In the face of the unprecedented uncertainty that surrounded the 2020 season the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, completed a successful nine-round campaign and crowned a pair of champions on Saturday afternoon with a historic final race from Southern California’s Fox Raceway. Not only did the MX vs ATV All Out Fox Raceway National see the title fights in both the 450 Class and 250 Class come down to the final gate drop, from which a pair of first-time champions emerged, but the event’s overall winners both stood atop the podium for the first time in their respective careers.
The 450 Class Championship was captured by Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Zach Osborne, who became the oldest champion in American motocross history at the age of 31, while the 250 Class Championship went to Monster Energy/Star/Yamaha Racing’s Dylan Ferrandis, who became the first Frenchman to win a championship in the history of the division. The battle for the top step of the podium at the Fox Raceway National saw Team Honda HRC’s Chase Sexton prevail with his first 450 Class victory, while GEICO Honda rookie Jett Lawrence broke through for his first career win in the 250 Class.
As the field jockeyed for position to start the opening 450 Class moto it was Osborne who emerged with the MotoSport.com Holeshot over Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Marvin Musquin and Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Adam Cianciarulo. Both Musquin and Cianciarulo were then able to get around the Husqvarna rider and drop him to third. Cianciarulo went on the attack and put heavy pressure on Musquin for the lead. After withstanding the challenge for a couple of laps Musquin bobbled slightly, which was enough to allow Cianciarulo to grab control of the moto.
As he gave chase from second Musquin carried too much speed into one of the track’s downhills and went off track, which caused him to lose several positions, ultimately dropping from second to fifth. Osborne moved into second, with Sexton and Tomac right behind in third and fourth, respectively. A persistent Sexton was then able to get the better of Osborne for second and a short time later Tomac got by for third. Osborne continued to fall back and gave up fourth to Team Honda HRC’s Christian Craig.
As Cianciarulo built a lead of more than five seconds out front his teammate went to work on Sexton for second. Tomac was patient and followed for several laps, but when Sexton left an opening Tomac was able to take advantage and grab the position. A short time later Craig was able to make the pass around his teammate for third.
A determined Tomac began to chip away at his deficit to his teammate and soon was just a few bike lengths behind Cianciarulo as they continued to navigate through lapped traffic. The Kawasaki duo put on a show for the fans, swapping lanes, and trading momentum before Tomac finally made the pass happen with two laps to go. Cianciarulo picked up the pace on the final lap in hopes of reclaiming the top spot, but Tomac responded and carried on to his third moto win of the season by 3.4 seconds. Sexton got back by his teammate to finish third, with Craig fourth and Osborne a distant fifth. Cianciarulo’s runner-up finish prevented Osborne from wrapping up the title early and instead gave the Kawasaki rider six valuable points.
The atmosphere was intense for the final gate drop of the season and as the field charged down the start straight and through the first couple turns it was Cianciarulo who came away with the MotoSport.com Holeshot over the Hondas of Craig and Sexton, while Osborne emerged in the top five. With the clear track, Cianciaurlo put his head down and dropped the hammer, looking to build a lead and maximize his point total in pursuit of Osborne.
As the top three settled in at the front of the field the focus shifted on Osborne. He gave up fifth to Tomac, who started deep in the top 10 and went on to drop back a couple more positions before the end of the moto. Despite not being a factor in the battle for the podium, Osborne was still well in control of his championship destiny.
Back up front, Sexton made a push just past the halfway point and was able to storm past Craig for second, which carried him onto Cianciarulo’s rear fender. The top three were separated by less than two seconds with about 12 minutes left in the moto, nearly 20 seconds clear of the rest of the field. With just under seven minutes remaining Cianciarulo’s Kawasaki took off awkwardly from a jump and caused him to crash, handing the lead to Sexton and second to Craig. Cianciarulo remounted quickly to hold on to third.
Sexton never looked back and was able to take his first career moto win by 5.2 seconds over Craig for a 1-2 sweep for Factory Honda, while Cianciarulo salvaged third. Tomac was fourth, while Osborne soldiered home in seventh.
Sexton’s second-moto win was enough to vault him to the top of the overall classification and end his first season of premier class competition with the first victory of his career (3-1), making him the 70th different rider in history to win a 450 Class race. Tomac ended his three-year title reign with a runner-up finish (1-4), while Cianciarulo rounded out the podium in third (2-3).
“It’s unreal [to get this win]. It feels a little bit like a dream,” said Sexton. “Since I was young I always wanted to be a 450cc race winner and 450cc champion. That was a great race. Christian [Craig] and I were riding really well, then Adam made that mistake and we were there to take advantage of it. We put so much hard work in trying to get this [win] and we saved the best for last.”
Osborne finished sixth overall (5-7) to wrap up the championship.
Osborne’s title triumph comes on the heels of a breakout season in which his first career win at the opening round propelled him to a class-leading four victories and six podium finishes. In addition to being the oldest champion in American motocross history, Osborne is the 25th different rider to capture a 450 Class championship and became the 12th rider to win a national championship in each of Pro Motocross’ two divisions. The Virginia native also gave Husqvarna its first premier class title, three years after giving the manufacturer its first 250 Class championship during the 2017 season.
“It’s been the longest nine weeks of my life and this [last] one has been the toughest,” expressed Osborne, who ended the year with a 12-point margin in the final standings. “You think of a million ways to win and a million ways to lose, so I’m just so relieved this is finally over. That was the longest moto of my life. I actually thought about retiring after injuring my back earlier this year, but my wife encouraged me to keep going. We came into this outdoor season looking to get some good results and I never could have imagined that we’d be up here today with this championship. It just goes to prove you should never give up because anything can happen.”
The first gate drop of the day for the 250 Class began with Monster Energy/Star/Yamaha Racing’s Justin Cooper capturing the MotoSport.com Holeshot ahead of Lawrence and Monster Energy/Star/Yamaha Racing’s Shane McElrath. Ferrandis was able to fight his way into the top four and soon charged up to third, while GEICO Honda’s Jeremy Martin, Ferrandis’ primary championship rival, followed into fourth.
Out front, a battle unfolded for the lead between newfound rivals Cooper and Lawrence. The Australian was able to close in on Cooper’s rear fender on one half of the track, but the Yamaha would respond and pull away on the other half. After several laps of trying Lawrence pulled the trigger and made the pass happen just before the halfway point of the moto. Behind the lead pair, both Ferrandis and Martin were also pushing hard and with less than 10 minutes to go the top four were separated by just a few seconds. Ferrandis was able to take advantage of a slight miscue by Cooper to take control of second and quickly closed in on Lawrence for the lead.
Ferrandis applied heavy pressure on Lawrence, but the rookie didn’t flinch. The Aussie was able to put some distance on Ferrandis in the closing laps to take his first career moto win by 3.5 seconds, with Cooper in third, Martin fourth, and McElrath fifth. Lawrence’s win also benefited his teammate, Martin, as it prevented Ferrandis from clinching the title before the final moto.
As the field completed its sighting lap for the final moto of the season Cooper was faced with heartbreaking adversity when an apparent problem with his motorcycle prevented him from lining up on the gate. The field took off without him and began with McElrath securing the MotoSport.com Holeshot just ahead of Martin, with Ferrandis just a few positions behind. Martin put the pressure on McElrath for the top spot early and successfully moved into the lead with Lawrence giving chase from third. Behind the battle up front, Ferrandis crashed and dropped to ninth, while back up front Lawrence got around McElrath for second. A short time later GEICO Honda’s Jo Shimoda made the pass on McElrath for third.
As the leaders settled into their positions all eyes focused on Ferrandis and his attempt to rebound from the early misfortune. The Frenchman was able to make up a few spots quickly, but as the moto wore on he was considerably more patient, looking to avoid any additional conflict. He eventually made his way back into the top five, putting him comfortably in control of securing the championship. Out front, Martin did what he needed to do and put the pressure on Ferrandis. The Honda rider dominated the last race of the season and cruised home to his fifth moto win of the season by 18.3 seconds over Lawrence, with Shimoda wrapping up a GEICO Honda sweep of the moto podium in third.
Lawrence capped off his rookie season, in which he earned Rookie of the Year honors, with his first career win and podium finish (1-2), while Martin helped secure a 1-2 sweep of the team in second (4-1). Ferrandis clinched the title in third (2-5).
“It means the world [to get this win]. I’ve worked my butt off to get where I am today,” said Lawrence, who at 17 years old became the 86th different winner in 250 Class history and just the second Australian to stand atop the podium. “I’m just excited to be up here. I’m glad I could finish it out [my rookie season] with a bang.”
One year after securing the runner-up spot in the championship standings Ferrandis continued his upward progression with his most successful season to date. Each of his three wins in 2020 came via 1-1 sweeps of the motos, and his eight podium finishes established a new career-best, despite running an abbreviated season. While a total of five different Frenchmen have earned victories over the course of the 47 years the class has existed, Ferrandis is the first to also bring home a title. It makes him the 32nd different champion in 250 Class history and signified the fifth championship for the Star Yamaha effort over the past seven seasons.
“It was a crazy [final] moto. I made a mistake and crashed and had to come back through the field,” expressed Ferrandis, who ended the year with a 13-point margin in the final standings. “I just want to thank everyone at Monster Energy/Star/Yamaha. They put so much work into this. I’ve been dreaming of holding up this [number one] plate for a long time now. It’s been hard and a long journey, but I’m just so happy. As an athlete in any sport, we all want to win. We all work hard. For me, it took me some time to get here, but now all you want is more. You can’t dream of anything else but winning.”