One champion defended his crown in Monster Energy Supercross’ 250SX class, while one took his first.
Zach Osborne made it two titles in a row for himself, as well as two championships in 2018 for Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing, when he clinched the 250SX East title last weekend in Las Vegas. In 250SX West, though, it was Aaron Plessinger who earned his first championship with Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha. Both championships went down to the final race, an East/West showdown at Sam Boyd Stadium eventually won by Adam Cianciarulo.
Nine different riders took wins in the 2018 season, with five in the West class and four in the East. In both classes, the winningest rider took the title—Plessinger took victories in four West races, while Osborne earned three. The two classes also split the pair of East/West showdowns, with East rider Jeremy Martin having won the first in Indianapolis; however, he was hit with a seven-point penalty after the race for jumping on a red cross flag during the main event.
With a much shorter schedule than the headlining 450SX class, one bad race could take even the most impressive riders out of the championship chase. For West rider Shane McElrath, that bad race was Oakland; earning only eight points from the final, it was the only single-digit point race for any of the four West riders who entered Las Vegas with any shot at the title.
On the other hand, both Osborne and Plessinger were models of consistency in 2018. Both riders saved their worst results for the season finale, as they were each in control of their respective championship destinies and didn’t need to make any title-losing mistakes. In fact, they crossed the line back-to-back, as Osborne finished seventh and Plessinger ran eighth.
In fact, those conservative runs were the biggest reason why the points margins from first to second were so small at season’s end. Plessinger came into Las Vegas with a 13-point lead on Cianciarulo, and Osborne led Jordon Smith by 15, essentially guaranteeing both riders the title with finishes in the top half of the field. Cianciarulo’s win whittled that advantage down to two points, while Smith cut his deficit to eight with a runner-up finish.
While Osborne focused on defending his East crown, 2017 250SX West champion Justin Hill attempted to balance both a title defense and a limited 450SX program. After taking a win in San Diego, the Autotrader/Yoshimura Suzuki rider suffered broken toes and bruises in a heavy crash in Atlanta, and despite rehabbing in time for the East/West race in Indianapolis, ended up missing it anyway due to illness. He wasn’t the only 250SX race winner to miss rounds in 2018, though, as Austin Forkner suffered a collarbone injury in Minneapolis that kept him out of the final two East rounds.
It’ll be interesting to see which riders earn promotions to the 450SX class in 2019. While Hill made a handful of starts this year, and Osborne is a likely candidate to move up after two straight titles, Christian Craig already made the jump after completing the first six rounds of the West season. Craig made his debut for Team Honda HRC on the main stage in Atlanta, taking over as fellow factory riders Ken Roczen and Cole Seely were sidelined, and put in a number of impressive performances, including back-to-back fourth place finishes to end the year.
Whoever doesn’t move up will help make for a pair of exciting championship battles in 2018. Shane McElrath and Joey Savatgy each took wins in the West class, while Chase Sexton was a consistent podium threat. Aside from the four East race winners, Luke Renzland and Kyle Peters each earned a third place finish this year, and could benefit from any promotions in 2019.
With the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross season kicking off next weekend in Hangtown, we’ll have a chance to see the top 250 riders face off every week, instead of the predominantly regional rounds we see in Supercross action. It’ll be an exciting look into the future of the sport—and if what we saw from Supercross this season is any indication, the future is bright.