The Conversation: Anderson, Grant, Tomac, Dungey

The Conversation: Anderson, Grant, Tomac, Dungey

That’s a wrap on the 2017 Monster Energy Supercross season, and what a season it was. With championships often decided a round or two before the season finale in Las Vegas, it was refreshing to be able to contemplate championship deciding scenarios and it offered up the most exciting main event of the year.

Jason Anderson got his first and only win of the season after shadowing Ryan Dungey and Eli Tomac for most of the race and finally got into the lead on the last lap after Tomac put one final block pass on Dungey. Anderson ended his season with four podiums which had to be a relief after starting the season with two fourth place finishes and a disqualification after hitting Vince Friese.

Tomac took second place in the race and the championship after taking one last shot at Ryan Dungey on the last lap. Eli slowed down to let Dungey by and put a block pass on him that held them both up. Tomac finished the season with nine wins and 12 podiums.

Josh Grant also got his first podium of the season and his first since finishing second at the New Orleans Supercross in 2012. Grant finished the season 10th in points and only missed two races. A solid return after having two ankle surgeries last year.

Dungey finished in fourth place after running second for most of the race. The fourth was enough to win the 450SX championship by five points when it was all said and done. Dungey ended his season with three wins, 13 podiums, and finishing no worse than fourth.

All four riders spoke with the media at the press conference after the race.

Racer X: Josh, about midway through that main event you had caught that lead pack. Obviously you could see what was in front of you, your teammate [Eli Tomac] and his contender for the championship [Ryan Dungey], but you also probably had some personal goals tonight. How were you able to manage and balance the situation that was in front of you with your own personal goals in mind?
Josh Grant: Yeah, obviously it was a little difficult because we knew going into it the objective here was to get as many points as we could. It was craziness and I couldn’t make a judgment call on it. I just didn’t really know what was going on until I caught up to the guys. It was a wild ride.

On the personal side, happy with the podium and the way to close out the championship?
Grant: Yeah. Obviously it’s been a while since I’ve been up here. Just injuries and going through all the stuff that I’ve dealt with. I’ve been working hard so that’s all that matters. I’m just looking forward to taking this momentum into outdoors and hopefully doing some work.

Grant started his day well by qualifying fifth overall.
Grant started his day well by qualifying fifth overall. Jeff Kardas

Eli, in the middle portion of the main event things looked strategic. Can you take us through the back and forth with Ryan pretty much from the middle to the end of the race?
Eli Tomac: Yeah, in my position I was like, “Man, I can try to sprint away from this thing and really just ride alone at that point, or I can maybe try to bunch up the pack a little bit and wait for a mistake and see what could happen.” When the pack tightens up the nerves come around to all the guys. There’s battling and there’s bumping. That’s all I could do at that point. I definitely wasn’t going to just lay over for this thing and give it away. I fought as hard as I could. At the end of the day, people aren’t going to remember the race wins from myself—they’re going to remember the championship from Ryan. So he was the better guy this year.

Jason, congratulations on the win. Early in the main event you made an aggressive pass on Eli and then he got you back. It seemed like there was a little bit of a plateau mid-race. Once Chad Reed got around you, you seemed to find another gear and kind of close it out, similar to your early laps. Take us through those last few laps once Chad got by you and from there to the checkered.
Jason Anderson: Yeah, for sure, at the beginning I felt like I was riding really good. It’s kind of an awkward position to be in when you’re in-between the championship. I don’t really want to be that guy to make the decision. I wanted them to do their deal and battle it out. Luckily they did that towards the end. I had my deal with Chad and I wanted to be on the podium. Next thing you know, they got together and got that last lap for the win, which was cool. I really feel like I could have got one last weekend and stuff like that, but at least I got one.

Ryan, congratulations on the championship. Take us through your thought process in those back and forth moments as you had made the move around Eli. They were both very brief, but take us through both those passes and just where you were mentally at that moment.
Ryan Dungey: Yeah, getting out front early in the start, that was nice. Eli obviously got around me there and then there wasn’t a lot of separation, I felt, with the guys. I felt like Eli was trying to chase him down and trying to keep on his rear wheel. Then I could just see him in the corner of my eye every time I came through the second set of whoops and turn by the mechanics. They were right there. So I really tried to just stay on Eli and just keep racing the track, not really focusing on other things. So that was good. I felt really good tonight. The bike felt good. I was able to hit my marks. The only struggle for me on the track I feel was maybe the whoops a little bit. If I could have got a little more traction it would have been nice, but still it was good and consistent. I just want to clarify, I have mad respect for Eli. When desires run deep, and we have a lot of invested into this. Our whole lives as kids and as we get to this moment. I don’t blame him for what he did. He did what he had to do. There’s a lot riding on a championship and the teams have a lot invested and the riders too. It was good, hard racing. The fans I think got a show. But it’s definitely nice and rewarding to be able to get this championship. Probably one of the sweetest ones that just was a very challenging season.

Ryan, so is it safe to say there is a crown now?
Dungey: Yeah. You caught me off-guard a little bit in Phoenix. I knew dang well obviously with Ken’s [Roczen] incident and what happened there, and then Eli wicked it up and was really strong. It was tough. He’s a tough competitor. I’m just one … it’s not over until it’s over and I hate when people talk like, you got this. It’s like, no, I don’t. It’s not done. I apologize. It’s good to be able to get the crown.

Dungey joins rare air by winning his third supercross championship in a row.
Dungey joins rare air by winning his third supercross championship in a row. Jeff Kardas

With the way the season played out, is this more of a team or a personal championship for you?
Dungey: Team. It’s always a team effort. Without the bike running consistently every single race and having no failures and not having a DNF for mechanical problems. A lot goes into that, from everybody back at the factory and on the team, all of Team Red Bull KTM, my mechanic Carlos. I just got to execute and do my part on the track and do that the best I can. So as far as all the championships, this is the most rewarding, but they’re all team efforts and it takes a lot of things to go right—not just on your team, but in your personal life. I got a supportive wife and family. There’s not a lot of stress and drama or anything like that. So it takes a lot of things to go right to get a championship.

Ryan, a lot of us have been around a while and from the outside it was easy to see that Eli was kind of checking up. When you were on the bike, did you not sense that you were getting baited to get up in there?
Dungey: The whole race I could kind of sense, Eli’s got to do what he’s got to do. That’s totally understandable. It was the last lap. I was hoping Eli was just going to keep her steady. Run her in for your win and I’ll just run behind you. Well, I passed him up the triple and as soon as I passed him I was like, oh man, I shouldn’t have done that. Right away I looked behind like, where is he? In the air I was like, I got to go to the inside. Then when I looked back around I went to the outside. I’m like, what are you doing? I just carried myself. But it is what it is. As he was kind of checking up a little bit, I knew Jason was coming. I’m like, man, you’re hoping and praying “let’s just keep her steady.” It was quite interesting and it was quite tough, but it’s racing.

Josh, about 15 months ago you didn’t have a job. Didn’t really seem like we were going to see you on the track again. Then Daytona came, rode really well there. Then the fill-in ride for Kawasaki. At any point when you were not actively racing, did you ever think you would be back in this position?
Grant: No, but my heart’s there so that’s all that really mattered. I knew that if I got the other opportunity to get back in it, I wasn’t afraid to put it up there. It’s all about believing in yourself and believing in what you can do. I honestly still think I can do it. It’s just a matter of rebuilding myself. Unfortunately for me these guys have built such a gnarly base over the last few years of not having any injuries and I have, so it’s hard to play catch up and be in this position. I just put my head down after I got my ankles fixed and just said, all right, this is it. I’m going to give her hell.

Josh, so the goal obviously is to try to help Eli and maybe beat Dunge and take some points away, but these guys have been fast all year and we haven’t seen you in a podium position. So when you were actually getting there in the main event and you started to close in and see them, did that pump you up? Like, okay, I’m doing it tonight and maybe got an opportunity to pull off what I need to pull off?
Grant: Yeah, I felt it earlier today. I just knew I was riding good all day. That was what we needed to make it happen. In the main event, I felt really strong in the whoop section. I knew that I was catching up to those guys in that part, so if there was an opportunity that was it. To get in the mix with those guys, that was my only chance. So riding the rest of the track I felt good. Just tried to help Eli as much as I could without making too big of a scene.

Anderson's last win came at Detroit in 2016.
Anderson's last win came at Detroit in 2016. Rich Shepherd

Kind of got two things here. One is did you guys at all watch the 250 race and do you have any comment on that? And also, as we said here, it’s pouring rain outside. How glad are we that we dodged that bullet?
Anderson: That 250 race was the most insane thing I’ve ever seen. Zach’s one of my best friends. We train with him every day. To see him win I was so pumped for the dude. I was like, I don’t even want to race. I was just so in the moment even with him. That 250 race was crazy with all the crashes and stuff. Looks like we dodged a bullet with this rain right now, for sure.

Jason, you’ve mentioned it quite a few times this year that that Anaheim run-in and everything, kind of went off the rails for a while. How long did it take until you finally felt like, okay, I can be a winning contender again this year?
Anderson: To be honest, all year even at the practice track with Ryan and Marv [Marvin Musquin], I’ve been fast. I just honestly have put myself in horrible positions, and that didn’t help at all, too. So it definitely gets frustrating, especially when you aren’t doing as good as you would like. It’s easy to let the snowball effect happen. But I was pumped that I was able to bring it around. I got a good group behind me with Aldon and the whole crew. Even the whole crew that rides with us. We always want the best for each other although we want to beat each other every weekend. We all want the best. I had help from all angles to try and get back on track. I really feel like I strung together the podiums the last four rounds and got this win. I think I really need to just bring that race craft and just everything I’ve been doing every round next year to be able to be in the position that Eli and Ryan are in right now.

Eli, when did you come up with the idea of the strategy you kind of used in the race? Did it come to you in the race? Is it something you came up with a week ago? Where did you come up with this idea of don’t just pull away and try to win it, try do something else?
Tomac: I guess it was in my head even leading up to this week. I was just thinking of every situation possible. You kind of have to to prepare yourself, so you’re ready for that moment. Like I said, I was just doing everything that I could. I wasn’t just going to just try to hand it over. We put up the fight that we could and that’s all there was to it. At the end of the day, I don’t want to be dirty or not earn something. I wanted to be aggressive and maybe make something happen, but at the end of the day I’m a fair guy.

Tomac came up just five points short of the championship.
Tomac came up just five points short of the championship. Jeff Kardas

Ryan, there was a lot of speculation about rounds three or four that something was wrong with you. Now that it’s all over, can you tell us if there was?
Dungey: No, nothing’s wrong. It’s just racing’s a lot. It’s very taxing, especially if I want to do something I want to do it 100 percent. Even growing up in my career I want to keep racing. There’s a lot of races. There’s a lot of races between supercross and motocross. That’s a given. And we’ve got a lot of races outside of that during the off-season and stuff like that. Nothing was wrong. It was more just trying to find that motivation. Doing it last year was good. The back to back and then having to find that fuel for the fire to keep going and keep driving. I say that respectfully—not that I don’t like racing or anything like that. It just gets to a point where you try to keep things in perspective and look at what’s important. I swear the devil’s at work in our lives. I was being tested so much this year. There’s so many times that I felt you get a taste of the other side. I got a taste of the other side in the summertime last year. I got to go home to Minnesota. It was nice. You’re fishing on the lake. It’s good. Life’s good. That was pulling on me. These are high intense situations we’re in and I think we just as riders at some point you just crave some normality, really. You just want to feel normal. You don’t want to always be in a high-pressure situation. You want to enjoy the simple things in life. We’ve been on the go a lot. Nothing was wrong. It was just trying to find the motivation to keep driving. Not to mention, it was a great season, just Eli was on it. At Phoenix he beat us by 20 seconds. It put a little dent in my mentality. I tried everything I had there and he won by that much. So that was tough. He stole a lot of wins from us, and he just rode really good. Nothing was wrong, just more trying to get things right and keep things on track.

Ryan, I know you kind of clarified what you said there at the end of the race kind of in the heat of the moment, but what were all the emotions there? We saw you talk to these two momentarily, and even Reed. What were some of the things running through your mind there at the end?
Dungey: Yeah, I don’t know. There’s just a lot happening. I won’t lie—this week was a little stressful. As much as I didn’t want to think about it, you do. You try to control things that are out of your control. I just had to back it up a little bit. Every day was kind of a battle for me. I know what I had to do. I knew I had to keep my cool and just race the track. But Josh was cool. He said it can be probably pretty tough what you did. It was nice of him. Then Jason, we ride together every week. We have a lot of respect for each other. So it’s good to see him get a win. Then Eli on the podium, just talking. There’s no hard feelings. I know what you got to do. It’s completely understandable. You wake up every morning—and I even had a dream I won the championship, and then you wake up and you’re like, dang, that wasn’t real. So it was just nice to be like, it’s done. I can wake up tomorrow morning and know that we did it. We did it as a team. It’s just a rewarding feeling. It’s short-lived in our sport, but it’s nice.