After an off-weekend (which seemed more like a month) following the Seattle round, the 2017 AMA Supercross Championship picks up again tomorrow night in Salt Lake City, Utah. In a historically close race for the 450SX class title, the points chase has effectively been re-set for the top spot as Eli Tomac and Ryan Dungey will both be running the red points-leader plate at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Tomac had a good but not great night in Seattle, although his riding was off-the-charts. Without a solid start in the premier class, most riders will struggle to even maintain position let alone pick off most of the sport's top riders like they're standing still. Such was the case with Tomac, tearing through the pack as if they were stationary, making a statement of who the dominant rider in the series is. Unfortunately for Eli, a slight mis-calculation ended with him landing on his head at about the halfway point of the main event, putting him back a couple of spots. No matter though, he worked right on by to end up second on the night, gaining four points on Dungey in the process.
Speaking of tough nights and great come-from-behind rides, defending champ Dungey had one of those. Absolutely dead last after a first turn crash, Dungey methodically made his way through the pack all of the way to fourth by the finish. He didn't do so with the same enthusiasm as Tomac did, but his effort at least allowed the two to tie up the points battle heading into this weekend in Salt Lake City. The SLC track will likely be a bit more to Tomac's liking and, for once, it is much, much closer to Tomac's Colorado home than it is to Dungey's in Florida, so Tomac may just be a bit fresher this weekend. Not to mention, the altitude of Rice-Eccles at 4,667 feet may favor Eli's fitness just a bit.
What may be just as interesting to watch as the battle for the top spot will be just which rider can finish in between one or both of the top dogs. Marvin Musquin is coming off a dominant win in Seattle (his 2nd of the season), so he is certainly at the top of the list of potential spoilers. The big question is whether team orders are at play that will prevent Marvin from finishing ahead of his teammate Dungey if the two find themselves facing off in the main event. The answer is known probably only by a few people in the world, and since we aren't one of them, we'll wait to see the performances on the track to pass judgement. Regardless, Musquin is going to try and rattle off as many wins as he can in the remainder of this series.
Another top spoiler (in addition to Jason Anderson) is likely to be Cooper Webb. Coming off of injury and in only his second race back in Seattle, Webb made it clear he has the speed to beat anyone on the track if the cards fall in his favor. He's been looking for a real break-out ride all year and he should be about to peak heading into SLC, so we shall see if he's in a spot to challenge for a win against the likes of Dungey and Tomac.
Speaking of overdue for a win, Aaron Plessinger certainly was that in the 250SX West class heading into Seattle. When he saw the soft, rutted, technical track he must have felt pretty good about his chances. Formerly a GNCC XC2 Pro rider, Plessinger's father Scott is a multi-time national champion in the discipline and he no doubt passed on those rut-riding genes to his son. Aaron made short work of the field in Seattle, and with Salt Lake looking likely to be a bit soft and treacherous, there's no reason to think he won't be at the front once again.
But giving credit where credit is due, Oregon's 250SX West points leader Justin Hill isn't exactly a slouch in tough conditions either. The difference between the two is pretty simple: Hill just needs to put in solid rides and not make any mistakes to protect his 18 point lead over Plessinger. It seems unlikely he'll really be pushing the pace in SLC but you never know, sometimes these guys just can't turn off the desire to win, consequences be damned.
Making the first podium appearance of his brief 250SX career was TLD/KTM's Mitchell Oldenburg. Solid all night on the tough track, Oldenburg battled the entire main event to earn the final spot on the podium. Also in his first race back after an injury in San Diego earlier this season, Mitch certainly wants to leave his mark on this title chase before the series heads back east and before the finals in Vegas. Safe money goes to Oldenburg once again landing on the podium, especially since his teammate Shane McElrath will be absent due to injury in Seattle. Also returning this weekend will be Austin Forkner, though, so the podium spot potentials are quickly filling up!
Returning to Rice-Eccles Stadium on the campus of the University of Utah, a more dramatic backdrop couldn't have been asked for. With the picturesque Wasatch Mountains still covered with snow, but temperatures at the stadium predicted to be in the 50's and 60's with bright sun, this title chase will be epic. You won't want to miss this one, but if you can't make it to the race, you can catch live timing and scoring right here at AMASupercross.com, and also by following our Facebook page AMA Supercross Championship, or our Instagram feed @amasupercross. Of course you could also tune into Fox Sports 2 at 7:30PM MDT (9:30 EDT, 6:30 PDT).