Eli Tomac of Cortez, racing Wednesday night with a chance to clinch his first AMA Supercross title, bolted from 12th to second place in a tight, heated race in Salt Lake City.
He’ll return to Rice-Eccles Stadium for the championship race Sunday.
As the gate dropped for the sixth of seven races in Salt Lake, Zach Osborne went to the lead, followed by Justin Brayton, Justin Hill, Cooper Webb and Ken Roczen. After one lap, Tomac was 12th in the field of 22.
Tomac moved up to 10th place in Lap 2, ninth in Lap 4, seventh in Lap 6 and sixth in Lap 7. Osborne, Webb and Roczen were in front, about 5 seconds away.
Tomac passed Brayton in Lap 9. He immediately went to work on Jason Anderson, for fourth place, then just three seconds off the lead. After a back-and-forth duel with Anderson, he passed him in the whoops in Lap 14 and moved 2.6 seconds behind Roczen, and passed him in Lap 17.
The three leaders – Osborne, Webb and Tomac – raced just a second from each other, with six minutes to go in the race.
Osborne slipped in Lap 23, and Webb went to the lead, with Tomac in tow, leaving the race and a possible title to a duel between Tomac and the defending champion.
As the white flag came out, Tomac had dropped to a tight second place, 2.2 seconds off the lead. Webb held on to cross the finish line in Lap 28.
Osborne was third, followed by Roczen and Anderson.
Webb’s win forced a final race to decide the championship.
Tomac will enter the final race of the season with a 22-point series lead over Webb, 366-344.
What about the clinch?Tomac entered the 16th race of the championship series with a 24-point lead over Roczen and the chance to clinch his first title in the Monster Energy AMA Supercross.
A win Wednesday night would have given him an insurmountable lead over Roczen and Webb, who entered the race in second and third place, 24 and 25 points behind, respectively.
Twenty-six points go to the winner in each of the remaining two races in Salt Lake City, and Tomac needed a 26-point lead going into Sunday’s final race to capture the title. In the event Tomac gained no points in the final race and the series was tied, he still would capture the title because he leads the field with seven wins, to Roczen’s four and Webb’s three.
If Roczen or Webb finished higher than Tomac on Wednesday, the final race on Sunday would crown the champion.
Tomac’s run for the AMA Supercross title goes back to 2014, when he finished 13th in his debut season in the 450cc supercross. He’s been a contender since his initiation into the premier 450cc class, placing second in 2015, 2017 and 2019, third in 2018 and fourth in 2016. He has dominated the AMA Pro Motocross series, winning three consecutive titles – 2017 through 2019 – and placing second in 2016.
Wednesday’s qualifying roundsTomac was second-fastest in qualifying rounds, with a lap of 43.539 seconds. Anderson posted the fastest lap, at 43.246 seconds, and Roczen, Dean Wilson and Webb filled out the top five.
He placed second in his qualifying heat to Wilson, after a sixth-place start. Martin Davalos took the early lead, but was passed by Osborne in Lap 3. Wilson, who started in fourth place, raced to the lead in Lap 4 as Tomac moved into third place.
Tomac overtook Osborne in Lap 6, and despite a furious pursuit, could not catch Wilson, who won the 10-lap race by a half-second.
Anderson won the second heat race start to finish, with Webb in tow, 4 seconds back. Blake Baggett, Justin Barcia and Hill filled out the top five.
The Monster Energy AMA Supercross championship series was put in limbo in March as sports events were canceled because of stay-at-home orders in states across the country. As the country started slowly opening up, race organizers talked with five states about resuming the Supercross season and decided on Utah.