Sometimes it takes a lifetime of work and dedication to be in the right place at the right time to achieve something truly special – just ask GEICO Honda’s Eli Tomac.
At Saturday night’s Monster Energy AMA Supercross Lites West race at Rice-Eccles Stadium, an extraordinary set of circumstances fell Tomac’s way and he not just won Saturday’s race but also clinched his first Lites West season championship.
“It’s kind of about time something fell my way,” Tomac said. “I lost out on the championship last year at the last race, and even the crash in San Diego this year. It’s just an awesome feeling.”
Tomac went into Saturday’s race with a four point lead over Dean Wilson, a 15 point edge over Cole Seely and 23 point cushion over Marvin Musquin.
Injuries suffered from a crash in the first practice of the day ended Seely’s race and championship aspirations early in the afternoon. After both Wilson and Tomac won their respective heats, it looked like the battle for the championship would extend beyond the Salt Lake race.
“It seemed like the whole night turned around at the heat race,” Tomac said. “The track in the night show was completely different than the way it was during the daytime.”
Tomac didn’t get the greatest start in the main event, ending Lap 1 in sixth place and four spots behind Wilson, who settled into second. Tomac said his goal was to reel Wilson in and get around him before the race ended.
“Wilson was moving his way through the pack pretty quick,” Tomac said. “I wanted to make the pass before he stretched out a lead or something, because I was a couple of guys behind him. But I was able to catch him and get around him cleanly. After that, I was in a good position to run down the leader Jason Anderson, got by him clean and took it from there. I pushed extra hard so Wilson couldn’t catch back up to me. Then I thought I have to pin it to catch Anderson.”
As Tomac took the lead, behind him Wilson started to flag. On Lap 12 of 15, Wilson lost control in a rhythm section right before the finish line, and went down hard into the finish line jump. He wasn’t able to continue, finishing 19th and only earning two points on the night. Musquin finished fifth, but it wasn’t close enough to Tomac to keep in that 25 point range.
Tomac crossed the finish line to bank his fourth win of the season, but it took a minute or two to calculate if Tomac had indeed built the 25 point lead needed to clinch his first championship.
“No one would tell me if I had done it,” Tomac said. “My mechanic, Brain Kranz, said he thought it was one point short. All of a sudden, they told me, “Yeah you won!’ It was cool. This is as good as it gets, besides a 450 title. It’s a dream. I didn’t think I won it all when I crossed the finish line, so it didn’t completely set in yet, maybe tomorrow morning it’ll be even better.”
In the championship tally, Tomac’s lead is 27 points over Wilson.
Tomac’s Lites West title gives the GEICO Honda a sweep of the Lites classes this season (Justin Barcia won the East earlier this month). It’s the first time GEICO Honda has won both titles in the same season.
“We were close last year, which was a big bummer,” said team manager Mike LaRocco. “To come back the following year is definitely sweet. The guys worked hard all year. Tonight we had luck on our side. Nobody expected us to walk away with that title tonight. Eli rode a great race and things came his way. This makes it fun. Thanks to our other sponsors we have a lot of great resources, which keeps everyone on the team charged up. It makes coming to work fun.”
Not to be lost in the celebration is GEICO Honda’s other Lites rider Wil Hahn earning his best finish of the season, a fourth.
“I’m feeling the progress, it’s just not coming as fast as I want it to,” Hahn said. “It’s a great feeling to have. I’m rebuilding myself. I felt fast and firery. In the main, I just didn’t fire the way I wanted to. It’s been since 2010 since I’ve been on the podium, and I want to get back there so bad. I worked too hard to be in fourth. Right now we’re celebrating Eli’s championship, and I’m pumped for the team.”
The Monster Energy AMA Supercross season wraps up May 5 at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas where both the Lites East and West riders will both be racing.