‘I have blown it a few times’: Eli Tomac finally scales title mountaintop


With the elusive Supercross 450 championship finally in his grasp, Eli Tomac could admit how far away it once had seemed.

As he celebrated with his newborn daughter and family on Father’s Day at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, the usually stoic Tomac had some joyful moments, but there was one overriding emotion.

“It was really just relief,” he said Sunday night on a Zoom media conference call. “I’m up to 34 (career) wins. I’m like I better get one of these (championships) before I’m done.

FINAL POINTS: 450 standings | 250 East standings | 250 West standings

“Just relief. Just really relief. It just drove me crazy. It’s been driving me up the wall — seriously.”

The wait lasted more than three years since 2017 when Tomac had a series-nine victories but finished runner-up in points to Ryan Dungey, who had only three victories but no finishes lower than fourth.

Eli Tomac crosses the finish line in the finale (Feld Entertainment, Inc.).

The following season might have been even tougher, as Tomac won a series-high seven times but also scored only two points in the first two rounds and finished outside the top 10 in three other events. He finished third in points.

Last year marked his third second-place finish in the points and a nagging sense that the window already might have closed in a racing series with a very limited shelf life. Examples such as Chad Reed (who retired Sunday from full-time competition at 38) are extremely rare. Most riders leave the starting gate before their 30s.

Though Tomac was in his typically low-key demeanor Sunday night, he predicted “I’ll really wake up tomorrow and feel it.

“I really thought I was getting to maybe be running out of time (to win a championship) when you look at the past,” he said. “I’m 27 and there’s some people that doubt you, and I have blown it a few times. Being able to fix that inconsistency was a huge relief that way.”

Tomac’s title proved one for the ages: The oldest first-time champion in Supercross also is the first father to wear the crown (daughter Lev was born April 26).

Eli Tomac holds aloft his newborn daughter, Lev, while celebrating with his family after his first 450 championship (Feld Entertainment, Inc.).

He won the title by 25 points but still rode wisely to a fifth-place finish Sunday.

It was his second-worst finish of 17 races in a season in which he finally blended consistency with his penchant for winning.

With a series-high seven victories, Tomac moved into a tie with four-time champion Ryan Dungey for sixth on the all-time win list. “That’s really what kept me in it was I can still win races,” Tomac said about how he overcame doubts he could win the title.

A newfound mental toughness also helped.

“I almost feel like I’ve had to put ice in my veins,” he said. “Not care about what other people say or think and try to improve on those weaknesses. Emotionally, just have ice in your veins. You have to block everyone out, all the negative comments or thoughts, and that’s it. You got to be just cold but steady.”

That might be easier for Tomac, who concedes he’s “not the most outgoing for my everyday lifestyle. But my emotions have changed for racing. I feel I’ve matured more in my racing mindset and when on the starting gate and on the track. That’s changed from 2017-18.”

Some things haven’t changed, namely his love for riding dirt bikes. Though his father, John, was a world-class mountain biking champion, but a Supercross 450 championship was always Eli’s dream.

“That’s what you chase,” he said. “That’s why you get up in the morning and get up out of bed with motivation. I still love riding my dirt bike. I love racing. I just love being competitive.”

Supercross 2020 champions (from left to right): Chase Sexton in 250 East, Eli Tomac in 450 and Dylan Ferrandis in 250 West. Sexton and Ferrandis will move to 450 in 2021 (Feld Entertainment, Inc).

He virtually was lights out in Salt Lake City, where he stared with a victory in the May 31 opener. Even when he started poorly, Tomac always was a factor.

His victory over title runner-up Cooper Webb on a mud-splattered track in the June 7 race might have been the turning point for Tomac, who entered Salt Lake City with only a three-point leader on Ken Roczen.

“The first three races were the time to get ahead,” Tomac said about finishing first, second and first. “It was big to (win) the first race. And then the mud race with Cooper. I rode my frickin’ heart out on that one.”

Tomac was thankful just to have the opportunity after Supercross’ season was in doubt during an 85-day layoff for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. It became the first major pro sports entity to conclude a complete season and crown a champion, albeit several weeks late.

“You’re so pumped that we can just finish the series,” Tomac said. “It would have been just terrible to end at Daytona like that with just really no one be crowned. Having them give us the opportunity to get these seven in … we did have multiple surfaces and conditions. It seemed a little repetitive, but at the same time it wasn’t. We got all these different tacks in. For being stuck in one spot, it seemed it worked out OK.”

Eli Tomac, 27, became the oldest first-time winner in Supercross 450 histoy and also the first dad to be a champion (Feld Entertainment, Inc).

SuperMotocross set to introduce Leader Lights beginning with the World Championship finals


In a continuing effort to help fans keep track of the on track action, SuperMotocross is in the process of developing and implementing leader lights for the unified series.

Currently Supercross (SMX) utilizes stanchions in the infield that are triggered manually by a race official. At least two stanchions are used in each race as a way to draw the eye to the leader, which is especially useful in the tight confines of the stadium series when lapping often begins before the halfway mark in the 22-bike field. This system has been in place for the past two decades.

Later this year, a fully automated system will move to the bike itself to replace the old system. At that point, fans will be able to identify the leader regardless of where he is on track.

The leader lights were tested in the second Anaheim round this year. An example can be seen at the 1:45 mark in the video above on the No. 69 bike.

“What we don’t want to do is move too fast, where it’s confusing to people,” said Mike Muye, senior director of operations for Supercross and SMX in a press release. “We’ve really just focused on the leader at this point with the thought that maybe down the road we’ll introduce others.”

Scheduled to debut with the first SuperMotocross World Championship race at zMax Dragway, located just outside the Charlotte Motor Speedway, a 3D carbon fiber-printed LED light will be affixed to each motorcycle. Ten timing loops positioned around the track will trigger the lights of the leader, which will turn green.

SMX’s partner LiveTime Scoring helped develop and implement the system that has been tested in some form or fashion since 2019.

When the leader lights are successfully deployed, SuperMotocross will explore expanding the system to identify the second- and third-place riders. Depending on need and fan acceptance, more positions could be added.

SuperMotocross is exploring future enhancements, including allowing for live fan interaction with the lights and ways to use the lighting system during the race’s opening ceremony.