FeaturesMonday Gate Drop

The Monday Gate Drop Presented By Yamaha Motor Canada

Greetings once again from sunny Florida. As I mentioned last week, my family and I have been staying in Ocala, Florida for just over a week, and so far everything has been going great. Last weekend, we travelled over to Daytona for the Supercross, and this past week has been mostly about riding and training. Well, my son has been riding and training, while I’ve just been riding our Marin road bicycle. It’s been a fun a week so far, and tomorrow we head up to GPF for two days before heading back home to Ontario.

On Saturday, the 2024 Monster Energy Supercross travelled to a new market in Birmingham, Alabama, and by all accounts the event was a success. Rain and cool weather were a factor all weekend long, but the track crew did a great job covering the track on Friday, and then keeping it raceable throughout Saturday. In anticipation of heavy rain on Saturday, the crew also made some track modifications. The traditional whoop section was changed to a straight of just single jumps, and the triple was turned into a shorter double. Thankfully, the heavy rain that was forecasted for Saturday stayed away from the Birmingham area, and track remained pretty good all day long. Yes, it was soft and rutted, and the riders had challenging conditions in the main events, but it could have been a lot worse. Also, for a first time event, the crowd looked decent, and some of the riders expressed their satisfaction with the venue and the local area. Good on the series for trying a new market and making it a success.

Chase Sexton had the speed to win in Birmingham, but he didn’t get the start in the 450SX main event.

On the track, the racing was as intense as ever.  The riders didn’t just have to battle each other, but also the challenging track conditions. In the 450SX class, the main event once again belonged to Jett Lawrence as he took the lead from the start and never looked back. Unfortunately, the cameras didn’t show Jett a lot during the race, as there were multiple battles behind him. I personally would’ve loved to have watched Jett navigate the ruts for 20 minutes. Right now, he’s as good as there is when the conditions get challenging. Last weekend, he made the Daytona track look somewhat normal, and this weekend he did the same in Birmingham. Not since Jeremy McGrath have we witnessed a rider with as much balance and precision as Jett Lawrence. In the past few weeks he has separated himself from the rest of the 450SX field, not just with regards to points, but he’s also gained the mental advantage over some very talented past champions. Jett is the rider to beat, and considering the series is heading to Indy this weekend, and another track that is usually soft and rutted, he has to be the favourite to take another win.

Racing in his first full year in the 450SX class Cooper has been a pleasant surprise.

Another rider who impressed me in the 450SX class on Saturday night was Justin Cooper. This is Justin’s first full year in the 450SX class, and he’s certainly making the most of it. He’s qualified first a couple of times in 2024, so you know he has the raw speed to run up front. In Daytona, he led his heat race for a few laps, another sign of some serious speed. Then, on Saturday he got off to a great start in the main event and battled hard for a solid 5th place finish. It’s too bad that Chase Sexton wasn’t able to find his way around Justin early in the main event, as I think at one point Sexton had the speed to run down Lawrence for the lead. However, that is racing and Justin Cooper deserves a lot of credit for not caving under pressure. With talk that several of the old guards are set to retire at the end of 2024 (Tomac, Cianciarulo, perhaps even Barcia), and riders like Webb and Roczen not far behind, it’s up to a few of these young riders, like Justin Cooper, to step up and get ready to carry the torch.

Tom Vialle is on a roll and he’s going to be tough to stop in the 250SX East Series.

In the 250SX East class, there was also a repeat winner as Tom Vialle made it two in a row with a win in Birmingham. The layout and condition of the track definitely suited Vialle, as he loves ruts, and hates whoops. In the main event, he got out front early and was never challenged. The PC Kawasaki duo of McAdoo and Hammaker finished second and third, as they also did a week ago. This series is tight and I think it’s going to go down to the final round. Vialle has a ton of confidence, McAdoo is trying to win, but also trying to make it through the series healthy, Hammaker is going fast and deserves a win here soon, Deegan is riding injured, and after his behaviour on Saturday, it appears as though he’s struggling to deal with his slightly diminished confidence. After a strong rookie season last year, 2024 has been anything but a walk in the park for young Deegs. He came into the 250SX East Series with an injured wrist, he crashed in the first turn at the opening round, he got handed the win in Arlington after Forkner crashed, he was forced to eject mid-air in practice at Daytona and injured his tail bone. In the Daytona main event his riding was mediocre compared to the leaders, and then this weekend he struggled right from the opening lap of practice. As I said, he’s definitely injured, and that has hampered his raw speed and aggression. But, Deegan is proving that when things don’t go right he tends to turn things into a bit of sideshow. A lot of top riders have struggled through their sophomore season as it’s the first time they’ve faced the real pressure of pro racing. However, it’s how you deal with the adversity that sets you aside from the rest of the pack. Obviously, Deegan is still young and has a lot of maturing to do, both physically and mentally. Also, I think the series has put him on a pedestal that he wasn’t ready for. It will be interesting to see how he handles these next few weeks, especially if he continues to struggle.

The Lawrence Compound is very cool with two SX tracks, an outdoor track, as well as a go-kart track.

The race shop does the job perfectly. Dylan Wright’s spot in the shop is located just behind us in this photo.

As I mentioned at the top, this past week we’ve been driving around and riding a few different tracks in Florida. We spent two days riding at the Waldo MX track, we went to Croom once, and we also rode at the very fun Bostwick Creek MX track. It’s been a great trip so far, and one of the other memorable things we did last week was stop by the Lawrence Brothers Compound to visit Dylan Wright. Their training facility is located just outside of Dade City, and as most of you know, it’s actually Chad Reed’s old track. As you can imagine, from the moment we drove through the gate we could feel the history and cool-factor in the air. Dylan started training here last year so he is very comfortable, and well-liked by everyone there. Sadly, Jett and Hunter weren’t there, but we did get to meet and watch Chance Hymas spin some laps on one of the two SX tracks. Dylan was of course, training on the massive outdoor track there, and after watching him complete a 32 minute moto, I came to the conclusion that it could be the most challenging practice track I have ever seen. It has the perfect mixture of sand, clay, roughness, and big jumps. Dylan looked in mid-season form aboard his GDR Honda CRF450R, so it was fun to watch him ride. Famed two-stroke rider and Red Bull athlete Carson Brown was also riding as he was preparing for the Day in the Dirt South event just down the road at the Dade City MX track. We had a great day meeting everyone and seeing the facility where our Champ is training for the 2024 season. Tomorrow, we head to GPF where we’ll get to watch the KTM Canada Team ride, as well as the WLTN Kawasaki Team.

In some news, Jorge Prado won the opening round of the 2024 MXGP Championships in Argentina on the weekend. At the Red Bull Day in the Dirt South event at Dade City MX, both Tyler Medaglia and Wyatt Kerr won their classes. Tyler is of course riding for the GDR Honda Team in 2024, while Kerr is making a strong comeback from the serious injuries he suffered last summer in Calgary. Also, going back to the Birmingham SX, Tyler Gibbs rode better than he did last weekend in Daytona, but he still failed to qualify for the 250SX East main event. I know Tyler well and I know what he’s capable of, especially on a SX track. So, my feeling is that so far in this series he’s underachieving. I can understand his result in Arlington as it was his first-ever USA SX race. I can also understand his results in Daytona as conditions were tough, and the Daytona SX is an event that you almost need to ride once just to see what it’s like. Then come back the following year and be much more comfortable. But, this past weekend, and heading into the next few weeks is where Tyler needs to start getting some good results. I don’t mean start making main events on a regular basis, that’s a big ask in that class. I just mean start coming close to making the main event. I feel like Tyler should be inside the top ten in the LCQ and within sight of the final transfer spot. I know so much of finding success in SX comes from your start, but Tyler is a good starter so there is no reason he shouldn’t be finishing better. Good luck to Tyler and his Creo KTM Team this weekend in Indianapolis.

Well, that is it for me this week. I hope everyone has a great week and a fun March break. We plan to make the most of our final few days in Florida before making our way back to Ontario. Thank you for reading and if you have any questions or comments, please email me at www.editor@mxpmag.com.

Chris Pomeroy

1989 Rookie-of-the-year and former nationally ranked pro racer who turned into a dirt oriented scribe

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