Jett Lawrence clinches 250SX title as 450 leader Eli Tomac struggles to 7th

Two Supercross titles were up for grabs last weekend in Foxborough, but while one champion elect got the job done, the other struggled.

Jett Lawrence does a burnout after winning 2022 250SX East title in Foxborough. - Honda Racing Corporation.

BOTH Jett Lawrence and Eli Tomac had a chance to wrap up their respective championships at Supercross’ third-last race of the year in Foxborough, but only the former got it done.

Since Foxborough was the penultimate round of the 250SX East series for 2022, Lawrence’s chances of wrapping up the title compared to Eli Tomac’s in the 450SX class were much greater, just mathematically speaking. 

Whereas Tomac went into Foxborough knowing that if he dropped more than one point to Jason Anderson on the night, the title would go on, Lawrence knew that RJ Hampshire would have to take over 20 points out of him to keep the 250SX East title chase rumbling on to the season finale in Salt Lake City next month. 

The two different scenarios for the two points leaders were reflected in their riding. Lawrence sat behind eventual winner Austin Forkner for almost the whole race, and even tried to pass the Pro Circuit Kawasaki rider, before settling for second. 

On the other hand, Tomac started the race at the front, and was challenging Cooper Webb for the lead when Jason Anderson block-passed him in the first turn after the finish. Tomac stalled the bike when Anderson passed him, and dropped to fourth. From there, you expect him to fight forwards, but instead he slipped backwards and ended the night in seventh, while Anderson went on to win his fifth 450SX race of the year. 

In the context of Eli Tomac’s whole career, a strange night where he goes from having speed to win the race to eventually finishing in a subdued seventh is not totally anomalous. But in the context of 2022, it absolutely is. 

The week before Foxborough, in Atlanta, Tomac had fallen back at the start before charging forwards to finish second at the flag. He put his early lack of pace down to a suspected continuation of a bike issue that had first appeared in the heat race earlier that day, and his final result meant that all was forgiven, and he still went to Foxborough with the title in his grasp. 

But, Foxborough seemed different. There was no complaint of a bike issue, and in fact Tomac put his seventh place down to “playing it safe.” 
He said, “It was a tough track, one of the tougher ones that we’ve had, to where the jumps and the bottom of the transitions were just really tough to ride, period. It was a track I didn’t want to take a whole lot of risk on. We’re still in a really good spot for points, and we’ll go clinch it next week in Denver.”

Ordinarily, this would be an ‘off race’ for Tomac, but perhaps he simply did the right thing in the circumstances. After he slipped back to fourth, he understood that Jason Anderson was in the mood to race him hard that day, and behind him were the likes of Malcolm Stewart and Justin Barcia, who are not afraid to put a tough pass on a rival. 

That’s not to say that every factory 450 rider out there ( there are not many of those left at this point in the series, anyway) wanted to clean Tomac out on his first chance to clinch the title, but when racing on the limit there are inherent risks, and when the track is sketchy (Foxborough featured powdery dirt with a lot of rocks) it is certainly possible to argue that the last place you want to be is in front of a rider who has something to gain, when you only have everything to lose. 

A 53-point lead acted as a cushion for Tomac in Foxborough, and he lay back into it as he had every right to do. He now has 43-point lead with two races to go, meaning if he finishes 13th or higher this weekend at his home race in Denver, he will be champion no matter what Jason Anderson does. For a rider who has an average finish of 2.6 for the season so far, this should not be an issue.

Earlier in the night, in the 250SX Main Event, Jett Lawrence was able to wrap up the 250SX East title. 

Like Tomac, and, even more so, like Christian Craig in the 250SX West class, Lawrence has been the class of the field in 2022, able to ride faster than everyone else while staying simultaneously further away from his limits than anyone else. 

It has not been a perfect season for the 18-year-old, with crashes in the Triple Crown races, as well as Atlanta’s 250SX East-West Showdown, blotting his copy book, but while all of his other rivals either crashed out of the series or took bad results, Lawrence just kept on grinding out the results. He has not finished off the podium all season, and quite frankly if he had not won the championship it would have been a sporting injustice almost equivalent to Austin Forkner’s failure to win the same 250SX coast in 2019. 

You could argue that Forkner’s 2019 title miss was actually not an injustice at all, and you could make an argument for that perspective just as effectively as for the perspective that it was. That year, Forkner won every race before he injured his knee in a practice crash, and Chase Sexton ended up taking the first of his 250SX East titles.

Since then, Forkner has lost out on a 250SX West title to Dylan Ferrandis in 2020, and done not much else. His Main Event win in Foxborough last weekend was his first since that 2020 season when he battled Ferrandis, and it comes at a point in time when his future has become quite uncertain, following two more injury-hit seasons in 2021 and 2022.

Forkner was not riding at his best at the beginning of the season. In Arlington, in the third race, he was caught by Jett Lawrence after the Australian crashed in the first corner. In Foxborough, he held off Lawrence for the whole race. 

Now, you could say that Lawrence was not pushing on his limit in Foxborough, and that if he had not had the title on the line that day he would have been more assertive with the Kawasaki rider. And, in fact, that is how it seemed. Lawrence caught Forkner from a few seconds back after his below-par start, and seemed overall quite cautious trying to get around him. Perhaps, after what happened in Arlington, Lawrence was wary of a retaliation from Forkner. Perhaps such concerns were unwarranted, but, in a championship-clinching situation, such risks are unwise to take. 

It was also a tough track to pass on. Any pass made was pretty much a block pass, and there were not so many ways to avoid that outside of superior whoops speed- but, even then, the whoops were not especially long, and they were made smaller between practices.

Lawrence tried to pass Forkner in the left-hander after the whoops, but it was risky, and putting himself in Forkner’s view, considering the championship context, was only to be done with the least antagonism. Since that became difficult, taking second place and the championship with it was not a bad alternative. 

That is not to take anything away from Forkner, though, who after his crash in Arlington was pretty much expected to be out for the rest of the year. It was a strong ride from him, and sets him up well for the season-closing Showdown in Salt Lake City on 7 May, which in turn can send him into the Pro Motocross season with a great deal of momentum.