Since then, Eli Tomac has been on the rise, and last night in Oakland he took firm control of the West Region Lites title chase—a title he more or less blew last year when he was out-maneuvered in a frantic finale by Broc Tickle in Las Vegas.
But Tomac has always been a well-grounded, big-picture racer, and he obviously learned a thing or two about managing a championship last May, because that's exactly what he's doing this time around. As other race-winners like Cole Seely and Dean Wilson faltered—both crashed themselves out of shots at last night's win, Seely for the second week in a row—while Tomac just steadily moves forward. Same goes for former MX2 world champs Marvin Musquin and Tyla Rattray, who crashed out of Los Angeles and Oakland, respectively.
The season started like this for the #17 Honda rider. Four weeks later, he's on top.
Halfway through the West, Tomac's steady performances have earned him an unlikely 15-point lead, at least unlikely considering how it started anyway. At very first gate drop of the year, Tomac was in danger, and yet he figured it out how to salvage points. Now he has also put his whole GEICO Honda team on the early path of usurping the mighty Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki juggernaut for the right to be called this year's best Lites team, because when the East starts up, defending champ Justin Barcia will be the odds-on favorite, just ahead of PC's Blake Baggett and Darryn Durham, as well as Red Bull KTM newcomer Ken Roczen.
That's later. For now it will be up to Tomac to lead from the front, manage points and take this series one lap at a time, right down to the last one in Las Vegas. Because he already knows from experience how easily it can slip away.