The 250SX series was stealing the show in the early stages of the current Monster Energy Supercross season, producing an immense amount of excitement on the racetrack with Dylan Ferrandis and Christian Craig colliding and Jett Lawrence coming within two corners of a sensational Main Event win. The torch was passed to Chase Sexton and Shane McElrath as the two of them took the lead when the 250SX East series kicked off, but the Geico Honda rider began to separate himself as the championship favorite and it looked likely he’d be in a position to defend his title at the end of the season. Sexton admittedly struggled at Daytona during the fourth stop on the East 250SX calendar, but still managed to snag a 2nd place, maintaining a lead of ten points in the championship before the series came screeching to a halt due to the coronavirus pandemic. Sexton has been taking the last couple of weekends off of the bike and taking advantage of the downtime while he can, so we took the opportunity to see what he’s been up to. We talked about his ongoing golfing competition with his training partner, Adam Cianciarulo, his upcoming move to the 450 class, and racing supercross in the virtual world.
Hey Chase, how're you doing?
Oh, pretty good. Just bored out of my mind.
Yeah, that was the first thing I was gonna ask you, what have you been doing to keep yourself entertained with mostly everything on pause?
I actually rode a little bit after Daytona, like two weeks after that and when they told us we weren't racing until WW at the earliest I just kind of took some time off the bike. I've been off the bike for two weeks now and just training a little bit, trying to keep the fitness level where it was. Here in the next week or so, I'll probably start ramping it up and put in a little bit of like a boot camp series to race outdoors...if we race outdoors...or if we don't end up racing outdoors then supercross, but who knows? Other than that, I've been playing a lot of golf which is pretty much the only thing I can do right now, everything else is closed. Just trying to get a little better at that when I can and it's fun, a lot of the guys here (at Moto Sandbox) play so it's pretty competitive and it keeps that competitive edge sharp.
How has this affected your day-to-day life down there in Florida?
There's a lot of cases of the coronavirus around where I'm at and I've seen a lot of memes on my Instagram and Tik Tok and stuff like that, "Everyone's locked down and in Florida people are out on jet skis not really taking it that seriously." But we actually went on lockdown like last week around Friday some time, so not a lot of restaurants are open and we have to order out, we can't really go to dinner and sit down. I can still golf and pretty much everything else I can still do, so I've been trying to take it easy on training ‘cause I don't want to burn myself out, so I've just been chillin’ and kind of hanging out. I mean, I don't golf every day and I had a bad round on Sunday so I'm kind of salty at golfing right now. I've just been kind of chillin' trying to take advantage of this rest time; I've been obviously training still but I'm just doing things I can't really do during the normal week which is hanging out with my fam and we all golf, so it's nice to just go out there and have some fun. It's nice to not have to worry about riding or anything like that right now.
I know you and Adam Cianciarulo are both big golf guys, who normally wins between you two when you guys go out and play?
Yeah, Adam and I play a lot together. I came back and I hadn't played in like three months and I came out and I actually beat him and then we went like three times in a row and he beat me. The last time we played I actually ended up beating him, it came down to the last hole but he puts a lot of work in, he's been grindin'. He puts a lot more work in than I do, I need a little more time and prep, he's had a few golf coaches. No, but he's been playing really well and he's really consistent. My problem is I could go out one day and shoot 80 and then the next day go out and shoot 98, so that's where he gets me. He's pretty consistent and I think his consistency is better than mine right now. We go out and play tournaments, we don't take any gimmies or anything like that -- it's fun to go out there and keep each other accountable so it's fun playing with him.
What’s your forte on the golf course? Driving? Putting? Short game?
My short game is definitely my best thing right now, but it kind of honestly just depends. One day my driving could be awesome and then my short game is off -- like you have your driving, short game, and mid-irons and there are very few days where all of it's on. But overall it's my short game, my driving is horrendous right now. Adam gets me off the tee and I put myself in terrible positions out there on the fairway, I definitely have to grind out there to shoot a good score.
Like you mentioned before, this is kind of like the offseason right now because you won’t have a lot of time before the 2021 season starts with all the schedules getting pushed back. What’s this situation like from a racing perspective?
Yeah, it's a weird time for everybody, not just athletes but for normal people not being able to go to their jobs and stuff like that. For athletes in general with everyone's season on hold and not really knowing, they have these dates set out for when we should start but no one really knows 'cause every day it changes. You could listen to the news one day and then the next day it could be totally different, so it's just weird. For me, it's definitely nice having a little bit of off time, but man...I felt like I was definitely clicking off races and putting myself where I needed to be and now that it's put on hold, it's kind of like what do I do? Do I ride outdoors or do I ride supercross? It really just depends if we do start in June or if we start later than that, it's going to be kind of tough. Next year moving to the 450 class, I'm going to have a little amount of time if we do run late into the year to get ready on the 450 for supercross. It's weird because you want to be racing and sometimes you get a little burnt out and this break is nice, but we're not going to have a break at the end of the season I don't think, so taking as much time off now and getting refreshed I think is the key. When we go racing again I think it's going to be a go-go-go situation, so I'm just trying to take advantage of this time right now and relax, hang with the family.
Tell me a little bit about your relationship with your family. I know you’re pretty tight with them.
It's pretty close to when I was an amateur, I mean we're all super close and I'm still living at home at the moment. It's pretty cool, I'm obviously starting to be more independent now and looking for a house for me to kind of start branching out on my own. But at this point even if I do branch out, my family is going to be super involved; my dad is my practice mechanic so it's cool just having them around and we're kind of a sports-oriented family so we're all active and it's just nice having them to lean on, too. It's nice to come home and have my family and not really be focused on racing. It hasn't really changed and honestly, as an amateur it was kind of the same program. They're super involved and it's awesome. I'm actually in the process of looking at houses which is kind of a big deal for me. My family thinks I'm a little immature still, but the only way to find out is movin' out.
How has it been as a sports fan yourself not having anything to watch?
I was getting into basketball and obviously college was getting into March Madness and it was starting to get down to the good games and then the NBA was getting near playoff time. I'm a pretty big Milwaukee Bucks fan and they were number one in the East, so I was kind of looking forward to that and now having nothing is kind of weird. F1 was literally about to start the weekend everything happened and it's tough not to be able to watch anything, but I guess everybody's in the same boat so everyone is sitting at home doing the Playstation stuff or whatever.
I saw on your social media that you were racing in a tournament online to fill the void of not competing right now...
Yeah, I played the last Supercross game and then all my friends around here in Clermont, we have a little group, and a lot of them are actually really good. One of my buddies here is actually like in the top ten in the world right now and when I play him I'm not even close. (laughs) I've seen F1 and a lot of pros having these races and it's just cool how everyone comes together and now that we're not racing, it would be fun to have a race that wouldn’t be super stressful with everybody. It'd be a cool thing for the fans if we could live stream it and have all of us on mics talkin' to each other, I think it'd be a good idea. I posted a comment on Supercross Live and I feel like a lot of people liked that idea, so I think they're working on putting something together. Someone from Supercross texted me and asked if I'd be interested and I've been talking to a lot of the riders and saying we should do a race. I mean, I'm not that good at the game but I think it'd be fun to have some fun with the guys you see on the weekend and be just kind of laid back.
How would you rate your chances against the other pro riders in Monster Energy Supercross 3?
I feel like I'd have a pretty good shot, it's kind of tough 'cause I don't know how of any of 'em are at the game. Ken (Roczen) and Adam play but I think I'm better than those two at the game. I know there are some guys that are really good, but I don't know...I think that's what's kind of cool about it. We're all at different levels of the game and we're all probably pretty mediocre, so it'd just be kind of funny to see how bad we are and if we're able to race each other. I should be pretty good, I was pretty decent in the last game but I'm still getting used to this new one. I've only played it like four or five times but I got thrown right into a tournament with my friends; we have like a Qualifying, Heat Race, LCQ, and Main Event and there's like twenty-five guys that are all really good. I made the Main in the first one, didn't make it in the second one, and last weekend I made the Main. Actually, I was in 3rd for a while and they made it like a ten-minute heat race so it was way too long, I lost focus and I started fading back and someone actually let me by and let me into the Main Event 'cause they felt bad. (laughs) So I made the Main and got a nice 9th overall, but they're all really good. Some tracks I'm better at than others but it's tough, the new game is actually pretty hard so I'm still learning.
I just wanted to get your opinion on the crew of riders you guys have down at Moto Sandbox — Ken Roczen, Adam Cianciarulo, Alex Martin— all of you guys have a similar attitude towards training and the sport in general.
Yeah, like you said, we all have similar outlooks on riding and training and I think that's kind of why we're all there. We were put together for a reason and I think it's just nice to have people around you that are always havin' fun and not super serious; obviously, we all take our sport super seriously but there are times to have fun and times to train and I think we have a really good balance of that which is nice -- that's why I like being at the Moto Sandbox and being able to train with those guys.
You were originally slated to race 250SX West but you had an untimely collarbone injury and were forced to compete in the 250SX East series instead. Although I’m sure that was a huge bummer, was it a nice silver lining to be able to run the number one plate and take a run at defending your title?
Yeah, at the time that I got hurt they wanted me to race West 'cause they felt like I was the most ready at the test track. I agree that I was riding well -- it's one thing to have the speed and the riding fitness, but being mentally prepared to go racing is kind of like a different thing. I didn't really feel like I was really prepared to go racing, I think it was like a week or two away. I wasn't really feeling that confident in my mental state. Obviously I knew I could race well and I knew my speed was there but like I said, there's a difference between being mentally ready and not. So when that happened I was bummed and (laughs)...I didn't do it on purpose that's for sure, it was definitely a bummer to let the team down and they were pretty bummed obviously. But I wanted to run the number one plate and that's what I've wanted to do for my whole life and I like the east coast, too. I feel like I ride those ruts really well. I was definitely bummed for a little bit but in the end it all worked out.
What was it like seeing that red plate with the number one for the first time this year?
It was cool, definitely. Everyone was asking if it adds pressure and stuff like that but for me, I was just pumped to be running it. Obviously I want to win the championship and that would be the end goal, but there are so many things that can happen that you can't go into the first round lookin' at it like that. Obviously, I want to win and that's what my mindset was, but at the end of the day anything can happen and I was just goin' in there enjoying having the number one plate while I have it. Honestly, moving up to the 450 next year I have more pressure, too, because it's my last year to win. It definitely comes with pressure but overall it's just nice seeing that number one on the bike and knowing that I've been working this long for that, and to finally have it on there is awesome. I did think it was cool!
Is it tough to stifle the momentum of the season at this point as you were kind of clicking off good results?
It definitely does kind of suck to not be racing right now, especially how I was feeling on the bike. But at the end of the day, I did it once, I think I can do it again. I can get that momentum back and I was really having fun. I feel like I was night and day better than I was last year; I think I'm just maturing more and more, I mean this is only my third year of supercross, so I'm just getting that experience. I put a lot of work in this year knowing that this is really my last chance at getting another 250 title so I put a lot of effort and focus into that. It seems like it was definitely paying off, but then again I'm not going to stop where I was. It'll just give me more time to mature and make myself better, so that's kind of the way I'm looking at it now.
The situation is even a little bit more complicated for you because you were supposed to move up to the 450 class for the Pro Motocross series. Has anything changed with that given the current situation?
As of now, everything is still on track to go outdoors on the 450 and I'm going to have to go back and forth obviously. But I think for me, I ride the 450 pretty well and for outdoors the 450 suits me better. So I'm going to put my best foot forward there and when it's time to go back to the 250 I'll take some time and get ready on that and yeah, I don't think it's going to affect me too much. Obviously it's not ideal, but I think we can handle it.
I think it honestly could help you going back down to the 250 class after spending outdoors competing against such a high level of competition in the 450 class.
Yeah, for sure. My dream is to race the best guys in the world and I think it'll help me overall going back down to the 250s as you said, so I'm looking forward to it.
How nice is it for you that the outdoor season is tentatively set to start at WW Ranch as of now, so it’s just a short drive for you guys down in Florida.
Yeah, it's going to be nice having it that close and it'll be nice just driving there. I think we'll have a little advantage over the west coast guys being closer and not having to travel. The track's fun and last year I won the first moto and didn't get to race the second moto, so I'm taking a little different approach to it this year and I think I'll learn from what happened last year. I'm looking forward to going out there and obviously it's my first race on a 450 so I'm really looking forward to that. Yeah, I'm excited and it's fun racing in your home state and not having to get on an airplane.
Do you think we’ll be able to go racing in the middle of June?
Man, it's really hard to say. I mean, I'm lookin' at all the other sports and everyone's talking about starting in September in other sports. It's tough to say whether we're going to be starting then and having mass crowds at the same time; I don't know, it could all get better or it could get worse so it's kind of hard to say. Obviously I want to start racing as soon as possible, but if we don't really have fans...
Yeah, how bizarre would that be?
Yeah, I think it would kind of take you back to amateur racing. The thing for the promoters is that's kind of part of the motivation is all of the fans, so I think it would be tougher for a National to have nobody there than Supercross, and obviously the outdoor fans are awesome! So I guess we'll see.
Now that you’re a few years removed from your amateur career, what are the highlights for you?
Umm, I mean for me probably winning Loretta's the last year, it was awesome! I only won there twice so getting the Horizon Award there and just going out on a bang was awesome, too. Probably that and my first National Championship there on an 85, there are so many races and championships in amateurs; they're all great, you can't really pick one from the other -- to be able to race Monster Cup and I never did win there, but I was on the podium every time I raced there, too. My first championship ever on a Cobra was in Florida here at Gatorback and that one obviously sticks out, too, but there are so many of them. I guess it's kind of like winning a supercross race; there are so many amateur races throughout the year they're kind of tough to pick out. Definitely winning that last one going into the pros was great, that's how you want to leave amateurs.
What was it like being a part of the Team Dunlop Elite program throughout your amateur career?
Actually, when I won my first championship at Gatorback, they came up to me and that's kind of when I was on their radar and the following year was my first year -- I would've been 9 -- so from 9 until I was 16 I was on Team Dunlop and obviously I've never run anything else. It was just fun to have that whole team atmosphere when we were all on different manufacturers and to have all of us come together was cool. They were super supportive and every year it was awesome to be a part of that team and it's a big help with how much support they give from that program. It's awesome and being able to run their tires now on the pro side and see how much work goes into it, it's just cool to see.
You were at every Camp Boom Diggity as an amateur, what do you remember about going there?
I mean, they were so much fun, just getting to ride all day. It almost kind of reminds me of a college football combine where all the fast guys are there, but we're not racing just, training and working with some of the best trainers in the world. Kind of showing off our skills not on the race track and being able to hang out after, it was fun. I think my last time there I started riding a pit bike at 7 pm and I was on it until 11 pm almost and they turned the lights on. I think I have a picture on my Instagram where my face is all covered in dirt and I'm smiling. Just the whole atmosphere I got there, being able to go wakeboarding and stuff like that, it was a great time for everybody. There was so much to do there, it was awesome!