Presented by Bel-Ray – Block passing; Dan Lamb and Chris Cooksey discuss who is the favorite to win the 2018 Monster Energy Supercross series. Will Eli Tomac conquer his demons? Will Marvin Musquin ever win when he has to skim a whoop section? Can Ken Roczen return to his winning form after his horrific injury?

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Chris: With the 2018 Monster Energy Supercross an FIM World Championship series just around the corner and all major offseason races complete, I guess it’s time for us “know it all journalists” to start making predictions. If someone put a gun to my head and asked me to tell them who will be the 2018 450 champ, I would have to go with Marvin Musquin. Marvin has been nothing short of amazing since Ryan Dungey retired following the 2017 Monster Energy Supercross series. Marvin was dominant all offseason. He won all three main events to claim the million dollar prize at the Monster Energy Cup, something that hasn’t been done since the great Ryan Villopoto retired.

Marvin’s biggest competitor for the 2018 title will be Eli Tomac whom Marvin waxed at the MEC. Some might say these races aren’t “real” races, but let’s not forget Marvin won races last year and played a key role in helping Ryan Dungey win the 2017 Championship. I don’t think Marvin’s lack of ability to skim whoops will matter as only a few rounds require this skill. Tracks break down more than in the past and his creativity will shine on these deteriorated tracks. My pick for 2018 Monster Energy Supercross Champion would have to be Marvin Musquin.

There is no doubt in our minds that Ken Roczen will be a force in 2018. Whether or not he contends for the title, is still a “wait and see” at this point, though. Photo by: Chase Yocom

Dan: Well, here we are, we just turned the corner into December and while all of us are preparing to empty our collective bank accounts for the holiday season, the athletes of the Monster Energy Supercross series are wide open preparing for the 2018 season. With the four time—and the last three in a row—450SX Champion Ryan Dungey hanging up his boots and calling it a career, the class has been left wide open. I know a lot of pundits said the same thing when Ryan Villopoto retired at the end of 2014 after winning four in a row, but I think this time we are left with a myriad of questions and considerably less answers to those questions.

Back in 2014 you could have easily argued that Dungey was the heir apparent, and that is exactly what happened. Would anyone have bet that he would run off three titles in a row? No, but with his nemesis retiring, his Hall of Fame consistency and the class being inundated with youth, it really didn’t surprise people either. This time, though, all that youth that was just graduating into the 450SX class back in ’13, ’14 and ’15 have matured and are now hungry for their first titles.

So, who is my 2018 450SX title favorite? I think the awesome part is I really do not have an outright clear favorite right now. If I had to wager my house, though, my favorite would have to be Eli Tomac. While I still think a 100% healthy Ken Roczen is favored over Tomac, we really do not know how good Kenny is going to be until the gate drops on Anaheim 1. My buddy Chris picked Marvin Musquin, but until Marvin proves he can get through the whoops night in and night out, my favorite has to be the man that won the 2017 AMA 450 National Motocross Championship and nine 450SX main events in 2017. Yes, Marvin swept the Monster Energy Cup, but Eli crashed out early and there were no whoops. Marvin also won in Paris, but there were no other title favorites in the house and that was despite struggling in the whoops. When Cole Seely blew by him through the whoops in Paris, it reminded me why I cannot pick the Frenchman for the title.

Marvin has been undefeated in the 2017 off-season races, including winning a million dollars at the 2017 Monster Cup. Photo by: Hoppenworld

Now, since Chris lives in Las Vegas—and I lived there for 14 years as well—I think we should list our favorites for the 2018 450SX Championship in a way we both understand: Las Vegas sports betting lines. Chris, give us your top seven 450SX favorites and your betting line for each of them. For those not familiar with betting lines, here’s the gist of it. If a rider is -300, you would have to make a wager of $300 on that rider to win $100. If a rider is +300, a $100 bet on that rider would pay you $300 if he won the title.

Chris: Dan, while I know you have a good eye for what you see. How can you honestly pick Eli after the mental meltdowns we have seen through his entire career? So playing Vegas oddsmaker, here is how I would set the line.

Marvin Musquin (-150)

Eli Tomac (-110)

Ken Roczen (+120)

Jason Anderson (+600)

Blake Baggett (+600)

Dean Wilson (+1200)

Cooper Webb (+1200)

Field (+1000)

Like a true Vegas oddsmaker I reserve the right to change these lines with new information. The rider most likely to move the betting line is Roczen. His surgically repaired left arm leaves me wondering if he will be the same rider as last year? From what I have seen and heard about his training sessions at Castillo Ranch, I believe he will be as good as ever. I still cannot get the horrific images from his Instagram account out of my head though. I could easily bump him to a (-200) favorite if he is fast at Anaheim 1 first practice. In reality, I believe only 5 riders have a chance at this title, but for Blake Baggett or Jason Anderson to win, it would be an upset of epic proportions. Both Baggett and Anderson have shown they have the speed to win on certain occasions, but neither has shown any consistency that would lead me to believe they can win a Supercross championship.

The rider that could leave me looking silly is Eli Tomac. Some days Eli looks like the reincarnation of James Stewart as the “fastest man on the planet,” but unlike James, the speed isn’t always there. James was always the fastest rider but had a tendency to make big mistakes. Eli, on the other hand, looks fast or like someone with 5th place speed stole his bike and gear. I refer to this as “Evil Eli,” and he shows up at the most inconvenient times during Championship battles (Las Vegas 2011, Salt Lake 2011, Anaheim 1 2017, New Jersey 2017, Budds Creek 2017 Moto 1, Unadilla 2017 and Monster Cup 2017). If “Evil Eli” stays home this year, Eli could be the next Champion. What would you set the lines at, Mr. Lamb?

Eli did not win a main event in 2017 until after Kenny was injured. Once Kenny checked out of the series injured, Eli won 9 of the next 12 main events. Photo by: Chase Yocom

Dan: Wow! Chris, you have some serious confidence in your favorite Frenchman. -150 is some serious confidence in a man that has two career 450SX wins on his resume. I get it, Marvin has had an incredible—and incredibly profitable—off-season, winning the million dollars with a sweep at the Monster Energy Cup, winning the Red Bull Straight Rhythm and sweeping the main events in both Paris and Geneva, but it is hard to put too much weight into all those wins with Tomac only being there for three laps of the Monster Energy Cup and Roczen not being at any of the events. I think those wins have no doubt taken Marvin’s confidence to a new level, but at the same time, that confidence did not come at the expense of a Tomac or Roczen. In their minds, Marvin is beating the guys he is supposed to be beating, and we all know Tomac wrote off the Monster Cup crash as just a mental hiccup.

With that, here is my line for the 2018 450SX championship.

Eli Tomac – Even money

Ken Roczen – (+120)

Marvin Musquin (+225)

Jason Anderson (+395)

Blake Baggett (+750)

Cooper Webb (+750)

Cole Seely (+1100)

Field (+1400)

I guess it is now time to answer my friend Chris’ question about how I can pick Eli after all his mental breakdowns. I guess my first answer would be that I simply think the mental issues he was having in 2017 had a lot to do with never being in that position before. Before 2017, Eli had four 450 main event wins on his resume and he had never been in the hunt for the most prestigious dirt bike crown on the planet. Do I think he is completely over that hump and is now the picture of mental perfection? No, not by a long shot, but with his nine wins in 2017 and the man that won the last three titles now retired and making cornfield track videos, I feel like he has earned the spot as my title favorite, at least until we see what Ken Roczen is bringing to the table in 2018.

Like Chris said, Kenny can easily sway that line if he shows up at Anaheim 1 and wins, but it will take more than that to call him the title favorite in my mind. Even without the 2017 crash and subsequent arm injury, Kenny still needs to prove to himself that he can maintain that winning speed and intensity for 17 rounds of Monster Energy Supercross. In Kenny’s four years in the 450SX class, he has won A1 three times and has yet to parlay that into a title.

Highlights of Eli Tomac’s exciting 2017

I know this article is called “Block Pass,” and Chris and I should probably argue more, but beyond Chris having Marvin at the insane line of -150, I don’t think he is too far off everywhere else. For the record, I did try to get him to give me everyone on the line not born in France a +150 line for $100 and have not heard back from him. Only big differences in our line is I have Cole Seely in my top seven and I feel like Jason Anderson is all alone as a clear fourth best guy and a lot closer to that top three than Chris has him. I think with the reigning champion gone and the title vacated, Jason will come into Anaheim with a whole new level of belief. The biggest ingredient in becoming the man in Monster Energy Supercross, is believing you are good enough to be the man.

Chris is also on the Blake Baggett train big time for 2018, and like Chris, I have heard that the #4 is hauling ass at the test tracks. The problem is, I heard that last year as well, and while his newfound SX speed did translate into being very fast in qualifying, he only converted it into one season podium—a total of two total podiums for his 450SX career. I believe Blake turned the corner last year and actually began believing he is an elite SX rider, I just cannot put him on the level of an Anderson until he shows us he can win a main event.

Chris:  After looking at your line, Dan, I understand why you no longer live in Vegas. It looks like a pit boss may have run you out of town. Here is a little history on the Supercross series. If you look back as far as 1989, every Champion was one of the top 3-4 pre-season favorites with these exceptions.  In 1989, Jeff Stanton claimed the title over heavy pre-season favorites Rick Johnson and Jeff Ward. He was in the conversation, but not many picked him for the title. It would be like picking Dean Wilson for the 2018 Championship. In 1993 an underdog by the name Jeremy McGrath took the title, but he was only top 5 or 6 in most peoples’ eyes. Then, in 2010, a rookie named Ryan Dungey surprised heavy favorites James Stewart and Chad Reed. With this said, Dungey was discused as a possible contender. For all logical purposes, the 2018 Champion will be Marvin, Eli or Roczen. If we do get the every 10 year upset, my guess is Baggett.  I don’t see Anderson ever winning a major title until he shows more maturity.  He is a magnet for drama, and while entertaining, it doesn’t help his chances when racing for the most prestigious title in dirt bike racing.

Another issue I have with my friend Dan’s odds is the field at (+1400). When betting the field, you get anyone not listed in the top 7.  I would gladly take Reed, Wilson and Justin Bogle at (+1400) over Seely at (+1100).  What Dan is saying is Seely has a better chance at the Championship than all three of those riders combined.  I know we are just sharing opinions, but this is just factually incorrect.  No way do those numbers line up. I wish my buddy Dan ran sports books everywhere; I would be rich!

Dan is very high on Jason Anderson heading into 2018. While Chris tried to create a line that you could use in Las Vegas, I think Dan went more with his gut. Photo by: Chase Yocom

One last thing my buddy Dan mentioned: why would I give you (+150) on the field including Tomac and Roczen? I have them at (-110) and (+120) individually.  What’s next?  Are you going to offer me an oceanview house in Idaho? Anyway I look forward to later rubbing this in or eating crow, but either way, I can’t wait for A1!

Dan: Alright, I will be quick in defending myself against Chris’ onslaught since we have now gone over two thousand words and I want to make sure, when you open “Block Pass” in the future, you know you can finish it one sitting. While I could argue my book making abilities for another thousands words like Chris, I will stick to moto for you guys. To be honest, I made the field +1400 because I have a hard time believing anyone would make a preseason title wager with any number if the rider is not named Eli Tomac, Marvin Musquin or Ken Roczen.

Like Chris said, it has been a long time since we have seen somebody outside the top two or three step up and take the title. One thing I do want to verify that Chris talked about is who the people were that mentioned Ryan Dungey in the conversation for the 2010 450 SX title? He was in the talks, but in the talks as an up-and-coming rookie to look out for. I know it has been seven years, but I want to meet the journalist that had Dungey as a title hopeful and get him signed up with MotoXAddicts.

Bottom line, the Monster Energy Supercross, an FIM World Championship series, is the greatest sport on earth for one reason: anything can and usually does happen. While Chris, myself and most pundits are limiting our favorites to a select few, the absence of a #1 plate on the line is an open door invitation for anyone to step in and claim it. Guys like Webb, Baggett, Wilson, Seely, Broc Tickle will read articles like this one and use the fact that they are not mentioned to fuel their drive towards their first title. I mean, who knows, maybe old man Chad Reed even has one more title bid in him. Nothing would surprise me too much, and that is why I want A1 to get here yesterday.

Bring on Anaheim 1!

You know what Chris and Dan think. Now, tell us who you think will win the 2018 450SX title? Give us your vote below.

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