SEXTON’S TITLE IN WAITING!
It’s a rarity that we head into the final event of the 17-round AMA Supercross Championship with a champion not already crowned. But this weekend, at the final round of the 2023 SX season at Salt Lake City, we do. Well, we kind of do. Actually, we don’t.
Huh? What the hell?
As a result of Eli Tomac’s heart wrenching injury while leading last week’s Main event – a turn of events that deprived Tomac of an almost certain third AMA 450SX title win – Chase Sexton has amassed a 7-, 42- and 43-point lead over Tomac, Cooper Webb and Ken Roczen, respectively, in the 450SX class standings. And with just 25 more points up for grabs in the series (and both Tomac and Webb sidelined through injury), that makes Sexton’s points lead unassailable, right? Right!
So how come Sexton and Honda weren’t celebrating last weekend in Denver, when we were already privy to that math? Why were the broadcast’s commentators, Leigh Diffey and Ricky Carmichael, referring to Sexton as the “Champion Elect”. Why no awkward AMA handover of the No.1 plate?
Well, for one, it seemed to be out of respect to Tomac. No one likes to win a championship title through another rider’s horrendous misfortune – especially when he was leading the race, looked like extending his 18-point lead over Sexton, and was doing all that in front of his home crowd in Colorado. But there’s an AMA protocol issue at play here too. The AMA has confirmed they won’t officially crown Sexton until after Saturday night’s season finale in SLC – we assume, just in case something totally unpredictable plays out this weekend (Tomac miraculously recovers, races, and claws back more than 7 points on Sexton, for example). Thoroughly improbable, but not impossible.
In any case, on the presumption that Sexton is awarded with the AMA 450SX No.1 plate on Saturday night, check out the significance of the title win for both Sexton and Honda….
- Sexton is 23 years old, wears the #23 plate, and will win his first 450SX title in 2023.
- Honda is the 450SX class’ winningest brand (with 227 victories, ahead of Kawasaki’s 184), and yet they have not won the 450SX title in 20 long years (since Ricky Carmichael in 2002!).
- But Honda’s 20-season-long champion-less streak isn’t a record. Suzuki takes that ‘gong’ for their 23-season champion-less streak from 1982 to 2004.
So, as tough as it was for everyone to witness Eli Tomac exit the series in such dramatic fashion last weekend, you can’t take anything away from Chase Sexton. In spite of several unforced crashes – for which he’s copped a lot of criticism – Sexton has managed to keep himself in the title hunt. He’s clearly been the fastest 450SX rider this year and he’s strung together a bunch of emphatic late-season wins. No doubt, many will say he simply inherited the No.1 plate, but the real story of season 2023 and Chase Sexton’s title win is much more layered than that.