In a rather ordinary season marked by multiple injuries forcing many contenders to the sidelines, the 2018 Monster Energy Supercross series settles three Championships on Saturday at the final round in Las Vegas with the highest drama expected all year.
Jason Anderson now fully understands the meaning of misfortune. Last week in Salt Lake City, he just needed fourth-place or higher to clinch the title, a feat accomplished up to that point in every single round except one this year. Thus, he was widely expected to wrap his first 450 class Championship then he went down in the first turn as Eli Tomac's footpeg snapped a handful of spokes in Anderson's front tire. Anderson pulled off to the mechanic's area and as they switched wheels he exuded the type of anxiety seen only by invested audience members of horror films watching the killer chase down the heroic protagonist. Once Anderson got going he was two laps down, ultimately finished 17th and second-place Marvin Musquin, who won, carved 20 points off Anderson's lead.
Jason Anderson has finished in the Top 10 every round this year except one
The sequel, out this weekend, gives Anderson a second shot at glory as he carries a 14 point lead to Round 17 and this time just needs to finish 10th to guarantee the title. Meanwhile, Musquin holds several sets of cards to claim his first 450 class Championship. Obviously if he ends the season with the points lead, but if Musquin wins, finishes second or third and ties Anderson in points, Musquin gets the title. Musquin has finished in the Top 3, six straight rounds and 10 of the last 11 rounds. A fourth-place finish for Musquin while tying Anderson in points gives Anderson the title. At any rate, a 34 point lead dropped to 14 feels much shakier than a five point lead extended to 14 for the final round.
Marvin Musquin's Championship hopes very much alive heading into the final round on Saturday
Regardless, Musquin still needs help, probably won't find it and might run into some trouble. Two weeks ago he dropped Tomac on the last lap for the win which brought some passionate words by Tomac (has anybody nicknamed him Tom Cat yet?) at the press conference and Musquin scrambling for an explanation then giving a half-hearted apology. But if Musquin somehow takes this Championship and (gasp) wins it by three points, well, now you know why he made such an aggressive move on the last lap for the win in a waning round of the season.
Anderson just needs a solid ride but if necessary Tomac certainly would relish playing spoiler.
Elsewhere, Justin Brayton who won his first career Supercross race this year becoming the oldest ever, can post his best season finish since 2012 when he landed fourth on the tie-breaker to third-place Ryan Dungey. Brayton enters Las Vegas in fourth-place tied with fifth-place Blake Baggett who took third last week behind Tomac, his first podium since Round 7. Both will finish in the Top 5, regardless of other rider's outcomes.
A Top 12 finish on Saturday makes Zach Osborne a two-time 250SX East Champion
Championship drama also defines the 250SX West and East classes which meet for the second time this season with Zach Osborne holding on to a 15 point lead for the East and Aaron Plessinger bringing in a 13 point lead for the West.
Osborne, the defending East Champion, showed what repeat Champions do the last time out with a wire-to-wire domination of the field in Foxborough. He grabbed the holeshot and checked out tailed only by Jordon Smith who finished less than two seconds back while everyone else was more than 30 seconds behind. Smith, who was in line for the Championship last year until he crashed in Las Vegas, needs 16 points to avoid losing the tie-breaker and take the title from Osborne. Third-place Jeremy Martin carries an outside shot at 23 points back.
A Top 10 finish on Saturday guarantees Aaron Plessinger the 2018 250SX West Championship
Meanwhile, Plessinger rolled along somewhat comfortably in Salt Lake City taking fourth-place while Shane McElrath won for the first time since the season opener, keeping his slim Championship hopes alive. McElrath sits in fourth-place, 24 points behind Plessinger but more realistically can erase a two point deficit and catch third-place Joey Savatgy for a spot on the Championship podium with another win.
Second-place Adam Cianciarulo who dominated Las Vegas last year, losing the East Championship by two points behind Osborne, poses the biggest challenge to Plessinger but he has yet to win this year despite six podiums. He has finished 2-2-3-2 the last four rounds, a 12 point total advantage over Plessinger. He was also the only West rider to reach the podium when both classes faced each other in Indianapolis.
Lots of plot twist potential here as well with Savatgy unlikely to forget Osborne dumping him on the final lap last year in Las Vegas which secured the 2017 East Championship for Osborne and dropped Savatgy to third-place for the season. Both Savatgy and Cianciarulo switched coasts this year. Plessinger finished third in Las Vegas last year and probably brings the least drama to Sam Boyd this year as another cruise around the track for a Top 10 guarantees him his first Supercross title.
Our Podium Picks for Las Vegas:
- Eli Tomac
- Marvin Musquin
- Blake Baggett
- Jeremy Martin
- Adam Cianciarulo
- Zach Osborne
Check out the track map for Round 17:
Expect a helping of summer with sunny skies and a high in the low 90s. Doors for practice and qualifying open at 12 p.m. (PST) and the gates drop for Round 17 at 7 p.m. (PST) Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. Buy tickets online or at the box office. FOX Sports 1 airs the race live.
2018 Supercross Season Standings
- Jason Anderson (338)
- Marvin Musquin (324)
- Eli Tomac (292)
- Justin Brayton (264)
- Blake Baggett (264)
- Weston Peick (235)
- Dean Wilson (193)
- Broc Tickle (184)
- Cooper Webb (181)
- Justin Barcia (163)
250SX East Class
- Zach Osborne (180)
- Jordon Smith (165)
- Jeremy Martin (157)
- Austin Forkner (137)
- Luke Renzland (109)
- Kyle Peters (107)
- Sean Cantrell (96)
- Brandon Hartranft (89)
- Anthony Rodriguez (72)
- John Short (58)
250SX West Class
- Aaron Plessinger (196)
- Adam Cianciarulo (183)
- Joey Savatgy (174)
- Shane McElrath (172)
- Chase Sexton (150)
- Justin Hill (128)
- Kyle Chisholm (124)
- Mitchell Harrison (115)
- Christian Craig (106)
- Phil Nicoletti (94)