Colorado’s Eli Tomac made supercross history on Saturday evening at the house Big Bill France built: Daytona International Speedway.
It what was a record-breaking night for veteran racer Tomac, who recorded his sixth victory in the premiere 450SX class at Daytona, making him the winningest rider at the storied racing facility and breaking a standing tie between him and five-time Monster Energy AMA Supercross Champion Ricky Carmichael. The historic win also ushered Tomac into a tie for fifth all-time with Ryan Villopoto for career 450SX main event victories (41).
For now, however, Tomac, primarily wants to focus on the 2022 Monster Energy Supercross Championship and his 18-point advantage in the title chase.
Q: Eli, how does it feel to hold down this Daytona Supercross record and know that it’s going to be a tough record to have broken?
ELI TOMAC: It’s unreal. I think back on it, I just think of this place and it’s one of those places where it’s either good for you or it’s not. It’s just been really good for me.
Today though, I had a lot of doubt in my mind. To be honest, I was not feeling great in practice. I was dinking with clickers and going back and forth on stuff. I felt like I had my work cut out for me. But once the lights came on, it was like everything started working again. Six is crazy.
Q: During the last couple of laps you were catching up to Cooper Webb: It was kind of yo-yo back and forth a little bit. What were you thinking there with maybe two or three to go? Did you have a spot? Did you think you had a spot?
ET: Yeah, it was yo-yo. The problem is I thought I was catching him a little bit in the whoops but then he would pull me actually after that, I think around the finish line and then even a little bit before the whoops through the tunnel.
So I could never really get really close to him. That lap that the pass happened, I was a little bit closer and then obviously it was a gift on the exit of the whoops. It was crazy wire to wire. We were just on rails really that whole race.
Q: I think this is the most points you’ve had leaving round nine on your 450 career. So, can you talk about just the championship and obviously the little bit of shake-up with Jason [Anderson] back there? You gained a lot of points on him leaving today.
ET: It’s just racing. We put ourselves in a good position. I credit that to everyone around me. Just a good group as a whole. Thankful to do it here tonight with the win.
Q: Was there any point in that race where you were looking to the championship? Were you going to settle for second, or the whole time did you just want to get that win?
ET: I was thinking that. I even glanced up at the big tower to see where Jason was, and then when I saw that it was like, ‘second, I may have to settle with that’. At the same time, [at] Daytona, anything can happen. I kind of kept trucking along, and that was it.
I never felt like I was in a position getting too wild or too crazy. Just trying to stay on Cooper’s wheel as much as I could.
Q: Towards the end of that we saw the bike was starting to get hot, [with] coolant coming out. Did the team allude to you at all that this was happening? Did you ever have the thought, we might need to back this thing down and run it home for points?
ET: I had no idea. They did mention it to me afterwards, but it was probably that sand and the way the whole track is. It’s just a beast. It’s like the Southwick of supercross. It’s torn up. The ruts are all crazy. Before the tunnel jump, the rut was more than above the pegs. We were making this tiny lip on the side. It was putting the bikes to the test.
Q: When you were behind Cooper going into that sand corner, were you able to see at all?
ET: It was just a sand blast. You can kind of see and you’re just hoping that the rut doesn’t go away. The right-hander was the sketchy one, for sure. It was getting a big hook in it, a big hockey-stick rut in it. You get sprayed in that turn, really bad. As much as it covers your hands. You can feel it on your grips and your hands. That section is tough.
Q: At the start of that one, you kind of got stuck in the middle of the stuff that was going on between Malcolm Stewart and Jason Anderson. Was there a point there where you kind of just sat back and let it play out in front of you?
ET: Yeah. Turn two was just sketchy, it was like a big sandwich. I went in and I tried to half guard the inside. It’s always tough to know how far you need to go inside on that second turn. I came in and I ended up bumping into Malcolm, and then Jason came inside of me and bumped me.
Then it was a little bit of an explosion and Malcolm went flying off the track. That was it. I was just in a sandwich. Turn two is always like that for us in supercross. It seems like there’s always some sort of contact. [I was] lucky to get out of that one clean.
Q: Obviously you saw the chaos and the excitement from the crowd out there. I would argue that winning your sixth here is as big or bigger than winning a supercross title. Can you comment on that?
ET: It doesn’t top the title, but it’s very cool. I don’t know what it is with this place, but it’s just worked for me. It’s clicked for me. That’s the mindset you have to have here and how you have to go about the day here. It was so cool.
That was the biggest crowd we’ve had here and with the best energy. Not even close. It was cool to see.
Q: I know in every race there’s sketchy moments. You guys were talking about the track, there was a moment watching it on TV coming out of the whoops where you got really sideways, maybe four or five minutes left, and you still did the triple afterwards.
Do moments like that stand out post-race? Do you even remember that moment?
ET: I remember it a little bit. It was a pretty good step out, but not anything that was like, “Oh, my. I need to change up my line.” Maybe it looked worse. I felt like I was okay in there for what it was.
Q: Did you guys notice a difference once you guys were able to go through the practice and through the different heats, between that last heat and the main event, did you guys notice any difference in your mindset when you headed into the main event?
ET: Yeah, this track is a whole other beast. It changes the whole night, the whole day. I would say this year specifically, it was even more broken down by the end of the night. Bigger ruts, more lines. Just super challenging. You u have to ride super-hard here.
I think it’s because it has so much sand in it, it’s like rushing things a lot of times doesn’t work and you have to focus on momentum and traction and not making a mistake.
There’s so many places when it gets torn up like this where you can make the mistake and guys can sneak away. Here you’ve got to master the sand and think about traction.