We sit down with the 2019 AMA 450MX Pro Motocross Champion Eli Tomac and look back on all 12 rounds, one by one.
By Eric Johnson
Photography by Rob Koy, BrownDog Wilson, and Kit Palmer
2019 450MX AMA Pro Motocross Champion Eli Tomac Interview
After a Lucas Oil/AMA Pro Motocross Championship season that saw him race to 11 moto wins, six overall victories and, in the end, his third straight AMA 450MX Pro Motocross Championship, Eli Tomac sat a table and poured through a litany of race articles from the 12-round, 24-moto American title fight. Not necessarily by choice, but because we asked the now three-time 450MX Champion to reflect on the 2019 MX season and review each round of this year’s outdoor championship.
“I feel like Eli Tomac has been a bit of a broken record the past few seasons,” said Tomac, who turned 27 on November 19, 2019. “We’ve had a lot of race wins in supercross, right? And last year, it was even more pronounced where I really got in the groove towards the end of the season and started clicking off my wins. I’ve been strong like that the last few seasons, but last year it was that way even more so. It just took me a little bit to get going this year and really find my groove there and figure out what I liked. I’m actually blaming most of my slow start this year on December . I mean, I was behind on my motorcycle. That hurt me. Anyway, I started cranking out the wins in supercross, but the bummer part is that is what the broken record part of it for me. I’ve been really dominant in the middle of the season, but towards the end, I feel like I’m the guy, but I’m not the guy picking up that big trophy for the championship.”
Even though Tomac is still trying to put all the pieces together when it comes to supercross, he definitely has things sorted out when it comes to the outdoor nationals.
“You start to transition into motocross, and that starts at the beginning of April,” reflected Tomac of how he switched gears to not only try and close hard in supercross but also to ensure the Monster Energy Kawasaki 450cc house was in order come Hangtown in May. “You start transitioning and training and splitting your week between motocross and supercross and the bike. And at that point—at the end of the supercross season—I’m ready for a reset in the points. I had plenty of race wins [in supercross], but when the championship is out of touch, you’re ready for the new series to start, and that’s the motocross series for us.”
How did all play out? How did Eli Tomac string together another an excellent outdoor campaign that resulted in yet another championship? We sat down with Mr. Tomac to find out.
Round 1, Prairie City OHV Park
Rancho Cordova, California — May 18, 2019
2nd Place (4-1)
“Hangtown, looking back, was a muddy race,” said Tomac of the opening round of the series. “The mud is the great equalizer, you know? So many things can happen. There is never one guy who is always going to be the best mud guy. You can have mechanical issues. You can ride really well. You can ride like crap. As I said, mud is the great equalizer. The first moto there was disappointing. I was pretty much off the pace and made a strong charge to finish off the moto in fourth. I went out and won the second moto. To get out of there with a podium was the goal on the day, and we did that, and that really sets you up. You’re not behind on points, and that gets you rolling. I felt good about the start of the outdoor season.”
Round 2, Fox Raceway
Pala, California — May 25, 2019
1st Place (1-1)
Fox Raceway in Pala, California, hosted AMA nationals back in both 2010 and 2011 but it was removed from the calendar to make way for the Southern California-based race at Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino. Pala returned this year. Undaunted by it all, Tomac spooled up to fantastic late-race charges to sweep both motos in Pala.
“So we made our way to Pala the next week. That was a great day for us; that was a dominant day. We were back there for the first time in a few years, and it was great for us. It was a nice high-speed and rough track. It got some really good character towards the end of the day and we really shined. I was behind on my starts there and never got the holeshot that weekend, so I had to come up and pass the guys. Pala was a great track, but if I had to choose between that track and Glen Helen in Southern California, I’d have to say I like Glen Helen just because it has so much speed, and it has the elevation changes, and it’s a bigger track. It’s a bummer that it is not on the circuit now, but Pala got enough character to where it was acceptable. You know, even that early in the season, Kenny [Roczen] was on my radar, and he was holding the red plate at the time. It was really Ken, and I believe Marvin Musquin, who were right there and who were always on my radar, but really it was the number 94 that was the guy that I was the most focused on.”
Round 3, Thunder Valley Raceway
Lakewood, Colorado — June 1, 2019
2nd Place (5-1)
Round three of the series set for Thunder Valley in Colorado was a bit of a toss-up, nasty, rain-lashed inclement weather greeting the 450MX racers in moto one. After suffering a miserable start in the opening moto and forced to roll through the signaling area for new goggles, Tomac fought fiercely to get back to fifth. A few hours, and with the Rocky Mountain sun casting its warmth on the Lakewood track, homeboy Tomac got caught up in an entertaining battle with Roczen, a battle the Honda rider won in the end.
“Once again, at Lakewood, Ken Roczen made out better on the day overall. Moto one was very stressful. When you have any sort of gear issue, it throws you off. That weekend my Roll-Offs got tangled up, and I had to pull in the pits. That’s a big moment. In motocross, you get your points in every single moto; every moto counts. It’s not like supercross where you can jack up your heat race, and it is, like, ‘Okay, I can get it together for the main moto.’ Every moto counts in motocross. When you’re slipping in points, you absolutely know that can hurt you in the end. I came back swinging in moto two. It was a great battle with Roczen. I got him somewhere around halfway, and at least I was able to win the second moto and was able to minimize some damage, but overall on the day we were second.”
Round 4, High Point Raceway
Mount Morris, Pennsylvania — June 15, 2019
1st Place (3-2)
Heading pell-mell into the fourth round of the outdoor season, Tomac found himself a mere two points adrift of Roczen. The undulating, quirky, and off-cambered Pennsylvania track served as an excellent backdrop for the two combatants and two-time 450MX title winners.
“Mount Morris, that track has always been a little bit hit and miss for me,” explained Tomac, whose 3-2 took the measure of runner-up Roczen’s 6-1. “I’ve had years where I have totally been the guy there, and this year I was struggling even in practice to try and find speed. I was a little bit off of the pace, and that’s kind of how the day felt, really. My moto scores were 3-2, and it was actually one of the few times in my career where I won the overall without winning a moto, so that was a fortunate day for points. However, it was also a day where I felt like I was playing catch up the whole time.”
Round 5, WW Ranch Motocross Park
Jacksonville, Florida — June 22, 2019
2nd Place (7-1)
For the first time since 1997, the AMA Pro Motocross contingent set stakes in the ground in Florida for motocross national. This time staged at the contemporary WW Ranch circuit outside of Jacksonville, Tomac held steady for third on what was a miserably hot afternoon.
“Florida was interesting. That day, once again, it was kind of the same story from my practice sessions at Mount Morris where I was a little bit off from the guys, and I was searching and hunting for speed,” said Tomac. “In the first moto, I had an awful start, and I just didn’t go anywhere. I lit up in the sand and just went nowhere. I had a hard time with pace and was buried. You know, we made a shock change before moto one—and I’m putting this on myself—and it just totally threw me off, and I was just riding around in seventh. That’s where I ended up. It threw me off that badly. I definitely kicked myself in the rear end there. I came back in moto two, and we got back to what we do and went with something that would work in general. It did not have to be extra-awesome, but it worked [laughter], and it went better. And that was, by far, the hottest round of the series. The heat was a big factor that day. I even road without my chest protector because of the heat. The humidity was a big factor that day, too. A lot of guys struggled after that round. If you burn yourself out at one of those races, it affects you physically and mentally. A race like that can really mess you up, but luckily, we were strong that day.”
Round 6, MX338
Southwick, Massachusetts — June 29, 2019
3rd Place (2-3)
With strong 2-3 moto scores in the fabled deep sand of Southwick, Tomac started looking for (and finding) daylight, hitting the podium and inching away from his competitors with a 26-point lead in the championship.
“Back in the sandbox,” mused Tomac of MX338. “It is the one race that I look forward to. It actually might be number one on my list of tracks for motocross. I really enjoy the sand. I wish we had more of it, maybe like three races. Southwick is our real sand track for the American circuit. This year, though, I struggled. Normally, I’m the man there, but this year I wasn’t. Marvin [Musquin] rode really well in both motos, and Zach [Osborne] was coming on strong at that time of the season, too. Zach rode really good to win moto two there. Even though I have the most fun there on my motorcycle, but the day didn’t shape up the way I wanted, and that was third overall.”
Round 7, RedBud Raceway
Buchanan, Michigan — July 6, 2019
1st Place (1-2)
America’s traditional Fourth of July motocross race, Eli Tomac threw the hammer down in the far southwest corner of the Great Lakes State to further pull away in his quest to score yet another AMA title.
“Moto one at RedBud, I was right there on the start, and I made my way to the front, and life was easy in moto one,” he said. “In moto number two, I was a little bit more buried off the start, and Marvin Musquin made the breakaway, and I couldn’t catch up. He was riding really good in that second moto. I really believe RedBud is our number-one race with a fan-crazy and rowdy environment, by far. If you could have every weekend that way, I guarantee every rider would take it. It’s off the charts.”
Round 8, Spring Creek Raceway
Millville, Minnesota — July 20, 2019
3rd Place (2-5)
2019 Monster Energy Supercross Series Champion Cooper Webb seemingly came out of nowhere to sweep both motos in Minnesota. Meanwhile, even though he struggled a bit to slot in at third overall, Tomac kept at it with his remarkable consistency.
“I would say Cooper Webb was kind of an underdog in supercross, and he was maybe underestimated, and he went out there and won the whole deal. All that considered, I think no one really knew what to expect of Cooper in the outdoors. It was probably surprising to some people that it took him to round eight to get the overall, but at the same time, you don’t know. However, you knew it was coming at some point. That track that day was a little off for me. I placed second in the opening moto, but in moto two, I just wasn’t out there. No one to blame it on, I just wasn’t riding that good. I was just a little bit off. I must say, though, it was weird that I did not ride as well on my favorite tracks this season. Southwick and Millville, those are the tracks I’m always amped-up on to go racing, but for some reason, I didn’t have my best results there. It was like that at Millville, too. I was wishy-washy. I mean, I went 2-5. I struggled with flow and getting going. It was a day of minimizing damage, you know?”
Round 9, Washougal MX Park
Washougal, Washington — July 27, 2019
1st Place (1-1)
“I felt like at the Washougal time of the season that I really started feeling the grind of everything. At that point, we were holding the red plate, and I felt like that if I went out there with the 1-1, that it was going to make the right statement to my competitors. That’s what the day was. Even though it is hardpack, I always had a good flow at Washougal. It’s enjoyable as long as you’re not eating the roost at Washougal! It’s a fun track to ride, but you get pelted by that dirt and hard clay. In moto two at Washougal, the shadows and sun are tough, but I really enjoyed both races there. Other than some bad starts, I felt like it was total perfection on the bike. The second moto was mistake-free, and I felt awesome out there. When everything is in the right spot, right time and the right place, that’s when all the good things happen.”
Round 10, Unadilla Valley Sports Center
New Berlin, New York — August 10, 2019
4th Place (7-3)
“Oh man, Unadilla. This is embarrassing. Moto one I got the holeshot in—I think it was my first holeshot across the line this season. However, I just fully locked up, and my forearms got super-tight, and I got massive arm pump and went back to seventh and was just riding around. That was a tough day to swallow. Once again, it was just minimizing some damage. I also learned something from that race. I learned that you don’t go fix fences [at home] in the middle of the week in the middle of your motocross season. I jacked up my arms. You do something out of the ordinary with your muscles, and it messes you up. That’s what I learned.” [Laughter].
Round 11, Budds Creek Raceway
Mechanicsville, Maryland — August 17, 2019
1st Place (1-1)
“It was like the perfect day at Budds Creek. I just remember coming around on the last lap, and my mechanic [Brian Kranz] said we had it. I was actually doing some points in my head, and I had guys mixed up, and I didn’t know we had won it until I had crossed the line. It was a very pleasant surprise. I was just in complete shock and awe. It was so special. Three times, I don’t know, it’s really just the combination of a lifelong journey and goal, but at the same time, there is so much that goes into it. You have to be physically healthy through that time, and you have to have the team backing you. It’s a whole team effort, and to do it three times is just huge.”
Round 12, Ironman Raceway
Crawfordsville, Indiana — August 24, 2019
1st Place (3-1)
Tomac showed no mercy in the final race at the Ironman National in Indiana. Despite having already clinched the 450MX title the week before at Budds Creek, Tomac put the icing on another championship-winning season by winning the final round and the final moto. Both his main rivals all season, Marvin Musquin and Ken Roczen, got away from Tomac in the first moto, but he retaliated in moto two to take his 11th moto win and the sixth overall victory of the season.
“Even though the title was clinched, it was a fun day,” Tomac said. “The mindset was there to attack. It was an awesome finish to the year.”CN
2019 450MX AMA Pro Motocross Champion Eli Tomac Interview