He’s the reigning AMA Supercross champion and Red Bull KTM’s fresh hope for the mammoth American racing series. How is Chase Sexton pivoting to life in orange?

By Adam Wheeler

2024 Supercross season has begun, and Chase Sexton is READY TO RACE. PC: Simon Cudby

The 24-year-old seems like the epitome of an athlete that rules the biggest motorcycle racing series in North America. He’s good-looking (clear blue eyes and a pristine complexion), stocky and clearly ‘ripped’. Approachable and smiles easily and is a wonder of power, poise, and speed on a KTM 450 SX-F FACTORY EDITION. For all his attributes, Chase Sexton is still adjusting to life as part of the prominent Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team in the vast calendar of American dirtbike racing that entails 17 rounds of AMA supercross, 11 dates of AMA Pro Motocross and 3 SuperMotocross (SMX) ‘playoffs’.

Supercross dominates the landscape and the thought processes of Red Bull KTM from their base in Murrieta in southern California. The 2023 series attracted 850,000 fans into stadiums across the country and 23 million hours of viewership was consumed between NBC, USA Network, and Peacock channels. Supercross has the glamour, the entertainment format, the broader audience power and the financial clout to be one of the most rewarding and lucrative competitions in the world, despite its rigid American base.

Supercross has all the components it needs to fill stadiums all across North America. PC: Simon Cudby

Sexton clinched the premier class 450 SX championship in 2023 to go with two previous 250 SX (East Coast) titles, all earned with a single manufacturer. His style and potential meant he had long been circulating on KTM’s radar as the successor to riders like Ryan Dungey and Cooper Webb as the next major star for the brand, and since KTM first started to impose themselves on the sport almost a decade ago.

Red Bull KTM Factory Racing have kept continuity for 2024 with the likes of Aaron Plessinger (already a race-winner this season) and former double MX2 World Champion Tom Vialle (in 250SX East) but are joined by rookie Julien Beaumer and, of course, Chase, who brings A-list billing and all the fuss and attention that comes with the #1 plate.

Red Bull KTM Factory Riders Chase Sexton and Aaron Plessinger on their KTM 450 SX-F FACTORY EDITIONs. PC: Simon Cudby

The change of team, change of motorcycle, change of employer were major shifts for the rider from Illinois, and so was the working culture. Very soon after confirming his KTM contract, Chase travelled to Austria and was able to appreciate the close connect with the Motorsport Department and the management that shaped his deal but also all the R&D and manufacturing personnel and effort that went into production of his race bike.

“The first thing I noticed was how passionate they are about racing,” he tells us while sat in a collapsible chair in the confines of the team’s two-truck set-up in the AMA Supercross paddock. “I’d ridden for a rival company for so long but never been to one of their Headquarters. Usually, factories are [just] production lines and logistics but there were so many parts of KTM that felt only racing. Obviously, there was a lot of production also, but it was very clear how much racing meant to them. It was very cool, and then to be directly talking with the people who are creating the racing was also cool. I hadn’t known people like Pit [Beirer] and Robert [Jonas, VP of Motorsport Offroad] that long but I was made to feel comfortable right away.”

Chase was able to convince himself of the quality at the KTM factory in Mattighofen and, on that occasion, promptly signed a #1 number plate. PC: Sebas Romero

Elite athletes are often complex people that carefully monitor their physical and mental states in the endless search of peak performance. This means they can be stubborn creatures of habit and don’t adjust well to variation. If alterations are needed to training, their approach, their equipment then swift and essential communication with the people around them is necessary. The direct link that Sexton now has through the upper regions of KTM was a new and reassuring asset. “I have Roger [De Coster, Director of Racing SX/MX] and Ian [Harrison, Red Bull KTM Team Manager] here and it’s rare that they don’t have everything under control…but knowing that you can have a conversation with someone who makes the decisions is really nice and you just have the feeling that the full crew and company have your back,” he says. “Their passion shines through, and it’s what attracted me to KTM in the first place. They also know what it takes to win and it’s cool to be a part of all that.”

Even though he has the medals, Sexton is still young in the game for 450SX and the full (and demanding) SMX calendar. KTM knows it has a jewel in its midst, and the joint ‘polishing’ process is on-going. “A difference I see in Chase is when he’s riding on the track, he just has a lot of raw speed,” Harrison tells us, when asked to compare him to previous KTM racers. “He’s a guy that we need to slow down, not speed up.”

“He’s a guy that we need to slow down, not speed up.” – Ian Harrison, Red Bull KTM Team Manager PC: Simon Cudby

“He needs a very different bike setup, due to the way he rides the motorcycle, so this has taken some time to figure out,” the South African adds.

While many eyes are on Chase for the magic he can produce on track, many have also praised his openness in talking to media and fans when perhaps results or races have not gone to plan. This endearing character trait shines through quickly. He is sincere with his responses to questions. “I think you can look back and feel comfortable with your career, but I am always looking forwards and I want to accomplish a lot more before I am done,” he reflects. “It’s crazy to think I am 24 and this is my seventh year as a Pro. It’s pretty crazy. It feels like yesterday…and, in my mind, I feel young and I’m good physically. I have a lot to give.”

Besides his talent on the bike, Chase Sexton also shines with his warm personality. PC: Simon Cudby

“For me, my biggest thing is being true to myself and being the same as I was when I was a rookie and coming up through the amateurs,” he adds. “It’s something I’d like to show people and just have a positive influence.”

The other striking feature about Sexton is his bulk. He is not overly tall but has a torso shaped by countless hours in a gym or on a motorcycle. Those considerable shoulders bare a lot. “One of the things that stand out to me about Chase is his pure strength,” comments Harrison. “He is definitely one of the strongest guys I’ve dealt with. Another thing is that he is good at both Motocross and Supercross, he also seems to shine in the mud; good attributes to have as a racer.”

His physical constitution is also part of Sexton’s recipe for success. PC: Simone Cudby

Physical preparation is obviously a facet that Sexton embraces heartily. His new link with Red Bull brings more advantages in this aspect. “Red Bull really gets involved in helping you as an athlete,” he says, eyes widening. “I’m really into fitness and everything it involves, and the Red Bull Performance Center in LA is cool with the tests they make. It’s really high-tech. They have all the pieces of the puzzle to help you. [My deal] is more than just getting a paycheck. They really want to help you be a better athlete. In my opinion Red Bull is top of the line; you just have to look at the athletes they are involved with. It’s a tight knit, chosen group. It’s special to be involved with it. I want to keep going back to the Performance Centre and keep working with those tests.”

Chase Sexton definitely has everything it takes to win, and he will for sure do everything he can to succeed. PC: Simon Cudby

A visit to the Legends section of the KTM Motohall while he was in Mattighofen further hammered home the racing heritage and history that stretches all the way back to the mid-1970s and the first of KTMs 340+ world titles. Like most champions, he seems more than capable of wearing the load. “I have high expectations and I hold myself to them,” he claims. “There is no stress around it because being about to go out there and to do what I can do is a driving factor for me. Having those KTM champions before me and seeing all those winners makes me realize I have everything I need; I just have to do my job now.”