Welcome to February! Thankfully our super observant rodent here in Ontario, “Wiarton Willie” did not see his shadow last week, so spring is hopefully on its way. So, never mind the trusted and sometimes accurate Farmer’s Almanac or the advanced weather computer models that the weather service are able to generate now, I’m placing all my bets on our friendly groundhog that lives on the south shore of Georgian Bay. Spring is coming and it cannot come soon enough. Having said though, it is nice to see the local snowmobile riders finally getting their turn to twist the throttle. Here in Ontario we only received any significant snow, two weeks ago.
Did everyone watch the Houston SX this past weekend? It was actually pretty entertaining and it produced more than one story line. In the 250 class, Hunter Lawrence took the expected win in front of Max Anstie and Jordon Smith. It was an entertaining first 250SX East main event with a number of riders in the hunt for a podium finish, but in the end Lawrence was able to get away. He’s definitely going to be tough to beat in 2023. Looking ahead it would definitely be cool to see the Lawrence Brothers take home both 250SX titles. It was great to see Max Anstie riding so well in Houston. With his speed and experience, if something happens to Lawrence in the next few rounds, he should be right there for a main win. Of course, regardless of what was going on at the front of the pack, all eyes were on young Haiden Deegan as he was racing in his very first pro supercross. Deegan rode great all day long and in the main event, especially in the closing laps, he was able to remain strong and take advantage of other top riders making mistakes. In reality, he should’ve finished around 6th or 7th but you have to give the kid full credit for hanging in there and proving all of his doubters wrong. Was his finish a surprise? I don’t think it was as Deegan has been training and dreaming about this moment since he was ten years old, and he’s been pounding SX laps with his Star Racing teammates since October. So from a mental and physical stand point Deegan was more than ready to enter the pro class this weekend and I’m glad he had a solid race on Saturday night. Obviously, he needs experience now, and the only way to get it is to line up and race in the 250SX East Series. I mean, he can ride laps at the practice track all day long, for training purposes he needs that repetition. But now, he needs to see how the track in the main events breakdown and he also needs to race against riders who are out there to make a living and don’t care what happens to him. Now that he has set the bar high with a solid 4th place finish, it will be interesting to see how the next few races go with the weight of expectation on his shoulders. We’ll see how it goes but for kids watching at home or if you’re lucky enough to see a 250SX East coast round live, never mind the side show that is the Deegan brand, just watch this kids’ corner speed, especially his right hand corner speed. It is remarkable and that alone is going to take him a long way in this sport!
In the 450SX class, it was also an entertaining main event and honestly how cool was it to see the “old boy” Eli Tomac take the “young kid” Chase Sexton to school in the final race of the night? Even if you’re a big Sexton fan you still have to admire Tomac for his ability to show up when it matters the most. After getting soundly beaten by Sexton in their heat race, Tomac came out swinging in the main event and other than a few close moments early on, Sexton had nothing for the 450SX points leader. Rarely, do we see on television how one rider is so obviously faster in one section of the track then another. But on Saturday evening, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one watching from home who couldn’t figure out why Sexton was so determined to stick with the inside line through the sand section while Tomac continued to take the outside line and make up time. It was mind-boggling until you listened to Sexton explain in the post-race presser that he didn’t like the outside because he almost crashed there in the opening laps. He’s young and lacking in experience so I think you can look at this two ways; First, if he didn’t figure out mid-race to follow Tomac to see what the outside line was like after a few laps then that’s on him. Secondly, if he didn’t feel comfortable in the sand section and he didn’t want to risk a crash then good on him for settling for second place and moving onto Tampa. Those types of mid-race decisions and adjustments come from experience and as we all know experience is earned and not given to you. One other final note on the sand section in Houston, how about Justin Cooper going full banzai on the final lap of his first 450SX main event to pass Ken Roczen while using the inside line. It was a great pass and a great race by Cooper!
There were only a few Canadian riders in Houston as Cole Thompson just missed out on making the 450SX main event on his YZ250F. Cole looked fast all day and night long and I think if he could’ve gotten a better start in the 450SX LCQ he would’ve qualified. Guillaume St-Cyr was also trying to qualify for the 450SX main event but the likeable Quebec rider came up well short in the LCQ. Finally, in the KJSC race young Riley Gauld rode solid to finish up in 8th place in the main event. It’s amazing when our Canadian kids get accepted to these prestigious races and over the years we’ve seen them have some great results. The next KJSC race is in Tampa this weekend and then in Arlington in three weeks. I’m not sure if any Canadian kids will be on the starting line this weekend in Tampa but I know Ryan Lockhart’s son Meston will be racing in Arlington. So good luck to Meston and also great ride on Saturday night Riley!
In other Canadian news, the 2023 Triple Crown Series schedule was finally released last week. As you can see the series will consist of 8 outdoor rounds and four indoor events in the fall. I think the schedule looks great, although it would be nice to have more than 8 outdoor rounds. I’m excited for the hybrid opening round in Edmonton as I think it will be well attended and exciting to watch. From what I’m told this race will be much more outdoor then it is SX, so stiffer suspension will not be needed. I’m excited that the Wild Rose track in Calgary is back on the schedule as it’s one of most unique race venues on the planet. I feel bad for the moto-loving people of Manitoba as the series will not be heading there in 2023. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a bad national or witnessed a bad track in Manitoba so hopefully this year is just a blip and we’ll be back there in 2024. As far as the east-half of the series goes, I’m going to miss the Walton-One Canada Day weekend as in just two short years it turned into something cool and special. Obviously, the rest of the eastern races will all be top notch as each track is unique and entertaining in its own right. I cannot wait as in just four short months we’ll be dropping the gate in Alberta!
As for the riders in the 2023 Triple Crown Series, they’re all pretty much set now. After getting a few offers in recent weeks Tyler Gibbs has now officially signed with the TLD/GASGAS/SSR Team for 2023. Gibbs was fast last summer and had several good rides in the 250 class. However, consistency wasn’t his friend and that will no doubt be his main focus in 2023. With Gibbs now signed with GASGAS and Jeremy McKie headed to the 450 class this leaves the Walton Kawasaki team still searching for a 250 rider for 2023. Will they be able to find a fast young American rider who is free to come to Canada for the summer? Could TJ Scott now slide into that spot? Or what about Josh Bryan who for the past two years has been a podium finisher in the Intermediate class at the Walton TransCan. With all of the top riders now signed there are not many Canadian kids right now who are ready to make the jump to a factory team and deal with all of the pressure that comes with that type of support, and there are even less who are capable of challenging for the 250 title in 2023. Even for riders like Scott or Bryan, who had solid amateur careers and enter the pro class with a strong pedigree, year one in the pro class will be the most challenging racing years of their lives thus far. To go from winning or being near the front in the Intermediate class to fighting for your life for a top ten finish during 8 weekends in the summer is like night and day. The pro class as we’ve witnessed many times over the years will eat young riders alive and spit them out, and if you aren’t patient, strong minded, and have a long term plan, your chances of finding success are slim to none. But, like I said with Deegan earlier, you have to start somewhere as experience only comes with time.
Finally, we had a first-time event over the weekend as the Rimbey, AX took place out in Alberta. By all accounts this race was a big success and it runs again this coming weekend. Ryan Lockhart was there so I will be sure to ask him about the race in his weekly Matrix Concepts 3 Q’s on Friday. Well, that is it for me this week. I hope everyone has a great week and a heartfelt Valentine’s Day weekend ahead. If you have any comments, questions, or even story ideas please feel free to email me at email@example.com. There was a Facebook post over the weekend in the CMA Motocross in Ontario 1970’s and 80’s group that I have a great story about. The post was from 1989 and it was a letter written by Pat Bastedo to all of the Ontario CMA members asking for their thoughts on how to make motocross in Ontario better. I remember that letter and since I turned pro in late 1989 I remember that period in Ontario and Canadian moto quite well. So stay tuned and perhaps I’ll tell my story next week in this column. Have a great week and thank you for reading!