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10/14 2018

QUESTIONS LINGER AS ELI TOMAC WINS 2018 MONSTER ENERGY CUP IN LAS VEGAS

 

”IS ARENA SUPERCROSS CHANNELING F-1?…ASKS RR-AZ”

Teammate waves him by on last lap of last race for the million-dollar win

BY:  MARK VAUGHN

It’s as if it was pre-ordained: A Monster Energy Kawasaki won the Monster Energy Cup non-points prelude to the Monster Energy Supercross season in a stadium plastered with Monster Energy banners in front of fans all hopped up on Monster Energy drinks. What are the chances? Why, I think I’ll sample a tasty Monster Energy beverage right now!

Burp…

The Monster Energy Cup is a three-race event that serves as a sort of All-Stars race for supercross motorcycle riders. Supercross is like motocross except that instead of dirt bike riders blasting along outdoors over largely natural dirt features, supercross is held in a stadium and involves motorcycles flying ridiculously high off of dirt jumps. Supercross is made all the more spectacular in that riders (usually) stick perfect landings before powering over whoops and digging the rear tire into corners and spraying rooster tails of earth on each exit. It makes for a thrilling spectacle, indeed.

This year’s Monster Energy Cup, like all previous Cups, was held Saturday night Oct. 13 in Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. It consisted of three 10-lap “Main Events,” each held about an hour apart. Each Main Event was run on a specially constructed course designed by five-time AMA Supercross-champion-wining, now-retired racer Ricky Carmichael.

The thing that separates the Monster Energy Cup from the 17-round Monster Energy Supercross season is that any rider who wins all three Main Events in Las Vegas also wins $1 million. This year a lucky fan was also in line to win another million dollars. It was a little like those powerball lottery things. Two supercrossers have won the million dollars in the Cup’s eight-year history, Ryan Villopoto in the inaugural event in 2011 and Marvin Musquin last year. So that’s two out of eight, or one-in four, fairly good odds by Vegas standards. And great ratings for Monster Energy.

This year Monster Energy Kawasaki rider Eli Tomac blew away the 22-bike field in the first two Main Events, taking the lead on the second lap of the first round and leading pole-to-pole and by a hefty margin in the second. But on the start of the third Main, with that million dollars hanging over the field, Tomac got squeezed out of the lead at the land-rush start and was way back in seventh place after the first turn.

Given the tight confines of the course, combined with the speed with which Tomac’s Monster Energy Kawasaki teammate Joey Savatgy was whooping the rest of the field, it looked like there would be no millionaires minted that night. To win the million, Tomac would have to pass almost one rider per lap, and passing wasn’t all that easy in the Sam Boyd bowl.

But wait, what was this? The plucky Tomac passed the Husqvarna of Jason “El Hombre” Anderson on the next lap; then he got by the Troy Lee Designs Red Bull KTM of Jordon Smith; he had to fight to get by the Honda CRF450 tenaciously ridden by Malcolm Stewart, taking two laps to get by; then came Vince Friese on another Honda CRF450 and he got around Chad Reed’s Suzuki with only two laps to go, putting him – Tomac – in second.

But Tomac’s teammate Savatgy seemed surely too far ahead to catch. Or was he?

On the last lap, in a part of the track that went outside the stadium and was out of direct view of the fans – though not the TV cameras – Savatgy could be seen on the jumbo screen releasing his left hand from the handlebar and waving teammate Tomac past. Was that a team order or just a friend doing a favor?

After the race someone asked Tomac how much of the million dollars he was going to give to Savatgy.

“No comment,” Tomac said without irony or facial expression.

Savatgy’s comment on the press dias after the race was more prescient: “At the end of the day we are a team.”

It’s unclear if there actually were team orders, as happened only a week ago in Formula 1, or if Savatgy simply was doing a favor for a friend. I tracked him down after the press conference and asked the following, “Were you still racing all the way to the end?”

“Yeah, of course, absolutely,” Savatgy said.

So there you go, the perfect end to a perfect event that was, maybe, too perfectly played out.

The 17-round 2019 Monster Energy Supercross season kicks off January 5 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California.

I need a drink.