INTERVIEW: Chase Sexton on his Pala showdown with Eli Tomac

INTERVIEW: Chase Sexton on his Pala showdown with Eli Tomac

After a fiercely fought afternoon of racing at Ironman Raceway in Crawfordsville, Indiana, Eli Tomac talked about what has been a battle of the ages between he and HRC Honda racer Chase Sexton this year. 

“I think we’ve both have elevated the speed of motocross, to be straight up,” said Tomac of an epic, endless summer of phenomenal motocross racing between the two. “May the best man win. There’s no letting off. There’s really no gifts at this point.” 

After a 22-moto odyssey in which the nation’s elite motocross racers rolled through California, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Washington, Maryland and Indiana, it has now all come down to two 25-minute-plus-two-lap motos between the sensational 22 year-old Sexton and 29 year-old motocross legend Tomac in broiling Southern California, where the 2022 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship will be decided between three-time 450MX title rider Tomac and his young challenger. What’s going to shake out over at Fox Raceway on Saturday afternoon in Pala? Sexton gives us his take on what promises to be the biggest motocross race in his young career.

Q: Earlier in the week, Eli Tomac spoke about the fact that he felt the two of you have actually elevated the speed of motocross. That’s a heavy statement. What do you think?

CS: Yeah, I would agree. Especially on my side of things this is the highest level I’ve ridden at. Ever. And honestly, I’m really young in my career, so I didn’t think I’d be racing on this kevel this soon. I think for Eli, and he’s obviously at the end of his career, he’s riding at a level I feel like he hasn’t ridden at before either, so we’re kind of in some new territory now I feel like and it’s pretty cool. I think it’s good for the sport and the fans seem to like it, so yeah, it definitely helped me in the long run that I’ve gotten to go through this year and battle with one of the sport’s greatest and I’m hoping he helps a lot in the future, as well.

I think this is the closest title race in history and I think that’s pretty cool. For us in the moment, it’s really cool. I also think after it’s said and done we’ll be able to look at it and say to one another, “It was pretty cool to be in that situation in trying to win a championship.” For me, I’ve kind of taken the road and am looking at it like it is a good opportunity for me and the reason I trained to be in this position. I’d rather be where I’m at now than back in second or third place and racing all by myself. I’m glad to have this opportunity this weekend. The fans are loving it. My Instagram account is really just blowing up with just people or Twitter or whatever it is. It’s all people are talking about. It’s cool and we have one more race to battle it out and give it our all. I’m excited for it.

Q: You’re a single point down on Tomac as we look to Pala. Immediately after the Ironman National you won, you talked about taking that one point deficit and going on the offense with you mentality come moto one on Saturday.

CS: Yep, I’m one point back from Eli, so I have the luxury of being, like I said, on the offense. You would think that one point is not a lot, but with the way the things have been going, I’m pretty much going to need to win motos. That’s kind of my goal going into this weekend and I want to go out there and get good starts and pretty much give myself the best opportunity to do that. That’s kind of my game plan for right now. It’s going to be warm this weekend but I’ve been training all year and I feel like my fitness this year is definitely one thing that has gotten me to this point, as well as my riding. I think the fitness thing is something that I’ve been missing in the past. Now that I have the conditioning, I have that confidence later in the motos. Yeah, I’m looking forward to it and I just want to have fun with it and give it my best effort.

Q: What a titanic battle between you guys this summer. You two have even talked about being able to hear each guy’s race bike as you power through the pack. That’s just awesome.

CS: It’s cool that it has come down to just two guys for the title. It’s not that everyone else is now eliminated, but obviously you want to focus on that one guy. You’re definitely aware of where that guy is on the track. You can kind of make a game plan on the fly kind of knowing where that guy is on the track.

For me and at the Ironman, I knew that Eli was in front of me in the first moto by four or five spots and that I needed to get up to him and then we had a good battle. He ended up getting a better hand in me in that opening moto and in the second moto I just told myself to get a good start and try and get away and ride my own race, and I was able to fulfill that. Yeah, that got me the overall and now going into Pala, I honestly like this track and I like coming to California. It’s going to be a fun weekend. It’s the final race of the year. It’s almost like the last week of school.

I went on my last bike ride of the year yesterday in Florida and now I’ve got another day of riding tomorrow and then it’s off to the races again. Besides the Motocross of Nations this is obviously the last race and that’s kind of cool. It is kind of like the last day of school.

Yeah, that’s the one thing that’s been cool this year racing with Eli. Obviously, I’ve had a lot of respect for him and how he races and especially with how much success that he has had. It’s easy for me to have respect for him, but I think this year I have actually earned a lot of his respect too. That’s the coolest part for me. He definitely has more accolades than me and been more successful. He’s also a lot older than me.

Q: You went 1-1 at the opening Pala 1 National to leap out front in the title fight. There’s been a little bit of talk that Pala might be a Chase Sexton track. What do you think?

CS: Yeah, Pala has been good to me. Last year I didn’t race the second race there because I had COVID, so I missed out on running the track backwards. I’ve always had really good speed there. It seems like it comes more natural to me at Pala compared to some tracks. I think Eli is good there. He won the last race there last year. I don’t really think I have an advantage. I just know that I’m confident on this track.

For me, I’m worried about myself and what I can do. Going out and winning two motos? That’s my goal, at least. If I can just go out there and do my game plan and let everything else happen behind me, that would be best-case scenario and that’s kind of how I have looked at it. I just want to do what I’ve been doing the last couple of weekends. I think my riding is getting better and better and the seems to keep going up, so I’m just going to stick to the game plan and just approach it all like another race weekend. That’ll be hard to do since there is a lot riding on this race, but that’s kind of my mindset going in. I like having my back up against the wall. I don’t think people expect me to beat Eli, but I kind of like being in that position. It’s something that I think will play to my advantage. I’m excited and it should be packed out there.