Given the brutal nature of the Daytona Supercross, the runner-up effort by Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac will go down in history as one of the most impressively resilient rides in championship history. In what can best be described as the ultimate showcase of grit, Tomac started dead last and came up just one position short of completing a pass around all 21 of his fellow competitors.
"I never gave up. I did what I could but Justin (Brayton) was riding great, so congrats to him. When you're that far back all you can do is charge forward. And I was just like 'let's get to this podium.'"
The adversity Tomac faced at the start of the 450SX Class Main Event was the continuation of a frustrating heat race in which he was forced to deal with the aggressive defense of fellow Monster Energy athlete Cooper Webb. After he took the lead out the gate, the Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing rider eventually came under fire from Tomac. Webb did all he could to keep Tomac at bay, and the Kawasaki rider wasn’t fond of some of Webb’s defensive tactics. Tomac attempted to put an end to the battle and make a bit of a statement to Webb in doing so, and forced contact that ultimately took both riders to the ground. While both riders went on to easily transfer into the Main Event, tension was high as the field lined up on the gate for the Main Event.
Tomac exited the first turn of the 20-minute-plus-one-lap Main Event with some work to do, as did Webb. As he attempted to make a pass to break into the top five, Tomac’s Kawasaki came out from under him. He was forced to wait for the entire field to pass before remounting in 22nd place. From there, the Coloradoan was on a mission.
It took just four laps for Tomac to break into the top 10, on a torrential pursuit that carried him past point leader Jason Anderson. One lap later, Tomac found himself in a battle with rival Marvin Musquin, who went from the race lead to a frantic battle to stay in the top 10 after a pair of incidents. Soon enough, Tomac was knocking on the door of the top five, with each of his biggest competitors in his wake.
Tomac continued to hammer down the fastest laps on the track and eventually fought his way onto the podium after he made quick work of Christian Craig. After that, the crowd at Daytona International Speedway was on alert when the No. 3 Kawasaki and Webb’s No. 2 Yamaha found one another in the late stages of the race in a battle for second. The two went at it again, to the delight of the fans, but this time Tomac got around without incident. With two minutes and two laps remaining in the Main Event the win was within reach as Tomac faced about a five-second deficit to Justin Brayton, who had led all but one lap up to that point.
Tomac pushed he and his Kawasaki to the absolute limit over the final stages, but ran out of time to make a serious challenge for the win. Brayton parlayed a strong start and consistent, mistake free laps into the first win of his career, in his eighth season of premier class competition. Brayton’s triumph was a historic one, as he broke Mike LaRocco’s longstanding record of being the oldest winner in Monster Energy Supercross history. Brayton is just three days shy of turning 34 years old.
Although he missed out on the win, Tomac left Daytona with his head held high following what was the most impressive comeback performance in recent memory. Moreover, Tomac gained valuable ground his continued fight back up the championship standings. He remains fifth, and now faces a 63-point deficit to Anderson.
Webb’s recent run of strong performances continued as well, as he secured his first podium finish of the season to put a pair of Monster Energy athletes on the box. The sophomore rider is showing more improvement with each passing week, and is poised to make a serious run at victory before the season ends.
The third Monster Energy rider in the field, Tyler Bowers, recorded his third straight 14th-place finish for Monster Energy Kawasaki, equaling his season-best result.
450SX Class Results
1. Justin Brayton, Honda
2. Eli Tomac, Monster Energy Kawasaki
3. Cooper Webb, Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing
4. Christian Craig, Honda
5. Marvin Musquin, KTM
14. Tyler Bowers, Monster Energy Kawasaki
450SX Class Standings
1. Jason Anderson, Husqvarna – 223
2. Marvin Musquin, KTM – 183
3. Justin Brayton, Honda – 170
4. Blake Baggett , KTM – 164
5. Eli Tomac, Monster Energy Kawasaki – 160
7. Cooper Webb, Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing – 146
10. Justin Barcia, Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing – 113
13. Josh Grant, Monster Energy Kawasaki – 83
17. Tyler Bowers, Monster Energy Kawasaki – 69