LAS VEGAS – The ninth annual Monster Energy Cup delivered the excitement promised by the biggest purse and most unique race format of any motorcycle race in the world.
The event brought some new twists to Sam Boyd Stadium this year, with the three Cup Class main events held on three different track variations, each requiring the racers one pass through a slower-route Joker Lane.
With a million dollars to any rider who could sweep the three Main Event format, it was Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Adam Cianciarulo who edged out his teammate – two-time and defending Cup champion Eli Tomac – for the event win and $100,000.
In the process, Cianciarulo proved that even as a 450cc class rookie, he has the speed and the mental nerve to take on the competitive 450cc Supercross Class racers. He also earned sweet redemption in Las Vegas after losing the 250SX West title there back in May.
From the first gate drop, the excitement of 35,424 fans spiked as Cianciarulo grabbed the holeshot in his class debut and looked fast enough to gap the two racers behind him, GEICO Honda’s Jeremy Martin and Smartop/Bullfrog Spas/Motoconcepts Honda’s Malcom Stewart, both in their first appearances since big injuries in previous seasons.
Smartop/Bullfrog Spas/Motoconcepts Honda’s Vince Friese, visiting three-time world champion and Team Honda HRC rider Tim Gajser and defending Monster Energy Cup champion Tomac were right behind the top three.
In the same stadium where a simple mistake cost him a Western Regional 250SX Class Supercross title just five months before, Cianciarulo made another small mistake; the Kawasaki rider washed out the front end in a corner and dropped back to fifth as Friese grabbed the lead.
Tomac reached second place but then lost his bearings on which track section he was on and drastically mis-timed a triple jump. Tomac recovered and on lap six got into the lead.
The top riders waited until the final lap to make their pass through the Joker Lane, a slow section comprised of three steep wall jumps separated by deep, white sand. Tomac took the win, separating himself as the only rider in the running for the million dollars.
His new teammate Cianciarulo crossed the checkered flag close behind in second.
On the podium Tomac said about his mid-race mistake, “… our normal line right now is double double, [but] I went double triple. I totally brain-farted. That’s the track getting me right now. … That was scary.”
The second main event of the Cup Class proved that anything can happen in racing. Jeremy Martin jumped out with the holeshot with Friese close behind. Tomac was buried closer to tenth place than to first, and his teammate Cianciarulo was outside even the top 10.
Tomac went to work fast, at times passing a different rider in two consecutive corners. By lap three he was up to second place, with Friese in sight right ahead. But then Tomac highsided while landing off the roller on the track’s high-speed sweeper.
Tomac jumped back onto the bike, but the crash put him into 10th place and over eight seconds from the leader. At the midpoint Malcom Stewart passed his teammate Friese to take the lead and bring home the win.
It marked Stewart’s first race in nine months after an injury ended his Supercross season.
Stewart was a happy man on the podium.
“Man, we’re already making dreams come true. I’ve already marked things off my checklist,” said Stewart. “It was just to win a Main Event. I said, ‘Let’s go, now the goal is to win this overall.’ … This is what Monster Energy Cup is all about. This is what they wanted, you guys want a … three race battle? Here you go! You got it!”
With Stewart taking the win, Cianciarulo finishing second, and Tomac working his way up to third, those three riders went into the final main tied in points for a winner-take-all Vegas finale.
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