2018 Anaheim II Supercross: Tomac Wins First Triple Crown Leg

Eli Tomac takes the Monster Energy Supercross Triple Crown Series-opening win at the 2018 Anaheim II Supercross; Joey Savatgy nets 250SX West win.

Monster Energy Kawasaki riders topped the night during the 2018 Anaheim II Supercross, with Eli Tomac returning to action to claim the 450 win while Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Joey Savatgy won the 250SX West class before a sell-out crowd of 45,050 at Angel Stadium on a cool Saturday evening in Southern California.

Round three of the 2018 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series, the 2018 Anaheim II Supercross made history as part of the new Monster Energy Triple Crown in which the race format included three main events per class instead of the usual heat race / LCQ / main event format. The rider with the best combined finishes in the three main events would be declared the winner.

2018 Anaheim II Supercross
Eli Tomac rebounded from the shoulder injury that he suffered at round one of the 2018 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series to win round three at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, the first round of the new Monster Energy Triple Crown series. Tomac one one of the three 450cc main events held on the night en route to the win. PHOTO BY RAS PHOTO.

450 Mains
Team Honda HRC’s Cole Seely got the ball rolling in the 450cc class at the 2018 Anaheim II Supercross as he moved into the lead in the 8-minute-long first main event after a brief tussle with Smartop Motoconcepts Honda’s Justin Brayton, while JGR Autotrader Yoshimura Suzuki’s Weston Peick moved into third place ahead of Rocky Mountain ATV/MC/KTM/WPS’ Blake Baggett. Monster Energy teammates Josh Grant and Tomac ran fifth and sixth respectively, ahead of Monster Energy Knich Yamaha’s Cooper Webb and Team Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen. Farther back in the pack, JGR Autotrader Yoshimura Suzuki’s Malcolm Stewart and Red Bull KTM’s Broc Tickle collided, dropping them to the rear of the field. The 2018 Houston Supercross winner, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Jason Anderson, was also balked in the incident, and was left running in 13th place on the opening lap.

2018 Anaheim II Supercross
Cole Seely had a great night at Anaheim II, winning the opening main event and finishing second overall. PHOTO BY RAS PHOTO.

The sprint-style nature of the 11-lap opening main event left little room for error and little time to make up lost ground. Seely went on to bag the win, followed by Brayton. Baggett moved past Peick to take over third place with Peick fourth and Tomac fifth. Anderson made the most passes in the short main event to come home seventh, behind Grant. Roczen, meanwhile, went backwards, dropping to 11th, behind Monster Energy Knich Yamaha’s Justin Barcia, Red Bull KTM’s Marvin Musquin, and Webb. Seely’s margin of victory was a little over 4.5 seconds.

“We’ve got a lot of competition this year,” Seely said. “Last weekend when Justin [Barcia] got back by me, I was really bummed, but he’s riding good this year, so it’s good to see the sport growing that kind of way. But, yeah, I’ve worked so hard this year in preparing myself, and coming into the season I’ve never felt so prepared. I mean, the team has been awesome, my trainer Blake, and… Yeah, I just wanted to get a good start and get out there and show, really, who I am and who Honda is. It’s been way too long since I’ve been in the front.”

2018 Anaheim II Supercross
Justin Barcia (51) and Ken Roczen (94) both had rough nights at Anaheim II, finishing eighth and ninth overall respectively. PHOTO BY RAS PHOTO.

Smartop Motoconcepts Honda’s Vince Friese nailed the holeshot in the second 2018 Anaheim II Supercross 450cc main event, but Friese pushed the front and low-sided in turn four, handing Tmac the lead ahead of Brayton, Seely, Baggett and Grant. Anderson ran 10th after the first lap, while Roczen had gotten a terrible start and was way back in 16th place. One of them would blaze through the pack while the other wouldn’t.

Anderson charged like a man possessed, passing two riders and then gaining an additional spot when Baggett crashed. Meanwhile, Barcia and CR22 Husqvarna’s Chad Reed ran in close quarters over a triple, with Barcia going off the track and then coming back on behind Reed before making an aggressive pass on the two-time series champ on lap three. Barcia would move all the way up to fifth place.

Up front, Tomac ran 1.5 seconds ahead of Seely, with Grant ahead of Brayton for third place while Peick was fifth. But Anderson was already running sixth by lap three, and while it took him five more laps to move into the top five, he didn’t stop there. Anderson caught Peick, but the Suzuki man wasn’t willing to give up the fifth spot so easily, and the two traded the position back and forth. Peick then passed Brayton for fourth place, with Anderson following suit in a short whoop section. Anderson then inherited fourth place when Peick dropped his Suzuki in a right-hand corner.

Tomac was able to withstand late pressure without about a minute left in the race to move back out to a 2-second lead. Anderson was all over Grant with two laps to go, and he took Grant’s line away in a right-hand turn to seal up third place. Tomac took the win, followed by Seely, Anderson, Grant and Barcia. Tomac was 2.6 seconds ahead of Seely at the finish.

2018 Anaheim II Supercross
Tomac got off to a good start in the second 450cc main event and was able to hold off a hard-charging Seely for the win PHOTO BY RAS PHOTO.

“It was a bummer the way we had to take those first two races, with the crash at Anaheim I and then just tried to tough it out at Houston and wasn’t able to do it and ride safely,” Tomac said. “So, I’m glad to be back out here. It feels like I’m doing what I’m supposed to do. The shoulder had good strength now, and [I’m] trying to get ready for this third main here at Triple Crown.”

After suffering to poor starts in the first two 2018 Anaheim II Supercross 450cc main events, Anderson left little to chance in the third, 15-minute main event. Tomac grabbed the holeshot, but Anderson was off the line second, just ahead of Brayton, with Reed getting his best start of the night to run third, ahead of Webb and Peick, with Roczen also finally getting a good start to run sixth at the start of lap one. Brayton briefly passed Anderson for second, but Anderson took the spot right back. Seely, meanwhile, was mired in 13th place early.

Tomac moved about 1.5 seconds ahead of Anerson early as Brayton ran just ahead of a good battle between Peick and Roczen for fourth place. Anderson quickly began to cut into Tomac’s lead, and he was able to stuff his way under Tomac just past the finish line to take over the lead on lap six. Anderson would lead the remaining 12 laps to score the third main event win, but Tomac was able to cruise to second place over Brayton, Roczen and Peick. Baggett came back to finish sixth in the third main event, followed by Seely, Grant, Barcia and GEICO Honda’s Jeremy Martin, the latter in his third and final ride aboard a 450cc machine in the 2018 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series.

2018 Anaheim II Supercross
Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series points leader Jason Anderson had to overcome bad starts to fight his way into contention during the first two main events, but he smoked the field in the third main event to finish third overall on the night and increase his series lead. PHOTO BY RAS PHOTO.

Tomac’s 5-1-2 results gave him the overall win as well as the points lead in the Monster Energy Triple crown.

“It’s pretty unbelievable what a week will do when you have basically a smashed muscle,” Tomac said. “It just takes time to recover. It’s just the way the human body works. All I know is we got it better, and it was just all about getting to the night show tonight and then just putting three consistent motos in. I wasn’t expecting this at all, so wow is all I can say.”

Of course, Anderson’s Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series points lead actually grew as he now has 11 points over the next-closest rider. With a second overall finish at the 2018 Anaheim Supercross via 7-3-1 scores, he now has 70 points.

“I battled all night,” Anderson said. “That last race, it was nice to get out front and kind of have a rest because you know those first two were hectic. You know the first one, I was in that pile-up. The second one, just [got] caught in the first corner and, you know, that last one [I] was able to get up front. I had a good night. [I’m] having a good time, and I’m just going to try to keep riding good, like I am, and then hopefully come down to the end and we’re battling for that championship still. So I’m excited.”

2018 Anaheim II Supercross
Justin Brayton had an extraordinary night piloting his Smartop Motoconcepts Honda to fourth overall. PHOTO BY RAS PHOTO.

Second in the series standings now belongs to Seely, who finished second overall via 1-2-7 scores, and now trails Anderson, 59-70.

“It has been kind of a struggle,” Seely said. “I’ve kind of had to, like, find myself, as a rider, over the past year. I definitely feel like I’m getting in a good groove. I’ve got a good group of people around me… It’s good to see the hard work pay off, and I’m just really happy with the way the night’s going… definitely pick up some momentum and some confidence. I’m excited.”

Eighth overall tonight, Barcia remains third with 57 while Roczen, who finished ninth overall, slips from second to fourth after the 2018 Anaheim II Supercross, with 56 points. The consistent-riding Peick is fifth, with 54 points. Tomac is still outside the top 10, in 13th, with 27 points.

250SX West Mains
Savatgy narrowly beat GEICO Honda’s Christian Craig and Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Adam Cianciarulo into turn one at the start of the 6-minute-long 250cc main event that started off the triple crown at the 2018 Anaheim II Supercross. Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Mitchell Harrison ran fourth, just ahead of Anaheim I Supercross winner Shane McElrath and his Troy Lee Designs Red Bull KTM. McElrath would quickly move past Harrison to do battle with Cianciarulo, the Kawasaki man already battered after having crashed hard over a tabletop earlier in the day. McElrath soon put away Cianciarulo to move into third place. Meanwhile, Houston Suprecross winner Aaron Plessinger was mired in 11th place on the opening lap, but the Yamalaube Yamaha rider was up to seventh by lap four.

2018 Anaheim II Supercross
Joey Savatgy was the man to beat in the 250SX West class. The Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki rider put in 1-2-1 finishes to claim his first supercross win in more than a year. PHOTO BY RAS PHOTO.

Savatgy stayed out of trouble and used the advantage of a clear racetrack to score the win. McElrath began to pressure Craig two laps from the finish, but pushed the front end of his KTM too hard and went down in a left-handed sweeper. That allowed Yamalube Yamaha’s Mitchell Oldenburg and Cianciarulo to slip back by and take over third and fourth place respectively, sealing the top five finishing order. Plessinger worked his way up to sixth before the checkered flag fell. Savatgy’s margin of victory was 2.5 seconds.

“It’s different,” Savatgy said of the three main event format. “I’m used to lining up and getting a heat race in, and there’s a little less pressure in a heat race, If you don’t win a heat race it’s not as big of a deal. [But] we put in our laps. I had pressure from Christian [Craig] early on, and it’s a little slippery, so I just tried to focus on my own laps and get it done. It’s not possible without the man up above. It’s a good way to start the night.”

2018 Anaheim II Supercross
Shane McElrath has been consistent so far in 2018, and he was a consistent second overall after all three Anaheim II 250SX West main events were completed. PHOTO BY RAS PHOTO.

The second 2018 Anaheim II Supercross 250 main event added 4 more minutes to the clock to make a 10-minute main. GEICO Honda’s Chase Sexton got an excellent start to lead the field through turn one, but McElrath was able to dive underneath the rookie in turn two and take over the lead. AJE Motorsports Skase’ MX Husqvarna’s Cole Martinez ran third early, but he would quickly fall back into the pack as Savatgy led the train of riders, including Craig, 51FIFTY Energy Drink Yamaha’s Kyle Chisholm, Plessinger and Cianciarulo past Martinez before the end of the first lap. Craig pressured Savatgy for third place, but Savtgy was unfazed as he passed Sexton on lap two. Sexton would then crash and slip back into the field, leaving Craig to hold down third place ahead of Plessinger and Cianciarulo.

McElrath went to keep a margin of about 3 seconds between himself and Savatgy for the rest of the main event, crossing the finish line ahead of Savatgy, Craig, Plessinger and Cianciarulo. McElrath had 3.9 seconds in hand at the finish.

McElrath said that the key to the win was to “Be really aggressive on the first lap. This track is really fast. It’s a good racetrack. Everybody’s going fast. The qualifying times were close, and it just felt good to be aggressive the first lap and try and break away. A start and a good first few laps is going to be what’s the key in the third race. I just feel good, God is good, and we’re here, ready to fight for it.”

Sexton netted another great start in the third 12-minute main event at the 2018 Anaheim II Supercross, but Savatgy was off the gate second, only drop behind ahead of Chisholm while Craig and 51FIFTY Energy Drink Yamaha’s Hayden Mellross ran fourth and fifth respectively. Second main event winner McElrath saw his chances for the overall win take a serious hit when he got off to an 11th-place start on the opening lap. Cianciarulo was on the move after running eighth on the opening lap, and he cut under Craig to make his way into third place on lap nine.

Sexton hung tough in the lead for 12 laps, but Savatgy continued to pressure the GEICO Honda rider through lapped traffic. With Cianciarulo closing up the gap, it soon became a three-rider fight for the lead. Savatgy was able to get underneath Sexton for the lead in a flat right-hand corner, with Cianciarulo making the pass for second place just a couple turns later, putting Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki riders one-two. That’s how they finished, with Savatgy claiming his second main event win of the night and claiming the overall win via his 1-2-1 finishes. It was Savatgy’s first supercross win in over a year.

“Words can’t explain it,” Savatgy said. “The man up above, he’s got a plan, and you’ve just got to keep believing… It’s been a long time since I’ve been up here and been genuinely happy and excited. I don’t even know what to say right now… We’ve been working hard at the [Carmichael] farm, and we’re never satisfied. There’s things to fix and things to get better at. But… I can’t explain it. I’m very happy.”

2018 Anaheim II Supercross
Christian Craig’s desire to “make something happen” yielded results at Anaheim II. Craig rode well in all three 250 mains and netted third overall, his first podium finish since the 2017 Toronto Supercross. PHOTO BY RAS PHOTO.

McElrath came back to finish fourth in the third main event, and that was the spot he needed to break the tie with Craig for second place overall after both men finished with 10 points.

“Man, I just had a lot of fun out there,” McElrath said. “It was crazy to run the three races against everybody. We had to fight for that one, and it was kind of chaos, but it was so much fun. Just thankful to be here, man, praise God. He has blessed us. We’re healthy and we’re moving forward. We ended up second. That was a tough race, but man it was a lot of fun.”

Craig’s third-place overall finish, while nursing an ankle sprain, was his first podium visit since the 2017 Toronto Supercross.

“Especially after last week, it was kind of like a downfall for me with the ankle,” Craig said. “I still salvaged us some points, but I was so motivated this week. I don’t know what it was, but something just hit me, and I’m just like, ‘I’ve got to start making some stuff happen.’ I’m getting up there in age, and there’s not much time left for me with this racing thing, so I just need to make the best of it whenever these opportunities come. I’ve just got to get those starts like I did in all three of those races. I started up front and ran with those guys, put in consistent laps, and I’m finally showing myself. During the week, I’m riding so good and so confident, so to bring it to the race finally, I’m happy.”

2018 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series
2018 Anaheim II Supercross
Angel Stadium
Anaheim, California
Results: January 20, 2018 (Round 3 of 17)

2018 Anaheim II Supercross

1. Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Kawasaki (5-1-2)
2. Cole Seely, Newbury Park, Calif., Honda (1-2-7)
3. Jason Anderson, Rio Rancho, N.M., Husqvarna (7-3-1)
4. Justin Brayton, Mint Hill, N.C., Honda (2-6-3)
5. Weston Peick, Menifee, Calif., Suzuki (4-9-5)
6. Josh Grant, Wildomar, Calif., Kawasaki (6-4-8)
7. Blake Baggett, Grand Terrance, Calif., KTM (3-10-6)
8. Justin Barcia, Greenville, Fla., Yamaha (8-5-9)
9. Ken Roczen, Clermont, Fla., Honda (11-12-4)
10. Cooper Webb, Newport, N.C., Yamaha (10-7-11)

2018 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series Points Standings (after 3 of 17 rounds)

1. Jason Anderson, Rio Rancho, N.M., Husqvarna (70/1 win)
2. Cole Seely, Newbury Park, Calif., Honda (59)
3. Justin Barcia, Greenville, Fla., Yamaha (57)
4. Ken Roczen, Clermont, Fla., Honda (56)
5. Weston Peick, Menifee, Calif., Suzuki (54)
6. Justin Brayton, Mint Hill, N.C., Honda (52)
7. Josh Grant, Wildomar, Calif., Kawasaki (45)
8. Blake Baggett, Grand Terrance, Calif., KTM (43)
9. Broc Tickle, Holly, Mich., KTM (37)
10. Cooper Webb, Newport, N.C., Yamaha (37)

2018 Anaheim II Supercross

250SX West
1. Joey Savatgy, Thomasville, Ga., Kawasaki (1-2-1)
2. Shane McElrath, Canton, N.C., KTM (5-1-4)
3. Christian Craig, Orange, Calif. Honda (2-3-5)
4. Adam Cianciarulo, New Smyrna, Fla., Kawasaki (4-5-2)
5. Mitchell Oldenburg, Alvord, Texas, Yamaha (3-6-6)
6. Aaron Plessinger, Hamilton, Ohio, Yamaha (6-4-7)
7. Hayden Mellross, Clermont, Fla., Yamaha (7-10-8)
8. Chase Sexton, Clermont, Fla., Honda (15-8-3)
9. Phillip Nicoletti, Bethel, N.Y., Suzuki (8-7-11)
10. Justin Hill, Yoncalla, Ore., Suzuki (11-9-9)

2018 Monster Energy AMA Western Regional 250SX Class Championship Standings (after 2 of 10 rounds)

1. Joey Savatgy, Thomasville, Ga., Kawasaki (68/1 win)
2. Shane McElrath, Canton, N.C., KTM (68/1 win)
3. Aaron Plessinger, Hamilton, Ohio, Yamaha (66/1 win)
4. Christian Craig, Orange, Calif. Honda (57)
5. Adam Cianciarulo, New Smyrna, Fla., Kawasaki (56)
6. Mitchell Oldenburg, Alvord, Texas, Yamaha (34)
7. Chase Sexton, Clermont, Fla., Honda (51)
8. Justin Hill, Yoncalla, Ore., Suzuki (42)
9. Kyle Chisholm, Valrico, Fla., Yamaha (39)
10. Hayden Mellross, Clermont, Fla., Yamaha (34)