Four races after tying Ricky Carmichael for the most wins on the infield course at Daytona International Speedway, Eli Tomac showed he continues to be the infield king with a victory in Monster Energy Supercross Round 13 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Tomac also proved to be adept at adjusting to changing track conditions. One reason is that the infield courses tend to be bigger with wider lanes and that allows him to search for the optimal groove.
After rain soaked the Atlanta course earlier in the day and necessitated changes to the schedule, Tomac took to the gate in Heat 1. The track appeared to be drying, but looks were deceiving as just under the surface, slippery conditions lurked.
He took the lead early in his heat, and despite a tendency to get mired in traffic early in the Mains, Tomac started fourth when points were on the line. But he was forced to chase down the 450 points’ leader and two riders hungry for their first wins.
As the race progressed, Tomac kept getting better. He was handed a position when Aaron Plessinger fell from the lead, stalked and passed Cooper Webb and set his sights on Chase Sexton.
“I came in here with a good mindset.” Tomac told NBC’s Will Christien after his win. “This track felt like it was going to suit me and it did tonight.
“It turned into quite the beast. It changed throughout the Main. Switched up some lines in the whoops. That’s where I made up good time. Made a few good passes in combination with a couple of gifts, but we will take it.”
Tomac’s come-from-behind-win could set the stage for a late-season surge, but he realistically needs to sweep Atlanta if he wants to have a shot at catching Webb.
It was almost a night for first-time winners. After Nate Thrasher won his first 250 race, Plessinger and Sexton ran first and second past the midway point. When Plessinger got off his bike, it handed the lead to Sexton who stretched it for a time over Webb.
Once Tomac got him in sight Sexton’s lead progressively shrunk, but his undoing came in the form of lapped traffic. With two turns and one lap remaining, he ran up on slow traffic and guessed incorrectly which way the rider would go.
Hear from @_ChaseSexton after getting his first career 450SX podium with a second place here in Atlanta 🥈
— Supercross LIVE! (@SupercrossLIVE) April 10, 2021
“It was definitely a challenge out there with having to get by Cooper,” Sexton said. “It was great racing, and then Aaron (Plessinger) ended up going down and got me into the lead.
“From there on I just tried to ride consistent laps. I felt like I was putting a pretty pace in. I struggled a little bit in the whoops and just couldn’t find a flow there.”
This was the second opportunity for Sexton to win in his rookie season. He was leading comfortably at Houston 2 when he crashed hard and sat out several races with an injury.
“I would like to redo that last two corners to go in the second-to-last lap, but we have two more races here and I’m excited to be on the podium.”
Sexton’s best finish in his rookie season before tonight was a fourth at Arlington 1.
POINTS, RESULTS: All the postrace statistics from Round 13 in Supercross
Webb did what he needed to do. He fought Sexton hard for a couple of laps and then settled into a comfortable pace. Knowing that Tomac was well behind him in the points, he let the 2020 champion pass with little drama.
“We’ll leave happy, but I wasn’t pumped for that ride” Webb said. “I got a good start like I needed and I was in a really good situation. (Aaron Plessinger) was really riding well out front and he made that mistake.
“I just didn’t execute. Those guys got around me and kind of pulled away, so definitely not the best race. The track changed so much today. It’s nice that it wasn’t a mud race, but it’s gnarly right now. … To gain points is always good on your bad days.”
In the second half of the race, Jason Anderson may have had the greatest speed. He got a poor start and settled into the pack in eighth before righting his attitude and surging through the field. After winning the second heat, he settled into fourth at the checkers.
Dylan Ferrandis gave rookies two spots in the top five with his fifth-place finish.
After remounting his bike, Plessinger lost his momentum and faded to sixth.
Marvin Musquin in seventh and Joey Savatgy in eighth took the next two positions.
It was a terrible afternoon for Ken Roczen.
After finishing off the podium in three consecutive races from Orlando 2 through Arlington 1, he was able to score back-to-back podiums in Arlington’s next two events. In those race, he still managed to lose points as Webb swept Victory Lane in the Arlington residency. At Atlanta, Roczen saw even more points evaporate. With four races remaining, he is 22 points out of first.
As noted in this week’s preview, Roczen has a tendency to fade in the closing races. He needs to reverse that trend if he wants to become the fourth consecutive first-time Supercross champion.
Justin Barcia rounded out the top 10.
There is a changing of the guard in the 250 class.
From the very start of the season, new winners have graced Victory Lane with Jett Lawrence taking his first checkers in 250 East in the Houston 2 race.
Lawrence was followed by Cameron Mcadoo with his first 250 West win at Daytona, Seth Hammaker with a win in Arlington 1 and Hunter Lawrence in Arlington 2.
With all that fresh-faced success it was not completely surprising to see another first time winner. But Nate Thrasher would not have been many pundits choice right up until the start of the Main.
In his sixth 250 start, he had not come close to earning a top-five yet, much less a podium. His best finish was ninth, which he earned in the last two races of the Arlington residency. He finished 10th in the first race there, which gave him a three-race, top-10 streak.
Thrasher fell in his heat and was forced to advance through the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ). Mcadoo earned the holeshot, but Thrasher got the lead immediately after and rode away from the field.
“I got a great start,” Thrasher told NBC Sports’ Daniel Blair. “I went through the LCQ unfortunately; I had a crash. I knew I had the speed tonight. The track was technical and I’m good at that stuff.
“It feels amazing. I just want to take it in tonight and come back Tuesday.”
Cooper also crashed in his heat, but was able to remount and qualify for the Main. Wet slipper conditions contributed to his accident as he was the first rider through a challenging part of the track.
“I got some wheel spin on the first heat there and I knew I was going down from the moment I came off the face,” Cooper said. “I just came down straight on my back and shoulder. It took me a half lap to catch my breath.”
But Cooper knew he had to salvage what he could from the heat in order to get a good gate pick. He climbed back to second and ameliorated the damage.
“To be standing here is amazing for me,” Cooper added. “I didn’t think I would be able to ride this good. I knew it was going to be hard after the heat. I started tightening up there, but the adrenalin took over.”
On the slippery track, Mcadoo also struggled in his heat. He got crossed on the table top jump, crashed and cartwheeled down the back of the jump in one of the more dramatic accidents seen this year.
That was even more disappointing because it appeared he was going to make up some points in the Main. Mcadoo got a good start and was ahead of Cooper when he crashed again in the Main.
“Like you saw in the heat race, I wasn’t patient enough and it was pretty slick,” Mcadoo said. “Then the Main event – I got a great start. And actually I messed this rhythm up and Nate jumped a different line than me and I almost landed on his rear wheel.”
Mcadoo’s third-place finish in the standings will keep the points’ battle tight with three races remaining. He trails Cooper by only four markers.
The news was not quite as good for Hunter Lawrence. He buried a wheel on the first turn of the Main and fell. In the few moments it took for him to reclaim his mount, he dropped to the tail of the field. Lawrence salvaged what he could, but a seventh-place finish leaves him 13 points out of the lead. Realistically, he needs for Cooper and Mcadoo to experience a little misfortune in the next three events.
Seth Hammaker in fourth and Kyle Peters in fifth rounded out the top five.
ROUND 1, HOUSTON: Justin Barcia wins opener for third consecutive time
ROUND 2, HOUSTON: Eli Tomac rebounds, wins after Round 1 disappointment
ROUND 3, HOUSTON: Cooper Webb wins, Ken Roczen denied revenge
ROUND 4, INDIANAPOLIS: Ken Roczen makes it four winners in four races
ROUND 5, INDIANAPOLIS: Ken Roczen goes back to back for first time since 2017 injury
ROUND 6, INDIANAPOLIS: Ken Roczen is perfect in Indy for third straight win
ROUND 7, ORLANDO: Cooper Webb trims Ken Roczen lead
ROUND 8, ORLANDO: Cooper Webb sweeps Orlando to put pressure on Ken Roczen
ROUND 9, DAYTONA: Eli Tomac ties Ricky Carmichael at Daytona; Ken Roczen, Copper Webb war
ROUND 10, ARLINGTON: Cooper Webb takes the points lead with five straight top-two finishes
ROUND 11, ARLINGTON: Cooper Webb wins first two races of Arlington residency
ROUND 12, ARLINGTON: Cooper Webb becomes favorite with Arlington sweep