Defending Monster Energy Cup Champion Ken Roczen crossed the checkers first in Moto 1 and Moto 3 just like he did last year, but a gnarly crash in Moto 2 ended any chance of winning the million dollars or being the first ever repeat Champion.
Instead, Eli Tomac became the sixth winner in six years of the event with the 2016 installment held on Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas.
This year's Monster Cup featured an unprecedented 45 foot-high elevated start built into the grandstands with a 33 degree decline and a 165 foot drop from gate to floor. Blake Baggett struck first grabbing the holeshot in Moto 1 but was quickly overcome by Roczen and just like he did all summer in Motocross, grabbed the lead on the first lap and never looked back.
Tomac made the pass for second on Lap 2 and never could get around the blistering fast Roczen, who was competing in his first race on a Honda. Ryan Dungey, who returned to action last week in Germany for the first time since cracking a vertebra in his neck at Round 3 of Motocross, finished third.
Roczen, who switched teams and bikes during the off-season, leaving Suzuki for Honda, said he was happy with how the bike responded. By all accounts, he looked no different than the Roczen who won 20 of 24 Motos during his Championship clinching Motocross season on Yellow.
Roczen appeared on his way to a second Moto win when he grabbed the holeshot in Moto 2 with Tomac right behind as well as Chad Reed and Dungey. But with just three laps remaining Roczen catapulted off his bike in the roller section ending his race as well as a chance for the $1 million payout. Tomac took the lead and easily beat Dungey and Marvin Musquin, who finished third.
To win the grand prize of $1 million a rider must win all three Motos. Ryan Villopoto became the first and so far only rider to accomplish the feat when he swept the three 10-lap Moto in the first year of the Cup. Once the grand prize is off the table, the overall winner receives $100,000.
Therefore, Moto 3 set up a showdown between Tomac and Dungey since Roczen was more or less out after finishing 21st place in Moto 2. The veteran Reed showed he's ready for 2017 by grabbing the holeshot with Mike Alessi in tow and Roczen in third. Reed, however, went down on the opening lap allowing Alessi to get out front as Dungey moved into the Top 5 and Tomac worked his way from mid-pack.
Despite his misfortune earlier, Roczen passed Alessi on Lap 4 with Musquin following in second shortly after, and Dungey taking up the third-place spot. Tomac caught up to Dungey on Lap 7 and the two battled for a bit with a $100,000 pay out on the line. A mistake by Dungey opened a lane on the inside for Tomac who made the pass for third but the defending 2016 Supercross Champion kept Tomac close taking third-place back on the final lap.
In the end, Tomac's fourth-place result gave him a one point edge for the overall win and his first Monster Energy Cup victory. Dungey finished second for the second straight year. Musquin took third and Roczen settled for seventh overall.
"It was a crazy race and I did not make it easy on myself with a terrible start," Tomac said. "I knew going into (Moto 3) that I just needed to finish behind Ryan (Dungey) and I was able to catch up to him and have a good battle before settling on the last lap. I'm really happy with tonight's performance and looking forward to the next season."
The off-season fun continues on Saturday with the Red Bull Straight Rhythm at the Fairplex in Pomona, CA.
2016 Monster Energy Cup Results
- Eli Tomac (2-1-4)
- Ryan Dungey (3-2-3)
- Marvin Musquin (4-3-2)
- Cole Seely (6-5-6)
- Mike Alessi (8-6-5)
- Blake Baggett (5-7-9)
- Ken Roczen (1-21-1)
- Chad Reed (7-4-12)
- Benny Bloss (9-8-7)
- Vince Friese (11-12-8)