What can we expect from Atlanta's 250 Supercross Showdown?

This weekend Supercross heads to the Atlanta Motor Speedway, and for the 250SX riders that means the first East-West Showdown of the season. 

2022 St. Louis Supercross, 250SX race start. - Simon Cudby/Husqvarna Media.

This weekend will be the 14th round of the 2022 AMA Supercross season, but while all three titles are pretty much wrapped up, there are still two pretty important events to take place: the East-West Showdowns.

For those who may be unfamiliar, Supercross is split into two categories: 450SX and 250SX. The 450s go to each of the 17 races in a Supercross season, while the 250s are split into two divisions: East Coast and West Coast. A couple of times per year, the the two coasts meet at the same race, and we get to see who is the best overall rider in the 250 class, theoretically.

Obviously, anything can happen in racing, and there are always mitigating circumstances as to why one rider was worse than another, or one Coast was worse than another, but the idea is that the Showdowns showcase to everyone who is the strongest rider in the junior class.

In 2022, both Coasts have been completely dominated by one rider. On the West it has been Christian Craig, and on the East it has been Jett Lawrence. 

We will start with Lawrence, whose domination of the 250SX East class has been such that he could actually win the title this weekend, as he holds a 34-point lead over Cameron McAdoo, who is not expected to race after suffering an AC separation last weekend, according to Jason Thomas. Aside from that, he has 41 points over RJ Hampshire, who won last weekend in St. Louis as Lawrence crashed out of the last of the three races of the Triple Crown format.

Hampshire’s win was his first in Supercross, despite being at the factory level for a number of years. It was also the first win for the new model KTM (albeit badged as a Husqvarna), which was followed up later on in St. Louis by a 450SX win by Marvin Musquin. 

Despite this, Lawrence remains the dominant force in 250SX East. The Australian won the first two races in St. Louis, and the only races he has not won this year have been the Triple Crowns, which seem to be his only weak point at the minute. 

For Lawrence to win the title this weekend in Atlanta, he would need to extend his championship lead to 52 points by the end of the night, which means he would need to score 11 more points than Hampshire. To do that, Lawrence must finish at least 12th this weekend, which should not be a problem. If Lawrence wins, Hampshire must finish no higher than eighth for the #18 factory Honda rider to win the title this weekend, and if Lawrence is second, Hampshire would have to finish outside the top 10.

With most of the heavy-hitters in 250SX East out of action, there would be little chance of that happening in a regular race, but since the best of the 250SX West will be in the fight as well, there could be - potentially - a more significant buffer between Lawrence and Hampshire.

However, the likelihood is that the title race will go on to the penultimate 250SX East round in Foxborough next weekend. 

For Christian Craig, it is impossible to win the title this weekend. Even still, he has a 26-point lead over Hunter Lawrence, so the worst case scenario for Craig points-wise is to leave Atlanta level-pegging with Lawrence. 

The curiosity of this title fight comes when you consider that Hunter is the brother of 250SX East points leader Jett, as well as the latter’s teammate. There are personal and professional motivations for Jett Lawrence to mess with Christian Craig this weekend. The Australian demonstrated seemingly genuine disappointment with himself for the incident with Austin Forkner at the Arlington Triple Crown race earlier in the year, when Lawrence bounced off a Tuff Block on the take off of the finish jump and crossed into Forkner’s path.

With that in mind, it is unlikely that he would do anything malicious to Craig this weekend, but it would be arguably a bizarre outcome for him to not try to help his brother and teammate, Hunter, out in some way. But, he does also have to consider his own championship which, although well within his grasp, is not yet sealed. 

It makes for an interesting look ahead to this weekend, because so many things are possible. Starting with what has been discussed here so far: Jett Lawrence could win the race, and RJ Hampshire could finish low enough for Lawrence to win the title; Jett Lawrence could ride as support to Hunter Lawrence in an attempt to aid the latter’s title bid against Christian Craig; and the final thing which has not been mentioned yet is that they could all go about their own business and the race is genuinely entertaining without all of the subcontext. 

This last option is perhaps what we, as fans of the sport, ‘want’ to see. Objectively, the most entertaining thing in sports is when two competitors at the top of their game go head-to-head to decide which one is superior. 

Think Valentino Rossi versus Jorge Lorenzo, or when the same Italian faced off against Casey Stoner; or Ricky Carmichael versus Jeremy McGrath; Ricky Carmichael versus James Stewart; or even more recently with Eli Tomac and Ken Roczen in- well, take your pick, but we’ll go with Spring Creek 2014. All all-time battles that go down in history. 

The Showdown fight that might - and hopefully does - go down between Christian Craig and Jett Lawrence at the Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend is unlikely to be an historic duel, in fairness, but it will be another case of two riders who are both a step above everyone else in their class fighting it out for supremacy. Sure, the title is more important, but if it comes down to a fight between the two, the pride that is at stake in that scenario is quite big. And, how many times do we hear that racing is all in the brain? 

What might dampen that is the prospect of another Showdown in Salt Lake City in May, when both Jett Lawrence and Christian Craig are likely to have their respective titles already won. But that will be their last chance to get one over each other, because while Lawrence will fight to defend his 250MX title won last year against Justin Cooper, Craig is off to 450MX, as he has been the last two years. 

What exactly we will see from this Atlanta Showdown is quite difficult to predict, but whether it is dictated by championship contexts or not it promises to be a great night of racing.