In the last eight years, only two riders won Monster Energy AMA Supercross championships — and both were named Ryan.
The retirements of Ryan Villopoto (after the 2014 series) and Ryan Dungey (after last season) have arguably left the biggest vacancy in the history of Supercross. With defending champ Dungey leaving the crown vacant after three straight titles, race fans are now looking at what you might call Supercross AD — After Dungey.
We talked with former racer and Supercross “Race Day Live” host Jim Holley to get his perspective on the key players in Supercross heading into the new season.
The question is: Who will step up and fill the void left by these two iconic champions. One thing is certain, unless Chad Reed somehow pulls off the biggest miracle in the sport, a new Supercross champion will be crowned in 2018.
Speaking of Reed, as of this writing the 35-year-old, two-time series champion was without a ride. He’s spoken of doing a small-scale team on his own, riding KTMs, but if he is not in the field for the opener at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif., it will mark the first time, possibly since the beginning of the series, that there is not a former champ in the gate.
When looking at the 2018 lineup and the riders most likely to win Supercross AD, one naturally looks to Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac. Tomac was runner-up in last year’s Supercross series to Dungey and he’s coming off a championship-winning season in Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross.
The line on Tomac is that he’s a better motocross rider than Supercross. He probably wouldn’t argue with that statement, but Tomac is still mighty potent in the stadiums.
Keep in mind, Tomac won nine rounds of the series last winter and was in contention for the championship all the way to the final round. He only finished five points behind Dungey and until shown otherwise, Tomac has to be considered the favorite to win this year’s Supercross title.
The only knock against Tomac is that he can at times be inconsistent and has shown a tendency to crash and crash big. Tomac suffered another one of those massive get-offs during the Monster Energy Cup in Las Vegas. He walked away beat up, but not broken and will have plenty of time to recover and get back on track prior to the Jan. 6 Supercross opener in Anaheim.
“A lot of people have Tomac pegged as the next champion and he could be,” said Holley. “But he’ll have his hands full. You never know what might happen in Supercross. Look at what happened to Eli at the Monster Energy Cup. He got lucky there. He could have ended up with a broken shoulder or something like that.
“Eli can get down on himself if he starts getting beat, so for him it’s important to go out and win early and build that confidence. If he does he’s going to be tough.”
If teams win championships, then you need look no further than Red Bull KTM, the Roger DeCoster-led team that has won the Supercross title three years straight. With Dungey retired, Frenchman Marvin Musquin becomes the No. 1 rider for the powerful team.
Musquin looks primed to finally reach the top rung of the championship ladder. At the Monster Energy Cup in Las Vegas during October, Musquin won all three motos to earn the $1 million bonus. He looked so strong in Vegas that many pundits immediately leapfrogged Musquin over Tomac as the preseason favorite to win. There’s no question Musquin, who finished third in the Supercross series in 2017 and scored a pair of victories, has the skills to win the championship.