As they almost always do, any time there is a Supercross in Las Vegas you just know it’s going to be entertaining. This year’s Monster Energy Cup was no exception as Eli Tomac single handedly stole the show with his three main event win and the big one million dollar cheque. Even if his new teammate, Joey Savagty, let him by on the final lap of the third main event, it still was a great race, and Tomac did come from way back to even get to Savagty with one lap to go. The MEC never seems to disappoint as there is always some made-for-TV drama at some point in the evening. However, as much as I love this race out at Sam Boyd Stadium, I still miss the old US Open that took place at the MGM Grand Arena. I know it was much smaller and perhaps a little less drama filled, but to be able to walk through the MGM Grand Hotel and go down a set of escalators then be right in the arena was pretty special. The hype for this old two-night race was off the charts both prior to the racing as well as after the race at the Circle Bar. Some of those stories I can’t talk about here, you’ll just have to trust me that some nights were unforgettable. So with the 2018 Monster Energy Cup now history, what are three things that we can take away from this event?
The first item I think we can all agree on is that Eli Tomac is a beast! Even though he was fresh off USA’s recent defeat at Red Bud where he wasn’t so beastly, he once again proved in Las Vegas that he’s one of the top SX riders on the planet. Armed with an all-new 2019 KX450F, Tomac is obviously happy with the new Kawasaki as he now heads into the off-season. Tomac’s aggressiveness, his corner speed, and his crazy massive leaps into the sand section were all things to marvel at as he became the third rider in this event’s history to win the main prize. As I said above, I don’t even care that his teammate let him by on the final lap, that’s what less senior teammates are supposed to do. I’m also sure that Savatgy was rewarded quite nicely for his kindness.
The second item that stood out was just how crazy fast the Supermini riders and the Amateur All-Star riders are. Over the past few years these kids have been getting better and better at SX as they become more familiar with how to ride these tracks. It’s not all about jumping far and skimming through deep whoops. It’s about timing, precision, courage, aggressiveness, and the ability to maintain all four of these things for multiple laps. Take one of these things away and your lap on an SX track can go very badly. On the flip side, do one of these things too much during a lap and it can throw your entire SX dance sideways. To watch kids like Max Vohland and Seth Hammaker ride these SX tracks now is very impressive. When I was young, not a lot of kids were good at SX, simply because no one ever practice on it. Of course, back then being able to seat bounce a double jump straight out of a corner was considered next level. These days it’s just a little more complicated. However, the one thing that hasn’t changed is that you’ll never get good at something if you don’t practice it.
The third stand out item from Saturday was both Chad Reed’s performance on his new Autotrader JGR Suzuki. For Reed, his speed was great and he looked very comfortable on the Suzuki. His corner speed still appeared slightly off compared to say Tomac, but then again so did everyone else’s. But I like the way he was able to get good starts, and how in the final main event he just rode smooth and smart and took an easy third in front of some pretty fast SX riders. With this sport losing athletes each year, it seems, to retirement, Supercross needs Chad Reed for at least one more year as they navigate the future. Hopefully the folks at Suzuki and the Reed camp can come to an agreement for the 2019 Monster Energy Supercross Series.
Although the MEC doesn’t mean a lot in the big picture, it does provide the riders a chance to do some early testing under the stress of race conditions. As we all know, you can do as many test laps as you want at the practice track, but everything feels different once the gate drops. With just over two months now until Anaheim 1, the riders and teams can reflect on what they learned at the MEC and then get to work on their preparation for 2019. Off-season events like the MEC provide a perfect testing ground for this sport’s best riders to get everything dialed in.