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Tomac’s Monster Million Dollar Ride
We knew he had it in him. We knew it was only a matter of time. On Saturday night in Sin City, Eli Tomac became just the third rider in history to earn the “Monster Million” at the annual Monster Energy Cup. The Monster Energy Kawasaki rider was in a class of his own in all three 10-lap motos, and while he needed to dig deep in the all-important deciding Main Event, he seized the moment, rose to the occasion, and added another accolade to his growing résumé. He also became the first multi-time winner of the sport’s richest event.
Since 2017, Tomac has won exactly half of the Main Events in Monster Energy Supercross. In addition to that, he’s claimed back-to-back Lucas Oil Pro Motocross 450 Class Championships. There is little doubt that the Colorado native is the rider to beat on any given day, but his total dominance has been tempered a bit due to some adversity and misfortune. Saturday night in Las Vegas appeared to signal a change in that regard.
With its timing in mid-October, the Monster Energy Cup has become the proverbial sneak preview of the upcoming race season. Sure, it’s the sport’s All-Star showcase, but there are invaluable bragging rights and confidence that can be earned entering the critical offseason period. Just one year ago, Marvin Musquin took home a million dollars and proceeded to carry that into the Monster Energy Supercross opener in Anaheim, which he won convincingly. The way Tomac won inside Sam Boyd Stadium was indicative of the kind of efforts we’re poised to see in 2019, and he undoubtedly gave notice to his competitors that he and Monster Energy Kawasaki are going to continue to set the bar come January.
While holding the “Monster Million” check is the highlight of the night for Tomac in Vegas, the deeper meaning behind the performance and its big-picture influence going into next season are where the true impact was made.
“It was a great team win tonight. To also have a fan defy the odds and win a million bucks because I won is just insane!”
This year’s track for the Monster Energy Cup was a little more “tame” than in years past. As a result, speeds were higher and riders were much closer together on times. It set the stage for some close and captivating competition, and the ensuing action on track lived up to expectations.
Musquin made the first statement of the day by posting the fastest lap of qualifying, with Tomac on his heels. Qualifying also presented the first opportunity for Monster Energy Kawasaki’s newest rider, Joey Savatgy, to show his potential. The multi-time 250cc winner was fourth quickest in his debut aboard the 450, just over a half-second off his teammate.
Main Event 1 - The Battle For First
When the gate dropped on the first 10-lap Main Event of the night, the Kawasaki teammates seized control of the race coming out of the first turn. Savatgy parlayed the holeshot into the early lead, while Tomac worked his way by Chad Reed to take over second. Tomac’s torrid pace allowed him to get around Savatgy on Lap 1, and from there he set sail on the field.
Savatgy rode solidly in second for several laps as both Musquin and Jason Anderson jockeyed for the final podium spot. Musquin eventually got the upper hand on the reigning Monster Energy Supercross Champion, which in turn allowed both riders to pick up their pace and close in on Savatgy. Musquin made a successful pass on the rookie and brought Anderson with him, dropping Savatgy from the podium.
In the waning laps the Joker Lane became a factor, as riders chasing Tomac needed to play strategy to hopefully capitalize on an error from the leader, and also protect their position on the track. Ultimately, the Joker Lane impacted just one position in the lead group as Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing’s Justin Barcia was able to get around Savatgy and steal fourth on the final lap.
Tomac took his first checkered flag of the night 3.3 seconds ahead of his bitter rival, Musquin. Anderson was right behind in third, while Barcia and Savatgy helped land a trio of Monster riders inside the top five.
Monster Energy rider Ryan Villopoto also made his anticipated return to racing at the Monster Energy Cup. With some help from Yamaha, the four-time Monster Energy Supercross Champion logged his first laps of professional competition since 2015 and enjoyed some stiff battles in the mid-pack, ultimately bringing home the No. 2RV Yamaha in 12th.
Main Event 2 - Getting Ahead Early
As the only rider in the field with a shot at the million, Tomac did exactly what he had to do to start the second Main Event. He pulled a great start out the gate and emerged from the first turn with the holeshot, which allowed him to establish a gap on second place, Reed, on the opening lap. With the lead in hand, Tomac was able to take advantage of a buffer on his primary contenders, as Reed and Josh Grant occupied second and third.
Musquin, who started fourth, mounted a charge to catch Tomac, but his night came off the rails when he got tangled up with Reed entering one of the over-under bridges on the track. Reed appeared to stall his Suzuki, which caused Musquin to nearly run into him. As he looked to avoid Reed, the Frenchman’s leg got stuck in the back of Reed’s bike, squeezed in by the rear fender, rear axle, and rear tire. Both riders were able to continue on but lost incredibly valuable track positions. Any hopes Musquin had for a repeat victory at the Monster Energy Cup were over.
The misfortune by Musquin opened the door for Barcia to become Tomac’s primarily challenger, and the Yamaha rider made an aggressive charge up to second place. Malcolm Stewart was also putting in an impressive ride, and soon enough he found himself in second, right behind Barcia.
Barcia made the decision to give up the runner-up spot to take the Joker Lane, which briefly handed the spot over to Stewart, but he reclaimed the position on the final lap when Stewart was forced to also take the Joker Lane. The wait proved to be costly for Stewart, who dropped from second to fourth after Grant got around him for third.
Tomac once again went unchallenged out front, and he was making his path to the Monster Million look easy by taking his second win by 4.1 seconds over Barcia, who provided a 1-2 finish for Monster Energy. Grant rounded out the podium, while Savatgy valiantly fought his way to a sixth-place finish. Villopoto improved on his first effort by finishing just outside the top 10 in 11th.
Main Event 3 - Tomac Seals the Deal
With the third and final Main Event on the line, all pressure rested squarely on Tomac’s shoulders. The overall victory was all but a certainty at this point as he carried a four-point lead over Barcia in the running tally entering the final race of the night. The only thing really left for Tomac to do was accomplish something only two other riders had achieved in seven previous years.
Things certainly didn’t start out well for Tomac as he failed to get the positioning he needed entering the first turn. While Savatgy was able to secure his second holeshot of the night and return to the lead, Tomac was mired mid-pack and eventually settled into seventh place. Two riders Tomac was fortunate to not have to deal with ahead of him was Musquin, who pulled off track and out of the race on the opening lap, and Barcia, who experience misfortune and started 17th.
The clear track was great for Savatgy, who continued his impressive debut by opening a gap over Reed, in second, and Vince Friese, in third. Behind them, Tomac was fortunate to find his way around Anderson, which left Reed, Friese, Stewart, and Jordon Smith between he and Savatgy, and a $1 million payday.
As Savatgy continued to extend his lead and open a multi-second gap on the field, Tomac was relentless in his march to the front. He made it look easy, picking off riders at will. On Lap 6, Tomac was running fourth and proceeded to pass both Friese and Stewart on a single lap to jump into second. He had Savatgy in his sights with four laps remaining and dropped the hammer aboard his Kawasaki.
Tomac was more than a second faster than his teammate during each of the final four laps of the Main Event, including the fastest lap of the night on Lap 9. Just over a second separated the teammates as they took the white flag, but Tomac’s pace was the fastest it had been in either of the previous Main Events. He nearly got alongside Savatgy as they stormed through the sand section that carried them outside the stadium, and as they navigated through the outer section Savatgy left an opening that Tomac took immediately, taking over control of the race and his path to the Monster Million with about a quarter lap remaining.
The capacity crowd inside Sam Boyd Stadium was beside itself as Tomac reentered, recognizing history was being made right in front of their eyes. The Monster Energy Kawasaki rider capped off a truly dominant night by taking the $1 million checkered flag 2.0 seconds ahead of Savatgy, which gave Monster Energy and the Kawasaki team a 1-2 effort. Reed followed in a distant third. Barcia finished seventh, with Villopoto in 13th.
“This is crazy. To become the first two-time winner of the Monster Energy Cup and winning the ‘Monster Million’ is just insane. My 2019 KX450 was running so well all night. Our starts were dialed, the suspension was perfect; it all just came together, and I couldn’t be happier right now. It was a great team win tonight. To also have a fan defy the odds and win a million bucks because I won is just insane!”
That incredibly lucky fan was Jesse Hebert, of Greenbelt, Maryland, who also enjoyed the spoils of a $1 million bonus. After earning the invite to the Monster Energy Cup via a contest, Hebert emerged victorious from a group of invited contestants in a “cash grab” booth. That provided him with a chance to take over a million bucks of his own should one of the riders capture the Monster Million. And as unlikely as that seemed, that’s exactly what happened.
Tomac’s perfect score gave him the overall win by nine points over Anderson in second. The 450SX Champ was sandwiched by Monster Energy riders as Savatgy completed his big bike debut with a third-place finish for what was a banner night for the Monster Energy Kawasaki squad. Barcia finished tied with Savatgy but was left off the podium by virtue of a tiebreaker in the final Main Event. Villopoto’s return to racing finished with a 13th-place finish.
Monster Energy Cup Overall Results (Main Event Results)
• Eli Tomac, Monster Energy Kawasaki – 3 points (1-1-1)
• Jason Anderson, Husqvarna – 12 points (3-5-4)
• Joey Savatgy, Monster Energy Kawasaki – 13 points (5-6-2)
• Justin Barcia, Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing – 13 points (4-2-7)
• Malcolm Stewart, Honda – 17 points (7-4-6)
13. Ryan Villopoto, Monster Energy Yamaha – 36 points (12-11-13)
Amateur All-Stars Overall Results (Main Event Results)
• Jo Shimoda, Honda – 4 points (1-3)
• Jalek Swoll, Husqvarna – 5 points (3-2)
• Derek Drake, KTM – 7 points (6-1)
• Seth Hammaker, Monster Energy Kawasaki Team Green – 7 points (2-5)
• Brian Moreau, BUD Racing/Monster Energy/Kawasaki – 8 points (4-4)
• Carter Halpain, bLU cRU Yamaha/Monster Energy – 11 points (5-6)
• Jesse Flock, KTM/Monster Energy – 15 points (7-8)
10. Parker Mashburn, KTM/Monster Energy – 21 points (11-10)
20. Bjorn Viney, Kawasaki/Monster Energy – 38 points (18-20)
21. Jordan Jarvis, Yamaha/Monster Energy – 41 points (20-21)
Supermini Overall Results (Main Event Results)
• Max Vohland, KTM – 2 points (1-1)
• Kaeden Amerine, KTM – 5 points (3-2)
• Chance Hymas, Monster Energy Kawasaki Team Green – 9 points (5-4)
• Jack Chamber, KTM – 10 points (7-3)
• Joshua Varize, KTM – 10 points (2-8)
7. Nick Romano, Monster Energy Kawasaki Team Green – 11 points (4-7)
11. Talon Hawkins, Husqvarna/Monster Energy – 25 points (19-6)
17. Ryder DiFrancesco, Monster Energy Kawasaki Team Green – 33 points (13-20)