Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, hit its stretch run on Saturday, making its return to "The State of Sport" for the first time since the 2013 season. A crowd of 43,207 fans, the series' largest attendance ever at Rice-Eccles Stadium, was on hand to watch an incredible come-from-behind effort by Monster Energy Kawasaki's Eli Tomac, who passed nine riders and overcame Team Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider Ryan Dungey late to capture his ninth 450SX Class win of the season and assume sole possession of the championship lead. In the Western Regional 250SX Class, Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/KTM's Shane McElrath took his third victory of the season, but it was Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki's Justin Hill who celebrated clinching the Western Regional Championship.
The 450SX Class Main Event began with RCH/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing's Justin Bogle racing to the SupercrossLive.com Holeshot just ahead of Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing's Jason Anderson and Dungey. The KTM rider quickly took over control of second, and soon moved into the lead past Bogle just after completion of the opening lap. Behind this battle Tomac was mired deep in the field following his worst start of the season, emerging from the first turn outside the top 10 before fighting his way forward to complete the opening lap in 10th.
With a clear track ahead of him Dungey was able to open a comfortable lead over the field in the early stages of the Main Event, which he would continue to extend. Anderson proceeded to settle into second, while Monster Energy Kawasaki's Josh Grant slotted into third.
All eyes were on Tomac and his march through the field. The Kawasaki rider was able to pass at least one rider per lap until he got just outside the top five. On Lap 9 Tomac broke into the top five, passing two riders to move from sixth to fourth. On the next lap he moved past his teammate Grant for fourth and then set his sights on closing the deficit he faced to Anderson for second. It took Tomac three laps to catch and pass Anderson, taking over second on Lap 12, to the delight of the crowd.
When he moved into second Tomac faced a three-second deficit to Dungey, and due to short lap times the 20-minute-plus-one-lap Main Event the lap count was the highest of the season. That added time on the track gave Tomac plenty of time to close in on Dungey, continuing the post the fastest laps of any rider to get within a few bike lengths of the lead.
The showdown between the championship's co-leaders brought the crowd to its feet. On Lap 17 Tomac used extra momentum to dive inside Dungey in a corner, drawing slight contact between the two. Tomac lost traction coming out of the corner, stalling his momentum, which allowed Dungey to move back out front. On the following lap Tomac's quicker line through the whoops positioned him to make another inside pass on Dungey, which stuck. Once in the lead Tomac never looked back, leaving Dungey in his wake.
The Kawasaki rider led the final nine laps of the Main Event to take the win by 6.3 seconds over Dungey.
"I was stuck in a tough position [off the start] and I had to make it happen. It was all I could do," said Tomac. "We were feeling awesome all day and really had a few good spots on the track where I was able to make a lot of passes. The start wasn't ideal at all. I had a flinch on the gate, so that was something else for us [to deal with], [but] I felt great the whole time. This was pretty cool to come back and do that."
After leading the first 18 laps Dungey was forced to settle for second. Anderson finished in a solid third.
"It's good to get points, but we've got to win. Eli [Tomac] was riding good tonight. He caught us, passed us, and that's what it was. There were a lot of positives tonight, but man, I was hoping to get out front and just take it all the way, but it doesn't happen like that all the time. It's a bummer, but we put ourselves out there and came up a little short. I'm really happy with a lot of things, but instead of second place I wish we were one step higher."
Tomac now sits alone atop the championship standings for the first time in his career. It's the first time since the third round of the season that Dungey doesn't have sole possession or a share of the points lead. Tomac's lead over Dungey sits at three points with two rounds remaining.