Supercross Showdown for Championship Runner-Up


6/16/2020


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With a 24-point lead heading into Round 16 of the AMA Supercross Championship, series points leader Eli Tomac is well on his way to a first 450cc title.


The math is clear: If Tomac wins on Wednesday night, he will wrap up the championship and the entire Monster Energy Kawasaki factory racing team can breathe a sigh of relief with one round remaining.

 

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“It would be really nice,” the 2012 250cc Supercross West champ said. “If the start is there, if the opportunity is there and I’m in position [to win], heck, yeah, I’m going to go for it.”

 

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What isn’t so clear is who will be runner-up. Two riders, Ken Roczen and 2019 450cc Supercross titlist Cooper Webb, have a mathematical chance for victory, and both are ravenous for the honor.

 

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Roczen roared back for a dominant victory at Round 15 on Sunday, just days after announcing that he had tested positive for the varicella zoster virus, more commonly known as “Shingles.”


The diagnosis helped to explain the uncharacteristically poor results that the factory Honda rider had suffered since racing restarted two weeks ago at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City.


Across four rounds, a third, two fifths and a 10th were the best that the 26-year-old German could muster, all the while never officially leading a lap in a main event.

 

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That all changed Sunday night, when Roczen rode to a perfectly executed main event win after displacing his rival for the runner-up slot in points, Red Bull KTM’s Webb.


“I just go as long as I can,” Roczen said after the race. “That hasn’t really been the whole race [up to this point]. Like my post on Instagram said, ‘I’m just going to come here and try again and again.’” 


Roczen added, “It’s really tough after having so many negative races in a row—three of them, really. I try to come here and pretend like nothing ever happened.”


Roczen had to dig deep for this win, calling upon his own inner strength, as well as that of his father, who has been the primary driving force for much of his championship-winning career.


“After those last races of course, this [win] came as a little bit of a surprise,” Roczen said. “My dad messaged me in the morning and wished me good luck. I told him, ‘I’m winning today.’”


Roczen kept his promise. Now, he aims to maintain second in points. “Tonight has been a big step for me in the right direction,” he said. “I’m going to do my best to keep the same level and get even better.”

 

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Webb was able to stay ahead of the Roczen freight train for the first several laps of the main event, but the track suited the CRF450R-mounted rider a little better.


“It was tough tonight.” Webb said. “We were all so close in times that it was a game of tenths. I felt like I charged hard the last half, but it was just too late. I let him get out front, and he had that gap.”


Webb managed a great start, which catapulted him into the early lead, but it nearly came at the expense of putting the points leader, Tomac, on the ground.


Webb drifted wide in the first turn in what could be construed as an attempted block pass, but afterward the two champions appeared to let bygones be bygones.


“I didn’t even know I did that,” Webb said. “I was coming in hot, and I knew someone was on my outside.” 


That someone was Tomac.


 

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Webb went on to say that, “I was just trying to keep my line and the bales seemed to come up quick, so I had to hit the brakes. I felt like I hit somebody, but I didn’t know who it was.”


Tomac shook off the contact. “It was close there,” he admitted. “First turns are always chaos.”


With the drama of winning the title seemingly behind them, the “best of the rest” will be able to race with a weight lifted from their shoulders. “It should be pretty fun,” Webb said.


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Tomac thinks there may be another rider and former champ to throw into the mix, one who is hungry for his first 450cc win and even called out his expectation to win one before leaving Salt Lake City. 


“It seems like right now it’s us three and Zach [Osborne],” Tomac said, “that really can make the full distance right now and win a race.”


Wednesday’s Round 16 will be held once again without spectators in attendance at the same stadium that hosted the previous five rounds. Racing kicks off at 7 p.m. ET.


 


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