GLENDALE, Ariz. - The dome of University of Phoenix Stadium rumbled and shook on Saturday night while a plethora of pyrotechnics were set off, signaling the start of the second Monster Energy Supercross event ever held at the venue. Thousands of spectators filled the stands, eagerly awaiting what would turn out to be an exciting night in both the 250SX and 450SX, the two series that make up the sport.
Though this was only the fourth of 17 rounds, tensions were high, and drivers were hungry for victory. Rider Shane McElrath, having already won two of the last three races in the 250SX category, was looking to add yet another victory to his list and push him further as the current leader in the standings. He understood, though, how aggressive the other drivers were becoming in the hopes of making it to the podium.
“The longer that I’m in the lead the more the other guys want to beat me,” he said ahead of the race. “Each weekend is only going to get tougher.”
One such eager driver determined to take home the checkered flag was Justin Hill, who is the only other driver besides Mcelrath who has won so far this season.
Although third-place finisher Austin Forkner, Hill’s teammate, ended up with the coveted holeshot starting position, it was Hill who sneaked up behind Mcelrath, who had led for the majority of the race, towards the very end of the event and ultimately battled his way to victory in the final lap.
“It was a close deal,” Hill said of the final few laps of the race. “I was looking over, I knew where he was, and I knew that he was going for it, no ifs, ands or buts. What I could’ve done would’ve been hairy, but neither one of us needed it… I waited and gave Shane respect to pass him.”
Luckily for fans and drivers alike, the 450SX main event proved to be as entertaining as the first event of the night, if not more.
Unlike in 250SX event, the holeshot proved to be a huge indicator of who would be the night’s winner.
Driver Eli Tomac was quick out of the gates and barrelled down so quickly through the first corner of the track that he gained almost a 10-second lead immediately in the beginning of the race. His lead over the drivers would eventually reach a staggering 18 seconds towards the end of the event.
“We were just on it tonight,” Tomac said on his huge lead. “When you’re in clean air, it makes racing that much easier.”
With the lead so clearly decided, that left for the other drivers to fend for second and third place.
Reigning back-to-back champion Ryan Dungey found himself struggling to keep the podium within his reach.
Drivers Chad Reed and Cole Seely, along with Dungey, battled until the very last second to determine who would get to make the podium and who would be left out.
“I wanted to maybe make a light charge at the end there, but I wasn’t able to. These guys were riding good,” Dungey said of his two opponents of the night.
Seely ended up left out of the podium while Reed took home second place and Dungey took third.
Both Dungey and Mcelrath ended their weekend the same way it began: at the top of the standings, but now with much smaller gaps between them and the other drivers in their respective series. With still 13 more races left to go in the season, there’s no telling who will come out on top; but if Saturday’s events are any indication, it’s going to be an exciting road ahead.