The 2017 Monster Energy Supercross Series is officially over. Ryan Dungey clinched the Championship and I cannot remember another series more entertaining. Obviously, I have to start with the 450 class and what could have been Ryan Dungey’s last Supercross race. Going into the 2017 season all the talk centered on Ken Roczen and his new Honda, and Roczen did not disappoint. He came out swinging in the first two rounds, winning the opener and out dueling Dungey in San Diego. San Diego appeared to be the start of many storylines. Dungey showed us he wasn't going down without a fight, and then ar A2 Roczen experienced his horrific crash and subsequent injury. At this point message boards and industry insiders all speculated Dungey was on cruise control to his 4th title. Eli Tomac was a favorite entering the series but after struggling for the first three rounds everybody was speculating about his bike, fitness and mental status. Whatever he was battling in the first three rounds he quickly fixed, and the Glendale SX began Eli’s domination. Where Eli dominated, Dungey's foundation began to crack. In the postrace press conference Dungey broke character and let loose on me!
Looking back it is clear Dungey’s motivation entering the 2017 season appeared to be aimed at Roczen. When Roczen became injured , Dungey lost his motivation and was reminded of his mortality (similar to Rick Johnson the year after David Bailey became paralyzed). But Dungey is not a champion by accident. While battling inner demons and a noticeable burnout he still maintained consistency and managed his point lead. As many champions do, Dungey has established a ridiculous expectation from fans and media. Anything less than a win had fans and media questioning, “What's wrong with Dungey?” The season stress only increased for Dungey and he looked like he was ready to wave the white flag after Salt Lake City. This shifted all pressure directly to Eli and it became his championship to lose. Like Ricky Carmichael said, “the red plate pressure” had Eli floundering in East Rutherford. Even if Marvin Musquin didn't pull over for Dungey in East Rutherford Ryan was leaving with the points lead heading into the final round in Las Vegas.
Marvin Musquin pulling over and basically handing KTM and Dungey 3 points in East Rutherford could have turned into a poor strategic move by KTM. Heading into Vegas, Dungey had a 9 point lead, and Musquin’s move justified in any tactics Eli chose in his attempt to claim the Championship. From the pre-race press conference it was clear Tomac wasn't going down without a fight. I spoke with some industry insiders and told them I thought Eli would get dirty if needed and they scoffed at the idea. They assumed Kawasaki didn’t want the title in that way. I disagreed and during an event with Andrew Short I asked him his thoughts. Andrew replied, “I wouldn't want to hurt him, but yea you have to take a shot.” Eli not only took a shot, he took three! He slowed the race pace and if not for Jason Anderson acting as Dungey's wingman Eli’s plan might have worked. When the pace slowed, Chad Reed sensed a chance to win. Reed does not care about other’s agendas or any championship in which he can't win and saw an opportunity to grab a win. Luckily for Dungey his wingman straight t-boned Reed ending his shot at being the oldest rider to ever win a Monster Energy Supercross. Eli made one last Hail Mary attempt by letting Dungey pass in order to try and take him out. In the process this allowed Anderson to squeak past and steal the race win. Dungey realized he had a big gap back to 5th place and stopped taking Eli’s bait. Dungey became the 2017 Monster Energy Supercross Champion in what was likely his last Supercross race, even though he declined to announce as he had previously promised.
The Dave Coombs Sr. Memorial East/West Shootout may have been the best race I have ever seen and Supercross winner David Vuillimin agreed. Here is Vuillimin’s tweet after the race: “I've just witnessed the best SX race in history... #CongratsZacho.” Typically the press box is reserved, with cheering and yelling at a minimum. When Zach caught Joey Savatgy and made the pass the press box erupted, not because they were fans of Osborne but because we all realized we had just seen a race that will be talked about for years to come. Zach's performance was one that parents will reference when teaching their kids discipline and the importance of never giving up. As bad as Savatgy has to feel, he was part of a historic race that will remembered for a long time. As exciting as the race was it was equally disappointing for both Savatgy and Jordan Smith who both were in positions to win the Championship. Savatgy appears to have something going on with him mentally. He reminds me of Chuck Knoblauch, the second baseman for the Yankees who forgot how to throw to first base: (https://honesthypnosis.com/2013/03/what-really-happened-to-chuck-knoblauch/). Hopefully Savatgy can get this corrected. I was also glad to hear Smith was alright after his frightening crash heading into the stadium. He smashed into the side of the track going about 70mph and that easily could have been life altering.
The sport of Supercross is the most exciting form of Motorsports! I will argue this with anyone who is up for a debate. Supercross is changing the format for next year, at least there are serious discussions about making changes. The changes I want to see have to do with the rule book and how rules are enforced, but I have a different article for that, here is a link to Part 1: https://www.thumpertalk.com/articles/john-gallagher-bottom-line-it-ends-with-me-r671/