Eli Tomac’s wins come with cost

SupercrossLIVE.com
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There is a cost associated with winning and it is not always to long hours spent away from friends and family. In the case of Eli Tomac in 2019, that cost has been paid in the form of consistency – or rather the lack thereof.

At the beginning of the season, Tomac scored four consecutive results of fourth or better. The best of these was a pair of third-place finishes in Anaheim’s two races. Victory eluded him and without a second-place finish to his credit, it didn’t seem all that close.

But Tomac was able to keep the pressure on after Cooper Webb finished 10th in Round 2 at Glendale and Marvin Musquin began the season with an eighth in Anaheim I. Ken Roczen, the other title contender, was on a downward trajectory that began with a second in Anaheim I and got progressively worse by one spot until he finished fifth at Oakland.

Entering San Diego, Webb was on a two-race winning streak, but since those were the first two wins of his season, everyone waited for him to stumble – and he did in Southern California mud with an eighth-place finish.

Tomac was poised to pounce. And pounce he did: His win in Round 5 gave him the red plate and a four-point margin over Musquin. After four rounds that featured riders getting their first, second or third career wins, the veteran may have thought he was ready to take control.

Tomac’s San Diego victory wasn’t exactly pyrrhic – that is defined as a triumph that costs so much as to effectively be a loss – but Tomac has not been the same since.

Mistakes were made at Minneapolis. A poor start dropped him deep in the pack and he could ride only to sixth. It was worse at Arlington, were Tomac finished a distant 12th.

In the past six weeks, Eli Tomac has been all or nothing. (SupercrossLIVE.com)

Then, he won at Detroit. In fact, he won three times that weekend with a pair of Main events and the overall in the Triple Crown race. Tomac stumbled again the following week and finished sixth at Atlanta – dropping him to fourth in the standings as Webb continued to pad his lead.

So now he’s won again. This time taking one of the most prestigious victories in the form of the Daytona Supercross. He moved back into a tie for second-place in the standings.

Unfortunately, the focus is starting to shift. Even with his win, Tomac shaved only three points off Webb’s lead last week and 19 markers currently separate the two. Seven races remain and with three more wins and two runner-up finishes in the last five races, Webb has been more consistent and stronger than Tomac. If Webb refuses to stumble, Tomac has to run the table.

There is a cost associated with winning a championship, and now that Tomac has three wins in the books, he just may need to shift his attention to riding well and finishing on the podium.

NBC’s Sport Gold Supercross / Motocross season pass can be purchased at https://www.nbcsports.com/gold.

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Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

Hunter Jett Lawrence fans
Align Media
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ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”