Solid 450 Debut for Sexton at Loretta Lynn’s AMA Pro Motocross Opener2020-08-17 02:07
After a COVID-19-related delay, the 2020 AMA Pro Motocross series kicked off this weekend at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, where Team Honda HRC’s Chase Sexton made his premier-class debut, qualifying fastest and finishing eighth overall via a 13-3 moto tally. Sexton battled for the lead in both motos, running as high as third in the first outing before falls eventually set him back to 13th. He proved his speed in moto two, battling at the front and finishing on the podium, for eighth overall.
Christian Craig was thwarted by poor starts and a hard moto-two crash. He finished 14th in both races for the same position overall.
This was the first AMA Pro Motocross National for Loretta Lynn’s Ranch, the facility known for hosting the annual AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship, which took place the previous week. For this event, minor layout adjustments were made to add length and technicality to the course.
The Ranch won’t have to wait nearly as long for its second AMA Pro National, as next week’s race–originally slated to take place in Washougal, Washington–has been moved to the Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, track. It will be the first time a circuit has hosted back-to-back National rounds.
After a dry week of racing for the AMA Amateur Nationals, the Ranch experienced a couple days of intermittent thunderstorms leading up to race day, leaving the course wet and muddy. The track proved to be extremely challenging for the pros, due to the rutted, technical conditions.
Compared to the AMA Supercross series, concluded just under two months ago in Salt Lake City, the AMA Pro Motocross season sees Team Honda HRC presenting an entirely new rider lineup. Chase Sexton was promoted to the factory squad midyear following his second-straight 250SX East Region title, while Christian Craig is filling in for Ken Roczen for the entire series. Craig has served as a substitute rider for the team several times in the past, most recently in 2018. The pair know each other well from their time together at GEICO Honda.
The team arrived in Nashville on Thursday, and mechanics began working out of the trucks (which had arrived a week earlier) in their designated paddock location. The trucks will remain in place this week for round two.
The State of Tennessee did not require all event attendees to be tested for COVID-19, although everyone needed to pass a health screening prior to entering the premises. Event rules also dictated the use of face masks for all non-riders at all times.
New rules regarding rider assistance were developed to allow social distancing, including only one mechanic and one team representative per rider allowed at the podium area.
To align with local government and health officials, only 5,000 tickets were available for the event.
Sexton posted the fastest lap during morning qualifying, with a 1’58.840” time in the final session. Craig had the 10th-best time, at 2’03.073”.
GEICO Honda’s Jeremy Martin was fast in the 250 class, with 2-3 moto results giving him third overall. The Minnesota native had to come from behind in both outings. Teammate Jett Lawrence was also competitive, earning sixth overall, with Carson Mumford, Jo Shimoda and Hunter Lawrence earning 13th, 16th and 17th overall, respectively.
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Chase Sexton 23
"This weekend was pretty good. I qualified first, which was a good confidence booster. In the first moto I came from 11th to third on the first lap and then I ran up there for probably half the race. I ended up going down and then from there on it kind of just went downhill; I fell about four or five times, so definitely not a great moto, but I showed I had a good speed. In the second moto I had a good start and was running third. Then Adam [Cianciurulo] fell, and I got into second but kind of got freight-trained by Eli [Tomac], [Jason] Anderson and [Marvin] Musquin. I just got on the back of those guys and made a run, getting Anderson and Musquin back which was good, and ended up third. I went 13-3 for eighth, but overall I showed really good speed and I'm happy with how it went."
Christian Craig 62
"The weekend started off pretty good when I qualified 10th. The track was super muddy in the beginning. I went into the first moto pretty confident in myself, but unfortunately I got off to a bad start and had to make my way through the pack. It was already pretty hot out there, so it took a lot of my energy to get up to where I was. Unfortunately, that was only 14th, but I went into the second moto refueled and ready to go. I had a better start and was making passes early on, but me and another rider got together and we both went down. Then when I was getting up I got hit by another rider. It was nobody’s fault, just an unfortunate mishap on both of our parts. After that I just wanted to salvage what I could, and I came back to 14th again. My goals are to be inside the top 10, so we’ll try again here next weekend.
"I think it was a solid day for Chase. He rode really hard and went from about 11th to fourth in a couple laps. I think he put out too much effort in the first part of that race; his nerves got to him and he hit the ground a few times. In the second moto he had a way better start and rode to his full capabilities. I think he learned a lot from the experience today, coming to grips with the 450. Christian’s starts hurt him today. He was in the back and couldn’t get out of all the mayhem going on back there. He just needs to work on his starts and get better there. We’ll work with the guys and come back stronger next weekend.”
Mechanic (Chase Sexton)
“Practice today for Chase was pretty good in the second qualifier. The first moto started off good, but didn’t end the best like we wanted. In the second moto, he rode phenomenally, like the Chase that I know, so it was a good start to the season and hopefully we keep making progress.”
Source: Honda Racing Corporation
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