In a stadium devoid of fans but fulfilling the promise of the full 17-round 2020 Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, Round 11 Presented by Toyota, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac took the 450SX Class victory after some early-race battles at round 11 in Rice-Eccles Stadium. Red Bull KTM’s Cooper Webb fought his way up to, then defended the second-place position, and Team Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen held onto the bike during a scary near-crash in the closing laps to grab the final spot on the podium. In the Eastern Regional 250SX Class, Monster Energy / Star Yamaha Racing’s Shane McElrath took the top spot.
When the gate dropped after an unprecedented 85-day break in the season, Rocky Mountain ATV/MC KTM WPS’ Blake Baggett jumped into the lead ahead of Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Adam Cianciarulo and Team Honda HRC’s Justin Brayton. Cianciarulo went down hard early while the three main title contenders, Webb, Tomac, and Roczen, battled and scrapped in tight formation. Tomac at one point dropped back to fifth, then found a pace no one could match and marched his way to the front.
Six and a half minutes into the race Tomac got by Webb, and a minute and a half later the Kawasaki rider was past Baggett and never challenged for the lead. It marked Tomac’s sixth victory in 2020 and complemented his win in Daytona, Florida on March 7, the previous round in the modified 2020 Supercross schedule. The win stretched Tomac’s championship points lead from three to eight.
Tomac said from the victory podium, “It’s so cool to get to go back to racing here in Salt Lake City and get back to riding and racing and doing what we know. Overall, awesome day there. The track got really slick at the end, lots of dust flying and lots of hunting for traction. I was a little slower early on, got to improve on that next time, especially if these guys up their game. So overall, really good day for points and just thanks to everyone.”
In the Eastern Regional 250SX Class it was 2020 opening round division winner Shane McElrath leading from the drop of the gate until the checkered flag. The win closed McElrath to within 7 points of the championship lead with four rounds remaining in the division. Eastern Regional points leader GEICO Honda’s Chase Sexton was third at the holeshot line and quickly into second by the second corner. Sexton kept within two seconds of McElrath for most of the race but could never make a pass attempt. Utah-local Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Garrett Marchbanks, winner of the previous round 85 days prior, was fifth off the start; two and a half minutes into the racing he got into third with an aggressive contact-pass on GEICO Honda’s Jeremy Martin and held the position until the end.
Fresh from the win, McElrath said, “This is what we work to do. We had, I wouldn’t say some struggles, but it was like a big learning curve for me the first four rounds [on my new team]. Our results don’t show the progress we made. And now I’ve gotten to spend another 85 days since our last race on this bike and working with the team and making changes; and man, it’s been a growing time, not only mentally, physically, but also spiritually. The Lord is using this time, whether you believe it or not, I believe that this is for a reason and I want to be a light. I want to honor this team and the Monster Energy Star Racing team. They want to win, they’re competitive, and I feel like I fit right in there.”
The Salt Lake City round kicked off seven races to run over the next three weeks. Races will take place and air live every Sunday and Wednesday, each held at an elevation of 4,637-feet inside the University of Utah’s football stadium, to complete the full 17-round 2020 series on June 21.
Feld Entertainment’s Responsible Return to Racing has enabled the world’s premiere action sport to return for the fans, racers, and teams. The compressed but not truncated schedule allows the completion of the full seventeen-round series. The original Round 11, scheduled for Indianapolis on March 14 was the first race in the sport’s history to be cancelled.
In a sport that traditionally brings racing to stadiums across the continent, Feld Entertainment’s new schedule keeps racers and teams in one city. They will adapt to the high altitude, alternating race-time schedules, more frequent rounds, social distancing guidelines, and the empty stadium seats; the 2020 events averaged 49,953 screaming fans through the previous ten stadium rounds.