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Images from 2020 Salt Lake City Supercross Round 16.
NEWS

The Final Countdown

Jun 182020

The time has come. The 2020 Monster Energy Supercross season has reached its final act. The saga of the most unpredictable and long-lasting season in the history of the sport will come to a dramatic conclusion this Sunday in Salt Lake City’s Rice-Eccles Stadium, where Monster Energy has an opportunity to make a clean sweep of each of the three respective championships across the 450SX and regional 250SX classes.

When the first gate drop of the season occurred nearly sixth months ago on the first Saturday in January, no one could have anticipated how the 2020 championship would ultimately unfold. As the action-packed season churned on past its halfway point, a captivating head-to-head title fight between Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac and Honda’s Ken Roczen was taking form. The two longtime rivals had been the class of the field in the 450SX Class, trading wins and momentum swings through the opening 10 weekends of the season.

In the 250SX West Region, the Monster Energy duo of Dylan Ferrandis and Austin Forkner were trading wins as well, brewing a bitter rivalry that had already produced a series of controversial moments. On the opposite coast, Monster Energy rider Shane McElrath was giving reigning titleholder Chase Sexton all he could handle in what was becoming a spirited battle.

 

Then, it all came to a screeching halt. The unprecedented COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic brought the world to a standstill, and no one knew for certain whether or not this moment would ever arrive. First, the intent was to try and restart the championship in the fall, but as efforts to fight the virus proved to be more effective than expected, the opportunity to wrap things up before the start of summer arose. Feld Entertainment, organizers of supercross, and the Utah Sports Commission teamed up to make it happen, setting the stage for the most unique plan the sport has ever seen.

 

Since May 31, Monster Energy Supercross has called Rice-Eccles Stadium and Salt Lake City home. No one has left the state since their arrival, and while the absence of fans has been quite an interesting adjustment for everyone, it’s put an even greater emphasis on the racing itself. Over the past six rounds, with racing twice a week, we’ve witnessed arguably the best action of the entire season. The world’s best riders have pulled out all the stops, and the competitive of every class has been amplified to new heights. It’s hard to imagine what exactly Feld Entertainment envisioned when it constructed this plan, but they have to been incredibly pleased with how it’s all panned out.

 

With just one round remaining, the championship will fittingly come to a close inside the same venue where the finale was originally scheduled to take place in early May. The storylines coming into “Championship Sunday” are all dramatic, and it has set the tone for an afternoon of racing that no one will surely forget.

In the 450SX Class, Tomac appears destined to finally get the gorilla off his back. It’s been years and years of dominance and shortcomings for Tomac, where all the elation of his massive collection of wins have been mutedby heartache and frustration. It’s all fine and dandy to win as much as Tomac has, but if there isn’t a championship to show for it, those victories just don’t resonate quite the same way. It has felt like a championship was inevitable for Tomac, but adversity and misfortune have always seemed to get in the way. However, after three consecutive titles in the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, Tomac has learned how to get the job done. 

 

He’s become one of the most mentally tough riders in the paddock, learning to exude patience and make the most of any situation he finds himself in. Things rarely go to plan in this sport, and the ability to fight through the tough times can be the hallmark of a successful career. Throughout the 2020 season, Tomac has showed virtually no signs of panic. Even on the occasional off night, he took his lumps and looked ahead, consistently bouncing back the following week. In Salt Lake City, he’s found himself in a number of precarious positions, but he’s found a way to overcome it each and every time.

 

Perhaps no moment was more harrowing than Wednesday night’s penultimate race of the 2020 season. After a dismal launch out the gate, Tomac was the last of the 22-rider field to enter the first turn. He emerged deep inside the running order, in the middle of all the chaos of fighting for track position. In previous years, given the circumstances of the championship, this could have been a disaster. But what followed was hands down Tomac’s most impressive ride of the season. The red plate holder cut his way through the field with precision, somehow finding it easy to make passes on a track where everyone was able to run a similar pace. At no point did he look out of control, and soon enough he had clawed his way from 12th on the opening lap to fifth on Lap 9. With the leaders in sight, Tomac kept digging. He made an impressive move to get by notoriously stubborn Jason Anderson and showed his prowess in passing Roczen for a spot on the podium. From there, Tomac hounded Cooper Webb, the hottest rider in Salt Lake City. Webb’s uncanny awareness kept Tomac’s heavy pressure at bay, and it soon carried him into the lead around Zach Osborne, which allowed Tomac to follow through into second.

 

While Tomac had the pace, he simply found difficulty in getting enough of a push on Webb to make a move. The KTM rider nailed his marks in the closing laps, and it was just enough to keep Tomac chasing. While Webb ultimately made it a clean sweep of the Wednesday races, Tomac still left the stadium with the deck stacked heavily in his favor.

 

Sure, a win would have wrapped up Tomac’s elusive 450SX Class title, but now the new dad has a perfect opportunity to celebrate his first Father’s Day in the most memorable way possible. A massive 22-point cushion will accompany Tomac into Sunday’s finale, where he’ll have to finish no worse than 19th place. In 109 career starts since making the full-time move to the 450SX Class, Tomac has finished 19th or lower just six times.

 Meanwhile , both the East and West Region title fights in the 250SX Class are going down to the wire. After capturing a win on Wednesday night, Sexton was able to add a little more breathing room to his East Region points lead over McElrath, who finished second. A mere six points separates this dominant tandem, as one of these two riders has captured victory in all but one of the eight races thus far. McElrath opened up the Salt Lake City races with back-to-back wins, but Sexton has responded with two in a row of his own. In four races in Salt Lake City, McElrath has been the best of the bunch with 1-1-2-2 finishes, and the Monster Energy/Star/Yamaha Racing rider is going to need to maintain that on Sunday if he hopes to steal the championship in his final 250SX Class start.

 

Out West, it’s a similar situation between Ferrandis and Forkner. The reigning West Region Champion holds a seven-point lead over Forkner entering Sunday’s finale, but Ferrandis has yet to grab a win inside Rice-Eccles Stadium aboard his Monster Energy/Star/Yamaha Racing machine. Over the course of two races, Forkner and his Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki have captured all the momentum. Forkner now has the most wins in the class, which only helps his cause on Sunday as a tiebreaker would give him the edge.

 

Under normal circumstances these two regional showdowns would be thrilling, but with the lone East/West Showdown of the 2020 season on deck, another intriguing wrinkle has been added into the mix. Only 26 points remain up for grabs across a combined regional main event, and while the depth of each respective region has tapered off since supercross came to Salt Lake City, the showdown means it will be loaded with talent for the finale. A win could easily come to any one of the four riders fighting for a championship, but there will also be a series of teammates and other riders looking to add themselves into the mix. Nothing is a foregone conclusion in East/West Showdowns.

 

450SX Class Results

1. Cooper Webb, KTM

2. Eli Tomac, Monster Energy Kawasaki

3. Zach Osborne, Husqvarna

8.​Martin Davalos, Team Tedder/Monster Energy KTM

9.​Justin Barcia, Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing

14.​Aaron Plessinger, Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing

 

450SX Class Standings (After 16 of 17 Rounds)

1. Eli Tomac, Monster Energy Kawasaki - 366

2. Cooper Webb - 344

3. Ken Roczen, Honda - 338

4. Justin Barcia, Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing - 269

11. ​Aaron Plessinger, Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing - 195

13.​Martin Davalos, Team Tedder Racing - 172

15.​Adam Cianciarulo, Monster Energy Kawasaki - 129

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