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What Really Happened in the San Francisco Mud?

By Fowlers Facts

Back for the 2nd round of the 2024 Supercross series, we’re diving into the lap times again to see if we can find the real stories.

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.

With a mud race like we had in San Francisco, it’s near impossible to make conclusions… at least that’s what people seem to think. Looking at the facts, I beg to differ. In this case, the facts are pretty clear – Chase Sexton, Eli Tomac, and Ken Roczen know how to race in the mud.

Ken Roczen, Chase Sexton, and Eli Tomac are 1-2-3 on the 450 main event start. Photo: Feld Ent.

First things first, let’s go back to Round 14 in East Rutherford last year. Justin Barcia won the main event with Eli Tomac, Ken Roczen, and Chase Sexton finishing 2-3-4. Also remember that Chase Sexton got the holeshot but was on the ground a quarter of a lap into the race due to the handy work of Justin Barcia. Beyond the play-by-play details, here are the facts from that night of racing…

2023 East Rutherford Stats

The point in sharing these facts – they are the backbone of measuring strong race craft. Great start. Limit mistakes. Make passes. Superior speed. And finish up front as a result.

Justin Barcia, 2023
Justin Barcia won a sloppy one in East Rutherford last April. Photo: Garth Milan

Sexton, Tomac, and Roczen do this virtually every round and it doesn’t change based on the conditions. So it’s no surprise they did well in East Rutherford’s mud race last year nor the San Francisco mud race this past weekend. Here’s the same facts for San Francisco…

2024 San Francisco Stats

The trend is clear. These 3 riders have strong race craft no matter the conditions.

Eli Tomac, San Francisco, 2024
Eli Tomac makes it look so fun, right?! Photo: Octopi

Now let’s dive in and see what we can learn from the lap times, specifically how each of the rider’s lap times ranked each lap. This unique view of the main is good at highlighting…

  • Who was actually going fast (the list in the results PDF’s is not informative, btw).
  • What riders rode well and WHEN during the race.
  • What riders struggled and when.
  • Does the performance match the words spoken in interviews/pressers.

San Francisco 450 Main

Chase Sexton rode a mostly flawless mud race. He was fastest in 4 of the 12 laps and it looks like he may have some minor mistakes on laps 5 and 6. With the incredible jump out of the gate and limited mistakes, it’s no surprise he walked away with the win.

Eli Tomac was the 2nd fastest rider on the track in 6 of 12 laps. He didn’t have the outright speed of Sexton or Ken Roczen, but he was consistently fast. As we learned last weekend with Jett Lawrence’s performance, consistently fast is dangerous for the competition.

Shoulda, coulda, woulda! Ken Roczen was fastest in 4 of 12 laps (same as Sexton), but stalling the bike just after the first turn cost him dearly. Incredibly, he went from almost dead last on the start to 3rd place in the span of 4 laps!

This was a race where he had the start and speed to win his 22nd main event, but one simple mistake cost him a better shot at it.

Lap Rank (heat map)

How to view: The y axis lists the riders in final finish order. The x axis lists the specific laps of the main event. Read vertically, the numbers represent how that rider’s lap-time ranked against all others. Visually, the darker the color, the higher the lap time rank.

Shane McElrath finished a career best 4th in San Francisco. Notably, Shane’s previous career best was also the last time Suzuki had 2 riders in the top 5 (5th Denver 2023)! Coming from North Carolina, Shane likely grew up racing in a fair amount of muddy conditions, but he’s not the first name that comes to mind when the rain starts falling, so this surprised many.

Aaron Plessinger is off to his 2nd best start in the premier class with 4-5 finishes in the first two rounds (best was 2022). Aaron’s the fan favorite when it’s raining, likely due to his incredible performance during and after the 2018 Seattle mud race (and growing up a GNCC kid), but beyond his love of mud there’s not much evidence that he’s any better than the riders who finished ahead of him.

He was good in SF (fastest qualifier!) with moments of brilliance (laps 5, 8, and 12) but the opening laps came at the cost of any podium opportunity.

You’ll note a theme with these last 3 riders: one really bad lap that dampened any chance of finishing up front.

On lap 5, Jett Lawrence was 18 seconds slower than his race average and he dropped from 6th to 10th. To put this lap in perspective, there were a total of 242 laps raced on the track and his 5th lap around the track ranked 195th. If he struggled with math in Chicago last year, he struggled with mud in San Francisco this year.

Cooper Webb finished 11th, a few spots behind what was possible if it weren’t for trouble on lap 8. His 8th lap ranked 204th out of the 242 laps raced in the 450 main on Saturday. I have not seen the lap eight incident but it cost him nearly 17 seconds!

Cooper Webb, 2024 San Francisco
Cooper Webb paddled his way to 11th in the 2024 San Francisco Supercross. Photo: Octopi

Jason Anderson started with incredible acrobatics entering the first turn, catching some deep mud that flipped him over the bars. Unfortunately that wasn’t the end of the struggles. On lap 7, he set the 220th ranked lap (out of 242). I also didn’t see what actually happened on that lap, but it cost him nearly 12 seconds!

Jason Anderson, 2024 San Francisco
Jason Anderson rode to 12th in the San Francisco Supercross. Photo: Octopi

Hope you learned a bit of what really happened in San Francisco. Mud is part of the sport but I’m praying for a dry San Diego. If it isn’t, don’t bet against Chase Sexton, Eli Tomac, or Ken Roczen.