Eli Tomac matched Ricky Carmichael for third all-time in 450SX race victories with his win this past weekend at the 2023 Oakland Supercross. Any time you match Ricky Carmichael on something, you’ve done something remarkable. But Tomac actually has the nod on Carmichael already on another big milestone as Tomac became the winningest rider in Daytona Supercross history with his sixth win at the venue last year, pulling ahead of Carmichael’s five.
All of this suggests Eli Tomac is not only an all-timer but deserves to be in some rather big conversations about the sport’s greatest. So today we’re writing about Tomac and the three other riders who have made it to 48 career 450SX wins and their paths to get there. Stats guru Clinton Fowler (@FowlersFacts) posted about how many starts it took for Tomac to get to 48 earlier this week so we’re going to lay that all out today. Tomac is very close to second all-time, but he has a little way to go to get to Jeremy McGrath’s 72 career wins; a mark that may never be beaten. Let’s take a look at the top four’s path to 48.
Career Wins: 72
48th Win: 87th start
Race Accomplished: 1998 Seattle Supercross
The King of Supercross racked up wins incredibly fast by winning four straight championships in his first four full seasons in the premier class, all of which with Honda. Then he abruptly left Honda in 1997 to go to Suzuki after collecting 45 wins with Big Red. He won only two races in 1997 moving up to 47 career wins, but he lost the title to Jeff Emig in the process. The very next year, he hopped over to Yamaha, but not the factory team, as he joined long-time friend Jimmy Button over at Chaparral Yamaha under the tutelage of Larry Brooks.
Four rounds into 1998, McGrath won his first race of the season in Seattle to earn his 48th career victory. The race itself was a fairly classic McGrath race which was a good start, get into the lead early, and pull away for the win. The coolest part was perhaps that his teammate Button actually led early for a Chaparral Yamaha 1-2 before McGrath moved around his friend and took off with the win. Two weeks later in Indianapolis after another win in San Diego, McGrath earned his 64th career victory between Supercross and Motocross to become the AMA’s all-time wins leader, a mark he would hold for about eight years.
Career Wins: 50
48th Win: 113th start
Race Accomplished: 2014 Detroit Supercross
James Stewart’s career will forever be one of the most unique in any form of motorsports. He was transcendently great on a motorcycle and revolutionized the way supercross looks and feels today. With breakneck raw speed, unmatched corner momentum, and the perfection of the scrub, Stewart was perhaps the fastest rider to ever race supercross. That moniker reflects his stats well because he also has a huge pile of wins to his name as one of just two riders to make it to the half-century mark thus far. The only knock on Stewart’s 450SX career is that he did not claim more titles along the way, often due to going so fast, the track arguably couldn’t hold him in anymore.
Making his premier class debut in 2005, Stewart would finish fifth at a mud-soaked Anaheim opener before breaking his arm in practice the very next week. He returned two months later in Orlando and led much of the main event before crashing in the whoops and sliding back to third. In his third start ever, Stewart was lights out as he cruised to the win in Irving, Texas, ahead of some little-known names as Ricky Carmichael and Chad Reed rounded out the podium. Stewart would win three times in 2005, eight times in 2006, 13 times in 2007 en route to his first title, once in 2008 before an injury sidelined him, and then 11 times in 2009 to claim his second title. He never won a title again, but he did continue to click off wins, eventually equaling Carmichael’s 48 wins at the 2014 Detroit Supercross in his 113th career start. That race is hardly remembered though as one week later, to eclipse Carmichael in the record books, Stewart had the most “Stew” ride ever as he went from 14th to 1st to win the Toronto Supercross for his 49th career victory. His final win of his career came one week after that in St. Louis for his 50th win.
Career Wins: 48
48th Win: 113th start
Race Accomplished: 2007 St. Louis Supercross
Ricky Carmichael and James Stewart are nearly synonymous with each other as their careers crossed paths in perhaps the biggest three years in the history of the sport. Not only that, they also both made it to 48 wins in the exact same number of starts: 113. Carmichael is known for his motocross prowess where his record win totals and title numbers will probably never be matched. But supercross success didn’t come right away for Carmichael who had to deal with a certain Jeremy McGrath early in his career. RC’s rookie premier class season was filled with crashes and injuries, resulting in no wins. He did claim his first career win in his second year in the class with a victory at Daytona, but 2001 is where the changing of the guard came. McGrath won the first round, Carmichael the second. McGrath won the third round, the 72nd of his career, and then Carmichael won the final 13 races of 2001 as he simply dominated to win his first premier class title.
Carmichael then won 11 races in 2002 and seven races in 2003, both of which were title years, though Chad Reed gave him one heck of a run in 2003. Then Carmichael tore his ACL before 2004 and missed all of supercross. When he came back in 2005, James Stewart and Chad Reed were there waiting for him. Carmichael still prevailed as he won seven races in 2005 for his fourth championship, and then six more races in 2006 to just edge out Stewart for Carmichael’s fifth and final 450SX title. He then ran a part-time schedule in 2007 as he headed towards retirement where he won a further two races, pushing up to his final tally of 48 wins with his final career win at the 2007 St. Louis Supercross. Though it was the final win of Carmichael’s career, the race was more remembered for Chad Reed taking James Stewart out on the first lap. Carmichael essentially cruised to the win after that. Two weeks later, Carmichael retired from the sport after finishing second to James Stewart in Orlando.
Career Wins: 48
48th Win: 153rd start
Race Accomplished: 2023 Oakland Supercross
Eli Tomac’s path to equaling Ricky Carmichael for third all-time on the premier class wins list has been a wild one. After crashing at Anaheim 1 in his rookie season and sustaining an injury, Tomac missed the first month of the year and slowly got things rolling at the fifth round. Though he wasn’t able to claim a victory in his rookie year, his second season brought about three victories and a third-place finish in the points. After a season-ending crash in the outdoors, his tenure with GEICO Honda came to an end also as he moved over to Monster Energy Kawasaki. That spawned a large rise in success as Tomac moved into his formative years. Coming off the injury, he won just Daytona in 2016, but then won nine races in 2017, eight races in 2018, six races in 2019, and seven races in 2020 which finally culminated in his first career 450SX title. His final year with Kawasaki in 2021 wasn’t ideal as he snagged three wins but lost in his title defense before making a shock move over to Monster Energy Yamaha/Star Racing heading into 2022.
The rebirth in Tomac’s career aboard a Yamaha was monumental as he won seven races en route to his second 450SX title. He also moved into a tie for fourth all-time with Chad Reed sitting on 44 wins coming into 2023. Now Tomac has had the best start to a season in his career to win four more races in the first six rounds of the year to pull even with Carmichael for third all-time with his 48th win last weekend in Oakland. Tomac’s win came at Chase Sexton’s dismay as the Honda HRC rider crashed away a late lead, but Tomac has seen that happen the other way too many times before that the moto gods perhaps owe him a few. Now he sits among the actual greatest to ever do it as one of just four riders who have ever hit 48 career wins.
Courtesy of Clinton Fowler
Does Eli Tomac join these legends today? pic.twitter.com/bMwWI7zycA— Clinton Fowler (@fowlersfacts) February 11, 2023