2017 Supercross Week 5 -- By-The-Numbers Recap: Oakland
Another gift from the Supercross season, as Eli Tomac rode an amazing race and provided a second data point to show that the chase for the title is on. Ryan Dungey shook off a mediocre qualifying position and Heat Race, looking fast out of the gate in the Main Event and too fast to catch after a few laps. However, once Tomac settled in, the Phoenix winner resumed his pace from Week 4, narrowing the gap between himself and Dungey with remarkable quickness. And from there, it turned into a blowout, with Tomac finishing 10 seconds ahead of Dungey, who was another 10 seconds ahead of 3rd place finisher Cooper Webb. Tomac vs Dungey could probably fill a whole article, but there's plenty of other interesting things to take a look at, too.
(Note: now interactive, so hover over the lines to see the Rider/Lap/Position.)
(Another note -- they didn't provide riders' positions after the opening section (other than Friese with the Holeshot), so the initial position above is "Start" from the official results, which I believe is at the end of the first segment, but I think it varies by course.)
--Also new, at the very bottom of the article, a laptimes tool to see times of any rider or riders--
You don't need me to tell you that Tomac was much faster than Dungey over the last two-thirds of the Main Event race at Oakland. Nevertheless, it speaks to just how fast Tomac was going that he was faster than Dungey on every single lap from Lap 7 through Lap 21.
Despite having to battle for position from the get go, Tomac's speed was remarkably stable. Outside of Lap 2 when he was still buried between 8th and 6th, and Lap 6 where he was in a 3 way battle with Jason Anderson and Cole Seely, Tomac's laps were within about a half second of each other. Up until Lap 13, that is, when Tomac had a slow lap yet managed to pass Webb -- not sure what happened there (yellow flag?), but his speed immediately increased once he had a clean track between himself and Dungey.
I see 4 sections of the race for Dungey: (1) he got out in front and was running faster than everyone through Lap 6, (2) he was holding his speed more or less through Lap 11, then took a big downturn in laps 12, 13, and 14, (3) he was battling Tomac and sped up a bit through Lap 16, (4) after being passed by Tomac on Lap 17 he cruised in to finish 2nd.
To put this win in context, let's look at the margin of victory for Tomac at Oakland compared to some other Supercross races in this season and the previous one. The top 5 winners in terms of "seconds per lap faster than average" are show below. At Oakland, Tomac was 4.8 seconds per lap faster than the average rider, and that was the fastest of any winner in 2017 or 2016:
Dungey's 2nd place finish at Oakland was 4.04 seconds faster than average per lap -- that is the 7th fastest race. So Dungey's loss was actually at a very fast pace -- he would have won nearly any other race over the past 2 seasons.
The winner's pace versus the average is not always the best way to judge the "dominance" of the win -- The MX Book details some other ways to analyze dominance, especially as it pertains to Dungey, Roczen, and Tomac in the 2016 Supercross season. But for this exercise the above chart is enough to show that Tomac's win at Oakland was quite impressive, and that means that the battle for 2017 Supercross title really is on.
The Rookie Returns
It was definitely an encouraging race for Webb, getting his first 450SX podium, and he kept pace with Tomac and Dungey for the first half of the race.
Not only that, he qualified 1st (by a full second) and won his Heat Race fairly easily. If you look on the bright side, even though he did slow quite a bit in the second half of the race, riders were dealing with a pretty beat up track and Webb hasn't spent all that much time on a 450. Maybe he used a lot of energy trying to hold off Tomac through Lap 12, and when Tomac went by Webb took the speed down a little bit to recover.
The Battle To Be The Forgotten Man In 4th
Seely ran a really consistent race, but it wasn't enough to hold off Anderson. Neither of the two could match Webb's pace in the first half, and while they all traded laps in the back half of the race, Anderson pulled away from Seely with 5 laps (11 through 15) where he was significantly faster than Seely, making the pass in Lap 12:
It wasn't enough to catch Webb though, despite a minor hiccup where Webb got dirt caught in his rear break and had to slow down for a second or two. Webb put up 2 fast laps at the end to close the door.
Another example where consistency throughout the race is not in and of itself a major positive. I've been asked this question before (if you search through the blog), and like in this case, Seely's consistency -- of his recorded 20 lap times, 7 were within 2 tenths of the previous lap (!) and only once was it greater than 1.0 seconds -- didn't equate to more overall speed than his rival for the #4 spot, whose lap times were less consistent.
Back To Normal
Last week, a few guys put up season-best results that were way better than expected. Chad Reed finished 2nd, Davi Millsaps made the Top 5, and Justin Brayton entered the Top 10 all the way up at #6. Each of them regressed back toward prior results, with Reed finishing 8th, Millsaps dropping to 6th (still pretty solid), and Brayton missing the Top 10 in 12th. Each of their lap times, compared to Seely, who's been very consistent week to week:
Reed had to come from way back in the pack -- around 16th -- and you can see that his speed was held down early, probably fighting through traffic, and was pretty good late (faster than Seely for most of the second half). Millsaps started in the Top 10 but didn't have the speed to catch Seely or the other frontrunners. Brayton was never really in it, starting in 15th and only gaining 3 spots; he qualified 11th, was 7th in his Heat Race, and was 3rd in his Semi Race, so it just wasn't his night.
Blake Baggett managed to keep the momentum from Week 4, finishing 7th at Oakland, equal to his season-best 7th a week ago. This despite having some sort of issue in laps 6, 7, and 8:
Marvin Musquin failed to return to form in the opposite direction. He slipped from 2nd to 9th in Week 4, and while he seemed to have his mojo back at Oakland -- 2nd in qualifying and 2nd in his Heat Race -- he had a problem with his arm/hand around Lap 6. He was in 6th place at the time, then dropped to 17th and could only make his way back up to 9th.
Malcolm Being Malcolm?
For the third time in three tries, Malcolm Stewart looked pretty good in qualifying and his Heat Race then had a crash in the Main Event. In Oakland he was running 6th when the crash happened, but prior to the crash he was riding around the same speed as eventual 6th place finisher Millsaps:
Stewart finished 17th, which is more or less in line with his prediction of 16th for Oakland. He's a 450 rookie and he got a late start to the season compared to most everybody else -- but at some point that excuse is going to wear thin (although last week the crash was not really his fault as he got put down during a block pass from Millsaps).
- Jake Weimer rebounded at Oakland -- following a crash and a 21st place finish at Phoenix -- to finish 13th, his second best of 2017.
- Dean Wilson shook off a bit of a scare -- he went down in his Semi Race and managed to get through via the LCQ. He finished 10th in the Main Event, his best of the season (not by much though, as he's gone 13 / 12 / 11 / 11).
- Broc Tickle also put his season best, in 11th, although again not by much (he was 12th at A2).
- While we're on season bests, Vince Friese (14th), Nick Schmidt (16th), Alex Ray (18th), Cade Clason (19th), and Adam Enticknap (20th) all put up their best result so far in 2017.
- On the other side is Justin Bogle who crashed out (or had a mechanical) for a DNF and 22nd, and Josh Grant who qualified but didn't enter any of the races (I didn't hear why).
With another impressive victory, Tomac keeps the result of the 2017 Supercross season in doubt. Naysayers might claim that the Phoenix track was long and spread out, while the Oakland track got especially torn up and rutty like a MX track, both of which plays to Tomac's skills more than Dungey's. But even so, Tomac's win was by 10+ seconds each time.
Yes, Tomac's still down 17 points, which would mean he needs 6 more wins (with Dungey in 2nd) out of 12 races. AND Tomac needs to add another win for any race that Dungey tops him, so of the remaining 6 races (hypothetically assuming that Tomac wins the 6 races necessary to close the points gap) if Dungey wins 3, then Tomac needs to win the other 3 -- that means 9 wins (that is, 9 races where he finishes ahead of Dungey) out of 12. Beating Dungey in 9 out of 12 races is a tall order, but that's what it's going to take unless Dungey has a major slip up -- and if you wait around for Dungey to make a major mistake, you're going to be hanging out for a while.