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Hangtown - Race Report

Hangtown - Race Report

Jun 2

  • Race Report

The second round of the 2024 Pro Motocross Championship, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, traveled to Northern California, in the shadow of the state capital of Sacramento, for the landmark 55th running of the Michael’s Reno Powersports Hangtown Motocross Classic Presented by Yamaha Power Assist Bicycles.

Abundant sunshine and temperatures approaching 90 degrees greeted racers and fans at Prairie City SVRA in what became an instant classic of the 53-year championship. While one major storyline centered around the end of Australian phenom Jett Lawrence’s perfect record in 450 Class competition, it was Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Chase Sexton who left a lasting impression with a captivating victory that resulted in a dramatic shakeup of the early title fight. In the 250 Class, points leader and Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing rider Haiden Deegan overcame misfortune in the second moto to prevail with back-to-back wins to open the season.

The first moto began with the Australian siblings of Jett and Hunter Lawrence leading the field through the first turn side-by-side. Hunter edged out his younger brother for the Holeshot, but ultimately conceded the lead to Jett. The defending champion and entering points leader looked to sprint away, but a misjudgment on one of the downhills resulted in a hard crash. Jett was slow to get up and was forced to visit the mechanics area to attend to his Honda, which effectively ended his 24-moto winning streak in Pro Motocross. Hunter inherited the lead, followed by Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Jason Anderson in second and Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing’s Justin Cooper in third.

Lawrence and Anderson were able to establish themselves at the front of the field while Sexton, who started fifth, made the pass on Cooper to take over third. Sexton then put his head down to close in on the lead duo. As he looked to pressure Anderson for third Sexton had a miscue that caused him to lose ground and from there the KTM rider settled into a slower pace. The gap between each of the top three stabilized until Anderson tipped over with less than 10 minutes to go, which handed second to Sexton while Anderson remounted in third.

Sexton bided his time and mounted an attack in the closing minutes of the moto, which saw him close onto the rear fender of Lawrence’s Honda. Sexton made a tactful pass for the lead to edge by Lawrence, but the Aussie battled back to keep the fight going for the next half lap. Sexton eventually solidified what would be the winning pass and distanced himself from the field over the final two laps.

Sexton earned his first moto win in 10 races and his first with KTM to maximize the opportunity presented by Jett Lawrence’s misfortune. Hunter Lawrence finished second, 7.9 seconds behind, while Anderson held on to finish a distant third. Cooper followed in fourth, with Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Aaron Plessinger in fifth. After the crash dropped him to the tail end of the field in 40th, Jett Lawrence battled his way up to 24th, but finished three positions shy of the final points-paying position of 21st place.

The final moto kicked off with the Yamaha of Cooper out front for the Holeshot, followed closely by Plessinger who soon made the move to take the lead while Muc-Off/FXR/ClubMX Yamaha’s Phil Nicoletti moved into third. Behind them, Hunter Lawrence slotted into fourth, Anderson in fifth, and Jett Lawrence in sixth. Sexton, meanwhile, fell and was forced to start his journey from the tail end of the field.

As the jockeying for position continued near the front, Nicoletti crashed out of third, which allowed Hunter Lawrence to move into the top three. His time in podium position was short lived as Jett made the move on his brother. As the top half of the field started to settle in through the opening 10 minutes of the moto, Sexton was on a torrid charge through the field and had climbed his way up into seventh with the majority of the moto still remaining.

As Plessinger strengthened his hold on the top spot, the attention shifted to what turned into a tight battle in the overall classification. Jett Lawrence fought his way up to second, but started to fade in the late stages of the moto, which allowed Cooper to reclaim the position as Hunter Lawrence moved back into third. Sexton remained a man on a mission and kept his forward charge going into the top five, with a two-for-one pass on a slowing Jett Lawrence and Anderson to claw his way into fourth. Sexton’s resurgence wasn’t over yet as he hounded Hunter Lawrence and made an assertive pass for third with four minutes to go. Sexton was more patient as he closed in on Cooper for second, but still was able to make the pass with time for one final push to try and catch his teammate out front.

Sexton got Plessinger within striking distance on the final lap and with three turns to go completed one of the most impressive single motos in the history of American motocross with a 40th to first charge that put the finishing touches on a thrilling 1-1 performance. The margin of victory at the finish was 0.999 between the KTM teammates. Cooper finished in third.

Sexton’s seventh career win was his first since the 2022 season and his maiden KTM triumph outdoors ended a 49-race winless drought for the Austrian brand, who last won at the 2019 Spring Creek National with Cooper Webb. The last-lap pass on Plessinger altered the final two spots on the podium and moved Hunter Lawrence into second (2-4), while Plessinger settled for third (5-2). A difficult afternoon for Jett Lawrence saw the No. 1 earn a resilient 12th-place finish (24-6).

The victory vaulted Sexton to the top of the 450 Class standings, where he now holds an eight-point lead over Hunter Lawrence in second and a 21-point lead over Plessinger in third. Jett Lawrence, who entered Hangtown with an eight-point advantage, dropped to sixth, 24 points out of the lead.

Chase Sexton: “That was a year and a half of pent-up frustration. I spun off the start [in Moto 2 and went down] and was dead last. I knew it was going to be a long moto. I don’t know what to say. That was the best moto of my life. I’m just happy to get the win and become the new points leader.”

Hunter Lawrence: “Today was one of the tough days at the office. That’s about it, to be honest. I’m happy for the team and all the work they put into making this happen.”

Aaron Plessinger: “My teammate is riding great. I got out front and put on a charge. I figured I could back it down a little bit but these guys were riding amazing. Chase was just on another level. I was bummed I missed out on being up here [on the podium] last weekend, so I’m really glad to rebound with a day like today.”

Jett Lawrence: “I kind of used all my upper body strength in the first part [of Moto 2]. I was feeling ok but then I got tired and had to use my legs and the strength just wasn’t there. I’ve got a chunk taken out of my leg, so that affected things. It’s a bummer, but we’ll go back and recover and try to come back stronger next weekend.”

450 Class Overall Results (Moto Finish // Points)

Chase Sexton, La Moille, Ill., KTM (1-1 // 50)

Hunter Lawrence, Landsborough, Qld., Australia, Honda (2-4 // 40)

Aaron Plessinger, Hamilton, Ohio, KTM (5-2 // 39)

Justin Cooper, Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., Yamaha (4-3 // 38)

Jason Anderson, Edgewood, N.M., Kawasaki (3-5 // 37)

Dylan Ferrandis, Avignon, France, Honda (6-8 // 30)

Justin Barcia, Monroe, N.Y., GASGAS (8-7 // 29)

Malcolm Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Husqvarna (7-9 // 28)

Freddie Noren, Lidkoping, Sweden, Kawasaki (9-10 // 25)

Christian Craig, El Cajon, Calif., Husqvarna (12-11 // 21)

450 Class Championship Standings (Round 2 of 11)

Chase Sexton, La Moille, Ill., KTM - 90

Hunter Lawrence, Landsborough, Qld., Australia, Honda - 82

Aaron Plessinger, Hamilton, Ohio, KTM - 69

Justin Cooper, Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., Yamaha - 69

Jason Anderson, Edgewood, N.M., Kawasaki - 67

Jett Lawrence, Landsborough, Qld., Australia, Honda - 66

Dylan Ferrandis, Avignon, France, Honda - 62

Justin Barcia, Monroe, N.Y., GASGAS - 61

Malcolm Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Husqvarna - 57

Freddie Noren, Lidkoping, Sweden, Kawasaki - 46

The first moto of the afternoon saw the Team Honda HRC machine of Chance Hymas emerge from the first turn with the lead and the Holeshot, followed by Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Levi Kitchen and Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Julien Beaumer. Deegan started eighth and quickly made a march towards the front.

With his first opportunity to lead a Pro Motocross moto Hymas seized the moment and set an impressive early pace that allowed him to establish a multi-second lead over Kitchen, who settled into a firm hold of second. Behind the lead duo, Beaumer was forced to contend with a determined Deegan. Their battle ensued for several laps before Deegan made the move with a savvy pass. Once into position, the red plate holder faced a double-digit deficit to the leaders with a little less than 20 minutes remaining.

As the moto entered the final 10 minutes the top three were within six seconds of one another as Deegan methodically chipped away at the deficit. Soon enough, Deegan pressured Kitchen for second. The budding rivals reignited their battle from the opening round and inched back towards Hymas with their increased pace. Deegan made the pass on Kitchen for second and put on a charge to catch Hymas with three minutes to go. An outside-to-inside line within the final minute allowed Deegan to slip past Hymas on one of Hangtown’s many uphill climbs, from which the Yamaha rider never looked back.

Deegan raced to his third straight moto win, 1.7 seconds ahead of Hymas, who secured a career-best moto result in second, followed by Kitchen in third. Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Tom Vialle and Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/GASGAS Factory Racing’s Pierce Brown rounded out the top five.

The second moto got underway with an assertive start by Deegan, who easily raced to the Holeshot and seized control of the early lead as the Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki duo of Ty Masterpool and Kitchen gave chase, just ahead of Hymas in fourth. The top four in the running order remained unchanged through the opening 10 minutes of the moto, as Deegan managed a gap of about 2.5 seconds. Kitchen then picked up his intensity and pounced on his teammate to take over second. Not long after that, Vialle made the move on Hymas for fourth and then closed in on Masterpool for third, moving into the top three on the same lap.

Just under three seconds separated Deegan and Kitchen at the halfway point of the moto as the two riders traded momentum. Deegan then picked up the pace to add to his advantage and push it to almost four seconds. Like Deegan, Vialle also showed an uptick in pace and made easy work of closing in and passing Kitchen to take control of second. With a little less than half a moto to go, Vialle and Deegan were separated by just under five seconds.

Vialle was able to chop the deficit in half as the moto entered the final 10 minutes. Deegan responded to the surge and built his advantage back up to almost four seconds, but then crashed out of the lead as he navigated the ruts on a downhill section of the track. Vialle assumed the lead as Deegan remounted in second, just ahead of Kitchen in third. Vialle carried on to his second career moto win by 4.9 seconds over Deegan, while Kitchen finished in third.

Despite his misfortune in the second moto, Deegan still prevailed with the overall win by virtue of his 1-2 finishes for the fourth victory of his career. Vialle’s impressive performance in Moto 2 vaulted him into the runner-up spot with a 4-1 effort, while Kitchen rounded out the overall podium in third (3-3). The same three riders comprised the overall podium at the opening round.

Deegan became the sixth different 250 Class rider to win at Hangtown over the past six years and added to his early season points lead, which now sits at 13 points over Kitchen. Vialle solidified his hold of third, 16 points out of the lead.

Haiden Deegan: “We made a suspension change [for Moto 2] and I went for a helicopter ride. It is what it is. We came, we rode, and we got the win. We’ll move on from here.”

Tom Vialle: “I knew I could do it. I struggled the first three motos [of the season] but this one I felt great. I could push and I was confident that I could challenge for the win. I’m happy to be back on the podium.”

Levi Kitchen: “It was a comfortability thing [on the bike] today. Honestly, to get third feels like a win to me. I tried to make a run at second [in Moto 2] but that was a little uncomfortable for me. We’ll go back to work and look ahead to next week.”

250 Class Overall Results (Moto Finishes // Points)

Haiden Deegan, Temecula, Calif., Yamaha (1-1 // 50)

Tom Vialle, Avignon, France, KTM (4-1 // 43)

Levi Kitchen, Washougal, Wash., Kawasaki (3-3 // 40)

Chance Hymas, Pocatello, Idaho, Honda (2-4 // 40)

Jo Shimoda, Suzuka, Japan, Honda (7-5 // 32)

Pierce Brown, Sandy, Utah, GASGAS (5-10 // 29)

Jalek Swoll, Belleview, Fla., Triumph (8-8 // 28)

Ty Masterpool, Fallon, Nev., Kawasaki (6-11 // 27)

Julien Beaumer, Lake Havasu City, Ariz., KTM (9-9 // 26)

Casey Cochran, Portsmouth, Va., Husqvarna (12-12 // 20)

250 Class Championship Standings (Round 2 of 11)

Haiden Deegan, Temecula, Calif., Yamaha - 97

Levi Kitchen, Washougal, Wash., Kawasaki - 84

Tom Vialle, Avignon, France, KTM - 81

Chance Hymas, Pocatello, Idaho, Honda - 78

Jo Shimoda, Suzuka, Japan, Kawasaki - 62

Jalek Swoll, Belleview, Fla., Triumph - 61

Pierce Brown, Sandy, Utah, GASGAS - 55

Julien Beaumer, Lake Havasu City, Ariz., KTM - 48

Nate Thrasher, Livingston, Tenn., Yamaha - 46

Joey Savatgy, Thomasville, Ga., Triumph - 41

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