If Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac continues on the trajectory that could land him the 2017 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series Championship, then round 15 of the series at Salt Lake City’s Rice-Eccles Stadium may well be remembered as the performance that cemented Tomac’s path.
Tomac’s ninth win of the season was as dominant a performance as just about any current series regular could muster, and it brought back memories of some of the great runs by series legends such as Jeremy McGrath and Ricky Carmichael.
Tomac’s win wasn’t necessarily marked by how deep in the field he came to take the win—he was officially 10th on the first lap—it was how quickly he passed the nine riders in front of him, including defending series champion Ryan Dungey, who had gotten a rocket start and separated himself from the rest of the pack to run alone in the lead.
RCH/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing’s Justin Bogle pulled the holeshot just ahead of Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Jason Anderson and Dungey when the main event began, but Dungey quickly moved into the lead early on lap two. Tomac, meanwhile had started the race near the tail end of the pack, and although he quickly gobbled up some of the slower riders on the first lap, there were still plenty of faster ones ahead of him as he made his way into 10th place before the start of lap two.
Dungey used the clear track in front of him to build a lead of several seconds over Anderson as Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Josh Grant ran third, but the crowd of 43,207 was focused on Tomac, who was able to pass at least one rider per lap until he got just outside the top five. Tomac broke into the top five on lap nine by passing two riders to move from sixth to fourth. On the next lap he moved past Grant for third and then set his sights on closing the deficit he faced to Anderson for second.
It took Tomac three laps to catch and pass Anderson, which he did on the one part of the track that he seemed to have the most wired, the left-hander at the end of the whoop section where he had previously passed Grant. Tomac still faced a three-second deficit to Dungey at that point, but the Kawasaki man still had over half the race to catch the series champ. Tomac continued to methodically click off the fastest laps of any rider on the track, and he soon drew onto Dungey’s rear fender.
The two engaged briefly in some great back-and-forth racing before the final move came on lap 19 in the same spot on the track where Tomac had made his previous two moves to gain a position– at the end of the whoop section. Tomac used extra momentum to dive inside Dungey in a corner, drawing slight contact between the two. Tomac squeezed Dungey to the outside and then slowed in front of Dungey to ensure that he had the pass locked down before streaking away to win the race by 6.3 seconds over Dungey.
“I was stuck in a tough position [off the start] and I had to make it happen. It was all I could do,” said Tomac. “We were feeling awesome all day and really had a few good spots on the track where I was able to make a lot of passes. The start wasn’t ideal at all. I had a flinch on the gate, so that was something else for us [to deal with], [but] I felt great the whole time. This was pretty cool to come back and do that.”
After leading the first 18 laps Dungey was forced to settle for second. Anderson finished in a solid third.
“It’s good to get points, but we’ve got to win. Eli [Tomac] was riding good tonight. He caught us, passed us, and that’s what it was. There were a lot of positives tonight, but man, I was hoping to get out front and just take it all the way, but it doesn’t happen like that all the time. It’s a bummer, but we put ourselves out there and came up a little short. I’m really happy with a lot of things, but instead of second place I wish we were one step higher.”
Tomac now sits alone atop the championship standings for the first time in his career. It’s also the first time since the third round of the season that Dungey finds himself out of the points lead. Tomac’s lead over Dungey is now three points, 319-316, with two rounds remaining.
2017 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series
Salt Lake City, UT
Results: April 22, 2017 (Round 15 of 17)
450cc Main Event
1. Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Kawasaki
2. Ryan Dungey, Belle Plaine, Minn., KTM
3. Jason Anderson, Rio Rancho, N.M., Husqvarna
4. Marvin Musquin, Corona, Calif., KTM
5. Josh Grant, Riverside, Calif., Kawasaki
6. Chad Reed, Dade City, Fla., Yamaha
7. Davi Millsaps, Cairo, Ga., KTM
8. Blake Baggett, Grand Terrace, Calif., KTM
9. Cooper Webb, Newport, N.C., Yamaha
10. Dean Wilson, Clermont, Fla., Husqvarna
2017 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series Points Standings (after 15 of 17 rounds)
1. Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Kawasaki – 319/9 wins
2. Ryan Dungey, Belle Plaine, Minn., KTM – 316/2 wins
3. Marvin Musquin, Corona, Calif., KTM – 270
4. Jason Anderson, Rio Rancho, N.M., Husqvarna – 228
5. Cole Seely, Sherman Oaks, Calif., Honda – 211
6. Blake Baggett, Grand Terrace, Calif., KTM – 190
7. Davi Millsaps, Cairo, Ga., KTM – 190
8. Broc Tickle, Holly, Mich., Suzuki – 167
9. Chad Reed, Dade City, Fla., Yamaha – 158
10. Dean Wilson, Clermont, Fla., Husqvarna – 158