Main Image: Andrew Fredrickson
At the 50th running of the Daytona Supercross we saw two winners on opposite ends of the spectrum. Garrett Marchbanks etched his name into the list of riders to win their first 250SX main event at the Daytona Supercross and he was followed by his brand mate Eli Tomac taking his fourth career 450SX Daytona Supercross main event win. Two Kawasaki riders with completely different stories putting it together on the same night.
Marchbanks, born and raised in Utah, moved across the country at 14 years old to begin his professional racing career only two years later. But since then it hasn’t been smooth sailing.
“Training on my own was pretty tough for a while,” he said. “After I signed my contract at 14, and then go pro at 16, I was really blessed with it. It’s been a struggle ever since I went pro. Breaking my ankle and then going into the season this year and being hurt with my ankle again. To get my first heat win, again, and a main event win here at Daytona, it’s amazing. I’m happy with it.”
In only his second year of supercross, Marchbanks didn’t enter this year a championship favorite in a win-or-die situation but riding for Mitch Payton’s team still brings pressure. Especially when Marchbanks felt he was better than the results he was getting in the first few rounds. After only one podium finish last year in the mud at San Diego, Marchbanks wanted to prove this year that he could do more. But he hadn't. At least not until tonight.
“I was pressuring myself pretty hard these past couple rounds because I feel like I was a podium guy the first three and struggled with my starts a lot,” Marchbanks said on getting a result to help ease the stress on his season. “I don’t know what happened tonight. I pulled a top-two start in the heat, and then pulled a holeshot in the main and just ran away with it. I was happy with that. Starts were key.”
Marchbanks actually told us afterwards that he was feeling off during the day and that eventually something clicked for him in the heat race.
“Man, it was kind of an odd day at first,” Marchbanks said. “First practice I wasn’t feeling very comfortable, but after that I qualified fifth, I believe. Then went to the heat and I think started second. Me and Martin had a good battle for second. Won that. To get my first win ever in a heat race was amazing, then to go in the main and pull my first-ever holeshot and lead some laps for a little bit was amazing. “
With Marchbanks out front, 250SX series' leader Chase Sexton pushed and pushed until the very end but he couldn’t make up enough ground on Marchbanks to apply a pass or even enough pressure to force him into a mistake. For Sexton, Marchbanks and Martin aren’t his main competitors in the points standings at the moment (compared to RJ Hampshire and Shane McElrath) but the GEICO Honda rider doesn’t see his night that way.
“Never pleased to finish second, but overall I was struggling pretty much all day, just with bike setup and not really feeling comfortable with the track,” Sexton said. “It was more outdoorsy than I really expected. On a supercross setup we just didn’t really feel comfortable. Just kind of struggled.”
“In the heat race I had a crash, ran over a rider and then got back to third,” he continued. “I really felt like I rode pretty well. The main event I put myself in not a very good spot on the gate. I was pretty far outside. Just tried to give the best effort I could and got into the corner first, but I went too far wide. Made a few quick passes.”
Marchbanks and Sexton credited one another on their rides, keeping one another honest.
“Chase rode amazing,” said Marchbanks. “Pressured me the whole moto. I just kept my head up and just rode some consistent laps.”
“Garrett was out front, I knew he was going to be tough to beat,” Sexton said. “He was riding good all day. I put my head down and tried to close the gap a little bit, but overall he was riding really well. I can’t take anything away from him. I just didn’t have it tonight.”
Martin, who’s won here before, looked like he could repeat his 2016 performance on a day where he qualified the fastest, and finished second in his heat race. He said afterwards a bad jump out of the gate limited what he could do but he still managed to snag the final podium spot. He held off McElrath for most of the race and then made a late surge on RJ Hampshire.
“It was a pretty good day for me and GEICO Honda,” Martin said. “Just didn’t get it… Wheelied out of the gate in the main. Was sixth or seventh around the first turn. Was trying to work my way forward. Then I think your [Marchbanks'] teammate [Jordon Smith] went down in the sand, and then I blew off the track and went off and had to jump the Tuff Blox. From there it was just damage control, just trying to work my way to the front.”
The first moments of the race featured chaos, as Smith hit the deck early and got up limping--the race was over for the former Daytona 250SX winner. Shane McElrath looked ultra-determined to upend Sexton on the evening and wrestle the series' lead back, but he, too, crashed on lap one. He clawed his way back forward but ran into a wall in the form of Martin, who never surrendered under pressure.
|Coalville, UT||Kawasaki KX250|
|2||Chase Sexton||La Moille, IL||Honda CRF250R|
|3||Jeremy Martin||Millville, MN||Honda CRF250R|
|4||R.J. Hampshire||Hudson, FL||Husqvarna FC 250|
|5||Shane McElrath||Canton, NC||Yamaha YZ250F|
Come the 450SX main event, Eli Tomac managed another one of his typical Eli Tomac style rides. For most of the way, Ken Roczen led the race, looking to deliver his first Daytona SX win and gain sole control of the points lead. Then Tomac, who had to work his way past big hitters like Justin Barcia, Aaron Plessinger and Cooper Webb, went beast mode, laying down incredible late laps.
“I really thought it was a far shot,” said Tomac. “Looking up and seeing him up front I was like, 'Gosh darn it.' It was tough tonight to make up the time. It really just ended up being the sand and having good momentum. And then I had another good line through the option lane. But there was a lot of single-filing in a lot of areas. But I was able to capitalize on a few mistakes. I think that’s what got me to the top.”
When it comes down to it, Tomac’s just comfortable with being uncomfortable.
“For some reason I feel like I’m comfortable in this condition, in this style of track,” he said. “I feel like our motorcycle has worked really well for us. It’s always tough here on really knowing what to do because of the combination of the bumps and the jumps. My bike just seems like it’s pretty dialed in here every year, so it makes it easier.”
He said his mindset and approach to Daytona also helps him come the main event gate drop.
“It’s hard to put my finger on what it is, other than just enjoying the track,” Tomac said. “I guess that is it. Having a positive mindset coming into the race. I seem to always enjoy the looser surface, so a little bit of that, a little bit of this. Pretty cool.”
Tomac reeled Roczen in late, then Roczen, under pressure, bobbled in an off-camber turn, which allowed Tomac to slip past. The Honda man never gave up, though, and on the last two laps stayed on Tomac's fender, making for a great run all the way to the finish.
“Eli was coming. I made a mistake and tipped over in the turn. That cost me the lead right there,” Roczen said. “For me, even when that happened, it was important to not give up and stay right behind him. We were definitely putting up a good pace there in the end still. I tried my hardest during the end.”
“It wasn’t enough for the win, but this is the closest I’ve been to a win in Daytona, and this will have to do for tonight,” he continued. “Just really happy with the consistency we’ve been bringing every single weekend. Same with our starts. We’re just going to continue doing the same thing.”
Being consistent has been the two biggest problems for Roczen and Tomac in the last few 450SX title battles. But this year has been different for both of them so far as Roczen only has two finishes outside the top five and Tomac has only one.
“It’s so close now,” Tomac said on the points situation. “We got to still take it weekend by weekend. There’s obviously no settling at all this point in the season. Just glad to fight back to the front of the pack there.”
For a brief moment, it looked like Cooper Webb was going to find some of his late-race magic and apply to Roczen. Once he got to second, he took about a second out of Roczen's gap. But that was as close as he could get, and when Tomac went ballistic in the main event, Webb wasn’t able to hang onto him, but he still held on for third.
“Had to make some passes with Barcia and then got around Anderson and felt Eli there,” Webb said. “We had a pretty good pace going, and then he was able to get around me. Kind of made some mistakes. Kind of lost the tow. Just kind of got a distant third. It was pretty good, but I definitely want to be closer to these two up here.”
Now 29 points behind Tomac in the standings, Webb knows he has ground to make up and it won’t be easy.
Jason Anderson led the race off the start but Roczen was able to make a quick move on him. Anderson hung tough to net fourth, even getting back to Webb's wheel at the end of the race. Behind them, Barcia bobbled when ahead of Tomac, thus robbing the crown of a bar-banging deal between the duo. From there, Barcia battled his Monster Energy Yamaha teammate Aaron Plessinger the whole time. Barcia made the final move to next fifth.
|1||Eli Tomac||18 Laps||1:10.262||Cortez, CO||Kawasaki KX450|
|2||Ken Roczen||+00.707||1:10.174||Mattstedt||Honda CRF450R|
|+10.590||1:10.718||Newport, NC||KTM 450 SX-F|
|+11.205||1:11.533||Edgewood, NM||Husqvarna FC 450|
|5||Justin Barcia||+32.436||1:12.262||Monroe, NY||Yamaha YZ450F|