Well, it wasn’t a signature Tomac win, a start-to-finish, no, Eli stuck around for a little dice for five minutes – then checked out. But the big news was going on behind the Kawasaki flier.
Eli Tomac. Maybe it helped that the inside gate was so strongly favoured; having first pick, Tomac took the inside spot and whereas in so many weeks he gets swamped on the way to T1, at Daytona he held the tight line, no one messed with him and so it was just he and Blake Baggett getting away in the early stages. For a while the pair were joined by Marvin Musquin and it looked an exciting prospect, but then Tomac powered past Baggett in the rhythm section and immediately gapped the pack, putting a clear 2-second gap, which he then built on. Top man on the night, for sure.
Cooper Webb. If he’s feeling any pressure as series leader, he’s not showing it. When Tomac and Musquin started making off, Webb held a steady fourth. He didn’t chase, but he didn’t go backwards either, he just let the race come to him. And it did, as Baggett faded and Musquin made his mistakes, Webb kept a steady reliable pace – second place was plenty good enough. It was a mature race, even when Musquin later attacked Webb kept his cool, he made the odd small mistake but Musquin made more and bigger ones. Webb cruised in.
Marvin Musquin. The bike’s great, Marv’s in good health and, boy, he has speed to spare. But can our favourite Frenchman close the deal? It has to be psychological – either that or he’s just too close to the edge to be consistent. Marv is an unfinished masterpiece. He needs to work on his offence – when you go for passes make them work. All that said, he does at least bring excitement with his rodeo rides and off-track excursions. Every week that championship slips further away though.
Blake Baggett. Baggett is becoming bankable – he’s hitting top five, stepping onto the podium, regularly. He looks comfortable, he has the starts everything is good. It’s just the second half of his races that are letting him down right now. If he can maintain his intensity then more will come. But he totally deserves his top-five position in the standings.
Joey Savatgy. A good result from a night where the Kawasaki understudy never really shone. Of the two rookies, his rival Aaron Plessinger looked the man, and was riding the stronger race, until he crashed out. But Savatgy should be both pleased and congratulated – this is a year of learning. He’s riding with the fast guys and he’s sticking in there. It’s all lessons he’ll apply later in his career.
Zach Osborne is back! And at last a decent result, sixth is alright, decent points, something to build on. Likewise seventh for Justin Hill is a deserved reward, he’s looked good on the Suzuki all season, if slightly overshadowed by teammate Chad Reed. But Hill rides well, you sense he just needs to put together a full 20-minute programme. Meanwhile eighth for Ken Roczen is a big dent in his championship. Crashing down in T1 with his teammate must have devastated the spirit in the Honda pit, and this being the new Gentle Ken we knew there would be no dazzling last-to-first comeback, instead a careful ride, no overstretching and a most modest of damage-limitation rides. From red plate holder, he’s now dropped to fourth in the standings – this is not selling Hondas.
RUST’s predictions for Indianapolis: Webb now has a 19-point lead. With seven rounds to go that’s not enough to set cruise-control, but it does allow him to keep on doing what he’s doing, no need to panic, just keep knocking them into the back of the net the way he’s been doing all season. And his form means he’s pretty much podium every time. Meanwhile Tomac will continue to attack and score wins, while Musquin will also continue to attack – only he needs to stay on track and find a way to re-assert his authority. Roczen has been riding single-speed all year; can he actually go any faster?