Brainstorm | Nashville SX| 250 East
Photos and Captions by Billy Rainford
Jeff McConkey was too busy having fun and ripping around on his brand new 450 in his new Fox gear to do his usual ‘McThoughts,’ so I’ll take over his gig for this week and give it the old ‘Brainstorm‘ treatment.
I was at the race down on the track, and this was a weird one from start to finish. Points leader #24 Austin Forkner crashed in qualifying and looked to be done for the day. He showed up for the final qualifying session and did a couple laps before pulling into the mechanics area in extreme pain. We’ll have to see if he’s going to be OK for the final 2 rounds of East competition, holding onto a slim 3-point lead over #23 Chase Sexton.
Here’s what I thought of the 250 class in Nashville.
1st #73 Martin Davalos KAW: Just when everyone keeps bagging on Martin about being in the 250 “feeder” class too long, he goes and shuts everyone down by saying he is just after a 450 ride. He doesn’t want to be in the 250 class anymore.
Also, I didn’t realize he was going through as much pain and trouble with his knee and his neck problems. He said he could barely even hold onto the bars with his arm going numb and his wrist locking up. He had a procedure done on an edema in his neck and will continue to get it worked on.
Obviously, he took advantage of Sexton and Cooper going down, but that’s not his fault! Racing is racing and he took the win. He totally soaked up the moment and rolled the final set of whoops and told his mechanic afterward, “Relax, dude!” He had it handled and took his first win since 2016.
2nd #23 Chase Sexton HON: Chase was the man after Forkner was out. I like this kid’s poise. Yes, he got taken out on the first lap of the main and dropped back to 16th, but he went to work and got all the way back to 2nd by the flag.
He didn’t even freak out during or after the race at Cooper for the move. He won over a lot more people in the crowd as they erupted when he got introduced on the podium.
Great ride for Chase, and whether or not Austin is able to continue, he’s in apretty good place to challenge for the title with only 2 rounds left.
3rd #32 Justin Cooper YAM: Here’s the first lap move that took both Sexton and him down. Justin was able to get up quickly and didn’t lose too much time. However, he slid out again later and moved right back with Sexton.
You could tell he was expecting a return move because he looked over his shoulder a few times to see where #23 was. Nothing came of it. He managed to keep moving forward and got past Kyle Peters for 3rd place to make the best out of a tough situation.
RC explained what happened like this: “They buckle. They straight-up buckled.”
Justin is only 4 points behind Sexton in 3rd place.
4th #55 Kyle Peters SUZ: Great ride for Peters. He looked like he belonged up at the front and made the same inside pass on a couple riders in the 180 where the other two went down.
He hasn’t been on the podium in quite a while, so this has got to remind that he belongs up there. He was up in 2nd place, so dropping off the podium doesn’t feel great, but he should be pretty happy with how he rode. The top 3 are simply faster than he is.
5th #45 Brandon Hartranft YAM: Speaking of great rides, this was a a great ride for Brandon. He’s had a few other flashes of speed like this, but I thought he looked the best I’ve seen this weekend.
He must have been thinking this was his night when he looked ahead and saw rookie Mitchell Falk ahead of him in 2nd place!
This sport has a lot to do with confidence a this level, so this ride will go a long way to helping him repeat this result. Watch for him to keep himself fighting for top 4’s and 5’s.
6th #66 Mitchell Oldenburg YAM: Mitchell has the speed and support to be in the podium conversation every week. In fact, if you look at the numbers, only Forkner has a better qualifying average this season.Unfortunately, little mistakes have been holding him back.
This week, he was up in the top 4 when he got forced out a little by Davalos and went down. He was well outside the top 10 after his fall but he kept charging and made his way up to 6th at the flag.
“Freckle” now sits tied for 5th with Alex Martin.
7th #37 Kyle Cunningham HON: Kyle was 7th on the first lap and that’s where he finished. He was in that big group of 6 riders battling so hard in this one.
Starts seem to be a problem for him this season and he sits 9th in points.
8th #264 Ryan Sipes KTM: Man, Sipes looked good early in the day! He looked really comfortable on the technical Nashville track. He even qualified way up in 3rd place.
He was up in 5th with just over 10 minutes to go, so he’s probably not thrilled with dropping a couple spots, but he should be pretty happy with the speed and skill he showed.
9th #123 Mitchell Falk KTM: There’s half a chance Falk would have done better without such a great start. He’s new and found out just how fast and relentless the top guys are in this class. Welcome to the sub-big leagues, Mitchell.
He says he’ll keep working hard so he has a stronger 2nd half of the race. If he wasn’t a rookie, I’d be forced to lay into him with some sort of “dropped the anchor” line or something, but we’ll cut the youngster some slack.
Knowing the pace of the front runners can only help him as he moves ahead in his Pro career. The fact that he stayed up in 2nd place for so long shows he’s got the pace to run with these guys.
10th #26 Alex Martin SUZ: Alex was in 12th place on lap 1 and was in that 6-rider pack I was talking about earlier. As a factory rider, he shouldn’t be happy with getting 10th, and he wasn’t.
He’s tied for 5th with 2 races left to go.
Biggest Stud: I’d have to go with Chase Sexton this week, for sure. He showed the calmness of a veteran rider and methodically moved his way through the pack after being way back in the pack. He was most upset because he felt this was his to lose and would have been tied with Forkner for 1st had he not been taken down on lap 1.
Biggest Dud: Again, “dud” is the wrong word for what happened to #511 Steven Clarke, but he was up in 3rd place behind Davalos and Falk on the first lap. He actually got up there from the 3rd farthest gate from the outside, too! He had some troubles and was forced to the back of the pack. That had to feel pretty good while it lasted!
Biggest Surprise: I wasn’t surprised that Forkner crashed in practice, but I was surprised that he actually hurt himself. He’s probably out of this championship now and he’s going to extremely upset about that, if that’s what the prognosis is.
Pro sports are a tough business and most won’t remember why he didn’t win, just that he didn’t. He’s due for a championship, for sure. But let’s wait for the outcome of his tests before we write this season off.
Next round for the 250 East riders is New Jersey on April 27th.