Tomac’s closest title rival, Blake Baggett – himself a former 250cc winner at MX338 – was nursing tendon damage in his thumb, slanting things in Tomac’s favor even more.
When the racers lined up for moto one, Baggett sat immediately to the right of the “dog house” and Tomac was immediately to the left of it. When the gate dropped, Baggett got a great jump and turned left, cutting Tomac off. Baggett grabbed the holeshot and led early while Tomac worked his way through the front few racers.
Early, Baggett led AutoTrader/JGR/Monster Energy Suzuki’s Weston Peick, Justin Bogle, Monster Energy/Yamalube/Chapparal Yamaha’s Cooper Webb, and Tomac was moving through them right away. Tomac went around the outside of Peick only a couple of laps into the race for second before setting out after Baggett. There’s some bad blood between Baggett and Tomac, and when Tomac caught him, he cut across the inside of the corner, and if Baggett hadn’t seen it coming and jumped over the berm, Tomac might’ve taken him out. But Baggett moved, and Tomac took off, eventually beating Baggett by about 16 seconds. Webb had a fantastic ride for third, just in front of Musquin, who benefitted by the unfortunate DNF of both JGR Suzukis; first Peick, whose machine appeared to seize less than halfway into the race, and then Barcia, whose bike appeared to run out of gas on the last lap when he was running fourth, just a second or so in front of Musquin. Cole Seely ended up fifth just in front of Dean Wilson, Martin Davalos, Freddy Noren, Bogle, Christian Craig and Tomac’s teammate Josh Grant, who started terribly in the moto and finished as the last guy on the lead lap.
“Yeah, we were close there,” Tomac said of the move Baggett made on the start. “He came over pretty good, so... I still came out on a pretty good start considering the way we crossed lines. We came out somewhere around the top-four there and made a few passes, and made my way by Blake, and at that point, it was all survival on this track. It’s one of the toughest ones of the year, and there’s no break ever. The only little jumps are just hills, so there’s not much time to recover, but I’ve just got to stay loose and breathe and go out there and do it.”
For Webb, who won this event last year in the 250cc class on his way to that title, it was his first-ever podium finish in the 450cc class, coming in third.
“It’s been a struggle, to be honest, but we’re getting through it and staying motivated to just keep learning,” Webb said. “I’m stoked to be up on the podium. We had a bad crash last weekend, and I was pretty sore coming into this weekend, so it’s cool to get a good podium finish. I want to thank Allen, my mechanic back home; we did a lot of testing this week. And my trainer Gareth Swanepoel; we started from scratch and pretty much went from there and now we have a whole new setup. So, it seems to be working pretty well.”
In the second moto, Musquin got the holeshot while Baggett tried everything he could to pass him in the first few turns, but Musquin persevered to hold the early lead over Baggett while Tomac recovered from a pretty bad start at the tail end of the top 10. Tomac had just moved into fourth early in the race when Barcia, running third, swapped out and went down hard, handing the spot to Tomac. Tomac caught Baggett quickly in second, passed him, and then set out after Musquin. It only took him about a lap to catch Musquin, and although Musquin put up a fight, Tomac pushed his way around the KTM to take the lead. Musquin stepped up his speed to try to hang with Tomac, but it bit him when he swapped out into the transition between a couple large mounds and flew dangerously off the track, nearly hitting Southwick’s VIP area. He got up quickly in third, but his bike was bent up and he was beat up. Musquin pulled into the pits and dropped out of the moto. Webb inherited third with the crash, but fell with about five laps to go and remounted sixth. Unable to close the gap on Seely in fifth before the finish, the mistake knocked Webb off of the overall podium.
Tomac took the moto and overall win with a 1-1 over the 2-2 of Baggett, which meant Baggett lost three points in each moto, or six on the day. Behind Baggett came Wilson, whose 6-3 score landed him on the podium overall, just in front of Webb’s 3-6. Behind Wilson came his teammate Davalos with a fantastic ride for fourth, then Seely, Webb, Craig, Peick, Miller, Alix, and then Barcia the last racer on the lead lap.
“I love the sand,” Tomac said. “I wish we had a few more [sand races] on the outdoor schedule here. Coming to Southwick is a great day for the whole Monster Energy Kawasaki team. I just love flowing through the berms and jumping over the holes and stuff. It’s just a lot of fun here.”
Tomac now carries a 19-point lead over Baggett in the championship with five rounds left to run, and with Anderson sitting the event out and Musquin scoring a DNF in moto two, Musquin is now 72 points behind Tomac, although he’s third in points, and Anderson is another three points behind him in fourth. It looks like a two-horse race now.
The series takes a weekend off and then resumes on July 22nd at Spring Creek Raceway in Millville, Minnesota.