Eli Tomac of Cortez entered the Monster Energy Cup Saturday in Las Vegas as the favorite to make a run for the coveted $1 million prize, but after he crashed in the second race of three races, his new teammate appeared ready to steal the show.
Kawasaki’s Adam Cianciarulo and Tomac took Sam Boyd Stadium by storm Saturday as the two 2019 AMA Motocross champions set the pace in qualifying rounds and finished one-two on the podium after a night of racing. Both Kawasaki teammates came off championship seasons in the 2019 AMA Pro Motocross series: Cianciarulo won the 250cc title by 20 points over Dylan Ferrandis, and Tomac won the 450 class by 58 points over Ken Roczen.
In the first of three races, Tomac and Cianciarulo finished one and two, respectively. Tomac was fifth after the first lap as Cianciarulo raced in the lead ahead of Vince Friese, Jeremy Martin and Malcolm Stewart.
In Lap 3, Tomac moved into second behind Friese, then passed him for the lead in Lap 7. He quickly stretched out a 2.4-second lead in the eighth lap and easily won.
Meanwhile, Cianciarulo, who had dropped into fifth place in Lap 3, staged a comeback and raced into second in the ninth of 10 laps to seal the top two spots for Kawasaki. Stewart, Friese and Justin Barcia filled out the top five.
In the second race, Tomac was fourth after one lap, and Cianciarulo was 11th.
Tomac moved into second place behind Friese in Lap 2, but crashed in the third lap and fell to ninth. He steadily regained ground despite a rough ride to finish third.
Cianciarulo, however, began a ferocious charge that took him from 11th place to second at the finish, after moving into ninth in Lap 2, fourth in Lap 4 and second in Lap 6. Tim Gajser and Friese rounded out the top five.
In the final of three races, Tomac (1-3), Cianciarulo (2-2) and Stewart (3-1) were tied for the overall lead and racing for the victory.
Cianciarulo was first to the turn, with Tomac close behind. Cianciarulo immediately went to his throttle, with Tomac in pursuit and closing as the Kawasaki racers began to distance themselves from the pack. Stewart and Gajser trailed in third and fourth.
Cianciarulo held off a Tomac charge as the two raced side by side, and countered a Tomac pass with a triple jump to hold the lead. But Tomac, essentially ceded victory to Cianciarulo when, forced to take the required and slower joker lane slipped into second place, almost a second behind. Stewart finished third.
Overall, Cianciarulo won the race and the purse. Tomac, Stewart, Gajser and Friese rounded out the top 5.
Last year, Tomac won the $1 million prize after sweeping the three races.
This year, each of the three races were different. For the second race, riders took the course in reverse, and in the third, the starting line was outside the arena.
During qualifying rounds earlier Saturday, Tomac and Cianciarulo were first and second in the race that started outside. Cianciarulo posted his fastest time, 55.137 seconds, in Lap 6. Tomac was second after posting his fastest lap, 55.439 seconds, in Lap 8.
In the second qualifying round, which started in the arena and took the course in reverse, Tomac set the pace with a lap of 53.877 seconds. Cianciarulo was second, at 54.477 seconds.
Riders now get a break before the AMA Supercross season gets underway Jan. 5 in Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California.