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This year's Budds Creek National will serve as the penultimate round of the 2019 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing.
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Eli Tomac. Monster Achievement

Aug 202019

When he entered the 2019 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship there was little doubt that Eli Tomac was favored to once again defend his 450 Class crown. However, this year’s title defense came with added weight compared to his championship-winning 2017 and 2018 campaigns. 

Why?

Well, in 47 seasons of Pro Motocross only three riders had ever accomplished such a dominant feat. The first two titleholders in the history of the championship, Gary Jones and Tony DiStefano, went back-to-back with their three-peats, from 1972-1977. After that, it took another 25 years until it happened again, when Monster Energy athlete Ricky Carmichael clinched his three-peat in 2002. Of course, Carmichael went on to string together seven straight titles during the single-most-dominant era and career in American motocross history.

A full decade after Carmichael hung up his riding boots for good, Tomac broke through with his first national championship in the premier division. It was a nail-biter of a summer, but Tomac prevailed at season’s end by a 17-point margin. The following year, Tomac enjoyed considerably more success than his initial championship run. However, a nightmare afternoon at RedBud threatened to put a damper on his entire title defense. With his back against the wall, what unfolded over the course of the second half of the season showed what Tomac is made of. He dug deep, put forth some of the most jaw-dropping performances we’ve ever seen, and once again emerged triumphant, this time by just 16 points.

History proved that neither of Tomac’s back-to-back titles came easy. While it was clear that he was the rider to beat each and every time the gate dropped, anything can and often does happen in the world of motocross, and simply being the fastest rider isn’t always enough. Sometimes luck needs to fall your way, but more often than not, if a rider of Tomac’s caliber can go out and take care of his business, he’s going to put himself in a championship-winning position.

If we’ve learned anything throughout his career, it’s that Tomac is a rider that undoubtedly takes care of business. He shows up to the track knowing he’s got the field covered, and he’s fully confident that each National is his to lose. When adversity strikes, Tomac almost always responds emphatically, silencing the critics in a decisive and convincing matter.

That trait as a rider is what made Tomac's chances at winning three in a row seem like real possibility. In fact, no rider had even won consecutive titles since Carmichael retired, so Tomac was already in the process of rewriting the history of the sport’s current era when he arrived at Hangtown in May.

 

As has been the case for the past few seasons, Tomac centered the Pro Motocross Championship with a bit of a chip on his shoulder after what he’d consider to be a disappointing Monster Energy Supercross campaign. Much like outdoors, Tomac is the proverbial favorite every time January rolls around, but misfortune and hard luck seem to always keep that championship out of reach. Tomac has conquered virtually everything there is to achieve in the sport, but supercross has remained the missing piece of his career puzzle.

 

Unfortunately for the rest of his fellow riders, they get the brunt of Tomac’s winter-long frustration every summer. The Colorado native is seemingly always in search of vengeance once he gets to the outdoors, and he typically dominates everyone into submission.

 

This season things started out a bit differently, and it provided an entirely different energy around the early portion of the Pro Motocross Championship. A typically sunny Hangtown Motocross Classic was instead met with rainy, cold conditions, which made for a more competitive and unpredictable afternoon. Tomac wasn’t his dominant self, and ultimately saw Ken Roczen make the first statement.

 

In typical Tomac fashion, he rebounded with an assertive 1-1 afternoon at Pala’s Fox Raceway and reasserted his control of the championship. From there, he and Roczentraded momentum throughout the first month of the season. It was a far cry from the perfect record Tomac had built up to that same point the previous summer, but it was only a matter of time before Monster Energy’s foremost two-wheel athlete seized control of his quest for the three-peat.

 

At the inaugural Florida National Tomac was able to put some distance between he and Roczen, and he continued to build on that through the heart of the summer schedule. Tomac took wins at High Point, RedBud and Washougal, and never finished off the overall podium as the season reached it’s final break in action before Unadilla.

 

As they started the stretch run at the iconic New York venue, Tomac had established a massive 50-point lead over the 450 Class field, led by his international rivals, Marvin Musquin and Roczen. However, at Unadilla Tomac experienced arguably the biggest off day of his career. He ended up losing more spots than any single moto in his career, but valiantly fought back onto the podium in the final moto. Despite his rough opening moto, Tomac still recorded a rock-solid fourth-place finish, and while his unblemished overall podium streak came to an end, he lost little ground in the championship battle.

That brought us to the penultimate round of the season at Budds Creek. With a 40-point advantage entering the race, there was some work that needed to be done in order reach the target 50-point advantage that would wrap up the title a round early, something Tomac had never done. Through 10 rounds, Tomac, Roczen and Musquinwere virtual locks to finish on or near the podium, and both the German and Frenchman were riding particularly well late in the season.

 

At no point in 2019 had Tomac outscored both of his primary challengers by a double-digit margin, so it was a tall task to expect that even by going 1-1 that he would outscore both Roczen and Musquin so significantly.However, like it was stated earlier, anything can and usually does happen in motocross, and everything came to fruition at Budds Creek.

 

One of the biggest battles Tomac has had to fight with himself throughout his entire career is his consistency out of the gate. However, that slight hitch in his game has always been countered by an unparalleled ability to come through the pack. There isn’t a rider in the sport that can carve his way through the field with the ease, tenacity and relentlessness of Tomac, and that innate skill ultimately carried him to a pair of titles. 

 

Fortunately, with an opportunity to seize the moment, go out, and control his own destiny, Tomac stepped up his game in Southern Maryland. He nailed the start in both motos, and emerged at the front of the field. He wasted little time in putting the #1 at the head of the pack, and proceeded to leave the field in his wake. It was all Tomac could do in the moment, and it put the pressure squarely on Roczen and Musquin to respond. They both failed, and the unlikely need to outscore both riders by the largest margin of the season became a reality. The three-peat was complete, and Tomac enshrined his name in the chronicles of all-time greats.

 

Overall, we were met with a slightly more patient Tomac in 2019. One who on several occasions was willing to accept that in certain motos he just wasn’t going to beat everyone. And while those jaw-dropping moments we’ve become accustomed to still happened many times throughout the summer, they were also accompanied by more humbling outings in which a top five, or even a finish just outside it, were good enough in the big picture.

 

In Pro Motocross consistency will win championships over the course of 24 motos, and the ups and downs of the all-out approach we’ve come to love about Tomaccontributed to the tension of his previous titles. This season, he focused on taking what he could, when he could, even if what he took wasn’t what he wanted. That approach forced every other rider in Pro Motocross to respond. It forced everyone else to step up their game, and do so regularly. It was a page out of the book of arguably the most consistent rider of all time, Ryan Dungey, and it worked to perfection.

 

Dare we say it, but this summer Eli Tomac found a way to make his skillset even more complete, more well rounded than we’ve ever seen. He can now defeat his competitors in a variety of ways, and it makes him even more dangerous than he already was, if that’s even possible. While the potential of six wins this season is nothing to scoff at, it is admittedly not as much as we’ve come to expect from 

Tomac. However, the possibility of 11 podiums in 12 rounds is virtually unbeatable. As a result, Tomac not only wrapped up his third-straight title before the final round, he’s all but guaranteed to finish the year with the largest winning margin of his career.

 

While it may not look like it from the outside, the 2019 Pro Motocross Championship was Tomac’s most successful to date. It was a multi-faceted effort that wore down his opponents, and over the course of the summer we saw Tomac continue his march up all-time statistical categories. He currently sits in a tie for fourth on the all-time wins list (22), with a chance to take sole ownership of that spot with a victory at the final round. He also now holds control of fifth on the all-time podiums list (46). With his third title, Tomac now joins an elite group of riders that includes Jones, DiStefano, Rick Johnson, Jeff Stanton, and Dungey, all of whom share the second-most championships in series history.

 

With his continued reign over American motocross, Tomac is guaranteed to join the Hall of Fame once he calls it a career. But the question at hand is whether or not he can keep his championship run going for another season, further making even more history with a four-peat. Given everything we witnessed en route to this season’s crown, it’s hard to best against it.

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