Wow. Ryan Dungey of the Red Bull KTM team and Eli Tomac of the Monster Energy Kawasaki team are tied with three rounds left! Salt Lake City this weekend, New York next weekend and then we’ll be wrapping it all up in Las Vegas. Let’s try to break this match down, see what we have got going on and figure out who’s going to be holding up the #1 plate after Las Vegas.
Momentum Edge: Tomac
Well, duh. Have you seen the last six weeks of racing? Although I think this past weekend being off will help out Dungey, just because he can get away from everything, maybe do some outdoor testing and realize that, although his lead went from over a race to tied, it’s still just that: tied. His chances to win this crown are as good as Tomac’s. All he has to do is put everything he has got into the next three weeks. But, still, Tomac has been absolutely on fire for a while now and, without a crash in Seattle, might have won his sixth race in a row. Momentum is a funny thing for sure but, right now, Tomac’s got it.
Track Edge: Tomac
This weekend it’s Salt Lake City, which is at altitude. Although it doesn’t affect a 450F as much as it used to (due to EFI), the bikes are still noticeably slower. Guess where Tomac lives and practices? At altitude in Colorado, so he should be comfy there. The next round in New York the track should be soft and rutty (or worse if the rain doesn’t hold off) and that favors Tomac. The last round in Vegas is hard-pack and slick, so that would be more Dungey’s forte based on the fact he won Atlanta and Anaheim this year. Those are close to Vegas conditions and Tomac’s always better when there is traction.
Team Edge: Dungey
This isn’t to say that the Red Bull squad is better than the Monster Kawasaki squad. No, it’s the fact that the only rider who can possibly match the two frontrunners is Marvin Musquin and he rides a KTM. If there are points to be gained for Dungey, it’s with Musquin making life easier for Ryan. Right behind these three are Jason Anderson (on a Husqvarna that’s owned by KTM), Blake Baggett and Davi Millsaps (both KTM riders) who I don’t think will pressure Dungey much. If Eli’s got to go through one or more of these riders, it could help Dungey out immensely.
Finally, the most important one…
Rider Edge: Eli Tomac
I’ve covered this sport for a long time and you never really see a rider that’s as dominate as Tomac lose titles that he’s tied for y’know? He’s got eight wins and ten podiums overall, compared to Dungey’s two wins and eleven podiums. It’s hard to see Dungey, a rider who’s never been known for just having raw speed, just turn it on and start beating a rider who’s got six more wins than him but, then again, Dungey didn’t get all those number one plates on his mantle by default right?
The mental edge in the sport is a huge one and one that frankly makes covering the sport as a member of the media really hard. You can’t look at a race and see something obviously wrong like you could in, say, hockey, where you can see why a goalie missed the shot or what play happened to give a player the open net to shoot at. In supercross, Dungey looks awesome and in shape and so does Tomac. It’s just that Tomac is able to ride better and it’s not often where there’s some obvious time saver out on the track. Bike set-up? As much as some want you to think it’s the difference, trust me, it’s not.
The winner’s bikes always work awesome and the loser, well they’re the ones to say they didn’t have the right “set-up". At the factory level, there’s nothing but super smart dudes standing around thinking of ways to make your bike better.
I like Tomac to win this title (if nothing breaks on his bike), because I’ve been at all the races and have two working eyes. Tomac knows he’s faster than Dungey right now, but that’s not the determining factor here. The biggest one is that Dungey knows it also.
Words: Steve Matthes | All Images: Monster Energy Media