2021 Pro Motocross Championship
Round 3 – High Point
Images by Jeff Kardas
Following its first break of the 2021 season the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, returned to action with its East Coast debut from legendary High Point Raceway. The third round of the summer campaign marked the sport’s return to the famed Pennsylvania venue for the first time since 2019 with the GEICO Motorcycle High Point National, where the threat of rain loomed over the afternoon but never really materialised.
In the 450 Class a hard-fought, consistent afternoon was enough to put Monster Energy/Star/Yamaha Racing’s Dylan Ferrandis atop the podium for the second time this season.
In the 250 Class, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Jalek Swoll extended the parity in the division and broke through with his first professional victory as Jett Lawrence increased his lead in the 250 Championship.
Light precipitation was present when the gate dropped on the opening 450 Class moto, where Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Adam Cianciarulo prevailed with the MotoSport.com Holeshot ahead of Team Honda HRC’s Chase Sexton and Monster Energy/Star/Yamaha Racing’s Christian Craig, who soon gave up the position to Team Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen, the championship leader. As Cianciarulo sprinted out to an early lead the Honda teammates engaged in a battle for second place.
As the moto surpassed the 10-minute mark, the lead trio solidified their hold on those positions as Ferrandis gave chase from fourth. As the minutes continued to tick away the distance between the top three continued to shrink. Sexton soon closed in to within a couple bike lengths of Cianciarulo, but a mistake by Sexton not only caused the Honda rider to lose some ground, it forced Roczen into a mistake when he briefly went down and gave up third to Ferrandis.
With the threat defended, Cianciarulo gradually built a multi-second advantage over Sexton, who in turn built a comfortable margin over Ferrandis. As time ran out on the moto clock with just over three laps to go, Sexton tucked the front of his Honda and went down. As he looked to remount, both Ferrandis and Roczen were able to get by, which placed Sexton in fourth when he resumed. Out front, Cianciarulo looked to close out his first moto win of the season with ease but was dealt with one last obstacle as a slower rider went down exiting the final corner. With nowhere to go, Cianciarulo ran over the downed motorcycle and fell over. He kept his Kawasaki running, got up, and pushed his bike across the finish line to win in unconventional fashion. Ferrandis followed five seconds behind in second as Roczen rounded out the podium in third. Sexton recovered to finish fourth as Monster Energy/Star/Yamaha Racing’s Aaron Plessinger completed the top five.
450 Moto 2
The deciding 450 Class moto kicked off as Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/GASGAS Factory Racing’s Justin Barcia emerged with the MotoSport.com Holeshot out of a gaggle of bikes. He was quickly passed by Plessinger for the early lead, while Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac and Cianciarulo followed through. Cianciarulo put the hammer down and made an aggressive push that carried him all the way around Plessinger and into the lead. He continued to ramp up the pace and established a multi-second advantage after just two laps. Behind him, Tomac’s first opportunity to run at the front of the field in 2021 saw him surge around Plessinger into second to put the Kawasaki riders at the top of the running order.
As the battle up front took shape the class’ title contenders made moves as well, as Ferrandis worked his way from fourth and Roczen from sixth. Both riders were urgent in their push and successfully moved into third and fourth, respectively. By the time they finished their early charge, the Kawasaki team-mates were more than five-seconds ahead. From there, Ferrandis and Roczen went head-to-head for third and traded the position before Ferrandis got the upper hand and asserted control of the spot.
Up front, Tomac closed onto Cianciarulo’s rear fender and a battle for the lead ensued. Tomac was able to get by, but Cianciarulo fought back and reclaimed the position. However, Tomac didn’t give up and kept the pressure on. The two came together, which pushed Cianciarulo out of a rut and allowed Tomac to move into the lead for the first time this season.
Once out front Tomac started to build an advantage over his teammate and was soon in control of the moto. As the moto surpassed the 20-minute mark Cianciarulo found himself under pressure from Ferrandis and Roczen in third and fourth. All three riders then duked it out for second and used every inch of the track in search of an advantage. As the crowd cheered them on, both Ferrandis and Roczen bullied their way around Cianciarulo, who dropped from second to fourth. That thrilling sequence also changed the battle in the overall classification, as Ferrandis moved into control of the afternoon.
For Tomac it was a dominant ride indicative of his three-year championship run. He stormed to his first moto win of the season by 3.2 seconds over Ferrandis, who was able to fend off Roczen for the entirety of the moto.
Although he missed out on a moto win, Ferrandis’ consistency was enough to vault him to the second overall victory of the season and his career via 2-2 moto finishes. Cianciarulo’s drop off the podium in the final moto relegated him to the runner-up spot by a single point (1-4), while Tomac made his first appearance on the podium this summer in third (6-1), which bumped Roczen (3-3) off the podium via tie-breaker.
“What a race. I don’t know (what to say),” said Ferrandis. “I got a good start and was able to get by Ken (Roczen), which was good because he was so fast today. It was a war (after that). Ken kept pushing me and we were able to come to Adam (Cianciarulo). It was crazy how competitive it was with them. We were going so fast and the track was so difficult. It’s just amazing to get a win here today and get a hold of the red plate again.”
With the win Ferrandis also reclaimed control of the red plate as 450 Class point leader for the second time this season. He currently has a slim three-point advantage over Roczen, while Plessinger, who finished sixth on the afternoon (5-8) maintained his hold on third, 30 points out of the lead.
The first 250 Class moto of the day began with some light rain as Team Honda HRC’s Hunter Lawrence started at the head of the pack with the MotoSport.com Holeshot, followed by Swoll. The pair battled for the top spot throughout the opening lap, which allowed them to pull away from Monster Energy/Star/Yamaha Racing’s Justin Cooper in third. As they navigated down one of the track’s deep downhill sections Lawrence carried too much speed, pushed off the track and crashed, which dropped him to the tail end of the field. That moved Swoll into the lead, Cooper into second, and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s RJ Hampshire into third.
The top three sat within two seconds of one another as Hampshire started to push the pace from third. The Husqvarna rider methodically worked his way around Cooper for second and set his sights on his teammate out front. Swoll fended off several pass attempts, but Hampshire never relented and fought his way into the top spot. Behind them, Cooper tipped over and lost two positions, which moved Monster Energy/Star/Yamaha Racing’s Colt Nichols into third and Team Honda HRC’s Jett Lawrence, the point leader, into fourth.
The top three comfortably settled into their positions, each separated by multiple seconds, which appeared to put Hampshire on a path to his first moto win of the season. With a lead of nearly 10 seconds and less than five minutes left in the moto, the chain on Hampshire’s motorcycle broke and brought his race to an abrupt, heartbreaking conclusion. Swoll assumed the lead with less than three minutes to go in the 30-minutes-plus-two-laps moto and carried on to secure the first moto win of his career, 3.1 seconds ahead of Nichols in second, who equaled his best career moto result. Lawrence followed in third, with Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Jo Shimoda fourth and Cooper in fifth.
250 Moto 2
The final 250 Class moto of the afternoon began with Nichols out front with his first MotoSport.com Holeshot of the season, just ahead of Cooper, Swoll, and the Lawrence brothers. Cooper went on the attack early and got by his teammate to seize control of the lead as Swoll also pressured Nichols and moved into second just before the completion of the opening lap.
The clear track worked into Cooper’s favor as he established a multi-second margin in the early laps and managed the advantage. Behind him, the fight continued as Jett Lawrence marched his way forward. The Australian rider worked his way around Nichols for third and kept his head down in pursuit of Swoll. Soon enough the battle for second heated up as Swoll and Lawrence swapped spots several times before Lawrence finally got the upper hand.
Cooper never looked back and dominated the entire way to earn his first moto win of the season, one round after he relied on a pair of runner-up finishes to lock up his first overall victory of the summer. He took the checkered flag 4.3 seconds ahead of Lawrence in second, while Swoll capped off his breakthrough afternoon in third.
By virtue of his 1-3 finishes Swoll became the third different overall winner through three rounds in the 250 Class and also became the 87th different rider to earn a victory in the history of the division. It also signified the first podium finish for the Florida rider, whose career best result was seventh at the previous round.
“We had someone on our team pass away earlier this week, so to honor him with this (win) feels amazing,” said Swoll. “To get a win here in front of all these fans is incredible. My tongue was in the spokes, I was so tired, but I dug deep. I knew I could do this (win). We’ve put in so much work to have the opportunity to be here. I’m at a loss for words right now.”
Lawrence kept his stellar start to the season rolling with a third straight top-two finish in second (3-2), while Cooper wrapped up his third consecutive overall podium result in third (5-1).
With his finish ahead of Cooper in the overall classification Lawrence also added one point to his lead in the 250 Class standings, which currently sits at 11 points. Hunter Lawrence moved into third after an eighth-place finish (8-11) and currently sits 42-points out of the lead.
“I got into second and tried to put in a charge on Cooper, but noticed I wasn’t gaining much ground,” explained Jett Lawrence. “I realised I’d rather just settle in and ride for second rather than potentially lose more points. I’m not totally happy with my effort today, but we still finished second and had a good day in the championship.”
The Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship will take a break before a return to action on July 3 with the Twisted Tea RedBud National and American motocross’ Independence Day tradition.
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