Photos by: Octopi
Man, what a race! With all the injuries and the lack of depth coupled with Monster Energy / Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac winning the first six motos of the year, the 450 class had become kind of a snoozefest. But then came the 2018 High Point National—a track that Red Bull / KTM’s Marvin Musquin obviously felt very comfortable on—and the racing between Tomac and Musquin was incredible.
In the first moto of the day, Eli got a very uncharacteristic holeshot with HRC / Honda’s Ken Roczen—the only rider to challenge Eli outdoors thus far in 2018—crashing in a first turn pileup, and for all intents and purposes, I thought the race was over. Eli probably thought so as well, but Marvin thought differently. As the moto wore on, the Frenchman’s speed and confidence grew with every lap, and by the halfway point, he was on Tomac’s rear wheel. In the end, Marvin went around the outside of Eli pretty easily and crossed the line with a five-second win. Just like that, Eli’s moto win streak was over.
In the final moto, Roczen pulled the holeshot with Eli and Marvin close in tow. The three of them battled for the lead briefly, and by lap two, it was again Tomac up front setting the pace early on. Roczen stayed in the fight for the first half of the moto, but then it was the Eli Tomac and Marvin Musquin show with Kenny falling off the pace by more than a minute.
With Tomac and Musquin’s pace upwards of more than ten seconds a lap faster than anyone inside the top ten down the stretch, the two lapped up to 9th place and put on a hell of a show for the fans battling one another while carving their way through lappers that looked like they were tied to a track marker. I’ve never seen Eli ride as defensive and gritty as he did down the stretch in moto two—crossing lines mid-turn and riding a 30 foot wide bike at times—but it was enough to hang on to win moto two and keep his overall win streak alive.
After the racing was over, Eli answered some questions in the press conference at High Point. Check out what Eli had to say about by far his toughest outdoor race of ’18.
Eli, you guys have talked about how some of the tracks haven’t been ripped as deep and haven’t been rough. I’d like to get your opinion on High Point.
There was no lack of ruts today; that’s for sure. Shoot, it was good, you know. I was able to get out front early and didn’t eat a lot of roost here, so that was good. It’s got that heavy clay here. It’s important to keep the goggles clean. This place always has the big rutted character to it, so it’s tough to race on.
You came into this race with a six-moto win streak. Moto one didn’t quite go your way, but you were able to score the overall to keep that portion [of the streak] intact. What was it like suffering that first setback—if you will—of 2018 outdoors?
That first one was tough. I wasn’t as good as Marv [Marvin Musquin] in that one. I was fighting my turning a little bit and you gotta be just really perfect if you want to be the guy on top right now in this class. I wasn’t that. I was fighting and wasn’t flowing. I at least went back, regrouped and got closer. Marv was all over us at the end of the second one but it was just good enough.
In that first moto, was it more line selection or bike setup? What kind of changed for you I guess?
It was a combo of both, you know, just not feeling comfortable—and Marvin was on it. He just caught up to me and rode right around me basically. I went back, changed a few things and it’s crazy what that does. When you have that comfort level, it changes your riding and you can ride that whole thirty-minutes where you want to. We did that and luckily we hit the right direction.
In that second one, did you know where he was going to make moves on you? Could you feel where he was going to kind of do something different I guess?
Oh yeah, I knew the last two laps it was going to be game on. At the same time, we were both darting through traffic and lappers, so that was a whole other game to play with that. It was like playing a game of chess. I knew if I got to the top of this hill up here, I knew it was at least pretty one-lined down through the ruts. It wasn’t easy to play defense, but you could do it here because some of the inside ruts were so dominant.
We could see the loose pants adjuster in the first moto. Did that contribute to that comfort level you were talking about?
No, it wasn’t bothering me. That was just velcro that came undone, but it definitely wasn’t the difference maker in that one.
Did you have a feeling [in that second moto] where the pass might be coming from? What sections you had to grease to make sure it didn’t happen?
Ah, I’m trying to think. Not really. Maybe the rollers? He was better there on the inside all day. I didn’t like that inside. It was just tough to get the second double and I was going on the outside. It was something you could do every time even though it was a little bit slower. It got really close there that last lap and I kind of went out to the outside to do a little block. Man, it was close over the next tabletop. I didn’t know where it was coming from. Then down in the big g-out hole right here, that was close again. But yeah, I was able to play defense pretty good the last two laps.
Seems like any time they talk about a track, they talk about the [Damon] Bradshaw and [Jeff] Stanton battles or Ricky [Carmichael] and James [Stewart], but you guys [Eli and Marvin] have officially put your names in the High Point book as some of the greatest racing here. Does that make you feel kind of special now? Is this like one of your homes now, if you will?
Yeah, it was cool. The crowd here today was awesome on the fence there. Heck yeah, that’s what everyone wants to see. It puts a lot of pressure on us, but that’s what we’re out there to do.