Motocross stars Jett Lawrence, Haiden Deegan win at 20th running of Thunder Valley National

LAKEWOOD — A pair of the sport’s preeminent stars lived up to their billing on Saturday at the 20th rendition of the Pro Motocross Championship’s Thunder Valley National.

Jett Lawrence won the 450 class by edging his brother, Hunter Lawrence. Hunter won the first moto while Jett took second, then the Australians flipped finishes in the second moto to give Jett the overall win.

And in the 250 class, rising star Haiden Deegan continued his early-season domination by claiming his third overall win in as many races. The 18-year-old phenom finished first in the opening moto and then second in the second moto to land atop the podium.

For Jett Lawrence, the defending 450 class series champion who won all 22 races in 2023, the victory at Thunder Valley was a bounce-back showing after crashing last week at Hangtown. That crash snapped his 24-race win streak and forced Jett to ride injured on Saturday as he was still dealing with a cut on his leg and a sore shoulder.

“Going into the second moto, my legs were shot, so I had no legs at the start,” Jett Lawrence said. “I dug deep, and just told myself in my head, ‘Stay there, stay there.’ I was able to capitalize on a mistake by Hunter in one of the turns (late in the race).”

Professional motocross racers Jett Lawrence, left, and his brother, Hunter Lawrence check their starting gates before Moto #1, 450 class of the AMA Pro Motocross Thunder Valley National at Thunder Valley Park in Morrison, Colorado Saturday, June 08, 2024. Hunter Lawrence won Moto #1, Jett took Moto #2 and the Thunder Valley National overall. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

Justin Cooper earned the holeshot in both 450 motos and led for much of those races before fading, finishing third in both and third overall.

In Deegan’s overall win in the 250 class, he passed Frenchman Tom Vialle with a lap to go in the first moto, then held on. In the second moto, Deegan took second to Chance Hymas while Vialle was fourth.

Deegan remains atop the 250 championship standings with a 23-point lead over Hymas, while Hunter Lawrence is first in the 450 championship standings. The older Lawrence brother (who won the 250 class circuit title last year) has 129 points, with Chase Sexton second at 123 points and Jett Lawrence third at 113 points.

The Pro Motocross Championship’s fourth 2024 stop is next Saturday at High Point Raceway in Mount Morris, Penn.

Local racer’s higher calling. While no Colorado rider qualified for the 250 or 450 motos, Elizabeth resident Brett Stralo was one local who competed in the 250 consolation race.

Stralo placed 18th, but for the U.S. Army veteran, his motivation for being at the track was about more than results.

The 36-year-old races for the Veteran Motocross Foundation, an organization that uses motocross to empower veterans. Stralo — whose service included two combat tours in Afghanistan as a helicopter mechanic — also started Warrior MX, which pays for veterans to come out and be part of his team on race day as a “mental health solution for combat vets.”

“My goal at this age is to make the fast 40, and to make the main (race),” Stralo said. “But every time I show up here and am able to get those (veterans) those wristbands and give them this experience, and introduce them to this community, it’s a win.”

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Stralo says “throttle therapy” helped him re-adjust to civilian life, and that his ultimate goal is to help prevent veteran suicides. Saturday marked his sixth time competing as a pro at the Thunder Valley National.

“When I got on a dirt bike, I found myself realizing that everything kind of disappeared,” Stralo said. “I started releasing endorphins, started be able to smile again, started feeling good. I started sleeping again.

“… There’s no noise other than the motor so you’re able to focus on what’s right in front of you. That’s all that matters in those moments. It’s like white noise, everything dissipates and you get a great mental clarity. This sport has been incredibly therapeutic for everything I had been through in nine years of military service, and I wanted to do something with it for other veterans.”

Colorado’s most notable pro racer, Eli Tomac, did not compete Saturday due to a thumb injury. The Cortez native won the 450 class circuit championship 2017-19 and 2022, and also won the circuit’s 250 class title in 2013.

Haiden Deegan (38) pumps his fist as he crosses the finish line during the second 250 Moto at AMA Pro Motocross Thunder Valley National at Thunder Valley Park in Lakewood, Colorado on June 8, 2024. Deegan finished second in the second Moto and first overall on the day. (Photo by Zachary Spindler-Krage/The Denver Post)

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