By Justin Schuoler, Staff Writer
A wild Monster Energy AMA Supercross season comes to a close in Salt Lake City with Cooper Webb, Justin Cooper and Colt Nichols winning their titles. With the new Tuesday night races and a slightly tweaked schedule with differing tracks, riders took advantage of the new terrain to earn their first 250SX career wins, such as both Lawrence brothers, Cameron McAdoo, Seth Hammaker, Nate Thrasher and Jo Shimoda. The big rookie duo of Dylan Ferrandis and Chase Sexton proved to be future champion contenders in the 450SX class with both earning their first career podium finishes. In fact, Sexton was leading in a few events before a couple late race issues kept him from the center step.
The two-wheel phenoms now shift their focus from within the arena to the outer realms of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship. Everyone above is looking to continue their strong overall 2021 season when Round 1 begins at Fox Raceway in Pala, CA on May 29. The 12-race schedule will prove Motocross’ demand for endurance and high-speed control from riders, compared to the shorter sprints and technical tracks of Supercross.
Supercross Season Injured Cianciarulo and Forkner Seek Motocross Redemption
For some of these riders, injuries kept them from achieving indoor goals in Supercross. Their sights are set for high goals come Memorial Day weekend. Austin Forkner is no different. After three victories in the 2020 250SX West schedule and a third place finish in the final points standings, he was poised for a solid championship run. A hard crash in Houston 3 ended that goal when the fall resulted in a broken collarbone and forced the 22-year old out for the remainder of the indoor season.
“It’s not the end of the world,” said the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki rider to Racer X. “It’s another injury and more missed races and another possibly missed championship, or whatever. That’s the truth. I’m definitely motivated for the outdoors. I’m definitely ready to get back to racing and, honestly, to just get through an outdoor season again. It’s been a while since I’ve even raced outdoors, so I’m excited just to be able to do that! I want to win.”
Adam Cianciarulo has a similar redemption story unfolding. In his sophomore 450SX season, the Monster Energy Kawasaki rider had a strong start with four of the first six races in the top-five, including a podium at Houston 3. He set himself up for a strong run at the championship podium, but his crash at Orlando 2 sidelined the Florida native for the rest of the Supercross season. Another broken collarbone claims the season of another rider’s 2021 indoor year.
“To be frank—the last six months or so have been super tough,” Cianciarulo said on Instagram. “Not stoked on it. That said, life will always have its challenges and I feel my job is to attack those challenges with the best attitude possible. Excited to get back out there soon.”
Supercross Rookie Sensations, Part 2 in Outdoor Motocross
Then there are standout rookies like 450SX Ferrandis and Sexton, as well as 250SX Hammaker who won earlier this year in Arlington 1. All three had fantastic seasons with podiums, top fives and respectable championship positions. As the season shifts outdoors, riders like Hammaker build on a successful indoor victory for a boosted morale outdoors.
“(I’m more comfortable with) an outdoor setup,” shared Hammaker after his victory in Texas.
But last year, the Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki rider missed out on the 2020 Loretta Lynn’s Amateur National Championship after being diagnosed with Epstein-Barr Virus. It also prevented him from competing in what would have been his rookie season in Pro Motocross. The wise decision of taking time to heal led him to a healthy 2021 250SX Rookie of the Year honors and fourth overall in points.
“Pumped with how my rookie season went. I learned a lot. Getting a win and being on the podium a couple times was awesome and also making mistakes and learning from it for next year. Thankful to be healthy and make all the rounds.”
In the 450 class, Ferrandis stayed healthy and smart to earn Rookie of the Year honors in the top division, but it didn’t come as a fluke. Sexton had strong finishes throughout the year when he was riding, and kept Ferrandis honest. The triple-header in Atlanta and the finals in Salt Lake City showcased the two rookies as the future of the 450 class. Sexton led laps in Atlanta and Ferrandis earned back-to-back fourth place finishes. Our earlier assessment led to a tough conclusion with Sexton’s injuries, but admittedly will still be fun to sit back and watch the two grow and develop over the years.
“Like I said in the past, it’s the first year at Star Racing team with the 450,” said the Monster Energy Star Yamaha Racing competitor. “So everybody is just learning the bike, learning the program, learning how a 450 works. It’s hard. So many good guys, just getting a good start is so difficult. Everybody is learning.
“Every time I’m not on the podium I’m not really satisfied. For sure, Orlando was good that we could see that I still had the speed, and the bike was working great. (Atlanta 3) was the same. We still see that physically and the speed was there. It’s kind of the light at the end of the tunnel. I ride for wins. Until I’m on the podium, I’m not really happy.”
Indoor Champions Gear Up for Outdoor Competition
After a brief four weeks of celebrations, three champions are looking to claim more titles for their resume in Pro Motocross. With his second 450 Supercross championship, Webb now holds the honor of being the only rider with multiple indoor championships. That gives him the best momentum with this break going into the outdoor season.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Webb after Salt Lake City 2. “ I’m only 25, so I feel like I have plenty of good years left. I never expected to be in this situation, especially as an amateur or as a kid. To be at the high of the sport and the top of the leaderboard is unbelievable. It’s something that I cherish, and I’ll do my best to represent our sport in the best way possible. That feeling of winning is just addicting. That’s what we strive for and that’s what I chase. Hopefully, we can keep at it.”
And keep at it he can do. He already has a victory in 450 Motocross, and a 2016 championship with 19 victories in 250MX.
“Honestly, I just wanted to win the season on a high,” the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider continued. “In 2019 I won my championship and the nerves were high and all day I was just stressed out. I feel like I just learned from it and wanted to have fun throughout the day and enjoy it. It’s not every day that you get to win a 450 championship, so just enjoying the little things and not changing course throughout the day.”
Webb isn’t the only champion looking forward to the high speed outdoors. Monster Energy Star Yamaha Racing swept the 250 Supercross championships with Cooper and Nichols crowned in the West and East respectively.
“It felt pretty good,” shared Nichols. “Didn’t really hit me until I was rolling through the rhythm there at the end. 250 East Coast Supercross champion, that’s a pretty damn cool feeling. It’s something I don’t want to forget. I want to come back and try to do that again next year. That’s going to be the goal.”
“It feels so damn good to wrap this thing up,” Cooper declared after the East champion. “It just takes so much pressure off. I really put a lot of pressure on myself to get it done this year. Been runner-up the last couple years. To really just get it done is awesome. It’s awesome for the team, and we can start getting ready for next year.”
And between the three, when that bonus check hits his bank accounts, Webb has an idea of what he’ll be buying up.
“Maybe a boat.”
Cover image by Align Media