Main event winners Tomac and Lawrence recall 10th round in Michigan.
Amidst a night of attrition in 450SX, Eli Tomac continued his winning streak as he sliced his way through the field to take victory in Detroit, as Jett Lawrence extended his red plate advantage in 250SX East by taking his third win of the season. Both riders were available to the media following the race for this Debrief feature.
Eli, you’re well aware of what happened out there in the main event to the competition. I know on the podium you said you saw a lot of it, but what was it like for you on that track? Obviously, everyone was looking for that balance and you found it tonight… how difficult was it?
It was a tough race track. One of the strangest surfaces I’ve been on, with the combination of it being rutted in some of the lanes and kind of sticky and grabby on your tires – it could pull you left to right. At the same time, in some of the bowl turns you could easily wash it or push the front-end. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing after halfway, for how many of the best guys I was seeing down on the track. That just goes to show you how gnarly the surface was.
Were you aware of where you were and the lead that you had? Did that change the way you rode late in the race after seeing everyone go down and knowing the surface you were on?
Yeah, I knew it was sketchy and it could get you at any time. I was just trying to watch Malcolm [Stewart]. We were both pushing a good pace and that was about it. Like I said, I could not believe what I was seeing. Then even at the end, I saw Marvin [Musquin] go down in a turn and then I saw Dylan [Ferrandis] holding his hand. It was like all of the top guys at one point that had some sort of crash or mistake – it was unbelievable.
You’ve actually been historically one of the most endurance durable riders of the last six, seven years… You’ve had a long run. Is there something you’re able to do, especially when the tracks are tricky like this, to avoid the same problems that a lot of the other riders had? It’s pretty impressive how few races you’ve missed through the years.
It’s hard to say, I feel like you just try to be as much in control as you can and that’s it. That’s always the fine line is how much risk do you take and how far do you push it.
This was a super-tight championship just several rounds ago, but now it’s over 40 points separating you between second and third place. I know it’s way early in the season, but is this to the point where you can already start talking about managing this championship?
I mean, you can, but there’s a lot of racing left and a lot of things can happen in one night. Obviously, you saw what happened tonight. We’re in a great position and we’ve been solid, especially the past few. We’ve been good on all conditions, it’s just a nice place to be in.
On those nights where you’re not feeling it, do we expect you to continue to push for wins?
Like I said, I try to stay in my zone. I don’t know where that’s going to go, where that’s going to take me, but just try to stay in control.
For your level and for where you are, you didn’t have a great start. Can you talk a little bit about how you navigate from where you were at the first corner all the way to getting to the top of the leaderboard? How do you keep your cool and your competitive edge when you see that you’re not in a great start or a great position and there are so many riders in front of you?
Going down the straightway, I probably should have had the holeshot and then I got bumped by Chase [Sexton] going into the first turn. It bumped me outside and then everyone goes underneath you. After that, my best line was in the whoops. That’s where I was making passes early, I was just going up the right side and that’s where I got most of the guys. That was my spot tonight. Then I made one pass after the finish line that next bowl turn. The whoops were my savior tonight for getting to the front.
After the heat race, you said the track was deceivingly sticky and pulls you around, especially when we saw Chase have that crash. Then in the main event, you got the bad start so you had to decide where you were going to push, where you were not going to push. Where is that middle line where you decide it’s risky, but I’ve got to chance it here, maybe not chance it there?
Like I said earlier, it was the whoops. That’s where I made, whatever it was, three passes in there on the right side of the whoops. Then I got Jason [Anderson] just setting him up after the finish line and to get like a slingshot into that bowl turn. That was it. Then the rest, it could get you at any time… Just had that spot in the whoops.
So no point where you’re like, ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen in this section of track, I’m just going to play it safe’? Or just pushing the whole time?
Once all the crashing happened and then I saw where we were at and the gap I had, I backed it down, especially in the whoops. Was definitely thinking a lot in those rhythm sections. I’m like, there’s just a lot of really good guys that have crashed. Something is gnarly with this thing, so yeah, the mindset changed.
Jett, this is back-to-back races now where you’ve been able to sweep the qualifier, the heat and the main event. It’s really coming together, looks great out there. At the same time, I know how much you do respect your competition. How is that a balance for you knowing that there are guys right there, but you are starting to click things off back-to-back?
Yeah, I got a bit of a reality check in the first qualifying. I looked at the tower and I was like P4, I’m like ‘oh, this ain’t good’! Especially this track this weekend, I felt like the times were really, really close, so the boys kept me definitely on my toes and the biggest thing is just making sure I click my lap times off. Just make sure I focus on myself because I can never know where I make a slight mistake and one of these boys capitalizes on that. It’s definitely close racing, but I just need to make sure I focus on myself and should be okay, just don’t make any silly mistakes.
You had a tough run at one point in the main with the lapped riders. Came up to a pack of them, rolled the finish line jump and then they were right there. How did you respond in that moment and get it back together and try to get that lead back up?
This man [Pierce Brown] comes up on the inside. Every guy revs it in the air, this guy was like, silent, didn’t hear anything. Scared the living daylights out of me on the inside, all I see is a front fender, I was not ready for this. It was definitely tough, because the track was pretty tight, and the first few guys that I came up to lapping, it was a big group of four or five and they were going hard, battling and then one guy got up next to me and looked over and he goes hard. I’m like, ‘what?’. The track was tricky because there were so many lines and ruts, so it was harder for them because they’re trying to still hit their line and not mess up anyone else. It was definitely tricky.
With the results, it seems like business as usual, but I’m curious with a lot going on this week, obviously, Kenny [Roczen] pulling out, a lot of team personnel not being there anymore, [Erik] Kehoe leaving last year. How are you able to not deal with that? Is that even in your peripheral? Does any of that ever bother you, anything going on with team stuff?
No, not really because none of it has got to do with me, really. If it has something to do with me, maybe, yeah, but none of it is any of my problem, you could say. I’m not meaning that in a mean way, like I don’t care, but that’s their problem, you could say. I’m focused on my racing and what I get paid to do, so no, it doesn’t affect me much, to be honest.
Can you talk a little bit about what you work on during the week? It looks like you don’t really have a weakness out there and you’re very comfortably at the top of the leaderboard.
I think just clicking off laps and always perfecting with anything, bike, technique, speed, even mentally. I can always be better in a way, so I’m always going through that through the week. I mean everyone has their weakness, I wouldn’t say it was a weakness more so at round two, but you saw a little bit of a glimpse of the old Jett. That’s probably what you could call a bit of my weakness is old Jett, really… Just sending it. Hopefully I can make sure I keep my head down and have to not go into that, but if I do have to, I know I have to make sure that I stay minded with that and make sure I don’t make those same silly mistakes.
It looked like in that qualifying practice that you were off. Your forks looked a little bit soft to me and you couldn’t push. What adjustments did you guys make to remedy your problems with that qualifying?
Sorry to disagree, but they were too stiff! We actually went softer with the front forks. They were going all the way down going into the turn and then when we would hit the bowl turn it was coming back really fast, so we ended up going softer with that to keep the front down. Because that first qualifying I was struggling with my turns more so. Rhythms are rhythms, you can get through them, everyone is pretty equal in those. The main thing on a 250 is those corners, carrying the speed and obviously the whoops. I was more focused on those turns, because the front would go down, it wouldn’t stay in that sweet spot in the stroke and it would come back at me. So, we ended up going a few clicks softer in the front and even in the rear after that. When the track got a bit rougher, the rear started dancing a little bit in the whoops, so we ended up going two clicks faster I think on the high speed and two clicks softer in the front.
There was a lot of talk this week of course with Kenny choosing to bow out and focus on his health, so instantly people start to speculate who could ride the 450. I know Daniel [Blair] was joking on Race Day Live about yourself and your brother potentially getting experience on the opposite coast. Then again, you are in the championship hunt. Would you be interested in riding a 450 when this coast goes on break for a couple rounds or even in the next year or two?
I think I’ll worry about 450 when I get to it, anytime that I’ll have away from Supercross I’ll be focusing on trying to defend the outdoor title, because that’s a whole other basket of stuff. I think I probably won’t. Maybe Hunter, I feel like he’s going to be pretty lethal on a 450. We’ll have to wait and see. In my eyes, I still think he sucks [laughs]. I think any time if I’m away from the east coast, I’m going to be focusing on outdoors. That’s my next main goal is defending that, I know that the boys are going to come in swinging pretty hard.