Eli Tomac crashed twice in the second of two fiercely fought races with rival Marvin Musquin on Saturday to finish second in the Southwick National motocross in Massachusetts.
It was Tomac’s first loss of the series, at a track where he won in 2016 and 2017. His 2018 record is now 5-1, and he remains atop the standings with a 32-point lead over Musquin.
“Big picture, it’s all good,” Tomac said. “This is like the one track of the year, where I’m like this track is mine. I’m pretty gutted at the way that second moto went.”
Tomac has dominated the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross 450 class series this year, winning nine out of 12 motos in six race venues.
Musquin, who is No. 2 in the overall standings, has won just three motos, but has raced consistently, finishing on the podium in nine out of 12 motos. Southwick was Musquin’s first overall victory of the season.
After winning the first moto, Tomac appeared to be headed for his sixth straight overall victory.
In the decisive second moto on Saturday, Tomac got off to a good start, and passed Musquin for the lead in Lap 2. Racing in front, Tomac crashed midway through the race and bent his Kawasaki’s clutch handle, but was able to get going again.
Appearing to have recovered, Tomac still had the lead but tipped over in Lap 8, allowing Musquin to pass for the lead. Musquin cruised to an easy victory.
“I was doing my thing up front and jumped a little too far in the hole and washed my front out and went over the bars weird,” Tomac said. “It knocked my clutch lever down, and that’s what really screwed me up. I was able to get going, but with the clutch lever stuck down is what really balled me up at that point. The second one was just a tipover, a little bit caused because I couldn’t grab my clutch.”
Tomac finished second, about 15 seconds behind Musquin. Justin Barcia was third, followed by Blake Baggett and Ken Roczen.
Musquin said that with Tomac pulling away in the second moto, all he could do was attempt to stay consistent and keep pushing. When Tomac went down the first time, he began to see an opportunity, and with Tomac’s second crash, he saw the win.
“He made a first mistake, and then the second one. I was able to capitalize on that,” Musquin said. “My goal was, like I said, to be consistent and stay on two wheels. It was definitely the hardest race of the year.”
The overall victory at Southwick went to Musquin, who ended the day with second- and first-place finishes (2-1) in the two motos. Tomac also finished with a first and second (1-2), but was second overall because the tiebreaker goes to the top finisher in the second moto. Barcia was third overall (3-3), and Baggett (4-4) and Roczen (5-5) rounded out the Top 5.
In the first moto, Tomac was sixth after Lap 1 behind Roczen, Barcia, Musquin, Baggett and Justin Bogle.
Musquin, the fastest qualifier on Saturday, started in third, but charged to the front in Lap 6.
Tomac quickly moved out of sixth place and into fourth place in Lap 3, into third in Lap 5, and into second in Lap 6. It became a two-man race as the top two riders in AMA motocross posted their fastest times in Lap 7 and distanced themselves from the crowd.
For the next several laps, Tomac stalked Musquin wheel to wheel, covered in Musquin’s dirt. As the countdown clock expired with three laps remaining, Tomac became more aggressive and challenged from the outside and inside lanes, and sometimes both, but Musquin countered each time and closed the passing lane in a remarkable show of defensive riding.
Then, as Musquin and Tomac raced toward the white flag, Tomac bolted wide to the edge of the track and passed him as the two nearly collided.
Musquin bounced back and made a brief charge for the lead, but crashed on a downhill jump in the last lap. Tomac went on to win by 27 seconds. Musquin got up to finish second. Barcia, Baggett and Roczen rounded out the Top 5.
“In Moto 1, I started a little too far back there from where we wanted to be,” Tomac said. “I just had to go forward, and made it to the top three guys and made a few passes and got close to Marv there with two to go and made the pass. It was a long race.”
Earlier Saturday, Tomac and Musquin set a blistering pace in qualifying rounds, running about 2 seconds faster than Baggett and Barcia, who qualified in third and fourth. Musquin came out on top, with a lap of 2 minutes, 7.315 seconds, followed by Tomac at 2:07.385.
Next week, the 12-race series goes to the big, wide track in Buchanan, Michigan, for the Redbud National on July 7.
“It’s big, it’s got the room, there’s no excuses for passing ... and it has good soil,” Tomac said. “I’m looking forward to it.