Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, hit its stretch run on Saturday, making its return to "The State of Sport" for the first time since the 2013 season.
A crowd of 43,207 fans, the series' largest attendance ever at Rice-Eccles Stadium, was on hand to watch an incredible come-from-behind effort by Monster Energy Kawasaki's Eli Tomac, who passed nine riders and overcame Team Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider Ryan Dungey late to capture his ninth 450SX Class win of the season and assume sole possession of the championship lead. In the Western Regional 250SX Class, Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/KTM's Shane McElrath took his third victory of the season, but it was Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki's Justin Hill who celebrated clinching the Western Regional Championship
The 450SX Class Main Event began with RCH/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing's Justin Bogle racing to the SupercrossLive.com Holeshot just ahead of Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing's Jason Anderson and Dungey. The KTM rider quickly took over control of second, and soon moved into the lead past Bogle just after completion of the opening lap. Behind this battle Tomac was mired deep in the field following his worst start of the season, emerging from the first turn outside the top 10 before fighting his way forward to complete the opening lap in 10th.
With a clear track ahead of him Dungey was able to open a comfortable lead over the field in the early stages of the Main Event, which he would continue to extend. Anderson proceeded to settle into second, while Monster Energy Kawasaki's Josh Grant slotted into third.
All eyes were on Tomac and his march through the field. The Kawasaki rider was able to pass at least one rider per lap until he got just outside the top five. On Lap 9 Tomac broke into the top five, passing two riders to move from sixth to fourth. On the next lap he moved past his teammate Grant for fourth and then set his sights on closing the deficit he faced to Anderson for second. It took Tomac three laps to catch and pass Anderson, taking over second on Lap 12, to the delight of the crowd.
When he moved into second Tomac faced a three-second deficit to Dungey, and due to short lap times the 20-minute-plus-one-lap Main Event the lap count was the highest of the season. That added time on the track gave Tomac plenty of time to close in on Dungey, continuing the post the fastest laps of any rider to get within a few bike lengths of the lead.
The showdown between the championship's co-leaders brought the crowd to its feet. On Lap 17 Tomac used extra momentum to dive inside Dungey in a corner, drawing slight contact between the two. Tomac lost traction coming out of the corner, stalling his momentum, which allowed Dungey to move back out front. On the following lap Tomac's quicker line through the whoops positioned him to make another inside pass on Dungey, which stuck. Once in the lead Tomac never looked back, leaving Dungey in his wake.
"I was stuck in a tough position [off the start] and I had to make it happen. It was all I could do," said Tomac. "We were feeling awesome all day and really had a few good spots on the track where I was able to make a lot of passes. The start wasn't ideal at all. I had a flinch on the gate, so that was something else for us [to deal with], [but] I felt great the whole time. This was pretty cool to come back and do that."
"It's good to get points, but we've got to win. Eli [Tomac] was riding good tonight. He caught us, passed us, and that's what it was. There were a lot of positives tonight, but man, I was hoping to get out front and just take it all the way, but it doesn't happen like that all the time. It's a bummer, but we put ourselves out there and came up a little short. I'm really happy with a lot of things, but instead of second place I wish we were one step higher."
Tomac now sits alone atop the championship standings for the first time in his career. It's the first time since the third round of the season that Dungey doesn't have sole possession or a share of the points lead. Tomac's lead over Dungey sits at three points with two rounds remaining.
In the Western Regional 250SX Class Main Event it was Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki's Austin Forkner claiming the SupercrossLive.com Holeshot over Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha's Aaron Plessinger and McElrath. Plessinger took advantage of his best start of the season to move into the lead, bringing McElrath along with him into second. Forkner settled in to third. Hill started behind this group in sixth, but made early passes to take over fourth.
Plessinger set a torrid pace to establish a multiple-second lead over the field and appeared to be in full control of the race. However, a mistake on Lap 7 in the whoops sent Plessinger to the ground and out of the race. That allowed McElrath to take control of the lead, with Forkner moving into second and Hill into third. Forkner was poised to challenge McElrath for the lead but he too encountered misfortune in the whoops, altering his line while navigating around a lapped rider and losing control. Forkner crashed out of second, allowing Hill to assume the spot and moving Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/KTM's Mitchell Oldenburg into third.
Oldenburg put on a charge and caught Hill for second, successfully making the pass on Lap 13. Hill continued to lose ground and was soon at risk of falling off the podium as Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing's Martin Davalos closed in from fourth. With McElrath in the lead, Hill needed a podium result to clinch the title.
McElrath went on to take his third win of the season by 3.9 seconds over his teammate to give the Troy Lee Designs team a 1-2 finish.
"This win was about staying up. It's unfortunate for Aaron [Plessinger], but tonight was one of those tracks where you couldn't ride too hard because it was so technical and precise. I'm pumped for Justin [Hill], but for us to finish 1-2 is amazing."
On the final lap Davalos and Hill battled for third, with Davalos making a pass for the position. However, Hill refused to give up and made an impressive pass in the final corner to take away Davalos' line and grab the final podium spot by mere inches, securing the title as a result.
"This championship means everything [to me]. We've worked so hard," said Hill. "This is my fifth time around and I've had bumps along the way, which makes this win way more sweet. It's been a dream of mine since I was a kid. This is awesome."
The championship is Hill's first career professional title, clinching one round early. It's also the 20th title for Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki, the most successful team in the history of the sport.
Monster Energy Supercross
Rice-Eccles Stadium - Salt Lake City
April 22, 2017
450SX Class Results
1. Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Kawasaki
2. Ryan Dungey, Belle Plaine, Minn., KTM
3. Jason Anderson, Rio Rancho, N.M., Husqvarna
4. Marvin Musquin, Corona, Calif., KTM
5. Josh Grant, Riverside, Calif., Kawasaki
6. Chad Reed, Dade City, Fla., Yamaha
7. Davi Millsaps, Cairo, Ga., KTM
8. Blake Baggett, Grand Terrace, Calif., KTM
9. Cooper Webb, Newport, N.C., Yamaha
10. Dean Wilson, Clermont, Fla., Husqvarna
450SX Class Championship Standings
1. Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Kawasaki - 319
2. Ryan Dungey, Belle Plaine, Minn., KTM - 316
3. Marvin Musquin, Corona, Calif., KTM - 270
4. Jason Anderson, Rio Rancho, N.M., Husqvarna - 228
5. Cole Seely, Sherman Oaks, Calif., Honda - 211
6. Blake Baggett, Grand Terrace, Calif., KTM - 190
7. Davi Millsaps, Cairo, Ga., KTM - 190
8. Broc Tickle, Holly, Mich., Suzuki - 167
9. Chad Reed, Dade City, Fla., Yamaha - 158
10. Dean Wilson, Clermont, Fla., Husqvarna - 158
Western Regional 250SX Class Results
1. Shane McElrath, Canton, N.C., KTM
2. Mitchell Oldenburg, Alvord, Texas, KTM
3. Justin Hill, Yoncalla, Ore., Kawasaki
4. Martin Davalos, Clermont, Fla., Husqvarna
5. Jimmy Decotis, Peabody, Mass., Honda
6. Austin Forkner, Richards, Mo., Kawasaki
7. Dan Reardon, Menifee, Calif., Yamaha
8. Hayden Mellross, Australia, Yamaha
9. Kyle Chisholm, Valrico, Fla., Honda
10. Tyler Bowers, Corona, Calif., Yamaha
Western Regional 250SX Class Championship Standings
1. Justin Hill, Yoncalla, Ore., Kawasaki - 180
2. Shane McElrath, Canton, N.C., KTM - 154
3. Aaron Plessinger, Hamilton, Ohio, Yamaha - 143
4. Martin Davalos, Clermont, Fla., Husqvarna - 142
5. Jimmy Decotis, Peabody, Mass., Honda - 122
6. Austin Forkner, Richards, Mo., Kawasaki - 105
7. Dan Reardon, Menifee, Calif., Yamaha - 96
8. Kyle Chisholm, Valrico, Fla., Honda - 85
9. Cole Martinez, Rimrock, Ariz., Yamaha - 73
10. Mitchell Oldenburg, Alvord, Texas, KTM - 60