The 450 main event from Las Vegas explained one more time…
Cover photo by Garth Milan | Red Bull Content Pool
Red Bull Media | The Greatest Supercross That’s Ever Happened
LAS VEGAS — Over the weekend, the 2017 AMA Supercross season culminated as it always does in Las Vegas. It started as these things usually do: promo girls throwing T-shirts into the crowd, and pyrotechnics giving front-row spectators a quick singe of the eyebrows to kick off the festivities and hopefully give the crowd a sustained energy for the races to come. Three hours later, Ryan Dungey crossed the finish line once again a champion, a feeling he has known several times throughout his career. This time, though, he did it in a race that he will remember for his entire career — the most incredibly tense race of all time.
Following the utterly mind-blowing conclusion of the 250SX season, which saw Husqvarna’s seasoned vet Zach Osborne come from taking a soil sample in turn one to winning the title after probably the greatest championship charge ever in Supercross, the crowd was electric anticipating the impending battle between Dungey and Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac. It’s been a tumultuous season for Tomac — a sluggish start gave way to a barrage of great rides that saw Tomac click off nine wins in trimming the points-gap to Dungey to only nine coming into the race. But those nine points were huge — a fourth or better in Vegas would land Dungey the championship no matter what, and he hasn’t finished worse than fourth in a Supercross since 2014. It looked like Dungey’s to lose.
Tomac had other ideas, though. From the gate drop in the main event, Tomac and Dungey quickly found their way to the front, first and second, as the crowd and seemingly most of the field watched in blissful anticipation for the dogfight to ensue. Tomac opened a good lead, as Dungey’s obvious strategy was to cruise this one home. Soon though, the gap started to close. A problem for Tomac, or is Dungey just going faster? While the answer isn’t entirely clear, it was apparent that Tomac was letting up, his body language telling the story of a rider who wants to be passed. With Dungey in front, Tomac would have more control to do whatever it would take to win the title, including put Dungey on the ground. After a pass by Ryan and an immediate, distinctly aggressive retaliation by Tomac that left Dungey rattled, it was obvious that Tomac was interested in taking matters into his own hands.
The laps clicked off; Tomac continued his cruise-pace at the front with Dungey in tow, as the rest of the pack bunched up behind them. With riders like Dungey’s training partner Jason Anderson, KTM’s Blake Baggett and Tomac’s Kawasaki teammate Josh Grant less than two seconds behind the battle for the lead, questions of brand loyalties and tactics were on everyone’s mind. Anderson and Baggett were obviously not going to pass Dungey, while Grant was [in the midst of his own brilliant ride] working toward the front to potentially provide some support for Tomac. The trio swapped positions throughout the second half of the race as Tomac and Dungey continued their twisted game of cat-and-mouse, the only race of their lives where neither man wanted the lead.
After an apparent eternity, the white flag waved as Tomac took to his final lap around the track, Dungey still right behind him with Anderson and Grant immediately following. Halfway through the lap, Tomac intentionally mistimed a rhythm section, and Dungey jumped into the lead. In the champ’s own post-race, he “shouldn’t have done that.” The two crested the triple and Tomac pointed his bike for the next turn. He was in no way concerned with making the turn quickly; it was an obvious attempt to slow Dungey down enough to allow more riders to pass him.
The two came to a stop in the turn as Tomac’s bike blasted inside of Dungey’s. Anderson and Grant made it around as the crowd went absolutely insane for the thousandth time of the evening. Tomac continued in third, Dungey now in his requisite fourth place. When the checkered flag finally flew, it was Anderson taking the win on the highlight race of the century. Grant let Tomac into second, and Dungey breathed a sigh of relief crossing the line in fourth. By just four points, he had taken his fourth Supercross title. Tomac, as he had through most of the season, pushed Dunge all the way. His tactics were questionable to some, but at the sport’s most elite level, with championship glory and millions of potential dollars hanging in the balance, he had done everything he could. It was a spectacular battle between two tremendous competitors, and in the end a familiar result; Ryan Dungey is the 450 AMA Supercross champion.