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What Really Happened at Anaheim 2?

By Fowlers Facts

Our intent with this column is to cut through the opinions and hyperbole of what was said or what people thought they saw. Agree or disagree, let me know what you think on Twitter or Instagram.

There are 5 keys to a championship

  1. Starts
  2. Passing
  3. Mistake Free
  4. Speed
  5. Wins

This weekend in A2, the 3 races showed us how each of these factor into winning the individual races. In normal conditions, speed still matters, but starts and mistakes are a bigger factor.

Cooper Webb, Anaheim 2, 2024
Cooper Webb went 2-2-5 and only had 1 (of 52) fastest lap but still won the overall. Consistency, kids. Consistency. Photo: Octopi

The speed separation between the top 10 riders was scant. It makes a much bigger difference for that guy who averages 15th place that wants to make the jump from Privateer to Factory ride. But for the riders who contend for wins and titles, it’s not the key factor.

Starts and limiting (or eliminating) mistakes is the key factor for the win and title contenders. Let’s dive into the 3 triple crown races from Anaheim 2 and see how the races were really won – not what ‘experts’ thought they saw.

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450 Race 1

Winner: Chase Sexton

Chase Sexton and Cooper Webb were 4th and 6th fastest, but it’s the 1st and 2nd place first lap position that allowed them to finish atop the podium. Looking at the blue shaded table below, you can see between the two of them, they were fastest in only 3 laps.

Chase Sexton. Anaheim 2, 2024
11th in Race 3 killed Chase Sexton’s chance at a second win in 2024. Photo: Garth Milan

On the other hand, you can see that Ken Roczen (1 lap), Eli Tomac (3 laps), and Jett Lawrence (5 laps) were fastest in 9 of the 14 laps in the race. They also had better outright speed as show in the table. But their first lap positions of 5th, 8th, and 20th was too far buried in the pack to make up the difference, especially in a shorter 12 minute triple crown race.

The extreme example here is Jett Lawrence who was down just after the first turn and rounded lap 1 in 20th – nearly dead last. He had consistent, fast lap times. That speed may have made the difference in a longer main or in variable track conditions, but not last Saturday’s Triple Crown Race 1.

Note POS CHG is 1st Lap minus finish position and is a great proxy for tracking mistakes.

450 Race 2

Winner: Jason Anderson

This race is a great example when a superstar, 2018 champion, Jason “El Hombre” Anderson finds that special something and puts it all together. A great start, unmatched speed, no mistakes, and he walked away with the win. Looking at the blue chart below you can see he was simply ‘en fuego’ the first 8 laps of the race and then likely coasted a bit in the second half.

Jason Anderson, Anaheim 2, 2024
The fastest on the track in the first 7 laps of Race 2, Jason Anderson blazed a trail on his way to the win. Photo: Octopi

Cooper Webb once again got a great start, had good, but not race leading speed, and grabs the second spot on the podium.

Jett Lawrence and Chase Sexton had great speed, 2nd and 3rd fastest and also fastest in 4 of the 14 laps, but they started 7th and 15th, respectively. They had great speed but in a stacked field in a shorter Triple Crown race, they only made up +4 positions each.

Eli Tomac’s second race was an example of ‘just okay’. He was 6th fastest, never had a lap that was top 3, improved +4 positions, but buried in 11th on the first lap (14th on the holeshot) makes it very difficult to contend for podiums or wins.

Note POS CHG is 1st Lap minus finish position and is a great proxy for tracking mistakes.

450 Race 3

Winner: Eli Tomac.

If the #21 Kawasaki of Jason Anderson ruled race 2, then it’s the #3 Yamaha of Eli Tomac that owns that crown in race 3. He rounded the first lap in 1st, set the fastest lap of the race, was fastest in 5 of 14 laps, and even when Jett Lawrence was trying to catch him mid-race, he held strong and won. Seeing him smile on the podium as the crowd roared was one of those moments why it’s awesome to still have the legend racing!

Eli Tomac, Anaheim 2, 2024
Eli Tomac said on the podium that he was glad to know he “still has it.” Tomac set 8 fastest laps between the 3 Races. Photo: Octopi

Chase Sexton was ‘just’ 5th fastest, even let Jett Lawrence by at one point, but a great start and good speed without a mistake netted him a 2nd. He’s not had the blistering speed of 2023, but it does seem he’s figured out the front wheel tuck that plagued him.

Most interesting here are Jett Lawrence and Jason Anderson. Both had great speed (2nd and 3rd fastest, albeit nearly a second slower than Tomac’s fastest lap), but crashes killed their races.

  • Jett Lawrence had made his way into 2nd and was a lock for another podium when disaster struck in the whoops on the last lap. He went from 3rd to 6th in the overall standings.
  • Jason Anderson had a similar story but he fell on the first lap instead of the last lap. He had Jett-like speed but the penalty for an early race crash is greater than later in the race. El Hombre passed 11 riders to finish 8th (technically 12 riders but he was docked a position).

Note POS CHG is 1st Lap minus finish position and is a great proxy for tracking mistakes.

There you have it. Everyone had good speed, some exceptional (Anderson in race 2 and Tomac in race 3), but it was start position and limiting mistakes that made the difference between podiums and top 10.