After 17 rounds of racing, the battle for the 2017 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship came down to one last furious battle at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada, and when it was over Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey emerged with his fourth career and third consecutive AMA Supercross title.
About the only thing that could match the fireworks display after the checkered flag fell was the on-track fireworks between Dungey and his closest title rival, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac. Their bar-banging duel may go down in history as one of the most hotly contest rounds the series has ever showcased. In true demolition derby fashion, the battle included not only the title combatants but others as well.
Neither man actually won the 450cc main event; Tomac finished second while Dungey finished fourth That race win fell to Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Jason Anderson, who came through on the last lap after Tomac and Dungey collided while battling for the lead. While Tomac finished second, it wasn’t enough to overcome the nine-point advantage that Dungey had coming into the final round after winning the New Jersey Supercross, and Dungey’s fourth-place finish was more than enough to secure the title by five points over Tomac, 359-354.
Dungey became the fifth rider in AMA Supercross history to win three consecutive premier-class titles and the fourth rider to win four or more, joining Ricky Carmichael, Jeremy McGrath, and Ryan Villopoto. His three wins are the lowest for a champion since Team Honda’s Jeff Stanton won the title by claiming three main event wins in 1992. Alternatively, Tomac’s nine wins are the most for a rider that failed to win the title since Team Yamaha’s Damon Bradshaw won nine while losing to Stanton in 1992. Dungey and Tomac finished the season separated by just five points, the closest series finish since Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto won the title by four points over Reed in 2011.
Afterward, Dungey talked about persevering to claim that fourth title, and he didn’t spare any words when it came to criticizing Tomac’s attempt to turn the points race back in Tomac’s favor by riding aggressively whenever he was near Dungey in the main event.
“That was a season of never give up,” Dungey said. “It was tough from the get-go, but we did it. In the last race [of the season] I didn’t expect it to be like that. I expected it to be a clean race, but those cheap shots were unbelievable.”
That comment drew boos from many of the sellout crowd of 39,509 that came to see who would win the championship. It’s clear that many of them came to see Tomac win it, but those fans left as disappointed as he undoubtedly was.
RMATV/MC-WPS-KTM’s Blake Baggett grabbed the holeshot in the climactic main event, but Dungey quickly put an outside move on Baggett to secure the lead. Tomac was also off to a good start, and he, too, quickly dispatched Baggett to move from third place to second place and begin his pursuit of Dungey.
Tomac’s then made an aggressive pass on Dungey, who was forced to check up in order to avoid a collision. That allowed Anderson to move into second place. While Anderson may ride for the factory Husqvarna team, that team also happens to be owned by KTM, and Anderson is a training partner of Dungey’s, and it would be interesting to see just what role Anderson—who is also known for aggressive riding—would play in the outcome of the race.
Anderson pursued Tomac for several laps and then made an aggressive move his own to take the lead briefly, but Tomac was able to quickly get back to the front while Dungey fought his way back into second place on lap four.
At that point, Dungey could have cruised behind Tomac, secure in the knowledge that he had enough points in hand to defend the title, but as the race wore on it seemed as though Dungey had something to prove, and he closed up the gap to Tomac.
Tomac then made a mistake in a rhythm section on lap 14, and Dungey took advantage of it to bolt into the lead. That actually gave Tomac a tactical advantage if he could catch Dungey again, which he did, and Tomac’s next pass attempt resulted in contact between the two, forcing Dungey off the track. Dungey refused to go down, however, and he managed to fall back in behind Tomac to run second again.
Enter Monster Energy/Yamalube/Chaparral/Yamaha Financial Services/Yamaha’s Chad Reed, who was enjoying an excellent charge after a rollercoaster season. The two-time series champion came calling on lap 17, and he passed Anderson for third place. However, it immediately became clear that Anderson wasn’t interested in seeing another rider play a factor in the title outcome, and he proceeded to slam into Reed in a corner and knock the veteran rider over a Tuff Blok, effectively ending Reed’s chance for a podium finish.
Tomac’s teammate, Josh Grant, was also in the hunt and clearly motivated to see if he might be able to help Tomac. Grant snatched third place away from Anderson, but Anderson quickly retaliated and regained the spot.
The title battle still wasn’t over as the white flag was shown to the field. Dungey ran just behind Tomac, clearly looking for a chance to steal the race win. Tomac then slowed briefly, allowing Dungey to reclaim the lead. Tomac’s strategy was once again made clear, however, when he drew right back onto
Dungey’s rear wheel and slammed him again in another turn. This time both riders were forced to slow, and that allowed Anderson to move into the lead and take the win by just under 2 seconds while Grant moved into second place. Tomac quickly retook second before the finish. Grant finished third, claiming his first podium of 2017.
“I really wanted to get that win,” Anderson said. “It was a tough position I was in because I didn’t want to disrespect them [Dungey and Tomac] and get in their battle or anything. I wanted them to do their deal. I felt like I was a little bit better than them the whole time. I got passed by Reedy and then…yeah…I made some moves. But I was really excited to get that win. I’m psyched.”
But Dungey was able to and cross the line fourth to clinch the title.
“We survived it and we got through it,” Dungey said. “We didn’t win the most races [this season], but the points are what matter at the end. We fought hard, tooth and nail. This was the most challenging and the hardest season of my entire career. It’s just nice to be here and sit on top.”
Tomac may have left without the title, but he certainly made his mark on the 2017 campaign by capturing nine wins in the 17-race series.
“For us it was just a huge improvement over the year before,” he said. “Last year, I think we had too high of expectations, and that can catch up with you. This year, we made the strides forward, and we won races, but I made a few too many mistakes and cost us the whole thing [championship]. We fought as hard we could. I’m really excited about the way it went, and I’m looking forward to the seasons to come. We didn’t get it all the way done, but we’ll keep our heads up and keep swinging for it next year.”
2017 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series
Sam Boyd Stadium
Las Vegas, Nevada
Results: May 6, 2017 (Round 17 of 17)
450cc Main Event
1. Jason Anderson-Hus
2. Eli Tomac-Kaw
4. Ryan Dungey-KTM
5. Dean Wilson-Hus
6. Chad Reed-Yam
7. Blake Baggett-KTM
8. Davi Millsaps-KTM
9. Justin Brayton-Hon
10. Cooper Webb-Yam
11. Christian Craig-Hon
12. Malcolm Stewart-Suz
13. Justin Bogle-Suz
14. Jake Weimer-Suz
15. Vince Friese-Hon
16. Alex Ray-Yam
17. Dakota Tedder-Kaw
18. Adam Enticknap-Hon
19. Ronnie Stewart-Suz
20. Scott Champion-Yam
21. Justin Barcia-Suz
22. Marvin Musquin-KTM
2017 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series Points Standings (after 17 of 17 rounds)
1. Ryan Dungey-359/3 wins
2. Eli Tomac-354/9 wins
3. Marvin Musquin-293/2 wins
4. Jason Anderson-273/1 win
5. Davi Millsaps-221
6. Blake Baggett-220
7. Cole Seely-212
8. Dean Wilson-185
9. Chad Reed-182
10. Josh Grant-175
20. Ken Roczen-51/2 wins