2020 Salt Lake City 7 Supercross Recap
One of the few sports to buckle down and figure out a plan for the good of all involved came to an exciting finish on Sunday at Rice-Eccless Stadium in Salt Lake City as the 2020 Monster Energy Supercross series raised the checkers on a full 17 round season and crowned three Champions all without an asterisk.
When the coronavirus began to spread more than three months ago, shutting down the country, Supercross was days away from at least getting Round 11 done. But shortly after the announcement of no fans in the stands for the Indianapolis date on March 14, the series halted and went on extended hiatus. Rumors and ideas flooded bench racing sessions as FELD promised to finish the remaining seven rounds way one or another while others awarded the 2020 450 class Championship to Eli Tomac, the points leader coming off a stunning come from behind victory at Daytona.
Turns out both camps were right.
450 Class Championship
Tomac indeed secured his first premier class title albeit with little fanfare as he only needed 19th-place at a minimum if defending Champion Cooper Webb finished first, as he had done three times during the three week, seven round stretch that put a stamp on the 2020 season. By all accounts, unless something drastic happened like Tomac's bike giving up the ghost or Tomac going down and out at the start, he had the Championship wrapped.
As it turns out, Webb went down at the start, Tomac got his now usual bad start but neither put on much of a charge to the front. Tomac stayed upright, avoided getting punted into the empty stands and cruised to a mundane fifth-place. Webb only got up to eighth-place as the hot and dry conditions helped deteriorate a track that turned slippery and dusty.
Tomac clinching the Supercross title finally ends all discussion about whether he could translate his Outdoor success of three-straight Championships to Indoors. So close in recent years while enduring bad luck, off nights and frustrating moments that seemingly turned into more of a mental issue on the track verses physical ability, Tomac rode a solidly consistent season, trading the Red Plate with Ken Roczen a few times before grabbing it for good at the Daytona comeback. Tomac won seven times this season, including the "opener" at Rice-Eccles Stadium, and reached the podium 12 times including six of the last seven rounds.
But with an empty stadium and minus the mob of fans surrounding him at the Championship presentation all Tomac could muster was a great big smile and a nod or two at the cameras while holding the 2020 Supercross Championship plate without any roar of the crowd.
He probably didn't care all that much because he got what he came for becoming the oldest (27) first-time Supercross Champion.
The final Championship clinching round for Salt Lake City 7 overshadowed Zach Osborne who got his first career 450 class win. Late in the race, Osborne passed 2018 Supercross Champion Jason Anderson who looked good for his first win in more than two years until his seat fell off. Anderson led 15 laps before relinquishing the lead to Osborne. Dean Wilson who led the first six laps of the race settled on third, his best finish since Round 13 last year.
Osborne, who endured a brutal practice crash after Round 8 in Arlington earlier this year that left him with five broken vertebrae, two partially collapsed lungs and a broken right wrist, only lost two rounds of racing before the coronavirus put a stop on the season. The postponed season allowed him to heal and Osborne finished on the podium four of the seven final rounds.
Overall for the season, Webb finished second, Roczen took third, Anderson wound up in fourth and Justin Barcia took fifth with Osborne behind him in sixth.
250 West Class Championship
The 250 class, on the other hand brimmed with excitement and drama as defending Champions Dylan Ferrandis and Chase Sexton, looking to repeat in the West and East classes, respectively, each led by a slim margin heading in to the final round for the East/West Showdown.
Ferrandis was knocked down in the West Heat race and failed to qualify for the Main by one spot. Forced to the Last Chance Qualifier, Ferrandis won handedly, but missed on an optimum gate pick and perhaps lost some energy reserves for the Main Event to deal with Austin Forkner, winner of the previous two West rounds and only seven points back in the Championship standings. A Forkner win meant Ferrandis needed third-place to repeat as Champion.
But no sooner did the race start did a dragon's back get the best of Forkner sending him shoulder first into the ground which ended his day, red flagged the race and opened some breathing room for Ferrandis thanks to the 17 point advantage over Justin Cooper. Ferrandis finished fourth, easily clinching the 250 West Championship, and heads to the 450 class for 2021. Justin Cooper took seventh and moved ahead of Forkner for second-place on the year. Forkner finished third, just as he did last year in the 250 East class after a promising start was ended because of injury.
250 East Class Championship
The Red Flag might have impacted the East class outcome as Shane McElrath needed a win with Sexton finishing fourth. McElrath grabbed a significant lead at the outset as Sexton struggled to get going but the restart worked in Sexton's favor. After the restart, McElrath and Sexton popped out front and played a little cat and mouse as Sexton let McElrath take the lead only to have McElrath offer the lead right back. Sexton ended the game and sped off, never relinquishing the lead, taking the win by more than four seconds. In the East Heat race, Sexton and Colt Nichols collided in spectacular fashion leaving both on the ground. The two qualified but Nichols, McElrath's teammate was unabl
Sexton and McElrath finished first and second, respectively, in each of the final three rounds after McElrath tied Sexton in points by winning the first two East rounds in Salt Lake City. Both riders head to the 450 class next year.
Rookie of the Year winner Jo Shimoda took advantage of Jeremy Martin calling it a season early to prevent pointing out of the 250 class and the injured Garrett Marchbanks to take third-place overall for the 250 East season.
The 2020 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship series begins July 18 at the Ironman National. Until then, live it all again at Round 17 in Salt Lake City. Photos by Ryne Swanberg.