamaha LCQ Challenge, a full gate of determined privateers and independent racers that would do anything for the 100K-plus that was put into the pot by sponsors, raffle ticket sales, and awards for most passes/biggest crashes/height/air wheelies/slow laps/whips. Re-watch the full 10-minute plus one lap moto on YouTube and then tell Matthes your ideas on how to make the race format more chaotic.
Lane Shaw made big bucks on the first lap by claiming the holeshot, including a thousand dollars from Hanna Ray and 500 from Christian Craig for leading the whole pack all the way to the finish line.
Cade Clason’s rush from around thirteenth to second netted him two hundred dollars from our Anton and Twitter user/website MotoPivot (100 each for most passes), another two fifty for being the highest-finishing rider with a GUTS Racing seat, a portion of the Renegade Race Fuels podium bonus, and a bigger cut of the purse. Because Clason was a last-minute replacement for injured rider John Short, he’ll be sending a percentage of the money to the sidelined rider.
Fredrik Noren’s mistake while tripling through the rhythm was massive, as it took him out of the lead and was roughly a 17,000-dollar loss in purse money. Fortunately, Freddie did pick up 500 from SML for biggest crash.
Josh Cartwright has had a career-defining season in the 450 Class, one capped off by the LCQ Challenge win and more than 25,000 in purse money. A full-time IT employee during the week in Texas and a racer on the weekends, Cartwright has lined up for thirteen 450 Main Events this year and is currently ranked 23rd in the championship standings.
Enzo Lopes is on the rise. The Muc-Off/FXR/ClubMX/Yamaha rider clocked the quickest lap in Session One of Timed Qualifying (a 45.717), went a bit faster in Session Two, and ended the afternoon ranked third overall behind Jett Lawrence and RJ Hampshire (Lawrence did a 43.893, Hampshire a 44.730, Lopes a 44.860). This isn’t the first time Enzo has been P1, though, because he surprised everyone with a pace setting lap at Anaheim One.
Ken Roczen looked good during the practice sessions on the dry, slick clay, conditions that he grew up riding in Germany. The Progressive/ECSTAR/Suzuki rider agreed that track was a bit like the one in his parent’s backyard and told us that his attention for the day was to get used to a new engine setting the team had come up with for the altitude.
Two brothers going for top-ten finishes. Justin and Josh Hill will wrap up their AMA SX season with Team Tedder and the KTM equipment in SLC, then turn their attention to preparation for the WSX season, with Justin signed to ride a BUD Racing Kawasaki and Josh linked to the CDR Yamaha team.
Dirt Wurx went to Denver with a plan to soften the Colorado hardpack: sand. Fifteen loads of the material were dumped on the stadium floor during the build and got mixed in during the construction of jumps or constant motion from the tracks on the Caterpillar equipment. Many riders said the topsoil was much softer than last year during Friday’s media sessions, but time in the sun and laps from the bike on Saturday turned it into the usual dry, slick clay.
Hey Hunter, the air wheelie contest was Friday…
Tributes to Wills Fedrick continued in Denver, including shirts worn by almost all of the track crew and stickers that were placed on many rider’s bikes or helmets. The Paddock Manager’s untimely passing at Nashville has been a massive blow to the men and women who make each race weekend happen, and our thoughts are with his family and many friends.
Dude, hell yeah.
How important is a holeshot device in the modern era of Supercross? Max Vohland found out first-hand in 250 Heat Race One.
Teammates in battle, with AJE Motorsports’ Mitchell Harrison and Jerry Robin ahead of Team Solitaire’s Cole Thompson and Dominique Thury.
The nearly vertical face of the wall jump seemed to be in the guy’s heads during the afternoon’s practice sessions, but once the Hill brothers started to launch from the lip to the small roller, more decided to give it a go. Here’s Derek Kelley hitting the boost button.
Levi Kitchen didn’t do it during his run to the win in 250 Heat Race One, as the Star Racing rider opted to stay low lap after lap…
While RJ Hampshire repeatedly aired it out. We’d say Hampshire’s factory Husqvarna went about ten feet higher and twenty feet further than the reserved route taken by Kitchen.
250 Heat Race Two was a three-rider fight between Enzo Lopes, Carson Mumford, and Mitchell Oldenburg. The trio traded passes quickly and repeatedly, like this change to the running order that happened mere seconds after they’d went over the scoring loop and that made the pylon inaccurate for a lap.
Lopes went on to take the win, the first of his AMA career. In our HWYW interview, the rider said that he got a phone call from his family in Brazil between the Heat Race and the Main Event, including a few minutes with his tearful mother and proud father. Here’s hoping they get to see their son ride in-person soon.
Viva! Any sort of social media post featuring Lopes brings a wave of Brazilian flags and fans, so it was appropriate that the green and gold was brought out by the podium during his post-race interview.
Shoutout to Grant Harlan for logging a career-best ninth place finish with a torn labrum. The Rock River Yamaha-backed rider was told on Wednesday that surgery to fix the injury would be his best option, but with little pain and a top-twenty overall finish in the championship at stake, he decided against the doctor’s orders and went with his father’s advice of physical therapy. Harlan is nineteenth in the 450 Class points, and should he make it through SLC without issue, will end the year around sixteenth.
Another transfer from the Heat Race to the Main Event for Logan Karnow. The OnlyFans-sponsored rider has lined up for five features this year and finished Denver’s in eighteenth place.
We really feel for the Colorado fans, many of whom came to see home state hero Eli Tomac do work in the 450 Class and maybe even clinch the title at Empower Field for a second time. The Denver crowd has developed a reputation for being one of the loudest on the tour, but we really think it’s all because of ET, as each of his laps at the front of the pack brought fans to their feet. It was very cool to see many of them stay to the bitter end of the Main Event, even when the outcome wasn’t what they wanted.
If 450 Heat Race Two’s back and forth between Chase Sexton and Eli Tomac in is the last we see for a while, at least it was a good one. The title contenders were going all-out around the track; Sexton to catch and pass Tomac for the lead in the first half, Tomac to stay on Sexton’s rear fender in the second half.
Dean Wilson and all of Fire Power Honda have made a mid-season switch to Oakley goggles. The change has been in the works for a few weeks, and with approval from WPS, will take effect for the group’s global efforts, including AMA SX, WSX, and Australian SX-MX.
How intense was the Sexton-Tomac battle? The leaders lapped up to ninth place in just ten laps and anyone in the way, including Joan Cros, got dealt with appropriately.
89 & 98
Derek Kelley deserves some praise for a seventh-place finish in the 250 Main Event. The AEO Powersports KTM rider got to the front of the pack in the early laps and didn’t back down to anyone in the running order, including eventual champion Jett Lawrence. You heard it here first: Kelley will top-five a 250 Main Event in 2024.
We could go for a few more of these Kitchen-Hampshire matchups. The two controlled the 250 Main Event for nineteen laps (Kitchen leading sixteen and Hampshire just three) and were the only competitors to have personal-best times in the 44-second range (Hampshire – 44.712, Kitchen – 44.963).
Hampshire’s mistake on this double should have ended his quest for the 250 Main Event win, as the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider lost considerable time in the closing half of the race. Peep the gallery further down in the post for a sequence of Hampshire’s mistake and the crowd’s reaction.
Instead, Hampshire went on a warpath, erased Kitchen’s then five-second advantage, and passed him for the lead with three laps to go. While we’re here, we have to say that Kitchen’s record in Colorado is very impressive and in two visits to the mountains, he’s scored an MX overall win (Thunder Valley 2022) and a SX podium (Denver 2023).
Hampshire’s win is proof that he’s figuring out how to be an elite racer in the 250 Class and he’s got another two years with Husqvarna to turn that knowledge into a championship. We’re already starting to think about possible 2024 title fights, as the imminent graduation of the Lawrence brothers clears the path for Hampshire, McAdoo, Shimoda, Kitchen, Thrasher, Deegan, Forkner, Hymas, Smith, Anstie…
A tenth place finish is all Jett Lawrence needed to clinch the 250 West Region title. It should have been a routine task for the Team Honda HRC rider, but chaotic opening laps and a calculated approach to the race made it much more exciting than we had anticipated. Also, a big show of respect to Jettson for using his monumental day as a chance to make a deserving child’s dream come true by bringing her out on the podium during opening ceremonies.
How much would it take for you to hit the set-up double, upshift in the air, and skim these rock-hard rollers?
The last few years have been all about Jett, and yes, it’s warranted. The teenager’s run to four titles is astounding and will forever be reflected in the record books, but creative partnerships with brands like MVMT Watches, Anti-Social Social Club, and Red Bull that are lapped up a rabid fanbase are making just as big of an impression.
Twelve of the twenty-two riders shown here were on the gate at Anaheim One’s Main Event. Which guys lined up for both? Tomac, Sexton, Roczen, Nichols, Cianciarulo, Wilson, Ju. Hill, Jo. Hill, Harlan, Starling, Moranz, Noren.
Remember, Colorado fans: Thunder Valley is only a month away.
Keep an eye on these three and their points with one round to go. Moranz is ranked eighteenth overall with 84, Harlan nineteenth overall with 81, and Cartwright is twenty-third overall with 69.
It’s been a few days and we’re still speechless about Eli Tomac’s injury. The defending champion was on the gas in the opening laps of the Main Event, and with Sexton marred deep in the pack, maybe this was an early tactic to go for career win fifty-two. Tomac has already undergone surgery to repair the damage to his Achilles tendon and has said that he is in no rush when it comes to making decisions about the future of his career. Enjoy the summer at home with the family, ET.
Adam Cianciarulo has made major improvements since sitting out a few rounds of SX this season, and at Denver, the Monster Energy Kawasaki rider led laps and scored his first podium finish in more than two years. AC told us that he’d spend the week between Denver and SLC getting stem cell treatment in Kansas, a procedure that should alleviate the numbness issues that has plagued his arm and hand for the last few years.
Career-best results = warm up for WSX.
Chase Sexton went into the Denver with a mathematical, albeit far-fetched shot at the championship, but after twenty-eight Main Event laps, the Team Honda HRC rider took his sixth win of the season and control of the point standings. The swing was a lot for everyone to process, especially the Red Riders, and they respectfully opted against any early celebration due to Tomac’s injury.
This plate will be complete with a red background in SLC, and by a number one in 2024.
Michael Antonovich has a wealth of experience with over 10 years of moto-journalism under his belt. A lifelong racing enthusiast and rider, Anton is the Editor of Swapmoto Live and lives to be at the race track.
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