Salt Lake City Supercross – the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

250 Class
The Good: Justin Hill | 3rd Place

Justin Hill is your 2017 250 West Coast Champion! I really didn’t expect for him to be crowned as the champ a week early, but a crash from Aaron Plessinger gave him the points he needed to go ahead and claim the number one plate. It’s been a long time coming for Justin, that’s for sure. He’s been in the class for five years, and while he’s periodically shown that he’s fast and capable of winning, he’s also struggled to stay consistent and healthy. This year, though, things were very different. Yes, he was a little off the pace at the first few rounds as he recovered from a shoulder injury, but he started to really turn things up at round three in Anaheim and clicked off four straight wins. Combine those wins with Shane McElrath’s unfortunate mechanical issue in Arlington, and he had a pretty nice points gap with three rounds left. He managed that points gap in Seattle, and then he was able to wrap it all up in Salt Lake City.

No doubt a well-deserved championship for both Justin Hill and Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki. This is, after all, Mitch’s first Supercross championship since 2011. That’s a very rare drought for Mitch and company, but luckily it’s over now. Now, could we see Pro Circuit claim the East Coast Championship as well? We’ll have to wait and see.

The Good Bonus: Troy Lee Designs KTM

Man, Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/KTM has had a breakout year. All four of the team’s riders have podiumed, and two have won. That’s a big step up for KTM’s somewhat new factory 250 effort, which has seen improvement in race results every year since taking over the program.

Anyway, Shane McElrath rode one heck of a race to claim the victory, while Mitchell Oldenburg came through the pack to grab second. We can only wonder what may have happened if Oldenburg hadn’t been injured during practice in San Diego. In his two races back, he’s been on the podium both times and has had the pace to challenge for the win. His starts haven’t been that great, but that’s what makes these rides even more impressive. It’ll be interesting to see what he (and Shane) can do in 2018. For now, though, the team’s focus will shift over to the 250 East Coast Championship, where Jordon Smith is still in the hunt for the title.

The Bad: The Championship is Over

Like I said, it’s awesome that Justin Hill won the title, but I prefer to watch the championships go down to the wire in Las Vegas. I mean, that’s what every fan wants, right? A close title fight all that way down to the end. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen. Oh well, at least Justin has nothing to lose in Vegas. Maybe he’ll hang it out and claim the East/West Shootout win like he did in 2014.

The Ugly: Aaron Plessinger | 22nd Place

It was going so well for Plessinger… running at the front until he went down hard in the whoops. Just like that, he was done for the night, and so were his championship hopes. He had an outside shot at the championship, but I’m sure he wanted to take it to Vegas and put the pressure on Justin to make a mistake. He did show that he has the speed to absolutely dominate this class over the past two weeks, but it just wasn’t mean to happen this year. I’d bet some serious dough that he’s going to be a heavy title favorite no matter which coast he’s on next year, though.

450 Class
The Good: Eli Tomac | 1st Place

Salt Lake City provided us with the best main event of the 2017 Supercross season, and it’s all thanks to Eli Tomac. He was around 18th going into the first corner. Yes, 18th! He then sliced through the field pretty well on the first lap, crossing the line in around tenth place. From there, we witnessed one of the best charges in quite a while. He was around one second a lap faster than everyone else, every lap. That kind of pace got him up into second pretty quickly, and then right onto the back of Ryan Dungey. It wasn’t a long battle, by any means, but it was the battle that we’ve been wanting to see for weeks now. After doing a bit of dicing back and forth, Tomac was able to make the pass stick in the corner after the whoops (which is where he made the majority of his passes) and opened up a four-second gap within about two laps. At that point he looked like he was out for a Sunday cruise and went on to win his ninth race of the season, and take sole control of the red plate…which he’ll be looking to hold onto until Las Vegas.

This main event reminded me a lot of a couple of older races. First up is Toronto 2014, where James Stewart came from way back to take the win. As far as Tomac’s career goes, though, his ride in Salt Lake City reminded me of his Las Vegas ride in 2013. He took a couple of laps to get going, but once he was rolling there was no way he was going to be denied the win. Watch ’em. They’re well worth it.

The sad truth is that races like the one we got in Salt Lake don’t happen all that often, but it’ll be one that we’ll remember for a long, long time.

The Bad: Ryan Dungey | 2nd Place

Hey, remember a while back when I said it wasn’t time to press the panic button yet? Well, I think it’s time to press the panic button, or maybe even smash it with a hammer. The start of the main event was perfect for Dungey. He got a good start and moved his way into the lead on the first lap, and Eli Tomac was buried. But that’s about as good as it got for him, as Tomac ripped through the field, passed him, and then dropped him. This race had to put a dent in Dungey’s confidence, and you gotta wonder how much he’s willing to hang it out in these last two races to try and claim his third straight title. He’s been the hunted all season, but now he is the hunter. Could that change his mentality some? We’ll see.

The Ugly: Justin Bogle | 21st Place

Another rough weekend for Justin. It seems like I’ve been saying (or at least thinking) that phrase a lot this season. It hasn’t gone anything like Justin was probably envisioning before the season started. Crashes, mediocre finishes, and a few minor injuries pretty much sum up the year for him. He has had a few semi wins which is nice, but that’s probably not all what he wants to accomplish in the 450 class. The most frustrating part about this season for Justin has to be that he’s been pretty dang fast. Speed is not the problem here. But the random crashes and occasional bad starts have really made it look rather disappointing on paper. I’m not sure if Justin will be back at RCH Suzuki next year, but I definitely think that he deserves at least one more season on a full factory bike. There’s a lot of potential in him, he just hasn’t fully unlocked it yet.