Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac won his ninth race of the season on Saturday night at Round 15 of Monster Energy Supercross in Salt Lake City, Utah, and now holds a three point lead in the championship over Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey, who finished second. Jason Anderson rounded out the podium.
Tomac and Dungey spoke with the media following the race.
Racer X: Ryan, you were able to get into the lead pretty early. Open up a nice gap. At what point did you find Eli on the track and kind of recognize where he was and was able to follow his progress?
Ryan Dungey: From the first one through five, I seen where Eli was at as I was coming over the finish line. He was a little bit deeper in the pack and everything. Then from there, I quit managing where he was at. I was actually kind of surprised. As I was coming through the whoops he was about to pass Jason [Anderson], so it kind of caught me off guard. But as I was going through the whoops in the beginning I was really good. All day it was tough, but in the beginning I found a good line and then that line started to go. I switched and I started jumping. I think that was a no-no. Eli was running really good through the whoops. So that chunk of the track right there he was really gaining on me tremendously. I felt him come up the inside of course a couple times, but he was coming pretty quick.
Eli, congratulations on the win. Early in the main event you kind of found yourself in a pack of riders and once you got going one on one you were able to make the passes pretty quick, but early stages kind of find yourself bottled up a little bit. Was there ever a moment of panic where you were a little bit worried about the environment you found yourself in?
Eli Tomac: When you’re in that position it’s pretty nerve-wracking, especially first lap and first straightaway down that rhythm section. There’s a lot of guys and everyone’s tight and everyone’s banging bars. It’s not a position you want to be in. Even by lap two I think we actually went backwards on the lap chart. So after that it was just go time if I was going to make anything happen. Wasn’t a position I like to be in, but it was pretty cool we were able to get it done and go to the front.
Eli, what’s going through your head down the start straight? I think you said you had maybe two guys behind you coming into the first turn.
Tomac: Well, before the gate dropped, I don’t know who was next to me but they flinched and that caught me off guard. I was late on the jump and I was pretty buried. Surprisingly the outside gates were kind of working tonight. I went inside and it didn’t work, so I don’t know. I was probably playing a little bit too much protection mode there. It did bite me. I was second to last in that turn.
You guys haven’t raced here in a long time. You probably surprised a lot of the fans by the way you were racing in the first heat. Can you talk about just the level of competitiveness between you guys from the get-go?
Tomac: I think we’re going to race each other pretty respectively. We’re going to race each other hard, but nothing that’s going to be out of control or really dirty. It was just good, hard racing and as you can see we were going at it in the heat race and went at it in the main. It was pretty cool to see the crowd getting into it. It was probably one of the loudest races I’ve ever been in.
Dungey: I agree. I’d have to say the same thing. We don’t always end up in the same heat race, and that time we did. I know when we were around each other it was like the main event. The crowd was going crazy. It was good.
Eli, through the whoops it was an incredible run every lap. Was there anything you changed? Anything you did different? I didn’t notice all day that you were that fast through them.
Tomac: No, I think the biggest difference was just the skim option versus jumping. During practice we weren’t even the fastest in that segment—it just happened work out in the main. The skim was working.
First off, great race. That was one for the ages. Seeing you come from all the way behind. Ryan, there’s been some talk about a chase format next year, and I know you’re going to decide by Vegas whether you’re coming back next year. Would a chase format affect that decision?
Dungey: No. I don’t know. I personally like the setup we’re in. It doesn’t always come down to me and another guy, or just two guys. We’re within three points with two rounds to go. Sometimes it doesn’t even go to Vegas. I know more times than not it hasn’t gone to Vegas, so I don’t know. I think there’s a lot of changes that the sport’s going to go with. The points chase is one, the format is another. To me, I hear these 10 lap races and tonight was a night that it’s good when you have 20 minutes. It tests you physically. You have to go the distance. I don’t want to say it’s going to turn into a circus, but it’s getting away from the core values of our sport, and I just feel like, regardless of me, I feel like for the future of the sport it’s not the direction. They’re trying to fix something that’s not broken. When we get a good rivalry like we have I think it’s awesome. We seen that tonight. That’s what it’s about—good, hard racing and excitement. So I don’t know. It’s interesting. But as far as your question, I know I got off topic there, to me, I want to go racing if my heart’s in it and I still enjoy it and being involved in it, and I can. It’s getting to a point where it’s mentally taxing after some years. Not to say I’m not enjoying it. I’m still here and I’m a top contender, but there’s a lot of things I need to figure out. But right now I don’t’ want to think about it. I’m in the middle of something else and I want to focus on that.
I know both of you guys were doing some testing outdoors, or at least Eli, I know you did. Question for both of you. How much motocross did you do? You’re in this title chase. Did you just want to get it out of the way and get back to supercross, or was it a fun little deal doing some MX testing?
Tomac: We did a little bit, but obviously we’re in a pretty heated battle in a championship here. I spent the majority of my time on the supercross track.
Dungey: We did the whole first week of outdoors, which is kind of different for me. I’ve kind of been the same. I don’t want to ride outdoors if I’m in this close of a hunt, but at the same time I felt like a little change up and work on some other stuff. Outdoors is a little different. So we did a little outdoors the first week and then back to supercross the second week.
In a crowd like the crowd that you raced in tonight, how does that play into your racing? Does it help you or do you have total tunnel vision out on the track?
Dungey: Well, you definitely know when somebody’s right there. It’s cool. I think it’s exciting. For me and Eli to be in a position that we’re those guys racing and the fans are that into it. I think I always want to make sure the fans have a good show, aside from the racing and stuff. So it was pretty cool. Just in the heat race they were going nuts. And this is a smaller stadium, from my understanding. But it’s pretty cool. It’s what you want to see, right?
Tomac: Yeah, it was awesome. They were loud in the heat race and the main. They were into it. It was cool to see. I think the people of Utah and Salt Lake City really enjoy the supercross.
Eli, I think the whoops were obviously a strong point tonight, but last time around here on a 250 I think it was a really bad night here. Did that enter your thoughts at all?
Tomac: That was a nightmare of a night. What was that, 2013? A lot has changed since then. That was a deal where we did a pretty major bike setup change then. The 250 days are kind of long gone. Right now we’re just really feeling it on the 450.
Ryan, there’s two races left. What’s it going to take to beat Eli Tomac at that point?
Dungey: Just win. These two races are obviously important. It’s within three points so it’s really close. I just want to focus on, like I said at the beginning of the weekend, just executing and going out there. Tonight was a good—not a reminder but it’s come to the point where the whole 20 minutes, you have to lay it all out there and go intense. We can’t afford not to, as I saw tonight. But good starts tonight. That was good to see. Those were better. It was encouraging. The whole day was really good. The bike setup was awesome. I just feel like from that left-hander going into the whoops to that left-hander after, that chunk I just gave up everything. But it was good to know everything else was solid and on point, so we’ll try to fix a few things and just really execute and put ourselves in a position to win and fight like hell. Eli’s riding really good. He’s strong and physically fit. We need to be there. It will be nice to get a win. Tonight, aside from the championship or the points or any of that, I really wanted that win. I was more bummed about that. But that’s the way it goes. We’ll see what we can do.
This is for Eli, and both of you. When you’re coming through the pack, mainly Eli on your charge, this was a 27-lap race so lappers play a pretty big part. Are you kind of finding lines everywhere or how do you approach that when you’re running fast lap times like that?
Tomac: Tonight in the main it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. I honestly thought it was worse in the heat race somehow. There were some moments there where me and Ryan were really close to guys in that rhythm before the finish line in the heat race. In the main it seemed like they did a pretty good job of getting out of the way, at least on my part when I was coming through. But yes, you definitely can run into them on a 27-lap race more than normal.
It’s pretty unique—you guys come into Salt Lake City, two red plates, after such a long time of not having supercross here. How cool is it to compete in a race like that in a city you guys don’t come to often? The other part of that question is for Eli—the whole season you’ve been chasing Ryan. Chasing him, chasing him. You were way behind tonight and then you finally passed him. What was going through your head whenever you passed him tonight?
Tomac: I think, first off, like I said before, it seems like Utah is pretty loud and proud for the sport, so it was cool to see. You could hear them out there. It was just good, hard racing tonight. We’ve got two to go and we’ll do what we can do.