Eli Tomac’s fourth win of the season, and second in a row, was just the latest instance of his impending comeback in the 450SX Class championship standings. The Monster Energy Kawasaki rider has consistently been the fastest competitor in the premier division on a weekly basis, and he continued to prove that when he’s put in a position to control his own destiny the odds are strong that the No. 3 will headline the results sheet.
A couple sections of the track inside Raymond James Stadium had a major influence in the overall outcome of every race. A big, challenging sand section gave riders fits all night long, and many of them pointed to that as the difference maker in the Main Event. Additionally, the largest rhythm section in the stadium provided an opportunity to pay big dividends for any rider willing to push the limit, boasting the potential of back-to-back quad jumps.
Tomac settled into his heat race, opting to secure a solid gate pick over taking any significant risks. However, by not pulling the trigger on any significant jump sequences he kept a wild card in his pocket for when it counted most later in the night.
It was all Monster Energy at the drop of the gate for the Main Event, as Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing’s Cooper Webb was credited with the holeshot, with Tomac alongside. The lead duo put on a charge early, and Tomac was able to slip by to take over the lead. Soon enough the tables were flipped on both Tomac and Webb, as they each lost ground to the hard charge of Marvin Musquin and Justin Hill.
In an attempt to pass Musquin for the lead Hill put his Suzuki on the ground, which opened the door for Tomac and Webb to remount a challenge for first place. Tomac eventually started to unleash more high-risk jump sequences, and steadily began to eat away at the deficit. As Tomac’s Kawasaki inched closer and closer to the rear fender of Musquin’s KTM the excitement of the crowd continued to build.
It all culminated on Lap 15 when Tomac rocketed to the inside of Musquin at the end of the long rhythm. They went side-by-side through the sand, but Tomac carried the momentum to put the Kawasaki back up front. The crafty Frenchman’s counter attack wasn’t done yet, however, and he took advantage of a line choice miscue by Tomac with a spectacular pass through a narrow S-turn that brought the 42,000+ fans to their feet. That move simply allowed Tomac to utilize the exact same move in the big rhythm lane later that lap, this time making the winning pass stick.
Tomac continued to break Musquin’s will over the closing minutes of the 20-minute-plus-one-lap Main Event (26 laps) and took the checkered flag with a cushion of 4.5 seconds.
“(The advantage) was down that rhythm section. I was able to get on the inside of (Musquin). I kind of saved that (sequence) for the end of the night. I used it in the heat race once and got close a pass, and then was able to do it [successfully] in the main. That was good there was an option there. I actually made it happen twice in the same spot, and finally the second time it stuck."
“That was a race that required patience. At first I was a little bit off [and] I got passed by a few guys that were riding better than me early on. [But] I got in a groove and made a move, then it was just having fun riding my dirt bike.”
Tomac’s fourth win in six races helped move him from 10th to eighth in the 450SX Class standings. How is now 65 points behind points leader Jason Anderson, who finished third.
While he was ultimately not a factor in the battle for the win, Webb enjoyed his best effort of the season and his promising talent continues to emerge with each passing week. The sophomore rider kept pace with Anderson in a battle for the final spot on the podium, and took home a season-best fourth-place result.
In his first race filling in for Josh Grant at Monster Energy Kawasaki, four-time AMA Arenacross Champion Tyler Bowers posted a 14th-place finish, equaling his best result of the 2018 season.
450SX Class Results
1. Eli Tomac, Monster Energy Kawasaki
2. Marvin Musquin, KTM
3. Jason Anderson, Husqvarna
4. Cooper Webb, Monster Energy/Knich/Yamaha Factory Racing
5. Broc Tickle, KTM
14. Tyler Bowers, Monster Energy Kawasaki
450SX Class Standings
1. Jason Anderson, Husqvarna – 181
2. Marvin Musquin, KTM – 142
3. Blake Baggett , KTM – 134
4. Justin Brayton – 125
5. Weston Peick, Suzuki – 125
7. Eli Tomac, Monster Energy Kawasaki – 116
9. Justin Barcia, Monster Energy/Knich/Yamaha Factory Racing – 113
10. Cooper Webb, Monster Energy/Knich/Yamaha Factory Racing – 108
12. Josh Grant, Monster Energy Kawasaki – 83
17. Tyler Bowers, Monster Energy Kawasaki – 51
East Region 250SX Class
After he opened the East Region season with a bit of frustration, Austin Forkner was determined to make some noise in Tampa. The sophomore rider has been fast through the first two rounds of the condensed regional championship, and he seized the moment to break through for his first career win.
A minor bobble in his heat race left Forkner with a less than ideal gate pick for the Main Event, but it didn’t matter once the gate dropped. His Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki emerged from the first turn in second, and he then moved to the lead on the first lap. For the first time in his young career Forkner needed to show veteran poise and manage the lead for the entirety of the 15-minute-plus-one-lap Main Event (20 laps).
Forkner’s first challenge came from none other than defending East Region Champion Zach Osborne. The No. 1 has shown a knack for come-from-behind wins and likely felt comfortable being in chase position, but Forkner’s consistency was bullet proof and forced Osborne to push the pace more than he’d prefer. That enhanced paced allowed Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star/Yamaha Racing’s Dylan Ferrandis to close in from third. The Frenchman was exceptionally patient behind Osborne, but made his move just after the halfway point to take over second and set his sights on the lead.
Ferrandis was the fastest rider in practice, so it was no surprise to see the Monster Energy athlete put himself in contention for his first career win on U.S. soil. Together, Forkner and Ferrandis continued to push, and it wasn’t long before they left Osborne in their wake.
Ferrandis closed the deficit to less than a second several times over the second half of the Main Event, but every time Forkner was able to withstand the pressure. As they took the white flag just four tenths separated the Monster Energy duo. Ferrandis made an aggressive attempt at a pass, which resulted in contact through the S-turn, but Forkner stayed in the throttle and rocketed ahead while Ferrandis collected his balance. That was all Forkner needed to run to the finish and take his first career win nine tenths ahead of Ferrandis.
“We had some good contact (on the final lap) and I wasn’t sure that both of us weren’t going to go down. But after that, I just sent it through the whoops on the last lap to try and get a gap where I could be comfortable and not make any mistakes. And, I did it! I’m so stoked right now. It’s my first podium of the season and first win ever, so I’m super happy right now.”
Ferrandis equaled his career-best effort in the runner-up spot to give the Monster Army a 1-2 finish. Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Martin Davalos rebounded from a scary incident in the opening round to finish fifth, while Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star/Yamaha Racing’s Colt Nichols followed up his second-place effort last weekend with a ninth-place finish, which came after he encountered misfortune early and dropped to 18th.
Forkner vaulted from seventh to second in the East Region standings with the win and is just five points behind Osborne for the lead. Nichols is now fourth, just 10 points back.
East Region 250SX Class Results
1. Austin Forkner, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki
2. Dylan Ferrandis, Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha
3. Zach Osborne, Husqvarna
4. RJ Hampshire, Honda
5. Martin Davalos, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki
9. Colt Nichols, Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha
East Regional 250SX Class Standings
1. Zach Osborne, Husqvarna – 47
2. Austin Forkner, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki – 42
3. RJ Hampshire, Honda – 38
4. Colt Nichols, Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star/Yamaha – 37
5. Jimmy Decotis, Suzuki – 34
9. Dylan Ferrandis, Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star/Yamaha – 28
13. Martin Davalos, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki – 19