Eli Tomac of Cortez capped a comeback season in the Monster Energy AMA Supercross series with a wire-to-wire victory in the 450SX main event Saturday in Las Vegas.
Entering Sam Boyd Stadium, he had clinched third place in the standings. It had been a long, frustrating season, and he didn’t have much to gain.
But throughout his up-and-down season, Tomac has steadfastly repeated one goal: “Go out and win.”
On Saturday, he did.
Tomac got out of the gate fast and was first to the turn, with Marvin Musquin on his heels. Blake Baggett and Christian Craig, in third and fourth, fell back by a couple of seconds behind, and would later fade.
It became a two-man sprint.
Tomac raced hard in the early laps, and posted his fastest time in the fifth lap. Musquin challenged him in the eighth and 15th laps, but Tomac appeared uncatchable. By the 16th lap, Tomac led by 2.364 seconds, and by the time he crossed the finish line in the 21st lap, he had stretched out a 4-second lead.
Baggett was 28.722 seconds behind in third, and Craig was more than a half-lap behind in fourth at plus 36.711 seconds. Series champion Jason Anderson was fifth, 39.768 seconds back.
The series championship went to Anderson. Musquin was runner-up.
For the season, Tomac led all riders with eight wins, compared with four for Anderson and Musquin. Justin Brayton, who finished fifth in the series, won one.
Saturday’s victory put an exclamation point on a frustrating series for Tomac, who raced from last to third place and seemed to either crash or win.
“You know, the only thing you can do is not make those mistakes,” Tomac said on Saturday night. “I started with that in Anaheim I, and it cost me. I was down 50 points right off the bat. In this series, with the caliber of riders, if you do that, you’re pretty much out of it.”
He entered the series as the favorite in January, but high hopes unraveled at the start.
Tomac crashed in the first race, in Anaheim on Jan. 6, and did not finish. He bowed out of the second race, in Houston on Jan. 13, with an injury. Then he returned to racing, and reeled off two straight wins, in Anaheim II on Jan. 20 and in Glendale on Jan. 27.
But in Oakland on Feb. 3, he crashed while dueling with Justin Barcia and finished 13th. The following week, he crashed out of San Diego and finished last.
He bounced back with wins in Texas and Tampa in February and a third place in Atlanta on March 3. In Daytona, Tomac stunned fans with a brilliant comeback on March 10, racing from 22nd to second place.
He had momentum.
In St. Louis on March 17, Tomac won wire-to-wire and climbed into fourth place in the standings.
Again, his season took a downturn.
On March 24 in Indianapolis, Tomac came up short on a jump while chasing Musquin for the lead, and crashed. He finished 15th.
He came back in early April with wins in Seattle and Minneapolis, then he was knocked down and out of the lead by Musquin in Foxborough, Massachusetts. He got up to finish second.
Tomac then clinched third place in the standings in Salt Lake City on April 28, racing from 10th to second, again second-best to Musquin.
Addressing his season after winning in Arlington, Texas, in late February, Tomac talked briefly about his frustrating season. At the time, he was in 10th place overall, with 10 races to go.
“It’s tough when you put in three months or whatever it is, for getting ready for the season, and you have your hopes high and all of a sudden you’re 70 points down out of the lead, he said. “You can be on this high, and all of a sudden it just goes crashing down like that.”
“You just have to keep your head up.”
What’s aheadTomac will defend his 2017 title in the Lucas Oil Pro motocross series, which begins May 19 with the Hangtown MX Classic in Sacramento, California. Last year, Musquin was second, followed by Baggett, Dean Wilson and Cole Seely.
“We’re healthy, there’s nothing nagging, and should be good to go,” Tomac said Saturday.