Empire of Dirt

Steve Cox | October 17, 2018

“Team Tactics”


At the end of the 2017 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series, you probably recall Red Bull KTM’s Marvin Musquin moving over for his teammate Ryan Dungey to secure Dungey three more points toward that year’s 450SX title, which Dungey eventually won. You might also recall that Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac had a terrible day that day, finishing eighth behind his teammate Josh Grant, and that Tomac was very vocal a week later about what he thought about team tactics like that.

“If the championship does go down to those three points, that’s a bummer for everyone,” Tomac said at the Las Vegas press conference a week later. “But, hey, if you want to take that home and sleep on that at night, knowing that someone pulled over for you, then it is what it is…”

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At first glance, it might seem hypocritical for Tomac to benefit now from his new teammate Joey Savatgy pulling over for him in the final main event at this past weekend’s Monster Energy Cup, but I’m here to explain why the 2017 KTM team tactics that Tomac denounced are not the same as the 2018 Monster Energy Cup team tactics that he benefited from.

1: The Red Bull KTM team must have had a plan in place prior to the event in 2017, which was evident by the somewhat-cryptic pit-board message that Musquin’s mechanic showed to Musquin late in the race. That message simply said, “Ryan.” On the other hand, it’s highly unlikely that the Monster Energy Kawasaki team would’ve discussed having Savatgy pull over for Tomac in the final main event of the night in order for Tomac to take home a million dollars this past Saturday night. Tomac had dominated the first two main events, and Savatgy went 5-6, so even if Tomac or his team would’ve supported Savatgy pulling over for Tomac to get a million dollars, it’s highly unlikely that they would’ve imagined a scenario where Savatgy led every lap of the final main event while Tomac was coming through the field.

2: There is no victim here. When Musquin let his teammate Dungey by in 2017, that was effectively Musquin inserting himself into a championship battle between Dungey and Tomac. That championship was between Dungey and Tomac, not Musquin. The only third party to the Savatgy/Tomac thing from this past weekend was Feld Motorsports, who now has to dole out $1 million to Eli Tomac for winning all three main events instead of just $100,000 if he had just won two of the three mains. The only “victim” here is the promoter, and the promoter is the entity that made the rules for winning $1 million in the first place, and who decided to put up the $1 million. Feeling bad for Feld in this scenario is a lot like feeling bad for a casino when one of their patrons wins a big jackpot.

3: In the 2017 scenario, Musquin had the field covered. Dungey had nothing for him. In fact, Musquin had passed Dungey earlier in the race and pulled away. This past weekend at the Monster Energy Cup, Tomac was easily the fastest guy on the track, and although it’s obvious that Savatgy pulled over intentionally for Tomac, I don’t think Savatgy had a very good chance of keeping Tomac behind him as they headed to the checkered flag anyway.

4: Tomac was coming like a freight train, and frankly it seemed as if Tomac’s sudden arrival on Savatgy’s rear wheel almost startled Savatgy. Up to that point, Savatgy was out front in clean air for quite a few laps, and then just like that, Tomac showed up. And when Savatgy saw that it was Tomac, he found himself in an awkward position: Brand-new to the team, in his very first race on the team, at a race that was not part of any sort of a championship, Savatgy had to make a split-second decision to either try really hard to keep his superstar teammate behind him and prevent him from winning $900,000 extra dollars (which Savatgy had no chance of winning himself), or simply let Tomac go. Either way, he’d have faced backlash. It was a no-win scenario.

5: Tomac would’ve become the first-ever two-time Monster Energy Cup winner in history whether he won the final main event or not. A 1-1-2 would’ve still won the event for him. Passing Savatgy didn’t actually change the results of the event. It just changed the payout.

6: This one matters maybe more to me than it does to some other people, but I don’t like being lied to. I don’t like when people believe they have the right to lie to us, and I felt like the KTM team’s initial denials about their team tactics in 2017 were insulting. Tomac and the rest of the Kawasaki people essentially just refused to comment after this weekend’s event, which isn’t a lie. It’s also possible that the reason they refused to comment was to avoid insulting their new team member, Joey Savatgy, who was just trying to be a good teammate on his new team.

So, while on paper it seems like this past weekend’s “team tactics” (not really an accurate term in this case) is very much like the KTM team’s team tactics in 2017, they’re really not nearly the same.

On top of that, similar to how I feel insulted when people lie to me, I think Tomac felt a little bit of an insult when Savatgy moved over for him. In the press conference, Tomac didn’t look like a guy who had just won a million bucks. He was annoyed. I think Tomac felt that he was a few seconds away from blowing Savatgy’s doors off as they headed to the checkered flag, and it would’ve been a heroic performance for a million bucks. Savatgy inadvertently spoiled that for him by trying to be a good teammate.

Tomac deserves the million bucks. End of story. CN


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Steve Cox