Lawrence strikes first in Houston 250SX East season-opener
Tomac overcomes Sexton speed to win again in 450SX main event.
Australian Hunter Lawrence managed to strike first in the Houston round of 2023 Monster Energy Supercross, marking the season-opening round of 250SX East, while Eli Tomac won his third 450SX main event of the year.
Racing for his first time on American soil, Tom Vialle (Red Bull KTM) led the first lap, before Lawrence soon rode into the lead and took charge from there.
Apart from Vialle, debuting rookies Chance Hymas (Team Honda HRC) and Haiden Deegan (Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing) displayed early brilliance before dropping back. At the same time, Jordon Smith (Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing), Nate Thrasher (Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing) and Jeremy Martin (Muc-Off FXR ClubMX Yamaha) moved forward.
With Lawrence leading and Max Anstie (Fire Power Honda) in second, Smith held third despite a fall in the sand, while a worse fall for Thrasher in the same area dropped him to 15th at the end.
Holding off a charge from TLD Red Bull GasGas rider Michael Mosiman, Deegan benefitted from a last-lap fall for Martin to finish fourth on debut after Lawrence, Anstie, and Smith earned podium positions less than three seconds ahead.
Martin recovered for fifth ahead of Mosiman, Vialle, Hymas, Cullin Park (Phoenix Racing Honda) and late Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki fill-in rider Chris Blose in the top 10.
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna graduate Talon Hawkins was 11th, just up the track from Coty Schock (Phoenix Racing Honda), who salvaged a 12th-place result after being questionable to participate in the LCQ. It will be Lawrence who holds the red plate heading to Tampa next Saturday, 11 February.
Points leader Eli Tomac rebounded from a violent crash during the Anaheim 2 Triple Crown to come out on top in Houston, holding off a race-long charge from Chase Sexton.
Tomac was first to the ultra-tight 180-degree opening corner inside NRG Stadium following the gate drop with Aaron Plessinger (Red Bull KTM), Justin Barcia (TLD Red Bull GasGas), Adam Cianciarulo (Monster Energy Kawasaki), Cooper Webb (Red Bull KTM), and Sexton (Team Honda HRC) in tow.
Plessinger put early pressure on Tomac, with Anderson and Sexton emerging as the other primary contenders.
With 16m37s to go, Dylan Ferrandis (Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing) partly landed on the back of Ken Roczen’s Progressive Insurance Ecstar Suzuki and was knocked unconscious as he violently hit the ground. The former 250SX regional champion stood under his own power and was helped toward a medical vehicle, seemingly uninjured but wearing a neck brace.
A staggered start saw the pre-existing battles start back up. Anderson quickly got by Plessinger for second on the first green-flag lap before Sexton passed the KTM rider for third a lap later. Sexton closed within a second of the lead with just over five minutes remaining, but his charge stalled as he settled for second.
Tomac closed out his third main event victory of the 2023 Monster Energy Supercross season, pulling ahead to a seven-point lead over Sexton in the 450SX standings as the series heads further east to Tampa, Florida.
Anderson and Plessinger held on for third and fourth while Webb completed the top five. Barcia ended the night in sixth, just ahead of Cooper, who put in a prolific late-race charge to earn seventh in his 450SX debut. Roczen, Joey Savatgy (Rick Ware Racing), and Cianciarulo recovered from minor mistakes in the closing minutes to comprise the remainder of the top 10.