National motocross champion Eli Tomac, of Cortez, will defend his title in the Monster Energy Cup Supercross in Las Vegas, racing for a $1 million prize.
To bring home the grand prize, Tomac must win all three 10-lap races on Saturday night. He won the event last year based on his second-, first- and fourth-place finishes and took home a prize of $100,000. He defeated rivals Ryan Dungey and Marvin Musquin, of the Red Bull KTM team, who teamed up last season to give Tomac all he could handle.
Only one other racer has won the grand prize, a fellow Team Monster Energy Kawasaki’s premier 450cc racer, Ryan Villopoto in 2011.
In an interview with racerxonline.com, Tomac, who arrived in California earlier this week, was asked if he was planning on leaving Las Vegas with the grand prize.
“You know, that would be amazing, and that is something I’m definitely gunning for,” Tomac said. “Shoot, every year I’ve gave it my all, but I feel like we have a good shot this year. If we get three good starts and give it our all — and with the way that our supercross season was going — I think we have a really good base setting for supercross now.”
The Cup has a couple of features not found on other supercross tracks. The track has a split starting gate, with riders positioned in lanes on opposite sides of the track. After the start, they race through separate first turns and rhythm sections before coming back together just before the finish line section.
The track also features a fast joker lane, which can be used only once and becomes important for a rider’s strategy. For example, if Tomac a bad start – it happens – he might take the joker lane on the first lap to catch up or take the lead. With such a strategy, Tomac, who often posted the fastest lap times of the season, could then try to put in nine fast laps before other racers take the joker lane. In such a scenario, Tomac could come out ahead on lap 10.
In another scenario, Tomac could rely on his passing skills to catch up, then take the fast joker lane late in the race to rush to the lead.
“I think the main thing you have to do is to literally remember that you have to do the joker lane,” Tomac told RacerX.
“You’re so focused and you’re trying to think about the track or how you’re going to deal with the guy in front of you. ... You have to be able to switch that switch to make sure you take that Joker Lane.”
Tomac, though favored to win the Cup, will face some stiff but familiar competition in Musquin, who placed second to Tomac this year in the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, and Jason Anderson. Anderson, the hard-charging Rockstar Husqvarna racer from Albuquerque, is coming off a recent injury and foot surgery.
The Monster Energy Cup is a daylong event on Saturday, starting with a pit party from 1 to 7 p.m. Mountain time. The Monster Energy Cup gets underway at 7 p.m. Mountain time with an Amateur All-Stars race and the Supermini race.
The Monster Energy Cup will be broadcast live on FS2 and via the Fox Sports GO app on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Mountain time. On Sunday, the Fox Broadcast Channel plans to air a 90-minute encore after NFL games across the country.