- Bike Checks
A tie in points with three races to go? We're all even. Just call this the shortest Supercross season on record.
Now that the only off weekend of the Monster Energy Supercross calendar is in the rear-view, we're plenty excited to check out the final three-race sprint to the finish. Why? Well, in the 450 class, we've got something that's been missing for quite a while...an actual battle for the 450 championship. After 14 rounds, Ryan Dungey and Eli Tomac are tied atop the standings. That's way different than eight of the last ten titles, where we've had leaders who have dominated. Check out the chart below, and you can see in eight of those chases, the winner had a double-digit points lead at the end.
|Points Gap With Three Races Remaining|
|Year ||Points Gap ||Leader / Pursuer ||Eventual Champ / Runner-Up (Points Gap) |
|2016 ||48 ||Ryan Dungey / Ken Roczen ||Ryan Dungey / Ken Roczen (60) |
|2015 ||82 ||Ryan Dungey / Eli Tomac ||Ryan Dungey / Eli Tomac (85) |
|2014 ||45 ||Ryan Villopoto / Ryan Dungey ||Ryan Villopoto / Ryan Dungey (62) |
|2013 ||22 ||Ryan Villopoto / Davi Millsaps ||Ryan Villopoto / Davi Millsaps (33) |
|2012 ||115 ||Ryan Villopoto / Davi Millsaps ||Ryan Villopoto* / Davi Millsaps (57) |
|2011 ||5 ||Ryan Villopoto / Chad Reed ||Ryan Villopoto** / Chad Reed (4) |
|2010 ||36 ||Ryan Dungey / Ryan Villopoto ||Ryan Dungey / Kevin Windham (70) |
|2009 ||5 ||Chad Reed / James Stewart ||James Stewart / Chad Reed (4) |
|2008 ||16 ||Chad Reed / Kevin Windham ||Chad Reed / Kevin Windham (13) |
|2007 ||35 ||James Stewart / Chad Reed ||James Stewart / Chad Reed (51) |
|2006||12||Ricky Carmichael / Chad Reed ||Ricky Carmichael / Chad Reed and James Stewart (2) |
* Ryan missed the last two rounds.
** Ryan was a DNQ at Jacksonville...and still won the title
Eli Tomac has had an uphill battle since the start of the season, after a less-than-stellar start that left him frustrated and 25 points down after three races.
The Monster Energy Kawasaki team had always operated within a pretty fixed setup box for their factory bikes, a lot of which was based on what had worked for Ryan Villopoto. They were always hesitant to venture out of that box, but in the week before round four in Phoenix, they threw up their hands, and let Eli venture way out of comfortable territory. By mid-week, they'd come across a setup that Eli felt a whole lot more comfortable with (and was nowhere near where they'd been before), and he used it to reel off a pair of wins in Phoenix and Oakland. Things were good, and he was making up points. Unfortunately, after a front brake problem in Arlington (where he scored only six points), it looked like you could stick a fork in his season. There was no way that he'd make up enough points to be in the title chase.
But since then, Eli has won six of eight races, while Ryan Dungey has seemed to struggle at times. And now, they're back to even, with only a trio of races left.
So how does Ryan Dungey respond? First off, he has to return to being the hunter, rather than the hunted. The Dungey that charged with Ken Roczen all the way to a close finish in San Diego was way different than what we've seen at most races. Even KTM personnel will concede that Ryan will nearly always err on the side of caution. But we've seen a more aggressive Dungey (at times) over the last year or so, and it's time to bring him back.
He's also had some impressive come-from-behind rides, like at Detroit, and Seattle, where he had to work his way through the pack after troubles on the starts. But there's no doubt that to take this title, he can't afford any more bad starts, and he'll need to win races.
To date we've only had two other winners; Ken Roczen, who won the first two races before his devastating crash at the second Anaheim race; and Marvin Musquin, who has also taken a pair of wins. At times, Marvin has taken points from his Red Bull KTM teammate, and early in the season it didn't appear that there were any team orders. How that plays out for the rest of the season remains to be seen, but we'd guess that it won't be very tough for Ryan to get by any orange or white bike on the way to the checkers between now and Vegas.
There are also some riders hungry for a win this season wraps up. Blake Baggett, Jason Anderson, Davi Millsaps, Cole Seely, Cooper Webb, and Chad Reed have shown speed, but none had shown the speed required to top the podium on any given weekend. Can that change? Sure, but to get in the middle of the dogfight between could add a bit more frenzy to the season. The furor over Chad Reed jumping into the middle of the battle between Tomac and Dungey in St. Louis shows that not only the officials disapprove of lapped riders jumping into the fray, but so do the fans. We've seen dozens of examples of riders checking up (as a courtesy) to let the leaders by this season, and then they go back to their racing. But the contenders are also going to have to work through traffic when it's not so easy.
Of course, this is also playing out while there are questions swirling as to whether Ryan Dungey will be back for another year (or more), or if he's hanging up his helmet. We don't have any clues into either scenario. But it'll be interesting to watch, and see how the results of this year's title factor into any decision.