There are a few things at play in the 450 class that are far beyond what meets the eye. With the jigsaw puzzle that has been Eli Tomac and his LENGTHY assimilation to the KX450, things are finally falling into place for Factory Kawasaki. At the same time, fan discussions are buzzing with rumor, concern and contemplation as to what is going on with Ryan Dungey?
At face value, it would appear that Eli has found some magical setting that eluded him for the first full year aboard the green machine. With regard to Ryan Dungey, it just looks like he has had a couple bad races. Lets be clear here, these “bad” races for the 3 time and two-time consecutive 450 champ, happen to be scored 3,2…. Plenty of racers would love to have bad nights such as these.
Since I am utterly baffled by the sudden and overdue emergence of Eli Tomac, I am going to focus this concise deep-dive on what I think is “going on” with Ryan Dungey. Jump in with me, shall you?
This is Ryan Dungey’s 7th year in 450 Supercross. He has 3 titles and his podium percentage is north of 76% with 93 podiums out of 122 starts. It’s incredibly impressive in the sense of staying healthy let alone the speed he has been going during this run. Lest we forget the competition he has outpaced in starts over this time period. Dungey’s health has been one of his biggest assets and with age comes wisdom and like it or not wisdom brings with it reflection, pause and consideration.
Ryan Dungey is keen, as keen as they come in the form of a top level racer and he knows better than most just how comfortable Ken Roczen was at the beginning of this season. He could see it, just like all of us but even better, he knows that feeling. Like I said last week, “You can’t fake trust”. Ryan wasn’t mentally defeated or mind-eff’d like many fans like to heap upon the racer de jour who happens to be trailing behind whomever is the alpha-dog of the era. The number 5 (1) has been through these rodeo’s many a time and fared quite well, you’ll quickly recall. The Dunge was content to bide his time, playing the odds and knowing that as tradition has shown, his opponents will falter more than he, playing into his race craft.
Then Kenny dropped out of the sky.
From the pinnacle of the razors edge of trust, predictability and comfort, Kenny was betrayed by all of those in the blink of an eye. In a crash nothing short of disastrous, which has since seen him undergo multiple surgeries including relief for compartmental syndrome, the deeper implications of such complications are in the foreground for all these guys. None moreso than guys like Dungey or Reed who have secured this title before and been that guy with the unfakeable trust and confidence.
That Anaheim 2 track that ended Kenny’s series was gnarly and for Ryan to see all that confidence, trust and X-factor go up in a puff of smoke, is something that can’t really be verbalized. It’s an X-factor unto itself. With that crash, not only was Ken’s confidence and trust betrayed but every racer out there dealt with the realization that their own, lesser level of confidence, was smoke and mirrors.
Ryan is in the last year of his contract and it is still unknown if he is going to re-sign for 2018 or not but one thing is clear, to me anyway, he has had himself a Days of Thunder moment. You know what I’m talking about. That moment when Cole Trickle see’s Rowdy faint in his living room and he realizes that as much as he has always believed he was in control, he’s realizing that control is a moving target and an illusion. Especially in a sport with so many moving parts and measures completely out of your hands.
They always say smart, analytical minds don’t make great racers. I feel like over the years Dungey has become a master at compartmentalizing his focus into bite-size slices of goals but now with Ken’s crash, wisdom and possible retirement and an after-racing life looming, shutting out that peripheral, logical noise, could be getting harder than ever…
On the other hand, perhaps these last few tracks were just a little too moist to mess with and Dungey is going to grab gobs of throttle beginning this week in Dallas, resuming his dominance at the head of the throne.