Eli Tomac picks up where he left off; earns first win in Supercross Round 1 at Anaheim

2023 Supercross Anaheim
2023 Supercross Anaheim

In one of the most thrilling opening races in years, the 2023 Monster Energy Supercross season got underway with Eli Tomac picking up where he left off in 2022 by winning at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California.

In a topsy turvey race that featured five lead changes, Cooper Webb survived to finish second with Chase Sexton taking the final spot on the podium.

Dylan Ferrandis in fourth and Ken Roczen rounded out the top five.

After sweeping the championship in both the Supercross and Motocross seasons in 2022, Tomac has checked off nearly everything on a rider’s bucket list – with one exception. He has failed to win the season opener in 10 tries, making him one of the five storylines to watch in Anaheim 1.

“This is my 10th Anaheim 1 in the 450 class,” Tomac said after the race. “Apparently it took me 10 times to figure it out. It’s hard to get everything to go the right way for Round 1, from preseason to the race itself.

“Overall, that was just a wild race from the early battle with Justin [Barcia] there and then crashing off the tunnel jump. I just got a little on the back of my bike, lost the front. Thankfully everything stayed straight: the bars, my clutch was good and I was able to stay in touch with the leaders.”

RESULTS: How they finished for the 450 main event in Anaheim

Barcia, who entered the race with three straight opening wins from 2019 through 2021, grabbed the holeshot, but was not able to shake Tomac. Last year’s Supercross champion kept the pressure on and passed him five minutes into the race when Barcia also slipped going over the tunnel jump. Things immediately turned worse later on that same lap when Barcia rode off course and dropped down the order.

Barcia eventually slipped to 11th.

Five minutes later, Tomac made the same mistake in the same location. Malcolm Stewart was on hand to take advantage and he grabbed the lead as Tomac regrouped and tracked the leaders back down.

With the focus now on Stewart in his bid to win after finishing with a best result of second three times last year, Chase Sexton made an aggressive pass and banged bars with Stewart, forcing him off track at the 13-minute mark. With that, Sexton became the fourth leader of the race.

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Stewart stayed in contact with the leaders as well, but with time running off the clock, he crashed from third place and fell all the way to 22nd after sweeping the top 10 last year. For a driver with so much consistency last year and who was willing to let the chips fall where they may, it was a bitter disappointment.

Tomac is riding a new bike in 2023, but the results were the same with a win in Heat 1. He grabbed the holeshot in that race and rode away from the field.

In Heat 2, Sexton proved his challenge to Tomac in the outdoor season was no fluke when he grabbed the holeshot and rode to an equally easy win.

Jett Lawrence picked up where he left off in 2022 with a dominant victory in the 250 West class. Grabbing the early lead early with Cameron McAdoo in second, Lawrence quickly stretched his advantage to three seconds as McAdoo fell into the clutches of RJ Hampshire.

The 2023 Supercross opener at Anaheim gave the field a chance to regroup and rest Lawrence’s points to zero. Last year, he dominated the 250 East series and frustrated the competition with four wins and a sweep of the podium.

“Anaheim treated me very well today,” Lawrence told NBC Sports’ Daniel Blair. “We had a little malfunction on the gate start in the heat race, I ended up revving too much and deactivating [the bike] and that was on my part, but the boys sorted it out. Now Anaheim” ‘we’re even; we’re good.’ Hopefully we can just keep it like this.”

The day did not get off to as strong a start as Lawrence would have liked, however, with a crash in free practice on a track that showed rapidly shifting conditions from wet to dry. Lawrence’s heat did not fare much better as a slow start put him fifth on the opening lap. He climbed to second quickly, but could not catch Hampshire.

Click here for full 250 West Main Results

On a track that was seriously rutted from heavy dirt caused by a week of rain, Lawrence quipped after the race that he ‘just wanted to live to see Sunday.”

McAdoo won Heat 2, which gave him a solid gate pick that translated into his second-place start, but Hampshire’s Heat 1 win also put him on the correct side of the split gate. He tracked McAdoo down for second after the pair was involved in an accident that took Austin Forkner out of contention before he hit Turn 1. Forkner took a hard tumble coming out of the gate. He got squeezed on the straightaway and when his bike turned sideways, he flipped violently over the handlebars and landed hard on his shoulder.

After being passed by Hampshire, McAdoo held onto third.

Mitchell Oldenburg finished a distant fourth with Max Vohland rounding out the top five.

Pierce Brown took a hard fall in his heat and was taken to a local hospital for evaluation.

Hunter Cross made his first Main with a fourth-place finish in the LCQ and finished 19th in the Main.

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Eli Tomac picks up where he left off; earns first win in Supercross Round 1 at Anaheim originally appeared on NBCSports.com