Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing’s Eli Tomac won the Daytona Supercross on Saturday night for the seventh time in his career. The win pulled him to five points ahead of Red Bull KTM’s Cooper Webb in the 450SX championship standings as Monster Energy AMA Supercross reaches its halfway point this coming week. The win was another record-breaking moment for Tomac, but the Colorado-native remains focused on the title fight at hand. Afterwards, he spoke to the media in the post-race press conference about it.
Eli, another record set on your own, right behind Bubba [James Stewart]. Now 49 wins in supercross. An incredible, incredible run that you’ve had, and especially here in Daytona. This makes seven Daytona wins. No one has ever done anything like that. I think in NASCAR we have Richard Petty who has seven wins, so you are in rare air. I just want to ask how that feels to get another win, and especially how you felt on that track, tracking it down?
Eli Tomac: I suppose the best way to put it is it just feels like home to me. I practice on a pretty loose soil. It’s not that sandy, but it’s somewhat close. That’s the only thing I can really put it to, is I literally feel like home at this place. Earlier in the day though, I will say I was a little bit wondering what the heck was going on. I was well off of a second during practice and struggling just to find some general flow, but once the lights came on, I was a whole different dude. Obviously went at it there with Cooper back and forth there. It was a gnarly battle, once again down to the wire.
The ebb and flow between you and Cooper, you both had good laps and bad laps. Was that just lines? Were there certain times where you were pushing, were you waiting for the track to come to you? What led to such a dynamic race back and forth like that?
It was that. It was just the lines developing in different ways. At first like in the sand, it favored inside to outside basically the whole time and then somewhere in the middle there, I just decided to go inside. I’m like, “I’ve got to change something right now.” It obviously worked for like 50 feet until he went slingshotting back by me there. Then that was it. I just stuck to the jumping line too in the whoops. I went for it just to try to save energy, because this track will wear you down. So, between the sand and the jumping, I felt like those were the spots where it was just important to hit the right way every single lap.
The last two years have been close between you two. How much has this really just come down to will and heart and digging deep and all that for the last couple minutes?
That’s what it comes down to. We had that little jump up off the shelf. I probably should have went for that jump to the inside there. So, that was a little bit squirrelly, a little bit sketchy. But like I said, we both obviously just left it all out on the track.
Obviously, the plot thickens when it rains when you’re dealing with a course like that. Is there any switch in your strategy once that happens, particularly here in Daytona? Because Ricky Carmichael’s courses are always insane here. So, talk about your experience with that.
For me, I went to roll-offs just to not chance anything, just because obviously it’s hard to see what’s going on with the rain. That’s the main thing I think about is what you’re going to do with your vision once it starts raining. Then luckily for us, it didn’t do much during the actual race.
You said that you got better as the night went along. At what point did you know that you had the win? During the race, did you ever give yourself the opportunity to think about what the history of that meant?
With both these guys up here, I don’t count the win until I cross the finish line. I got pretty sketchy on the side of the tunnel with maybe five laps to go, or somewhere in there. So, I was in the lead at that point but almost made a mistake. That’s it, man. You’ve got to cross that finish line before you start counting any wins.
I think this is the third race in a row that you’ve sat on the podium together, the fourth time overall. What does that mean to each of you guys to have this tight a competition at this point?
You can see, I think right now us three are separating ourselves to a certain degree. We’ll probably expect to see this again.
Can you just take me through the pass that you made on Cooper for the lead? Obviously, you guys were going down the front stretch, so it was kind of right in front of the crowd. The crowd was super loud. Just take me through that pass and that moment.
Yeah, it was right after the finish line there. It was just a thing where I believe he hit a false neutral, and I was able to slide on by and do the normal triple line. There wasn’t a whole lot of thought to it. I just happened to be just to the right side of him, so I was able to slide right by.
It seemed like there was a pretty epic crowd at the podium there. How fun was it to see all those people and just celebrate your accomplishment with a crowd like that?
It’s neat when the fans can get right up against the podium there with us. The other supercrosses, that doesn’t happen. They’re just right there, so you get to engage with the fans. It’s pretty cool.
You talked about earlier in the day having a bit of a struggle. I’ve seen the Twitter rumors, there’s injuries hiding, et cetera. What about settings? You’re pretty finicky with settings. This track is a little different than a normal supercross track. Was that something you were struggling with? Did you change a lot?
I did a little fork setting change between the first and second timed qualifier, but that was it. It wasn’t really anything major. I just was slow in a couple spots on the track, and then I never put one really fast lap together.
You guys are going to race a few more of these speedway type events later on. Does this help you in terms of getting ready for those events, in terms of settings? I’m really interested in how deep into a day you will chase settings before you go, “Alright, I’m stuck with this. I’m going to just run it.”
It's good just to have something a little bit out of the ordinary for us. I feel like the speedways are a good change-up for us.
Do you think that you guys learned anything at Daytona that will carry over into the three tracks on the SMX, or is it too soon to know?
The unique thing about here is just the dark sand. Yes, our mile per hour is up here which will be like the other speedways, but it’s hard to replicate the soil. So, I guess you don’t know what you’re going to get at those other events, outside of Atlanta.
Every week you’re breaking some sort of record or breaking your own record, whatever it is, and we want to ask you about it, but can you not even really wrap your head around that because it’s so intense in the moment right now, where you can’t really think about the large picture of your career?
It’s just a cool spot to be in. I don’t got much to say. It’s pretty crazy to be at 49.
Watch the full post-race press conference from Daytona: