In 450cc moto one, Christian Craig got the holeshot, but soon crashed out of the top spot and handed the lead to Musquin, while Monster Energy Yamaha’s Cooper Webb ran third early on. Next came Tomac and his teammate, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Josh Grant. JGR/Autotrader/Monster Energy’s Weston Peick – in his first race back since breaking his wrist in February – ran inside the top 10, but his teammate Justin Barcia had an early crash that forced him to come from way behind in the championship’s opening moto.
It wasn’t long before Tomac was all over Musquin, having dispatched of the rookie Webb. Once he got by, he stretched out to a lead of well over 20 seconds before he put it on cruise control. Tomac even had a crash while leading, but was never seriously challenged on his way to the victory over Musquin and Grant.
“It can just get ahead of you before you know it,” Tomac said, referring to the track conditions that resulted in his crash while leading the opening moto. “That crash started two or three bumps before it actually happened, so you’ve got to watch out for it; it’s going to be rougher in the second one. Thanks to all the guys at Monster Energy and Kawasaki, I’ll come back firing for moto two.”
For Grant, who has battled a litany of injuries over the last few years, it was his first podium finish in a moto since 2014.
“I was able to go get my ankles fixed, which really helped, but I had a really big crash out here on Press Day on that 150 jump because I couldn’t quite make it, and I’m feeling a little sore today, but I’m doing it for the vet guys,” said Grant, who made his professional debut at Hangtown back in 2004. “I’m freakin’ 30 years old racing against these young 21-year-olds, and it’s tough, but I’m having fun, and it’s good. Thanks to Monster and Kawasaki for giving me the opportunity to come back out here, and I’m just looking to pick up where I left off a few years ago.”
The rookie Webb – who won the 250cc title last year – hung on for a strong, but frustrating, fifth in the first moto. Peick ended up 12th, just behind his hard-charging teammate Justin Barcia who came through the pack in the heat to 11th after his early fall.
In moto two, Tomac came out of the gate a bit awkwardly and his teammate Grant – who started right next to him – grabbed the holeshot and took the early lead in front of Musquin, Barcia, Tickle, Webb, Dean Wilson, Martin Davalos, Peick, Craig and then Tomac. Tomac fought his way up to eighth by the end of the first lap, and although he looked patient, he knew he had his work cut out for him.
“Really tough start there!” Tomac said after the race. “I just got a little bit off-balance on the other side of the gate and ended up being buried pretty far deep, and at that time it was just ‘go time.’”
Grant held the lead for nearly half the race, but when Musquin began sensing pressure from Tomac after he had moved up to third, Musquin made a move on Grant to take the lead. Tomac followed suit around Grant within a couple of laps, and Grant put up quite a fight since he thought it was Barcia behind him.
“Yeah, I mean, I thought it was Barcia, so I was like, ‘No way!’” Grant laughed. “But when I realized it was Eli, I didn’t move over for him, but I just got back to riding my lines and not protecting the insides and he got around me just fine. He was on another level all day, so I wasn’t going to try to mess with him.”
Tomac caught Musquin quickly, but Musquin predictably wasn’t as gracious as Grant. Musquin put up a fight for a few laps, but as soon as Tomac found a way around that put him solidly into the lead spot, there was nothing Musquin could do to counter it. Tomac went on to win the moto going away.
“That moto was a lot tougher than the first, being in all the roost and the dirty air, and I made the charge to Marvin and he held up a good fight for a few laps there,” Tomac said. “I ended up getting him, and this is the day we wanted. Thank you Monster Energy Kawasaki. Now we’re on to Glen Helen.”
Tomac credited his charge to how much faster he was in the first moto.
“I guess just knowing what you’re capable of; that was the first moto – that lead,” Tomac said. “I just never gave up.”
Musquin was second again, just in front of Grant, who achieved his first overall podium since 2013 at RedBud.
“Honestly, you really have to get a good start,” Grant said. “This track was so one-lined and they ripped it up super-deep and watered the crap out of it, and normally that’s not good for racing because it’s hard to find new lines. But if you get a good start, it pays off, and I’m happy to get the Monster Energy Kawasaki up here. We’re working hard, so I’m just trying to keep it going and hopefully we can carry this momentum through the rest of the season.”
As for his fitness at his “advanced age” (at least for a professional motocross racer), Grant credited his training regimen.
“I mean, I get my training in during the week changing diapers, filling bottles, and all that good stuff, so it’s been fun,” Grant said with a smirk. “But I’m just going to keep on working and that’s all I can do.”
Barcia was reserved but seemingly content with a fifth in the second moto.
“I crashed the first moto, and charged hard, then I rode good that last moto and was up front pretty good,” Barcia said. “I rode my best. It’s been a tough go, but my whole JGR/Autotrader Suzuki team’s been working hard, and I thank Monster, Arai, Scott, Alpinestars and everybody for sticking behind me. I’ve been busting my butt. It was a hot day out here, and unfortunately the first moto wasn’t so good, but the second moto was better, and we’re just going to keep on building.”
Tomac leads the championship by 6 points over Musquin, with his teammate Grant just four points further back, but there’s a lot of racing left to go, starting with Grant’s home track, Glen Helen, this coming Saturday, May 27th, in San Bernardino, California.
“Yeah, obviously, I’ve done a lot of laps at Glen Helen, and it’s one of my favorite tracks,” Grant said. “We’ve just got to get a good start, and I feel like with how I’ve been riding there on Thursdays [which are the practice days at the facility], it’s been pretty good. As long as I keep the momentum going, and stay healthy and keep off the ground, I think we’ll be good.”