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Eli Tomac sweeps Fox Raceway, wins fourth 450 Motocross title

Eli Tomac on Saturday celebrates winning the 450 Motocross at Fox Raceway in Pala, California, and winning the 2022 title in the Lucas Oil AMA Pro motocross Championship series. (Star Racing Yamaha)
Chase Sexton stalls in Moto 1 and falls in Moto 2, but rallies to finish second

Eli Tomac of Cortez on Saturday passed Chase Sexton for the late lead in the first moto and staged a comeback in the second to sweep the 450cc races at Fox Raceway and win his fourth AMA Pro Motocross championship.

Tomac entered Fox Raceway in Pala, California, with a one-point lead over Sexton in the series standings, 496-495. The win in Moto 1 gave him a four-point lead heading into the second moto of the day and the final moto of the season.

“It was a perfect day,” Tomac said, “1-1 in practice, and then 1-1 in the motos. It didn’t go without drama. In Moto 1, I had to sit behind Chase for half a moto there, and then was able to make the pass in the bigger rollers. And then was able to just kind of ride to the front of the race and stay there.”

Neither victory seemed assured.

“There was no gift in the day at all,” Tomac told Swapmoto Live. “It was tough.”

Moto 1: A two-man race

Sexton and Tomac went to the front in the first lap in Moto 1. Justin Barcia was third, and Christian Craig and Benny Bloss filled out the top five.

Jason Anderson, Ryan Dungey and Ken Roczen were moving up from the back into the middle of the field of 40 riders after a series of crashes in Turn 2..

As riders began to settle into form in Lap 3, Tomac ran his fastest lap of the young race to pull within 1.354 seconds of Sexton, but Sexton countered to pull ahead by 2 seconds. Barcia, 16 seconds off the pace, gave way to Christian Craig for third place in Lap 5.

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Again, it was a two-man race.

Sexton maintained a lead until the ninth lap, as Tomac began to pressure him amid lapped riders.

Sexton “bobbled,” and Tomac took the lead with about four laps to go. Although Sexton attempted to counter-attack, he appeared to stall his bike and dropped back by nearly 2 seconds with two laps to go.

Tomac eased off the throttle and crossed the finish line 1.54 seconds ahead for the Moto 1 win and a four-point lead over Sexton in the standings.

Craig was third, and Anderson was fourth. Barcia was fifth.

“That was a huge moto for me mentally and in bringing confidence into Moto 2,” Tomac said.

Moto 2: A comeback

In the second moto, Tomac got off to a slow start and was in eighth place after one lap. Craig ran out in front, with Anderson and Sexton in tow.

However, Sexton fell twice early and dropped to eighth in Lap 2. Tomac slipped by him and advanced into fourth place behind Ryan Dungey, about 7.354 seconds off Anderson’s pace at the front.

Dungey went down in the fourth lap, giving Tomac third place. Sexton battled back to fourth place, about 7 seconds behind Tomac.

Again, a Tomac-Sexton race for the title resumed.

Tomac passed Yamaha teammate Craig for second place in Lap 6, and immediately moved on Anderson for the lead in Lap 7. Sexton went down briefly but remained in fourth place, 10 seconds off the lead but gaining on the Craig as the four front-runners began to bunch up.

Eli Tomac of Cortez on Saturday was the fastest qualifier heading into the final round of the 2023 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship series. (Star Racing Yamaha)

Tomac won a back-and-forth battle for the lead with Anderson, but Sexton, still charging despite three crashes, passed Craig in Lap 8 and began to close on Anderson for second place.

Then, Sexton, still running the fastest laps in the field, passed Anderson in Lap 10 for second place, 6.218 seconds behind Tomac with less than three laps to go.

Tomac countered a Sexton charge with a fast lap in Lap 11 to put distance between the two rivals, and crossed the finish line 9.211 seconds ahead of Sexton for the victory, the two-moto sweep and the season title.

Sexton again was second. He was followed by Anderson, Craig and Dungey.

“My start was OK,” Tomac said, “and then I went into Turn 3 and got shuffled back a couple of spots, and that knda hurt me, and for who was in front – Jason (Anderson) was up there, and obviously Chase (Sexton),” he said.

However, he said he capitalized on Sexton’s “bobble,” got the the front, had a “good battle” with Anderson. “He stalled, and I was able to get around him,” Tomac said.

A fast start

Earlier Saturday, Tomac was the fastest qualifier as racers lined up for the final round in the 2023 Pro Motocross Championship series, and a day of racing that would determine the winner in the tight race for the 450cc title.

He claimed the pole position with a best lap of 2 minutes, 24.345 seconds. Kawasaki’s Jason Anderson, of Rio Rancho, New Mexico, was second-fastest, at 2:24.718. Honda’s Sexton of La Moille, Illinois, was third at 2:25.149.

The two motos Saturday were shortened by five minutes each because of excessive heat. The high temperature reached 90 degrees Fahrenheit at 9 a.m., and 100 degrees by 10:30 a.m. An excessive-heat warning was in effect in San Diego Valley, and forecasters feared the high would top 105 degrees.

A rivalry for the ages

The races at Fox Raceway wrapped up one of the sport’s greatest season rivalries and signaled a possible changing of the guard in the AMA Motocross racing.

Tomac was looking for his fourth overall 450cc Motocross title, and Sexton, his first, in a rivalry that brought all the one-two intensity of a championship bout between Mohammad Ali and Joe Frazier or a Triple Crown horse race between Affirmed and Alydar.

Sexton, who gave Tomac all he could handle this season, lined up Saturday at Fox after winning eight of the 22 motos this season and placing second in 12. Tomac, looking more like the favorite, won 12 of the 22 motos and placed second in five.

Reflecting the dominance of the Tomac-Sexton rivalry, the season’s third-best rider, Anderson, won just one moto and placed second in just two.

“What was cool about the whole season itself, there was never any ... whatever. It was just clean racing, respectable racing. I had a lot of fun doing it. ... I’ve got nothing but respect for Chase.”

It all could become a slice of history next year.

Tomac has indicated that the 2022 AMA Motocross season could be his last. And although Sexton seems a likely contender to Tomac’s throne in Motocross, last year’s rookie winner, Dylan Ferrandis, Tomac’s teammate on Star Racing Yamaha, appears eager to get back to racing after being sidelined much of the season by injury. Anderson also waits in the wings for Kawasaki.

About a week before Tomac was named best Men’s Action Sports athlete during the 29th annual ESPY Awards, Tomac told Vital MX that he had not signed a new contract with Yamaha, casting doubt on the 2023 motocross season.

“It is looking more likely, probably, my last motocross … unless a lot of things change,” Tomac said. “What I signed was Supercross only for next year, so that’s what I have on paper. I think it’s the last one.”

What’s ahead?

Tomac still has more racing to do.

Tomac will make a wildcard appearance at the debut of the World Supercross British Grand Prix as some of the sports’ top riders prepare to line up in Wales this fall.

Tomac will be joined by Ken Roczen of Germany.

The World Supercross Championship and SX Global of Australia will be held at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, on Oct. 8 and will be called the British Grand Prix.

“It’s a huge opportunity for fans in the UK to witness world championship supercross for the first time, and I’m excited to be part of such a historical moment for the sport,” Tomac said in a news release.

Tomac, Sexton and Justin Cooper also have confirmed they will represent the United States in the 2022 Motocross of Nations at the Redbud track in Buchanan, Michigan. Tomac and Sexton were selected for the 450cc slots, and Cooper narrowly beat Star Racing Yamaha teammate Christian Craig for the 250cc position.

And the 2023 Supercross season starts in January. Beginning next year, Feld Motor Sports Inc. and MX Sports Pro Racing will form the SuperMotocross World Championship. The alliance plans to create a Motocross and Supercross championship with a $10 million purse, the biggest in either sport’s history.

2022 Final AMA Motocross standings
1. Eli TomacYamaha546
2. Chase SextonHonda539
3. Jason AndersonKawasaki440
4. Ken RoczenHonda394
5. Christian CraigYamaha373
6. Ryan DungeyKTM359
7. Aaron PlessingerKTM322
8. Justin BarciaGAS303
9. Joseph SavatgyKawasaki222
10. Shane McElrathHusqvarna213