Lead Photo By: Rich Shepard
We’re five rounds down and you can go ahead and pinch yourself now because, yes, this series and what we’ve seen through those 5 races ARE REAL!!
We’ve gone from right off the bat the top two title hopefuls not finishing races, as well as winning them, a red plate that is as allergic to a single brand in the 450’s as it has been in the 250’s, some incredible passes as well as crashes, even takeouts amongst teammates and I ain’t talking Chinese or Italian food!
As we came into Oakland, the 450 class appeared to be reaching some kind of buoyancy after the turbulent start because Eli Tomac had apparently remembered that he was an alpha dog and the top guy on Green, expected to win races and Championships. Yup, he rebounded from those 2 DNF’s to win the subsequent two rounds and although his points deficit was somewhere between the Titanic and The Bermuda Triangle, he appeared ready to mount a charge and make it interesting. Then a tidal wave hit in Oakland and Eli REALLY remembered who he was, the guy who bewilders us all and in the words of The C+C Music Factory, “Things that make you go hmmmmm”… Once again Eli reverted back to the Mr.Hyde that is the flip side of his cyclical racing prowess and looked to be overwhelmed by the track conditions and completely unable to grasp any sense of comfort, confidence or control (to be honest, nobody did but the frontrunners did a better job of masking it using the time tested technique of “Grip it and Rip it”.
As if Eli’s struggles early weren’t apparent enough, beginning with a toe to toe battle with the current number two at Factory Kawasaki, Josh Grant. That’s no dig at Grant because he really looked great, including that trademark-Grant turndown after making a move on Eli before the finish line. Grant’s run was short-lived though as the intensity forced an error and he had to remount further back and at a more controllable pace. Shortly after the green on green battle, Eli found himself on the outside of Barcia before the finish and compound a self-inflicted mistake with the high revving Barcia sliding up into the line you have no chance of hanging onto, and Eli was for all intents and purposes, down for the count. Just like his title hopes for the 2018 Supercross series. Yeah, I’m gonna go ahead and state that Anaheim 1 2019 isn’t gonna start with a red plate on a green bike.
Eli’s struggles are a perfect example of why in Supercross, there’s a fine-line between trusting your educated opinion and forgetting everything you think you know. He won more races last year and came up short, he was expected to be dominant this year and errors, both mental and physical have cost him the title and us our credibility as predictors of racing trends.
The true star of the racing in Oakland was the track. If you just read that sentence AND you follow me on Twitter, you are certainly confused right now and I knew you would be. At 9:35 EST, 5 minutes into the 450 Main event, I tweeted that the track sucked as it was primarily slot-car, follow the leader style racing. It was going to force racers into contact passes if they wanted to move up without other racers simply making mistakes. Then it happened. We all knew it would but the quickness at which the track broke-down was impressive. The rutted corners quickly became massively rutted jump-faces and cupped out rhythm takeoffs. The track crew kept on it all night but by the 9 minute mark of the 450 main, the dirt had held out as long as it could and obviously the track crew couldn’t get back out there to work it back into shape, therefore, I give you late ’80’s to early ’90’s Supercross my friend! Not weather-determined track breakdown and the ebbing away of our Hero-racer’s confidence and prowess, making them look human–errrrr like the legends of the 80’s and early 90’s. Prowess and skill weren’t so easily masked by the wicking of the wrist and explosive power of these 4 strokes. Nope, these guys actually had to reel themselves in for fear of truly harming themselves on a track that was anything but “racey”.
It was awesome and nostalgic all at once watching Ken Roczen and Jason Anderson go head to head at a vastly slower pace than normal and being able to actually sense their trepidation all the while hoping to quickly grasp that confidence that had all but disappeared over the preceding 19 minutes.
I’d take 17 rounds of these hero’s looking human any day over a slick, horsepower jump show.
Now get off my lawn.