Jason Anderson won Supercross Round 16 in Denver, Colorado, but Eli Tomac secured the 2022 championship in front of his home state fans with one round remaining in the season.
Round 16 was a day of statements. Tomac needed to finish 14th or better to secure his second Monster Energy Supercross championship, but in order to take the pressure off the main, he needed a strong heat run. He won Heat 1 and guaranteed a great starting position.
Heat 2 went to the Supercross Power Ranking leader Chase Sexton, but the only rider with a mathematical shot at catching Tomac was closing fast before finishing second in his heat. And that set up one of the most dramatic opening laps to a Supercross race of the season.
Sexton won the hole shot with Tomac second. If the Yamaha rider has had an Achilles Heel this season, it has been modest starts, so Tomac’s solid launch was another statement made during the race.
Jason Anderson slotted into third.
At the four-minute mark, Sexton took himself out of the picture by running wide, hooking a ledge on the exit of a turn, and hitting the dirt. Tomac’s home crowd roared as he took the lead, but he couldn’t shake Anderson, who made a clean pass for the top spot a couple of laps later. Anderson never looked back.
Anderson claimed his third consecutive win and sixth of the season. He can still tie Tomac for the most victories in 2022 if he wins next week in the finale at Salt Lake City.
“It feels really good (to win), but it’s a little bittersweet,” Anderson told NBC Sports’ Will Christien. “I wanted to make it go to the end, but congrats to Eli. I’ve been racing him forever. He’s been a tough guy to battle forever. He’s been really awesome.”
Anderson and Tomac have raced against one another since they were eight-year-old amatuers.
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“For me, three (wins) in a row is awesome and I just want to keep progressing and hopefully we can come back in 2023 and grab that No. 1 plate,” Anderson added.
Once he relinquished the lead, Tomac had little to prove. He faded to fifth at the end, but revealed why his results have fallen off in recent weeks.
“Truly unbelievable. This was in my dreams to make this move – to make this happen this way. We were so strong the whole season. Actually, in Atlanta, I messed up my knee in the heat race and that is why I’ve been kind of sub-par in these last three races. Thankfully I was able to manage what we had going on.”
Unless it’s public knowledge, never show weakness, so Tomac kept this information to himself.
Tomac’s first Supercross title came in 2020 and he was crowned in an empty stadium due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac also has three Lucas Oil Motocross titles, which came in 2019, 2018 and 2017.
With the championship locked up and second-place a virtual lock for Anderson, the focus shifts to third in the standings. A tight battle between Malcolm Stewart in third, Justin Barcia in fourth and Marvin Musquin in fifth will come down to the finale. Eight points separate the three riders.
Stewart earned a little more breathing room with a runner-up finish, while Musquin was able to close the gap slightly on Barcia with his fifth podium in the last six weeks,
Sexton rebounded from his crash and finished fifth.
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In the 250 West class, Hunter Lawrence kept the pressure on Christian Craig and closed the gap to 18 points, forcing the rider who started the season with three wins in the first four rounds to ride mistake-free in the finale in Salt Lake City.
In the opening laps, it appeared Craig was stalking Lawrence. He showed his front wheel to the leader a couple of times to try and force Lawrence to make a mistake, but ultimately it was Craig who landed wrong and hit the dirt.
“It was interesting,” Lawrence told Daniel Blair after the race. “(Craig) was pulling me in some spots and then I’d get out a little bit. If he passed – if it was a dirty pass – I probably wouldn’t have been mad because it keeps my championship hopes alive if I had a shot to put him on the ground.
“It may not be nice, but that is honesty. He ended up going down and then I had to control the race.”
It was Lawrence’s third consecutive win and fourth in the last five races. If not for a crash in Anaheim 3, the two riders would be much closer entering the finale.
Lawrence and Craig each have four wins apiece in 2022.
Craig could have locked up the championship with a win and that was on his mind before the crash. he landed awkwardly in the sand section early in the race, crashed and fell to sixth.
“The smallest mistake cost me on that one,” Craig said. “I was riding so good. I felt like I was putting the pressure on Hunter when I needed and almost had the pass a couple of times, but he was riding good; he was consistent.
“I got caught off guard with that crash. I’m glad I was able to come back through the pack again, to third and minimize the damage.”
Michael Mosiman slotted into second for this fifth podium finish of the season, three of which came in the last four rounds. He still has a shot at climbing to second in the points if Lawrence has a disastrous day in Salt Lake City, but can finish no worse than third.
Jo Shimoda in fourth and Garrett Marchbanks rounded out the top five.
ROUND 1, ANAHEIM: Ken Roczen renews battle with Cooper Webb by winning the opener
ROUND 2, OAKLAND: Jason Anderson wins for first time since championship season
ROUND 3, SAN DIEGO: Chase Sexton (450s) and Michael Mosiman (250s) deliver first career wins
ROUND 4, ANAHEIM: Four races, four winners as Eli Tomac solidifies points lead
ROUND 5, GLENDALE: Tomac wins back-to-back races in Arizona Triple Crown
ROUND 6, ANAHEIM: Anderson ties Tomac with two 2022 wins
ROUND 7, MINNEAPOLIS: Anderson does it again and closes to within three of Tomac
ROUND 8, ARLINGTON: Tomac wins overall as Anderson takes two features
ROUND 9, DAYTONA: History made as Tomac sets Daytona Supercross record
ROUND 10, DETROIT: Tomac wins incident-filled, third consecutive
ROUND 11, INDIANAPOLIS: Tomac extends lead as competition falters
ROUND 12, INDIANAPOLIS: Tomac wins fifth straight and sets sights on 2022 championship
ROUND 13, ST LOUIS: Marvin Musquin scores first win of 2022 in Triple Crown format
ROUND 14, ATLANTA: Anderson keeps the pressure on with win
ROUND 15, FOXBOROUGH: Anderson’s second straight win pushes battle one more week