Vurb’s 2023 Team Previews: Monster Energy/Star Racing Yamaha

Welcome to the offseason and our new ongoing “Team Previews” column. Every week from now until the Monster Energy Supercross season starts in January we will be profiling a big team in the sport. We’ll go through the changes that have been made, analyze results, and give each team a grade on all of their offseason moves. This week we have Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing and you will find the full schedule below.

Who’s In:
#3 Eli Tomac – 450SX Only
#14 Dylan Ferrandis – 450SX/MX
#29 Nate Thrasher – 250SX/MX
#32 Justin Cooper – 250MX Only
#40 Stilez Robertson – 250SX/MX
#43 Levi Kitchen – 250SX/MX
#54 Nick Romano – 250SX/MX
#58 Jordon Smith – 250SX/MX
#438 Haiden Deegan – TBD
#TBD Daxton Bennick – TBD

Who’s Out:
#6 Jeremy Martin
#28 Christian Craig
#45 Colt Nichols
#72 Matt LeBlanc

Last Season’s Supercross Results:
#3 Eli Tomac – 1st 450SX
#14 Dylan Ferrandis – 11th 450SX
#29 Nate Thrasher – 5th 250SX West
#32 Justin Cooper – Did Not Race
#40 Stilez Robertson – 13th 250SX East
#43 Levi Kitchen – 27th 250SX East
#54 Nick Romano – Did Not Race
#58 Jordon Smith – 6th 250SX East

Last Season’s Motocross Results:
#3 Eli Tomac – 1st 450MX
#14 Dylan Ferrandis – 25th 450MX
#29 Nate Thrasher – 8th 250MX
#32 Justin Cooper – 4th 250MX
#40 Stilez Robertson – 12th 250MX
#43 Levi Kitchen – 11th 250MX
#54 Nick Romano – 16th 250MX
#58 Jordon Smith – Did Not Race

Offseason Grade:  A+

The Rundown:
Any team that employs as many riders and team personnel as Star Racing does will always get an amazing grade when it comes to my reports. Not only has Star Racing figured out how to have the most sought after bike in the pits, but they’ve also been very strategic on who they pick for their team. This offseason was a huge win for the program’s future and present. A few major players have signed with other teams, but an eager group look to fill their shoes.

The biggest goal the team needs to accomplish is staying healthy during supercross. Sure, with a young roster that may be tough this year, but most of the team has experience in the stadiums now. With the departing 250SX West Region Champion Christian Craig, this team is looking for the next group to step up and fight for the championship indoors. The same statement is true about outdoors as well because Jett Lawrence will be moving up to a 450 for the summer and Yamaha wants wins and titles now. The team will be looking for Levi Kitchen and Nate Thrasher to step up and fill the roles of title contenders for the departing Craig and Colt Nichols. It will be interesting to see if Thrasher can cut out his inconsistency next season. He’s won three main events in his career, but other than that only has four other top fives in two seasons of SX. He hasn’t been on the podium unless it was for a win. Kitchen didn’t get to show what he had to offer last SX season before getting hurt, but if his speed from the outdoors is any indication, he will be just fine. 

The team did add Stilez Robertson and veteran Jordon Smith to see what they can do on the BluCru machine. Stilez has shown flashes of brilliance, while Smitty is in the middle of a career rebuild. Smith finished 6th overall for the Fire Power Honda team in the East and stayed injury free, which is another win for his program. If he can keep that momentum going into 2023 then he will find himself on a few podiums in supercross. Both Robertson and Smith are going to be strong on the Star bike and they won’t have much hype behind them, so all they need to do is deliver results. 

Romano is entering his first season of Supercross and first full season as a pro. His goal is going to be getting gate drops and making sure he stays healthy. If he can make it to all of the races that will be a win in itself. That’s not a knock on Romano as a rider, that’s literally always the game plan I set up for a rookie in these previews. Supercross is no joke and the more experience you have, then the more you’re worth. Having a Star ride is both a blessing and a curse. You have to deliver. 

Speaking of delivering, Justin Cooper comes into 2023 a Motocross of Nations hero. He also finished fourth in 250MX after coming back from a severely broken foot. Cooper has pointed out of 250SX and as of now he will be just racing 250 outdoors to win that championship for the team. 

As of right now, Eli Tomac is only scheduled to race 450SX for the team next season. Whether or not that changes is not up to me. After switching to Star Yamaha last offseason Tomac went and had the best year of his career, winning both championships and the MXoN. He may as well put numbers into the Mega Millions because he would have won that too. He is the obvious favorite to win everything in 2023–his 13th season. 

Ferrandis not being able to defend his outdoor number one plate was obviously rough. He will look forward to trying to get his first supercross win and staying healthy until the outdoor season. If he can make it outdoors healthy then he is a favorite for his second 450MX title, but he will have his hands full with Chase Sexton, Jett Lawrence, and crew. 

The future of the team relies on Haiden Deegan and newest signee Daxton Bennick. These two will start off the year at Mini O’s at the end of this month in the A classes and from there who knows. Both of them will end up racing some Pro Motocross events this summer, but how many and when is still up for discussion. Deegan will probably end up forgoing Loretta’s and getting a full outdoor season under his belt before doing his first full season as a pro in 2024. Daxton will probably dabble in some outdoors until his 40 point limit and then race Loretta’s one last time. Either way, no plans have been announced and this is purely speculation. 

The riders departing the team all ended up on their feet with either factory equipment via Craig (Rockstar Husqvarna), Nichols (HRC Honda), or a private team like Martin (ClubMX Yamaha). The only rider left out of this equation is Matt LeBlanc, who only had one summer to show what he could do for the team. He raced eight nationals and his best finish was an eighth overall at Thunder Valley. As of right now he has not announced what his plans are for 2023. 

Also, Guillem Farres was left off of this list, but if he comes back for 250MX it would not be surprising.

Thanks for reading my series of team previews for the coming season. If you’d like to talk about these or any of the other stories that I’ve written you can email me at [email protected] You can also reach me on Twitter/Instagram: @troydogvurb

Team Preview Schedule:
10/27 – Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/ GASGAS Factory Race Team

11/3 – Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing 

11/9 – Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Team

11/16 – Monster Energy Kawasaki Factory Racing

11/23 – HRC Honda

11/30 – Bar X Suzuki

12/7 – Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki

12/14 – H.E.P. Motorsports Suzuki

12/21 – Muc-Off FXR ClubMX Yamaha

12/28- Red Bull KTM Factory Racing

1/3 – Team Solitaire

Written by Troy Dog

Faster than Slaw Dog. Editor-in-Chief

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