On Saturday afternoon, May 22, 2010, a 17-year-old GEICO Honda racer from Cortez, Colorado named Eli Tomac won the very first AMA Pro Racing event he lined-up for by taking victory at the Hangtown Motocross Classic. Thirteen years, four AMA Pro Motocross 450 titles and two Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championships later, Tomac is still fast at it, now locked up in a titanic tussle for the 2023 stadium title with fierce rival and Red Bull KTM Factory Racing pilot Cooper Webb. Tomac sits tied with Webb at 248 points and is a winner of six 450SX main events thus far in 2022.
With a much needed weekend breather behind the racers and teams of the barnstorming Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship, all will look to 1 Cardinals Drive, Glendale, Arizona and the 72,200-seat State Farm Stadium for the twelfth round of the dramatic championship fight. In Cortez, Colorado and about to head south to Glendale to make a run at the final six races of the season and what he hopes will add up to another stadium championship, Tomac talked about being smack in the middle of yet another championship dust up.
Racer X: Okay Eli, you were able to grab a weekend off and catch your breath before flying off to Glendale, Arizona and State Farm Stadium. A good and quick break?
Eli Tomac: It’s nice, but at the same time, you get kind of out of whack because you’re in such a routine that you kind of don’t know what to do with yourself and also you’re asking yourself what day it is. I was going down my driveway this morning and was thinking to myself, "What day is it? Oh yeah, it’s Tuesday." [Laughs] Anyway, you’re in such a routine, but we’ve been going at it for quite a few weekends now and to be honest it is a good thing to have a weekend off.
I’ve been fortunate enough to be around you and your racing throughout your entire career. I wanted to ask you this: Are you motivated as ever?
I am and that’s why I’m even out there this year, you know? I still love what I‘m doing and the motivation is there. Absolutely. I’m still competing for wins. That’s one thing that I’ve always told myself: "Hey, if I’m still going to be competing for wins, I’ll keep doing it. As long as I’m having fun I’m going to keep doing it." So yeah, man, I’m motivated. When I lost that red plate a couple of races back I wasn’t happy at all. I came firing out at Seattle and was able to at least get back to in the points lead as a tie with Cooper Webb and it has been exciting so far.
Last summer it was Chase Sexton. This winter it’s Cooper Webb. You’ve been at all of this for quite a long time now and here you are caught up in another winner-take-all march to a title. That ever get old?
It doesn’t, actually. I’m enjoying the competition. Yes, it’s stressful but I’m enjoying the competition right now. Like you said, Chase Sexton and Cooper Webb have been the two really strong guys that I’ve been battling with during the season for the points lead. Perhaps even more so I’ve been battling with Cooper as of late. I wouldn’t expect anything less and each season is a little bit different. Yeah, the competition is strong. You know, when I lost that points lead again to Webb, I was pretty frustrated. When you have those bad weekends, for me, it just gives me motivation to go back home, study, figure out what I did wrong, figure out where I could be better, find out if I need to fall back on something that I’ve done in the past to improve myself. Yeah, my mindset is that I’m always trying to get better and always trying to improve and to never settle. If I get beat, I really try to figure out why I got beat and then be better the next weekend.
Six wins and a couple of off-song results, especially the eighth you posted up at Indianapolis. What’s your take on your season thus far?
It’s been another great season. It’s unique in that I started off really hot, you know? I have not won Anaheim 1 on a 450 and this is my first year doing it. That was a big change for me. Another big change is that I haven’t had to change my motorcycle a whole lot since the beginning of the season. That’s been different this season. And the guy I’m battling with in this championship is a different player this year and that’s Cooper Webb. As far as this season, I love everything about it. I love everything about this season. It’s totally unique. It doesn’t really feel the same at all. They never are. Obviously, it’s going to be a barnburner so we’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing. That’s what I live for is racing and lining up on the starting gate. That’s how I’ve made it this far in my career and nothing can replace that feeling for me. That’s why I line up.
Your mom and dad have been right there in your corner your entire career. They have to be enjoying all of this.
Well, I know they’re proud. That’s for sure. And what’s cool is that they have been in my corner the whole way. I guess it’s a little bit of a unique situation in that way, but you can make it happen in this sport in more than one way to make it to the pinnacle. I’ve enjoyed the way that we have done it. They have been in my corner for the whole time and I know that they are very proud of what I’ve accomplished in the sport.
You’re now in your second season with the Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing outfit. How is the relationship between the race team and yourself?
Yamaha has been fantastic for me. This year we have a new motorcycle again, so that was a big test for us. Even in year one with Yamaha, that was my first year with them and that was a new motorcycle, as well. For me it has been a fun journey along the way and they’ve made it enjoyable and we’ve had success making it work in all of the conditions in supercross and motocross. Yeah, we’re a great fit right now.
You’re about to head out to Glendale and the 12th round of the 2023 Monster Energy Supercross Championship. How are you looking at that round?
I do look forward to it. I kind of treat it as a local race. There are a lot of local people from my area here that go down there, so it’s like a five to five and a half hour drive for most people around us. I’m treating it as a local event so I’m always ready to go at that race. I’ve had some good results to back it up there, so yeah, let’s go.
Do you feel good about where you are at and with what’s left to come here leading into the championship finale at Rice-Eccles Stadium over in Salt Lake City on May 13?
I do. I do. I was in a little bit of a funk there at Indianapolis. I injured my neck a little bit and then that kind of set me back, but now I’m back to being healthy so I should be ready to come out firing for these last six races.
There is absolutely no other from of motorsport that asks more from its racers than supercross. As an athlete and as a racer you really do have to power through the injuries, the sickness and the radical ups-and-downs that come with such a fierce sport, huh?
Yeah, it’s tough. The hardest thing is that you don’t really have time to recover. You just don’t. We get these one or two weeks off during these 17 weeks and that’s a hard thing to manage. It’s a hard thing to manage to stay healthy throughout the whole racing season.
You’re now the sort of elder statesman of the sport. You’ve won everything there is to win, you’re the reigning Monster Energy Supercross champion and you’re deep in the throes of trying to defend here again in 2023. I feel like I can ask you this: How does it feel to be The Man?
It's cool and for me this is the most enjoyable part of my career that I’ve experienced so far and I’m just enjoying it all and enjoying each race. I’m trying to be a good role model to all of the kids that are watching us. Yeah, just enjoying it.
Yeah, you’re an in-our-time legend now. I mean you’re one of the greatest supercross and motocross racers in the entire worldwide existence of the sport. How damn cool. Any of that ever go through your mind?
Yeah, I just want to be a good role model for the kids. Period. I just remember watching Ricky, James, and Chad and I just want to have a good image for the kids that are watching us now and hopefully it will motivate them to be in my seat one day.