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Images from 2020 Salt Lake City Supercross Round 13

Eli Tomac: One Step Closer

Jun 082020

Another race in Salt Lake City and another big jump in points for Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac. Through three Monster Energy Supercross events inside a fan-less Rice-Eccles Stadium, Tomac has been dialed in. His 1-2-1 finishes in those races have seen his points lead grow from a mere three points coming into the final seven rounds to a full-race advantage of 26 points after Sunday’s triumphant ride in treacherous conditions.

With his seventh win of the season, combined with a 10th-place finish from main championship rival Ken Roczen, Tomac is now one step closer to hoisting that elusive Monster Energy Supercross World Championship. Never before has Tomac been in such control at this late point in a supercross season, and based on how well he’s ridden the past three races, he appears to be well on his way to protecting that now comfortable advantage.

Perhaps the most impressive element of Tomac’s rides in Salt Lake City have been the fact that he’s had to go to work each and every time. By no means have these results come easy. Tomac’s starts have left a lot to be desired thus far, but by sheer determination and unparalleled race speed, he’s been able to overcome essentially every obstacle he’s faced thus far. The Colorado native clearly looks at home in the higher elevation, and whether it’s been slick, dry and dusty, or rain-soaked and rutty, nothing has been able to prevent him from finding his way to the front.

On the flip side, it’s been a rapid decline for Roczen, which has contributed greatly to Tomac’s ability to build such a significant lead in the championship. After finishing third at the first race inside Rice-Eccles Stadium, Roczen has posted back-to-back finishes off the podium, including a season-worst 10th-place finish on Sunday in which he was lapped twice by Tomac. The Honda rider recently revealed breathing difficulties that seem to be attributed to an illness from this past winter, and now asthmatic symptoms are severely hampering his ability to sustain the speed that allowed him to go toe-to-toe with Tomac this entire season. The 23 point swing the past three races has by far been the most dramatic of the season, and it couldn’t have occurred at a more inopportune time for Roczen. In the face of his rival’s adversity, it’s been up to Tomac to capitalize on the opportunity that’s been presented, and he’s done exactly that.

In Roczen’s absence, reigning Monster Energy Supercross champion Cooper Webb has emerged as Tomac’s fiercest competitor. The KTM rider has been there every step of the way in Salt Lake City, virtually mirroring Tomac’s results with 2-1-2 finishes. Webb is one of the most tenacious riders in the 450SX Class, and his aggressive approach has actually worked in Tomac’s favor. In being forced to chase Webb, we’ve seen the absolute best out of Tomac. Like a greyhound chasing a rabbit, when Webb is out front Tomac finds another level, and to the benefit of those watching from home, we’ve had the chance to see some incredible battles the past two rounds.

Having a challenger should only benefit Tomac over the final four rounds. While he enjoys his most significant lead of the season, things can change in an instant in supercross, and Tomac still cannot afford to give up chunks of points to his competitors, whether it’s Roczen or Webb. The key to Tomac’s continued march towards the 450SX Class title will be to stay out of trouble and maintain the consistency he’s showcased thus far. A podium finish here on out will be unbeatable and given what we’ve seen thus far in Salt Lake City, a top-three finish for Tomac seems inevitable. However, he has certainly given himself some wiggle room should there be a misstep. Roczen will need to gain seven points a race in order to erase the deficit he currently faces to Tomac, while Webb would need to gain eight points a race. For reference, that kind of disparity between Tomac and Roczen or Webb has occurred just three times through 13 rounds and would be very unlikely to occur in succession over the final four races. In fact, seven points is the most Tomac has given up in any single event this season.

No matter how you slice it, Tomac is on a march to capture his long-sought-after Monster Energy Supercross title.

Over in the 250SX Eastern Region, the hotly contested rivalry between Monster Energy/Star/Yamaha Racing’s Shane McElrath and Honda’s Chase Sexton continues. McElrath has been the hottest rider in the East Region, and his track record in Salt Lake City is exceptional. With back-to-back wins coming into Sunday, McElrath was riding a big wave of momentum that carried him into a tie atop the Eastern Regional standings.

Initially, it appeared like it’d be more of the same from McElrath. The 250SX main event started with some contact between the co-point leaders, as McElrath forcefully worked his way into the lead. In his effort to fight back, Sexton endured through even more misfortune and dropped well back in the field. However, after Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Garrett Marchbanks went down hard, the red flag gave Sexton new life.

The race was restarted, and McElrath rose to the occasion again to seize control of the early lead. However, this time Sexton was able to settle into second, without conflict. Despite the rain and continually deteriorating track conditions, McElrath was on rails and looked extremely comfortable out front. Unfortunately, the treacherous track also meant lappers arrived much quicker, and would be even more difficult to navigate. It proved to be McElrath’s undoing.

On Lap 6, with Sexton not too far behind, McElrath made the decision to pass a much slower Coty Schock on the inside of a turn, misjudging both the speed of the lapper and his line choice. It caused McElrath to come together with Schock and sent him to the ground, allowing Sexton to assume the lead. While McElrath remounted quickly and didn’t lose any additional spots, he lost valuable time to Sexton on a track that was near impossible to track anyone down on. No worse for wear, McElrath settled into the runner-up spot. While Sexton snapped McElrath’s dominance, the Star Yamaha rider minimized the damage and still has 1-1-2 finishes to his credit in Salt Lake City. Just three points sit between these two as the East Region gives way to the West Region for the next couple rounds. Upon their return, McElrath will be determined to reclaim the momentum and take the championship fight down to the wire.

450SX Class Results
1. Eli Tomac, Monster Energy Kawasaki
2. Cooper Webb, KTM
3. Jason Anderson, Husqvarna
8. Martin Davalos, Team Tedder Racing
9. Justin Barcia, Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing
11. Aaron Plessinger, Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing

450SX Class Standings (After 13 of 17 Rounds)
1. Eli Tomac, Monster Energy Kawasaki - 301
2. Ken Roczen, Honda - 275
3. Cooper Webb - 269
4. Justin Barcia, Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing - 239 
11.  Aaron Plessinger, Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing - 159
13. Martin Davalos, Team Tedder Racing - 136
14. Adam Cianciarulo, Monster Energy Kawasaki - 129

Eastern Regional 250SX Class Results
1. Chase Sexton, Honda
2. Shane McElrath, Monster Energy/Star/Yamaha Racing 
3. Colt Nichols, Monster Energy/Star/Yamaha Racing
22.   Garrett Marchbanks, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki

Eastern Regional 250SX Class Standings (After 7 of 9 Rounds)
1. Chase Sexton, Honda - 166
2. Shane McElrath, Monster Energy/Star/Yamaha Racing - 163
3. Garrett Marchbanks, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki - 119
14. Colt Nichols, Monster Energy/Star/Yamaha Racing - 52
15. Jordon Smith, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki - 48