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Images from Thunder Valley Motorcross Nationals taken in Lakewood, Colorado
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Triple Threat at Thunder Valley Pro Motocross

Jun 142022

In front of his home state fans, Colorado native Eli Tomac (Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha) came out blazing at the Lakewood Thunder Valley Raceway MX National, Round Three of 2022 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, presented by Monster Energy, catching and passing longtime rival Ken Roczen (Honda) in the opening 450 class moto to take the win. Then, in the second and decisive moto, Tomac rallied back from a sub-par start and raced his way up to 3rd place – which would have been enough for the overall victory (1st-3rd).

Only problem was that Tomac’s Monster Energy-backed cohort, 450 class point leader Chase Sexton (Honda), who was leading the second 450 moto, made a last lap mistake that not only cost Sexton a spot on the overall podium, the bobble allowed Roczen to sneak by for the win – giving him the overall 450 victory over Tomac on the day at Lakewood.

Tomac, a three-time MX Nationals champion, would take the situation in stride, acknowledging the crowd and saying “It’s always fun racing Ken (Roczen). We both raced each other really clean. Bummed I didn’t get the overall, but it was a good weekend for the Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha team.”

Sexton, for his part, got right to the point on the Moto 2 podium, saying: “It’s a bonehead mistake. That’s the last one I’ll make this season.”

Overall, on the weekend it was an incredible run for the Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha team. In addition to Tomac, the 250 team was led by Levi Kitchen’s opening moto victory and career-best 3rd place overall finish. As a whole, the team put four of its five racers in the top ten (Justin Cooper 4th, Matthew Leblanc 8th, and Nick Romano 10th). And had it not been for a Moto 2 crash that was not his fault, Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha’s Nate Thrasher (14th), who placed 8th in the opening 250 moto, could have also made the top ten.

And on the Monster Energy-backed Green Machines, Monster Energy/Kawasaki’s Jason Anderson was fast all weekend in the 450 class, placing 4th (3rd-6th) overall while his teammate, Joey Savatgy placed 9th (8th-9th). And on the 250s Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki was led by Jo Shimoda in 5th (7th-6th) and Seth Hammaker in 9th (5th-15th).

450 Moto 1

 

Sexton (1st) and Tomac (2nd) dominated the timed qualifying, with Sexton’s 2:14.509 being the only rider in the 2:14s. Anderson (4th) and Savatgy (6th) also ran well in the 450 qualifying for Monster Energy.

 

Anderson ripped a good start (4th) in the opening moto, and was in hot pursuit of early race leader Roczen and holeshot winner Antonio Cairoli (KTM). Anderson would make quick work of the multi-time World Champion Cairoli, then moved up onto 2nd place Justin Barcia (Gas Gas). Local Tomac would show the speed that’s allowed him to win four of six career 450 races at Thunder Valley, passing Sexton, then Cairoli – within two turns – to move into 4th place. At the 17:24 mark Anderson would power past Barcia for 2nd place, with Tomac onto Barcia – and past – soon thereafter. Right after the moto’s midway point, Sexton set the fast lap time with a blistering 2:17.5. As Tomac made his move to catch Anderson, the Kawasaki racer clipped one of the larger upright track markers and allowed Tomac to move in close. Two sections later Tomac was past Anderson and railing his YZ450F towards race leader Roczen. At the 7:37 (plus two laps) remaining mark Roczen had a 5.2 second lead on 2nd place Tomac. And at the 6:27 mark Tomac had cut that to just over three seconds (3.1), then 1.3 seconds with five minutes and two laps remaining. “Eli is just on one of those rides where he’s unstoppable,” commented race announcer Ricky Carmichael. And at the 4:48 mark Tomac set up and passed Roczen, cleanly, and put the hammer down for the 3.197 second victory. Anderson would place 3rd and Sexton 4th.

450 Moto 2

 

Off the start of the second 450 moto it’d be Anderson (4th) and Tomac (6th) towards the front for Monster Energy. Anderson would move into 3rd on lap one, then up to 2nd, past Cairoli, on lap four. With Tomac in 4th behind Anderson, Sexton made a mad charge into the top five from a 9th place start. At the 26:25 mark Anderson made a slight mistake and went down while he was pushing the pace chasing race leader Roczen. Sexton, who was flat out flying, would pass Tomac for 3rd, just 2.2 seconds back of 2nd place Cairoli. At the 21.53 mark Sexton would get past the nine-time World Champion, while Anderson got into a battle with three-time MX Nationals champion Ryan Dungey (KTM) for 7th place. At the race’s halfway point Sexton was onto Roczen, 1.1 seconds back of the former MX Nationals champion – and closing. Two laps into the second half of the race Sexton charged up onto his Honda teammate. There was some incidental contact, but both racers managed to stay upright and Sexton went on to take the lead. By the 9:41 mark Sexton was up 2.3 seconds on Roczen, with Tomac coming on strong – putting up a 2:17 lap to Sexton’s and Roczen’s 2:19s. An epic battle would ensue between Tomac and Roczen, bringing the Thunder Valley faithful to their feet to cheer on their fellow Coloradoan (Tomac). Tomac would snatch the lead from Roczen, only to have the German great take it right back. Knowing with Sexton comfortably up front he still had the overall, Tomac made one last run at Roczen on a downhill section – but blew out of his berm at the bottom and conceded 2nd place, keeping in mind his 1st-3rd would give him the overall win. Then, on the last lap, Sexton suffered a very minor get-off, where he quickly remounted – only to have Roczen blitz past him while he was righting his bike. Sexton would hold onto 2nd place in Moto 2, Tomac 3rd, Anderson 4th and Savatgy 9th.

250 Moto 1

 

Kitchen launched his YZ250F off the start and carried the lead on the uphill straight through the holeshot chalk line. Hot in pursuit was Cooper, pulling into 2nd place ahead of Stilez Robertson (Husqvarna). Kitchen, racing his first time at Thunder Valley Raceway, was on it, putting 2.185 seconds between him and Cooper by the end of lap one. Monster Energy had four other racers running in the top ten after lap one, including Hammaker (5th), Romano (6th), Leblanc (9th) and Shimoda (10th). Hammaker would soon pass Robertson for 4th, about the same time Jett Lawrence (Honda) got past Cooper for 2nd. Kitchen, who averaged 15th place starts in his first two pro MX National races (Fox Raceway & Hangtown), opened his lead to 4.6 seconds on Jett Lawrence. At the halfway point, with Kitchen up 5.5 second on Jett Lawrence and Cooper 5.9 seconds back of Lawrence in 3rd, Hammaker and Hunter Lawrence (Honda) engaged in a fierce battle for 4th. Shimoda would move up to 7th with a pass on Jalek Swoll (Husqvarna). Towards the end of the contest Jett Lawrence realized he wasn’t going to catch Kitchen, backed his pursuit down a click, and settled in to his eight-second deficit. Hammaker would place a career-best 5th in Moto 1, while Thrasher would managed to fight his way through the pack to 8th, Romano in 9th and Leblanc in 10th.

250 Moto 2

 

Cooper pulled a great start, 3rd, then quickly moved to 2nd past Jett Lawrence. Hammaker gets out in 6th, Shimoda 7th and Kitchen a disappointing 9th following his opening moto holeshot and race lead. Hammaker would overshoot a corner and crash into Thrasher, with Kitchen going down in the melee as well. Monster Energy’s Shimoda and Leblanc would take advantage of the situation, moving into 5th and 6th, respectively. Kitchen would bounce back and, despite the effects of being ill, thin air at elevation and extreme heat, moved from 11th to 8th quickly. Kitchen then caught, and passed, Robertson for 7th. At the 15:42 mark Kitchen would get past Shimoda to the outside on an uphill stair step section, and moving into 5th place. Nearing the end of the contest Cooper settled in to 3rd place, Kitchen in 5th and Shimoda in 6th and that’s how they’d finish Moto 2.

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