With two minutes left on the clock during the opening round of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross season at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif., Chase Sexton experienced an all-too-familiar feeling.
Star Racing Yamaha’s Eli Tomac took Sexton high as the two rivals rounded the corner and plunged into the whoops section on the deteriorating track. The Honda HRC rider cleverly avoided a fall as he dropped down the berm, but Tomac secured the pass and went on to win the main event.
As the laps wound down, Red Bull KTM’s Cooper Webb also passed Sexton, leaving him to finish third.
“I wish I would’ve rode a lot better the last 10 minutes of that main event, but we’ll go back to work and work on it for next week,” Sexton said in the post-race press conference. “These guys are no slouch at that. They know how to ride rough tracks and that’s something that I’m still learning.”
Still, the No. 23 rider was positive with his takeaways and labeled Anaheim as a “solid day” for he and the team. With a 16-race stretch ahead, there is plenty of time to narrow in on mistakes and move toward improvement.
Heading into the season, all eyes were on Sexton to be the one to interrupt Tomac’s championship streak. The two battled each other all summer long in Pro Motocross, and though Tomac came away with the title, it was evident that Sexton had what it took to contend.
Tomac also clinched the Supercross championship last year.
“Winning one race last year wasn’t quite enough for me to be a contender and I had some mistakes,” Sexton said, referring his results from last season. But when it comes to being viewed as Tomac’s main rival, the 23-year-old called it refreshing. He added, “It’s definitely a position I’ve wanted to be in since I got on a 450.”
Sexton is in his third year of contention in the 450cc class. His rookie year, he finished 12th in the standings and later followed it up with a sixth-place result in 2022. His singular win in the 450 class came last year in San Diego.
As the series sets its sights on the Southern California city for this Saturday’s race, Sexton will have the chance to go back-to-back in San Diego and follow up his first win that came a year ago. Now that he’s had a taste of being back under the stadium lights, Sexton’s headed onward with a new direction on how to find his race-day groove again.
“Being back in a race setting was good for me,” Sexton said. “During the week, it’s so hard to make it the same kind of race day conditions, so for me, focusing and getting my mind in a better spot late in the race is the biggest thing.”
While it was clear he’ll be on the prowl for a better result the next go-round, Anaheim was also a test for the revised bike setup that Sexton has this season. In hindsight, he believes the Honda HRC team has taken a step in the right direction, compared to his setup last year.
“The bike is a lot different. I’ll come out here and say it. It’s not the same bike I rode last year in Supercross,” Sexton said. “This is the first year I’m actually looking forward to big whoops and hopefully they get gnarly.”
Gentle reminder: Be careful what you wish for.
The whoops await Sexton for Saturday’s Supercross round at SnapDragon Stadium.