Dungey vs. Tomac: The Sprint for the 2017 Supercross Crown

A tie in points with three races to go? We're all even. Just call this the shortest Supercross season on record.

Dungey vs. Tomac: The Sprint for the 2017 Supercross Crown

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 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
Points Gap
Leader / Pursuer
Eventual Champ / Runner-Up (Points Gap)
Ryan Dungey / Ken Roczen
Ryan Dungey / Ken Roczen (60)
Ryan Dungey / Eli Tomac
Ryan Dungey / Eli Tomac (85)
Ryan Villopoto / Ryan Dungey
Ryan Villopoto / Ryan Dungey (62)
Ryan Villopoto / Davi Millsaps
Ryan Villopoto / Davi Millsaps (33)
Ryan Villopoto / Davi Millsaps
Ryan Villopoto* / Davi Millsaps (57)
Ryan Villopoto / Chad Reed
Ryan Villopoto** / Chad Reed (4)
Ryan Dungey / Ryan Villopoto
Ryan Dungey / Kevin Windham (70)
Chad Reed / James Stewart
James Stewart / Chad Reed (4)
Chad Reed / Kevin Windham
Chad Reed / Kevin Windham (13)
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.

What was the magic potion for Eli? We're not sure we know all of it, but there was definitely a mix of spring rate, linkage changes, which affected the rear height of the bike.

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.

Winning in Phoenix and here in Oakland had Eli (and his crew) plenty fired up.

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.

How's that for a start? This one was in San Diego, and Ryan could use a couple more like this one, rather than having to battle through the pack.

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.

After seeing Ken Roczen obliterate the field at A1, Ryan Dungey came back strong to put the pressure on Kenny in San Diego. While he finished in second spot, he showed that he was more than game to give him a fight for the title. But...we're not sure we've seen the same Ryan since Kenny's crash.

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.

Marvin Musquin has a pair of wins so far this season. If he's going to finish ahead of Ryan, his best play is to grab wins, so that Eli doesn't get the extra point that winners get.

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.

Can one of the other contenders step up and win a race between now and the end of the season?

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.

Create New Tag
Show More Comment(s) / Leave a Comment