PHOTOS | Octopi Media
In the days leading up to the 2018 Salt Lake City Supercross, many thought they knew what the outcome of the day would be before the bikes hit the track. Two riders had very good odds of adding points to or even clinching their respective championships and all that they needed to do was get through the sixteenth round of the 2018 Monster Energy Supercross Series without issue. But during the 250 and 450 Main Events, those plans went awry. Instead of two celebrations, we watched as one rider slipped down the running order and another experienced a hectic pit stop to fix a mechanical issue. With this, all three championships will be determined at the final round of the series in what’s sure to be an exciting conclusion to a very eventful season.
250 HEAT RACE ONE
Chase Sexton snuck through the tight first turn at the front of the pack on his GEICO Honda, but within a few lanes of track, incoming championship leader Aaron Plessinger made a pass on the rookie and took over the lead. The Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star/Yamaha Factory Racing rider wasted no time building a gap over Sexton, as he was ahead by over two seconds within a few moments. From this point on, Plessinger ran unchallenged to take the checkered flag.
AutoTrader/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing rider Justin Hill put in a hard charge in the final half of the short race, as he got around Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/WPS/KTM's Dakota Alix and 51FIFTY Energy Yamaha's Kyle Chisholm to take third place. Unfortunately for Hill, the surge came too late in the race to close in on the two front-runners.
250 HEAT RACE TWO
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki teammates Adam Cianciarulo and Joey Savatgy were even as they entered the first turn, but Cianciarulo managed to stay on the throttle a little longer and claimed control of the race. Shane McElrath took advantage of the opening lap chaos and slipped into second place on his Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/KTM ahead of Savatgy, which then set the stage for a race-long chase for the position. At certain moments in the moto, McElrath ran a quicker pace than Cianciarulo, which closed the gap between the top-three riders in the final laps, but Cianciarulo managed to keep the spot all the way to the finish line.
450 HEAT RACE ONE
Blake Baggett blasted out to the early lead on his Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/WPS/KTM over Red Bull KTM's Marvin Musquin. The two immediately took off from the rest of the pack in a very close battle and Musquin moved into the top spot with a well-planned pass on Baggett on the second lap. Despite the swap for the spot, Baggett stayed within a second of Musquin in the middle stages of the moto until a slight stumble with two minutes to go allowed Musquin the chance to motor away to the race win.
450 HEAT RACE TWO
Vince Friese snagged the holeshot on his SmarTop/Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts/Honda and was trailed by a pack of riders in the opening moments of the moto. Weston Peick pushed his way to second place on his AutoTrader/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing machine in the first minute of the race, then snuck into the lead with an inside line through a tight turn. Peick's lead was assisted by the difficulties that the other riders experienced in their own attempts to get around Friese and with this, he was three seconds clear of Anderson in the middle of the moto.
A poor start shuffled Eli Tomac deep into the running order in the opening laps, but the Monster Energy Kawasaki rider was able to charge through the field and up to second place with the fastest pace of anyone on the track. Tomac's push lasted all the way to the checkered flag, as he closed in on Peick but was unable to make a pass on the final lap.
Tallon LaFountaine took the holeshot on his H.E.P. Motorsports Suzuki but his time at the top came to an end with a tumble in the whoops. This allowed Chase Marquier to take over the lead and the JMC Motorsports rider inched out a slight gap in the early laps. While Marquier led, all attention turned to Jess Pettis as the MX101/Rockstar Energy/Yamaha rider reeled in the leader. Just when it seemed like a battle for the lead was set to start, Marquier tucked the front-end of his bike in a bowl turn and Pettis took over the top spot without a challenge. Pettis went on to take the win while Josh Mosiman, Martin Castelo, and Marquier claimed the final spots for the Main Event.
Carlen Gardner claimed the holeshot on his BWR Honda, but Josh Hill jumped into the lead in the early lap on his Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing machine. Once out front, Hill sped ahead of Gardner, Dakota Tedder, and Cody VanBuskirk in the early laps. Tedder took over second place with a block pass in a hairpin turn, which Gardner tired to duplicate on Tedder a few moments later. Unfortunately for both, Gardner tipped over in the turn and took down himself and Tedder, and allowed VanBuskirk and Scott Champion to get by. Tedder managed to remount in fourth place.
The last laps of the race were exciting. As Hill approached the finish line and time ticked down to the final seconds, he seemed to slow his pace in hopes of the clock hitting zero, but he missed the cutoff by just one second, which resulted in another two laps of racing. Hill went on to win the race, but the extra time helped Henry Miller reel in Tedder for the final transfer spot. The two riders brake-checked each other in the turn before the finish line and were even up the face of the jump, with Tedder taking the position.
250 MAIN EVENT
Just like in their Heat Race, Joey Savatgy and Adam Cianciarulo were at the front of the field at the start of the feature, but this time Aaron Plessinger was close behind. Savatgy controlled the race in the opening two laps while Plessinger passed his way up to second place and Cianciarulo fought off advances from Shane McElrath, and soon the four riders were together and slightly ahead of the rest of the field. Plessinger made pass attempts on Savatgy in the turn between the whoops and finish line, which Savatgy countered with wide lines and blocking moves, all of which allowed Cianciarulo and McElrath to close in on the top two. Plessinger made a small mistake five minutes into the race and as he attempted to regroup, Cianciarulo and McElrath made their way by into second and third, respectively. Cianciarulo and McElrath traded a few close pass attempts on each other before they settled in and set off after Savatgy.
Near the halfway point of the race, both Savatgy and Cianciarulo had a slow run over the challenging whoop section and lost their rhythm. McElrath, meanwhile, had no issues and he charged into the lead with two quick passes. Once out front, McElrath upped his intensity and sped away from his challengers. This was the deciding move in the moto, as McElrath then went unchallenged to the checkered flag (McElrath was slowed by a lapped rider in the final whoop section and turn and was forced to roll the finish line, which allowed Cianciarulo to bring the margin of victory to less than a second, but there was no pass attempt for the spot).
Plessinger's fourth-place finish, behind his rivals, kept him from scoring the points necessary to clinch the title and the 250 West Coast championship will be determined at the final race of the season in Las Vegas.
450 MAIN EVENT
While Blake Baggett blasted through the first turn at the head of the field, all attention turned to Jason Anderson, who was collected in a crash at the start and remounted at the very tail of the field. Within a few laps, Anderson was forced to stop in the work area due to a damaged front wheel. After a long pit stop, Anderson rejoined the race two laps down to the leaders. In order to keep his championship hopes alive, Anderson clicked off laps at full-speed and ultimately climbed from twenty-second on the opening lap to seventeenth at the checkered flag.
Back at the front of the field, Baggett and Marvin Musquin picked up their Heat Race battle. Baggett led in the early moments of the race but Musquin again found his way into the lead with a calculated pass. Once ahead, Musquin managed to stay clear of Baggett and other racers through the middle portion of the moto to build a sizable lead over the competition. The Red Bull KTM rider went unchallenged to the checkered flag and this paired with Anderson's issues, brought the margin of points between the two riders from thirty-four points to just fourteen points with one race remaining in the series.
Eli Tomac was caught in the commotion of the start and was buried a bit in the pack during the opening laps. In the middle portion of the race, the Monster Energy Kawasaki rider managed to settle into a groove and started to work back up the running order with passes on Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing's Justin Barcia and Team Honda HRC's Christian Craig. Tomac's run forward was interrupted as he tried to set up a pass through a tight turn on Blake Baggett and fell off of his bike, a mistake that allowed Craig to get back around. Tomac quickly remounted, resumed his charge to get back by Craig and ultimately made the pass on Baggett for second place in the closing laps.