AMA SX 2018 RD4: TOMAC AGAIN!

Eli Tomac did it again at Glendale as championship leader Jason Anderson has a (slightly) off-day…

Monday 29th January 2018

After an exhilarating third round which saw the introduction of the new triple crown format, it was back to business as usual for round four in Glendale, Arizona. But whatever the situation, it seems that Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac is determined to stamp his authority and prove that he’s ready to fight hard for the title he so narrowly missed out on in 2017. As some of his biggest rivals flounder it may seem that Tomac is on course to dominate the season, but – just as in 2017 – as he battles to make up the points he lost at the start of the year when injured, and other names begin to come to the fore, it’s still very much all to play for.

450 Main

The University of Phoenix stadium was packed to the rafters as the riders took to the track, which is one of the biggest in the calendar, and there was the usual buzz of excitement as the gate dropped. Tomac was again ‘Mr. Holeshot’, as he took his third of the season. As Tomac began to pull away, Justin Barcia (Monster Energy Yamaha) and Weston Peick (Yoshimura Suzuki) started to dice it with Barcia bringing back a hint of his infamous ‘Bam Bam’ nickname as he put in an aggressive block pass on Peick to take ownership of second place.

Ken Roczen (Team Honda HRC) again initially failed to make much of an impact on the field and appeared to lack the fire we’re more used to seeing from him. However, as he became more comfortable with the rhythm of the race he made his way into third for his first podium of the season, and third in the championship.

In fact, in some ways, Rockstar Husqvarna’s Jason Anderson was the surprise of the night. A series of small mistakes appeared to leave him on the back foot, and he was forced to fight his way through the pack. He eventually won out in a thrilling battle with Marvin Musquin (Red Bull KTM) to finish fourth – his first result off-the-podium this season. He still leads the overall standings, but it will be interesting how Anderson copes with the pressure of defending a slimmer lead.

Despite his current dominance, Tomac is still suffering in the overall standings, 10th overall and a whopping 36 points down. It’s a similar story for Red Bull KTM’s Marvin Musquin, who also missed the second round of the season, and sits ninth overall – just one point ahead of his Monster Energy Kawasaki rival. 

250 (West) Main

Despite a crash in the heat race, Joey Savatgy (Monster Energy Kawasaki) still managed to grab the holeshot and execute a perfect start. But Shane McElrath (TLD Red Bull KTM) and Aaron Plessinger (Monster Energy Yamaha) were hot on his heels. Both riders put in superb passes on Savatgy which left the Kawasaki rider stunned, he would later crash and manage just fourth on the night despite his promising start, and he would also drop two places in the championship standings – from first to third. Plessinger was looking extremely strong and, once embroiled in a fight with McElrath he made it clear that he was out to win whatever it took. The Yamaha rider crossed the line with a decent lead and celebrated by dancing and doing ‘the worm’ before jubilantly taking to the top step of the podium. McElrath and Cianciarulo (Monster Energy Kawasaki) completed the top three. Plessinger takes the title lead to Oakland (CA) next weekend. 

RUST’s analysis:

Tomac’s rage against the system

Last year Eli Tomac’s season was undone at the sixth round at Arlington when a crash in the main damaged his Kawasaki and he was forced to limp home in 15th place. Tomac would win an impressive nine times over the season but he couldn’t quite catch Ryan Dungey (who won just three races) for the title, ending up an agonising five points short. 2018 looks like it could be more of the same; one crash and one DNS means that despite winning 50% of the races so far he’s 36 points adrift and in a lowly 10th place in the standings. Using the AMA scoring system if he wins every race from here on while championship leader Jason Anderson places second or third he’s still got at least 10 races and probably more to make up his deficit. That’s because SX is scored 26, 23, 21, 18 etc. That’s not much of a points bonus for being top dog. Compare this to FIA Formula 1 where the points scale goes 25,18, 15, 12 etc. Using the FIA system Tomac could be up and leading within four races. In fact using the FIA points system Tomac would have been champion in 2017. Some world championships run worst-score discard systems, too. So the question is: does the AMA points system promote exciting racing and does it adequately reward the best riders? Or, does the system keep the riders safer, by rewarding consistency? Is one sytem better than the other? Does it matter – after all you play to the rules?

You win your championship on your worst days

A good old racing proverb that one. So Jason Anderson probably won’t be losing any sleep over his fourth place in Glendale. It cost him four points on his lead (to Barcia) and he lost just two points to Roczen, but fourth is okay as off-days go. Anderson is showing he has the strength and skill to minimize his losses when he muffs a start. He does come back. No reason to get rattled…

Roczen’s steady improvement

Roczen in 2018 is like no Roczen we know. But actually that makes him all the more dangerous. He’s there just 12 points behind Ando, and he’s collecting the points and now he’s at last got a foot on the podium and a chance to thank all his sponsors (like you do). Maybe the taste of champagne to Roczen is like the smell of blood to a shark. But really, we’re all just waiting for him to do his firecracker stuff.

2018 AMA SUPERCROSS

450SX Championship Standings

1. Jason Anderson Husqvarna 89

2. Justin Barcia Yamaha 80

3. Ken Roczen Honda 77

4. Weston Peick Suzuki 71

5. Cole Seely Honda 70

6. Justin Brayton Honda 68

7. Joshua Grant Kawasaki 58

8. Blake Baggett KTM 57

9. Marvin Musquin KTM 54

10. Eli Tomac Kawasaki 53

250SX Western Region Championship Standings

1. Aaron Plessinger Yamaha  92
2. Shane McElrath KTM  91
3. Joey Savatgy Kawasaki  87
4. Adam Cianciarulo Kawasaki  77
5. Christian Craig Honda  70
6. Chase Sexton Honda  69
7. Mitchell Oldenburg Yamaha  58
8. Justin Hill Suzuki  58
9. Kyle Chisholm Yamaha  53
10. Bradley Taft Yamaha  51

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