zMAX Dragway, Concord, NC — September 9, 2023
With the start of the SuperMotocross World Championship Playoff, the question on everyone’s mind is, will the domination of Jett(450 SMX) and Hunter(250 SMX) Lawrence continue in their respective classes?
The track at zMAX Dragway, just down the street from Charlotte Motor Speedway, may be the factor. These riders have never seen a combination of a Supercross and a ProMotocross track. Not only does the layout use elements from both styles of racing, but it also has a split on the starting gate where half the field starts on the left and half starts on the right. They come together in the first turn, meeting each other to return down the middle of the two lanes.
It is a new experience for everyone. Bet on the fact that it is going to be an exciting afternoon of professional motocross racing.
250SMX Moto #1
Austin Forkner(55), Cullin Park(67), Hunter Yoder(508), and Luke Neese(125) joined the field for 250SMX Motos out of the Last Chance Qualifier.
The question of a Lawrence family domination was answered right from the start as Hunter Lawrence(96) was slow out of the starting gate and was relegated to the 16th position. Levi Kitchen(43) took the early lead, with Haiden Deegan(238) in second and Seth Hammaker running in the third spot.
Lawrence began to move up quickly. However, an early early crash sent Hunter to the rear of the pack before he could remount his bike and continue racing. Hammaker also went down in the first five minutes of the 20-minute timed portion of the race. He was replaced in third place by the 18-year-old rookie Ryder DiFrancesco(75).
At the halfway point of the race, Lawrence had moved from 22nd position to 13th place. He trailed the leaders by almost 30 seconds.
Up front, Deegan began closing on the lead of Kitchen. With five minutes remaining, Haiden Deegan passed Kitchen for the top position. DiFrancesco began to fade late in the race, and Tom Vialle(128) moved into third. Jo Shimoda(30) was chasing Vialle for the final podium spot.
Hunter Lawrence was mired back in 12th place and out of contention for a top finishing position. Deegan stretched the lead and won the first-ever motocross playoff race. Can he follow it up with a similar performance in Moto #2.
Kitchen finished second and Vialle third. Hunter Lawrence was able to work his way into the top ten, but a 9th-place finish will likely take him out of contention for the overall win.
250SMX Moto #1 Results
450SMX Moto #1
Phillip Nicoletti(69), Kevin Moranz(80), and Jerry Robin(93) were the three riders who advanced out of the 450SMX Last Chance Qualifier.
Justin Barcia(51) grabbed the holeshot with super privateer Ty Masterpool(81) in second place. Jett Lawrence started sixth but could not hold the position. Ken Roczen(94) and Jason Anderson(21) passed Lawrence in the early going.
Chase Sexton(23), who chased Lawrence through the entire ProMotocross season, passed Barcia for the lead and quickly built a five-second advantage on the second spot.
Dylan Ferrandis(14) and Barcia held down the second and third positions. Like his brother, Jett Lawrence went down before the midway point of the timed portion of the moto. He recovered quickly but dropped to 10th in the running order, 20+ seconds behind the leader.
Sexton continued to build the advantage over Ferrandis, and Roczen passed Barcia for third. The top three remained in order to the checkered flag.
Jett Lawrence lost his first 450 CC race since advancing to the premier motocross series. He finished seventh. Unsurprisingly, it was Chase Sexton displacing the champion for the win in the first 450SMX Playoff race.
450SMX Moto #1 Results
65 CC World All-Stars
During the break between the first and second motors of the professionals, the best 65 CC youth riders in the country competed in an event called the World All-Stars. The race featured local Michigan rider Joseph Vicari(127), who qualified with the second-fastest time of the 22 bikes in the field.
If the name sounds familiar, it’s because Joseph is a member of the Vicari Family, which owns the popular metro area Andiamo Restaurants.
Joseph rode a solid race and finished fifth. What a thrill for the young man who trains with many of the youngsters from the Fenton area.
250SMX Moto #2
The second moto for the 250SMX riders had Tom Vialle out front early. Followed by Jo Shimoda and Ryder DiFrancesco. Another bad start for Hunter Lawrence, combined with a fall at the start, had him in 15th place with a lot of time to make up.
Haiden Deegan was slow out of the gate and sat in the ninth spot in the opening minutes of the race.
Five minutes in, and the leaders remained the same. Deegan moved up to sixth and cut the deficit to just over five seconds. Lawrence ran 12th. The 20 minutes plus one lap is a shorter race than the Pro Motocross 30 minutes plus two laps distance. Riders have to charge throughout the moto to make up for a bad start or serious mistake.
Deegan worked his way into the fifth spot. However, he fell and fell 13 seconds behind the leader even though he did not lose a spot of track position.
As time wound down, Shimoda made the pass for the lead with six minutes left. The battle for the overall title and the $50,000 that goes with it is separated by a single point between Shimoda, Vialle, and Deegan.
Jo Shimoda backed up his win at Ironman in the final race of the regular season with another overall victory in the first round of the playoffs. His (4-1) five-point total tied with Tom Vialle (3-2). Haiden Deegan salvaged a podium position with his (1-5) six-point total on the day.
Hunter Lawrence finished eighth (9-7) in a disappointing playoff debut.
Shimoda and Deegan leave zMAX tied in Championship Points heading to Chicago. Lawrence is three points back.
250SMX Moto #2 Results
250 SMX Points
450SMX Moto #2
Ty Masterpool sprinted to the lead, followed by Ken Roczen. Neither Chase Sexton nor Jett Lawrence were in the top five at the start. Roczen quickly made the pass for the lead, but Masterpool held onto second ahead of Jason Anderson. Lawrence started in tenth.
Five minutes in, and Sexton had moved ahead of Masterpool into second place, trailing the leader by five seconds.
Lawrence charged forward and moved up to fifth, nine seconds behind Roczen.
At the midpoint of the race, the running order was Roczen, Sexton, and Lawrence. Four seconds separated first to second and second to third. If Sexton can hold off Lawrence, his (1-2) finish will give him the overall title and the $100,000 check for the playoff win.
With five minutes left in the timed portion of the moto, Sexton eliminated all doubt, passing Roczen for the lead. As Sexton rode away, Lawrence tracked down and passed Roczen for the second position. They finished in that order, Chase Sexton (1-1) takes the overall.
Ken Roczen (3-3) takes second overall, and Dylan Ferrandis (2-4) earns the final podium position. Lawrence finishes fourth (7-2), edging out Ken Anderson (4-5). Lawrence’s seventh-place Moto One finish proved costly.