2017 Supercross Week 8 -- By-The-Numbers Recap: Atlanta
Even though the comeback fell short, it made for a riveting 450 Supercross race, as Eli Tomac slashed into Ryan Dungey's lead, lap after lap. After the opening lap, Dungey (in 1st) had an approximate lead over Tomac (in 9th) of approximately 5.7 seconds (according to the broadcast -- the official times for Lap 1 aren't published). The rest of the way, Tomac was faster than Dungey by an average of 0.20 seconds per lap -- so in 23 laps he made up 4.6 seconds, leaving a gap of (approximately) just more than a second ("provisional" results said Tomac trailed Dungey by 1.5 seconds at the finish). That doesn't tell the whole story, so there's more in the details below.
(Note: now interactive, so hover over the lines to see the Rider/Lap/Position.)
As mentioned above, Dungey got out in front quickly, with the Holeshot, then pulled away immediately. The only rider who had a chance at catching him was Tomac, and as we know now, there wasn't enough time left in the race for the comeback to happen. While Tomac was 0.2 seconds per lap faster on average over laps 2 through 24, that doesn't really express how much faster Tomac actually was once both he and Dungey got away from traffic:
In Lap 8, Tomac got around Justin Bogle, freeing Tomac up for a fast lap in Lap 9. In Lap 10, he got around Cole Seely, freeing Tomac up to go after Blake Baggett, who was in 2nd. Tomac would pass Baggett in Lap 17, opening up the course (with the exception of lappers) for a shot at catching Dungey. Based on that, starting at Lap 11--when Tomac had only Baggett/nobody between himself and Dungey--the times put up by Tomac were 0.70 seconds per lap faster. The total time made up by Tomac was 9.8 seconds in 14 laps!
Some of that may have been Dungey cruising just a bit. He definitely had 5 laps at the very end where his times seemed somewhat slower (see above), but whether that was the result of him being cautious with a 6+ second lead or the track continuing to deteriorate is unclear. Especially on Lap 24, where Dungey's time was way slower than any of his previous laps. If we exclude that last lap, the advantage for Tomac falls from 0.70 seconds per lap to 0.61. Still remarkable and still making up 8.0 seconds over 13 laps.
Tomac, not surprisingly, would put up the fastest lap of the night (51.926), and Dungey's best time (52.591) was 5th fastest overall and over a half-second slower than Tomac's (0.665 seconds slower, to be exact, which lines up very coincidentally with the per-lap margin of Tomac over Dungey during the last half of the race).
The Other Podium Contenders
I wondered if Baggett just got a hot start and rode it out to his 3rd place finish, but that was only partly the case. He rode close to Dungey's speed early and late, with some not so fast laps in the middle, for instance laps 9 through 13:
While Baggett was able to follow Dungey's strategy of getting out front then holding on, Jason Anderson had to try Tomac's plan of coming from behind. Anderson had an even bigger gap to make up, as he finished Lap 1 in 11th, compared to Tomac's 9th. Anderson did actually ride a pace similar to Tomac's from lap 13 (when Anderson passed Seely to get into 4th) through the end of the race:
And if you exclude the odd result on the last lap (not sure what happened there -- maybe Anderson crashed?), Anderson was just slightly faster (!) than Tomac -- 52.55 seconds per lap compared to Tomac's 52.61 seconds. Selective endpoints and all that, but no one else could say they were faster than Tomac over that many laps (well, Dungey).
The other two who might have mounted a challenge, were Seely who ran in 3rd early but finished 6th, and Marvin Musquin who did nearly match Tomac's pace for several laps in the second half of the race (laps 13 through 21) and made his way into 5th by the finish (from 13th).
With all of the action going on in the front of the race, we didn't see a lot of what went on behind the leaders, even in the back half of the Top 10. See the graph below where you can select the rider(s) to see how any of them stack up in terms of their lap times. Some notables:
- Chad Reed was looking good, qualified 2nd and was 2nd in his Heat Race. He was riding in 5th in the Main Event, but went down in Lap 6 in the whoops, dropping back to 13th. Reed would recover to a reasonably good finish in 7th, though.
- Mike Alessi continued his run of good-to-decent results, following up his 13th (Arlington) and 10th (Minneapolis) with a 12th at Atlanta. He qualified 18th and was 7th in his Heat Race, each of which is not exactly great, but he got through to the Main Event via his Semi race (4th). He got a good start, coming out of the opening section in 2nd and managed to hold that position until Lap 3. He was even in 7th through Lap 13, but would slide back from there.
- Early on, Trey Canard was looking like his pre-injury self, qualifying 6th and winning his Semi Race (was 11th in his Heat Race due to a bad start or problem at the opening lap because he was 17th after Lap 1). But in the Main Event, he came through the opening section in 16th, then dropped to 18th during Lap 1, and only made it back to 11th.
- Recently returning from injury, Justin Barcia was still seeming a little rusty in his second race back, qualifying 16th, finishing 5th in his Heat Race and 3rd in his Semi Race. In the Main Event it got worse, when he came through the opening section in 22nd -- it looked like he got run into a tuffblock on the inside line of the first turn. From 22nd, he was then only able to climb back up to 16th (albeit a 1 spot improvement over his result in Minneapolis).
With that win, Dungey increases his lead to 25 points over Musquin and 27 over Tomac. Only 9 races remain, so the window is getting extremely narrow for a possible comeback. Tomac would need to win every remaining race to be guaranteed enough points to catch up, and falling short of that Tomac or Musquin need a mistake by Dungey. And that's something that nobody should be counting on.