At Lumen Field in Seattle, March 25th 2023, Eli Tomac became only the third rider in history to win his 50th AMA Supercross Main Event in the premier class. He levels with James Stewart for 2nd in the all-time list, with only the all-time King of Supercross, Jeremy McGrath, ahead of them with a mighty 72.
Just to compare the leading three in the all-time list, MX Vice breaks down their numbers to see how they got there.
Words: Ben Rumbold | Featured Image: Align Media
Eli is the only one of the three to have raced a four-stroke before moving up to the premier class, and the only one to have just won the single coastal series on his way. His second straight title was denied him by Ken Roczen in 2013. McGrath had an extra year to build things up, but like Tomac moved up full-time at the age of 21, with a handful of top-class appearances in the year before he did so. MC reached a best of 5th, whilst Tomac got up to 4th at a place he would come to break records – Daytona!
Stewart, in contrast, moved onto a 250 two-stroke – against a horde of 450 four-strokes – at the age of just 19 in 2005, without any wildcard entries before going full-time.
|Year 1||5 Races, 0 Wins (8th)||9 Races, 4 Wins (2nd)||10 Races, 2 Wins (2nd)|
|Year 2||9 Races, 1 Win (2nd)||8 Races, 7 Wins (1st)||10 Races, 5 Wins (1st)|
|Year 3||8 Races, 5 Wins (1st)||7 Races, 7 Wins (1st)||10 Races, 5 Wins (2nd)|
|Year 4||8 Races, 7 Wins (1st)|
|Champs||Ferry ’97 (Roncada 2nd)||Preston ’02||Tickle ’11, Roczen ’13|
The Road to 50
James Stewart was, as suspected, immediately fast on the big bikes, but suffered injuries which prevented him challenging for a title from the get-go. He did still win in his first season, at the 3rd attempt in 2005 ahead of title combatants Ricky Carmichael and Chad Reed. The three of them would go bar-to-bar-to-bar for the title in 2006!
Eli had to wait until his second season to win his first race, but of course McGrath only had to wait until the third round of his first full season, technically his sixth 250cc start, to register his first win for the then-mighty Team Honda. He only took 12 more races to register his tenth, amazingly just like Stewart hitting double figures on just his 21st attempt. Eli again had to wait just that bit longer, as he has done throughout his career. Amazingly, Stewart got to wins #20 & #30 faster than McGrath did, but Showtime is the only one of the three to have won 10 in a row, in that incredible 1996 season where he won all but one of the 15 rounds, as close to unbeaten in as anyone has managed in a Supercross year. His best career streak ended at 13 races. Stewart’s best streak was 8 in a row from the end of 2007 into the first race of 2008, whilst Eli has twice hit five in a row, once in a losing cause against Ryan Dungey in 2017, and again in winning fashion for Yamaha in 2022.
|1st Win||9th Race, Anaheim ’93||3rd Race, Irving ’05||15th Race, Phoenix ’15|
|10th Win||21st Race, San Jose ’93||21st Race, Seattle ’06||58th Race, Indy ’17|
|20th Win||38th Race, Orlando ’95||34th Race, Indy ’07||77th Race, Minn ’18 (TC)|
|30th Win||52nd Race, Orlando ’96||46th Race, A3 ’09||104th Race, Tampa ’20|
|40th Win||62nd Race, Tampa ’96||65th Race, A2 ’11||139th Race, Arlington. ’22 (TC)|
|50th Win||90th Race, Daytona ’98||115th Race, St Louis ’14||159th Race, Seattle ’23|
|60th Win||113th Race, Vegas ’99|
|70th Win||129th Race, Vegas ’00|
TC = Triple Crown
As the table below shows, there were very few times in McGrath’s career that he didn’t win, only stopping when RC came through as Jeremy hit 30 years old. Stewart encountered RC at the end of his career, and very nearly took a title from him before gaining the crown with an emphatic 13-win season of 2007.
Tomac couldn’t crack the Austrian machines of Ryan Dungey, Jason Anderson, and Cooper Webb until the 7th year of his career, winning a lot of races but only finding title-winning consistency in 2019. He hits 50 wins in his 10th season, just as Bubba did, but James had a lot of injuries and issues that prevented him even starting as many races as he should have done. Jeremy hit 50 in just his 6th season, en route to his 5th title, before reaching his ultimate total of 72 in three more years.
McGrath’s career was certainly on a higher trajectory than those who joined him at the Half-Century bar, but it has to be said that the timing was in his favour. He arrived as Jean-Michel Bayle left the sport, and pretty much hastened the end of the careers of Damon Bradshaw and Jeff Stanton as his domination just shut the previous megastars out of the winner’s circle. From there, whilst Mike LaRocco and Mike Kiedrowski were great Outdoor Champions, Jeremy always had the measure of them indoors. You can argue that his competition wasn’t as great because he wouldn’t allow them to be, but you can’t argue that he had to deal with the multi-champs that both Stewart and Tomac had to contend with. The likes of Ryan Villopoto, Dungey, Webb, Reed and Carmichael would surely have made McGrath’s life tougher, but he did raise the bar and deserves to still sit so much higher, with almost 50% more wins than JS7 and ET3, after over twenty years of people trying to catch him.
|Seasons||10 (1992 raced 6 rounds)||11 (2015 Suspended)||10 (2013 raced 4 rounds)|
|Year 1||16 Races, 10 Wins (1st) Kiedrowski 2nd with 2 Wins, 57 Pts Back||6 Races, 3 Wins (10th) RC Champ, Stewart behind Preston in standings after injury||9 Races, 0 Wins (13th) Villopoto Champ, Reed just behind Tomac after injury|
|Year 2||15 Races, 9 Wins (1st) LaRocco 2nd with 3 Wins, 48 Pts back||16 Races, 8 Wins (2nd) RC Champ with 6 Wins, 2 Pts ahead of JS & CR tied!||17 Races, 3 Wins (2nd) Dungey Champ with 8 Wins, ET 85 Pts back|
|Year 3||14 Races, 10 Wins (1st) L. Ward 2nd with 0 Wins, 50 Pts Back||16 Races, 13 Wins (1st) Reed 2nd with 1 Win, 51 Pts back||17 Races, 1 Win (4th) Dungey Champ with 9 wins, Roczen & Anderson ahead of ET|
|Year 4||15 Races, 14 Wins (1st) Emig 2nd with 1 Win, 132 Pts Back||2 Races, 1 Win (23rd) Reed Champ with 9 Wins, Stew injured at Round 3||17 Races, 9 Wins (2nd) Dungey Champ with 3 Wins, ET 5 Pts Back|
|Year 5||15 Races, 2 Wins (2nd) Emig Champ with 5 Wins, MC 15 Pts Back||17 Races, 11 Wins (1st) Reed 2nd with 3 Wins, 4 Pts back||16 Races, 8 Wins (3rd) Anderson Champ with 4 Wins, Musquin 2nd|
|Year 6||16 Races, 7 Wins (1st), Lusk 2nd with 4 Wins, 51 Pts Back||3 Races, 1 Win (20th) Dungey Champ with 6 Wins, Stew injured Round 4||17 Races, 6 Wins (2nd) Webb Champ with 7 Wins, ET 18 Pts Back|
|Year 7||16 Races, 8 Wins (1st) Lusk 2nd with 5 Wins, 83 Pts Back||17 Races, 5 Wins (4th) Villopoto Champ with 6 Wins, Stewart 38 Pts Back||17 Races, 7 Wins (1st) Webb 2nd with 4 Wins, 25 Pts Back|
|Year 8||16 Races, 10 Wins (1st) Vuillemin 2nd with 4 Wins, 35 Pts Back||11 Races, 2 Wins (7th) Villopoto Champ with 9 Wins, Stew injured at Round 11||17 Races, 3 Wins (3rd) Webb Champ with 8 Wins, Roczen 2nd|
|Year 9||16 Races, 2 Wins (2nd) RC Champ with 14 Wins, MC 64 Pts Back||14 Races, 1 Win (10th) Villopoto Champ with 10 Wins, Stew injured Round 15||17 Races, 7 Wins (1st) Anderson 2nd with 7 Wins, 9 Pts Back|
|Year 10||16 Races, 0 Wins (3rd) RC Champ with 11 Wins, DV12 2nd||17 Races, 5 Wins (4th) Villopoto Champ with 7 Wins, Stewart 96 Pts Back||11 Races, 6 Wins (2nd) Win #50 at Rd 11|
|Year 11||4 Races, 0 Wins (32nd) Dungey Champ with 9 Wins|
The three Half-Century Hitters are also among the very few to have won on three brands of machine, with MC’s domination on Honda proving to be the most lucrative. Both Eli & Bubba won the most in green, and in fact McGrath won his first ever 125cc Supercross on a Kawasaki too, and has returned to them as a magnificent brand ambassador.
In leaving the mighty team Honda and becoming the first rider ever to win Championships on two different brands, McGrath ended over a decade of the red team’s dominance of the sport. Only Carmichael has won a title for them since. Ricky is the only rider to have won titles on three different brands (Kawasaki, Honda, and Suzuki), whilst Stewart & Tomac are the only other men to have won titles on more than one brand.
Chad Reed remains the only rider to have won top-class Supercross Main Events on four different brands.
|Bikes||Honda – 43 Wins||Kawasaki – 25 Wins||Honda – 3 Wins|
|Suzuki – 2 Wins||Yamaha – 19 Wins||Kawasaki – 34 Wins|
|Yamaha – 27 Wins||Suzuki – 6 Wins||Yamaha – 13 Wins|