Following a fifth consecutive victory, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac has cut Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey points lead to just four with four rounds remaining. Tomac has now won eight of the last 10 races after his win at Round 13 in St. Louis last night.
The night wasn’t without controversy for the points leader. Dungey closed the gap on Tomac in the main event, but then got stuck behind Chad Reed while lapping the veteran. Dungey was visibly frustrated with Reed after the race, as he felt he was in the main line and wasn’t moving over. He addressed the issue in the post-race press conference.
Red Bull KTM’s Marvin Musquin was a solid third. It’s the third-straight podium for the second year 450SX rider.
All three riders spoke with the media after the race.
Racer X: Marvin [Musquin], early in the main event you were right behind Ryan [Dungey]. I saw you looking around, finding some lines, and you were right on their pace. Then kind of suddenly you disappeared. What happened in the early laps of that main event?
Marvin Musquin: Well, first of all, I didn’t have a good start, but my first lap was actually really good. I was super aggressive and I got inside a little bit everywhere, before the whoops and stuff like that. I made a lot of passes and then I got third in the first lap, so that was pretty good. I was happy about it because after a bad start it was tough. I was third and I was feeling really, really well. I was pushing. I was right behind Eli [Tomac] and Ryan, but it was tough to make a pass. I don’t know if I missed some energy or got tight a little bit. The track was tough. They started pulling away and then it’s tough. When you’re behind and you’re not close anymore then you kind of play it safe. Tonight was a third and I can do better. I had an early crash in first qualifying and landed hard on the concrete. I hurt on my whole left side. I was banged up the whole day. So I’m really happy to get third tonight.
Ryan, I got to ask, there was a point mid-race where you were stuck behind a certain blue bike. Can you take us through your thoughts on those few laps?
Ryan Dungey: Considering before that leading up to it we were winding them down, catching Eli and putting in some good laps. I was happy with it. I don’t want to go too crazy into the topic. It’s definitely not ideal. I think everybody saw it. Eli gets around quick and easy and then three laps go by and he’s in the groove and in the line. Like Marvin said, it’s hard to pass and it’s almost like if you’re a lapper you’ve got to move over. I just don’t know I guess why he’s got to get involved with what me and Eli’s position. If he was on the same lap, I understand. I think we all would. But he’s a lapper. It’s just unfortunate, but what do you do?
Eli, for two weeks now you’ve had kind of a rough heat race and obviously were able to respond in the main events. Do those heat races concern you at all moving forward? Is that something you feel like you need to maybe address and to get under control and take care of?
Eli Tomac: I don’t know. You can only do what you can do. Tonight once again we had to go back and regroup and make the best of it. I was fortunate to have a pretty good gate for what it was. Then just went out there and got it done again. That’s all we could do, we just never give up. I was glad we were able to get our act together there in that main.
Eli, I was watching you and it seemed like you were uncomfortable in the whoops. You kept moving around. That first pass you made on Ryan right at the start, you followed Ryan. Midway through you changed to the inside there and you made the pass. The next couple laps you were over there, then the next couple laps you were over there. Then you moved back. You kept moving back and forth in there. You were changing a lot of lines tonight.
Tomac: I was, and I was just moving around and searching. Early on it was a good line and then it seemed like there was a few laps I started dancing around. I was like, man, maybe I go to jumping. I obviously felt Ryan there so I was like, I need to try to go back to the fast skim line. So those were the thoughts that were going through my head. There was a lot of parts on the track like that, even like the dragon’s back or even the 2-3-3 where if you missed something you’d mess up that whole section. Really tough racetrack tonight.
Marvin, you’ve been pretty vocal of your opinion of sand on the tracks. What did you think of the track this week not having a sand section?
Musquin: I only talked about it just once, that was last weekend. St. Louis is always good dirt. This weekend, today was a really, really good racetrack. Really long set of whoops, a lot of rhythm sections, that bridge over under. It was a lot of fun. That dirt really broke down and it was tough. The dragon’s back was actually really good, really technical. At the end of the main it was tough. It was really easy to mess it up. Like Eli said, the next one, the double-three-three, it was a tough track. No sand section, so it was easier on the goggles I guess. So I’m really happy about today on the racetrack.
Ryan, you did start closing in a little bit around halfway. Was it lines coming together? Did you just start riding better? What do you think was working for you at that point?
Dungey: Things were really clicking for me. Eli came out of the gate pretty strong. The laps, he kind of started inching away here and there, and I knew that. I felt like he’s running a good pace, just keep your pace. I felt like I was going to get better and I did. I found some new lines that got better and I started gaining back in on him, which was good to see. Then with the lapper situation I lost a lot of time. I don’t want to say “shoulda, coulda, might have had a win,” but I felt like it would have been better for me. I would have got to Eli a little bit more to just put that pressure on. Any time you can be right on a guy it’s better, in my position it’s better. After the lapper stuff I lost so much time in those three laps that Eli, I think you could see we had a little bit of a gap. But I was happy with the performance tonight, with the riding. I’m not even bummed. I for sure want to win, but at the same time I was really happy with the racing. The starts were good. Two good starts tonight, which was nice. We were hitting our marks. It’s a long moto, long main event, so it wears on you, but overall I thought it was solid. It was good. Things came around nicely.
Eli, same thing for you midway, did you kind of lose some of your lines? He was closing in and did you even realize that? What made the difference there?
Tomac: I did have my fair share of lapper issues too, maybe not the length of his case, but there was a time when I was behind a couple guys for three or four full lanes. It just is what it is. It’s tough. When the tracks get that rutted and the people sit in the main line you can’t do anything about it. That’s all there was to it.
Thirteen consecutive weeks now. Still one more race before a break. Has this worn on you guys at all? Ryan and Marvin, you both have had an illness at some point in time. How are you guys fighting burnout or running flat this point in the season?
Dungey: I think I’ve done this long enough to kind of understand and know the mental wear it has on you, more so when you’re a rookie it does. That first year there’s a lot going on, but it’s nothing that nobody else is dealing with. You know it and accept it and take responsibility and be a man and move forward. What are you going to do? Sit back and pout? So for sure, you have a little illness here and there, but you work through it and do the best you can with it. I think we all find that. I feel like I’m handling it well.
Musquin: Definitely it’s a long season. It’s the second year for me on the 450 to start on the West Coast and the full season. This year’s been way better. We learn. We have Ryan and Zach [Osborne] and Jason [Anderson], a good program with Aldon Baker. I just follow the program and I feel like we’re getting better compared to last year, and we learn. Yeah, I got sick, and actually Ryan too, but like I said, we learn. Actually we came back pretty quick. It’s tough. Every weekend the traveling, like right now after the main we’re all sweating and then we’re here and then we go back and sometimes the pit’s outside and it’s really cold. Hot, cold. It’s difficult. You got to be careful. But at the same time we’ve been training hard and it’s pretty good.
Eli: I love the long season. We’re winning right now, so keep them going.
Ryan, after the heat race win, you diced with Chad for a little bit, then made some comments on the podium for the TV interview that you weren’t exactly pumped on how he was racing you in the heat. Can you elaborate on that a little bit?
Ryan: I’ll touch briefly on it I guess. Honestly I don’t know where it’s coming from. I guess I don’t know what I did wrong. I have a lot of respect for Chad. He’s been in the sport a long time. I’m not going to come in here and start pushing him around or whatnot. I’m going to race the guy clean, and he would too. I guess I don’t know where this attitude and everything is coming from. Just like the heat race, we were side by side going into the whoops the very first lap and he sees me and he starts to try to come over and take my front wheel out. It’s like, we’re in the whoops. What can I do? And then I tried to make a pass on him and he tries to blow you off the track. It’s kind of a bummer. That guy’s been in it that long and that much experience, and you would think he would understand what it’s like to be in the position that I am, but he has no respect for us and what we’re doing, trying to do. So I have a lot of respect for the guy, still do. Just tonight was just a low blow.
Next weekend we’re going back to Seattle. Could possibly be a mudder. How do you prepare for that?
Musquin: We got to ride in the mud this week then. Just flood the track. I think it’s early. A week … look at Anaheim 1. Every time we say it’s going to be a mudder like a week ago, because they show rain. Then the day before it’s sunshine. Hopefully we get lucky again. I feel like the track crew have done a great job on the West Coast the beginning of the year. The only thing is hopefully it doesn’t rain when we’re racing.
Tomac: There’s one thing you can expect there and that’s just ruts, period. It might be wet, but one thing it’s going to be soft and rutty. It’s Seattle.