Monster Energy / Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac‘s 2018 Monster Energy Supercross campaign is likely to go down in the history books as one of the weirdest 450SX Championship campaigns in the history of the sport. We have seen guys win the most main events and not win the Championship–even Eli did that just last year–but we have never seen a rider win four of the first eight and head into round nine 7th in the points with a 65-point deficit.
The #3 won nine main events in 2017 and lost the title to the retired Champ Ryan Dungey by just five-points, so coming into the 2018 season Eli was on the top of most everyone’s list as the favorite. The season started with Eli holeshotting and running away from the field at A1, but he crashed on lap seven, throwing that win away and missing the next round in Houston.
Since returning at round three with just one point on the board, Eli has won four of the next six races, but in the two he didn’t win, he went 13-DNF. Eli’s 2018 has to be a tough pill to swallow for the Colorado native, and some have even given him a new nickname: “COW” for “crash or win.” Up to this point, it has been hard to argue with that one.
In Tampa on Saturday, Eli kept it on two wheels and lit the candles for the fourth time in 2018. While he is still 65 points behind Jason Anderson, we have seen first hand that things can go sideways quickly for anyone in this sport, and we have also seen that Eli can rack up the wins quickly. Nothing is over until it’s over in SX, but the #3 definitely has a tall mountain to climb over the last nine rounds of the 2018 season.
After Eli’s win in Tampa, he sat down and answered some questions from the press about his win.
Eli, early in the main, you seemed to have a couple tough laps where things didn’t look right, but then things seemed to click. Was that something with you or the track?
I just wasn’t riding the way I was riding later in the main. I got shuffled back, and then we got passed once and then twice. I was like, “Holy crap, what are you doing now?” Once [Justin] Hill got by me, that’s when I really got into into my groove. Once he was able to get passed me, I got my flow there. After that, we just slowly started chipping away and getting close to the lead there. I had that inside line in my bag from the heat race. That’s where I was able to get by Marv [Marvin Musquin] the first time, and the second time I was able to make it stick. It was a good race track for us. It definitely took the day for it to come to us, but it was good for the main.
You were making your 17th start tonight, and you also got your 17th career win. You’re now tied with Jeff Stanton and Mark Barnett for 12th on the all-time wins list. You’re putting your name up there with some really good legends. That’s gotta be motivation in itself?
It’s awesome! Just a single win in the 450 class is one of the hardest things to come by. I’m grateful for it and just grateful that I’m here in the position to go out and race and try to get those wins.
Justin Hill was in there battling with you guys. He’s never raced the 450 class before–besides the Monster Cup. What was that like battling with a new guy in there that you really haven’t ever raced before?
He was riding good. He’s got a good flow for that 450. That second quad in the quad-quad was pretty huge. I wanted no part of it while he was doing it. It was pretty cool.
You said you had that inside line in practice after the rhythm section before the sand. When you passed Marvin the first time, did you know he was going to leave it open, or were you just kind of hoping that would be the case?
I was hoping that would be the case and I was able to get there, but then he was able to get back by. We were side-by-side there and then he squared me up over there by the mechanics, at least there was the option there.
Looking at that sand section tonight, there was a lot of lap traffic going through there, especially later in the main event. For you being in the lead and in second place, you ran into those lappers and kind of stopped your momentum. How much does that really affect your focus when you’re also in a battle?
It was pretty sketchy all day. Looking at the track map before the race, you’re like, “oh yeah, that’s going to be fun. We got some sand rollers.” Honestly, if you missed the main line, it was a disaster. You’re going left and right, squirrelling everywhere. I had one really close call there with probably three [laps] to go or so, getting outside that main line again and almost tucked my front end at the end. It was tough.
This is the first time in almost twenty-years that the SX series has been here in Tampa. What are your general reflections on how you think the community responded to the event, and how you think the track was in general?
It was good. It was my first time here, and we got the win so I like it so far.
Photos by: Ryne Swanberg / Garth Milan