So Many Storylines at MEC

Here is the column I wrote after the weekends race, so many storylines. I even got to ask Eli Tomac about last years race and his relationship with former teammate Joey Savatgy

On the surface, the Monster Energy Cup is a relatively meaningless offseason race, but this year's edition delivered a ton of action. The MEC is designed to entertain and test potential regular-season format changes. It also offers an opportunity for someone to win a million dollars while debuting their 2020 setup. For for riders like Benny Bloss, it also gives them one more chance to showcase their talent in hopes of securing a 2020 job. Privateer racers like Scott Champion, Jerry Robin, and Justin Starling can make decent money and remind potential sponsors of their value. In addition, this event introduces casual fans to some of the future talent by showcasing the Supercross Futures Supermini and 250 class. 

I wasn’t sure how this style would work on the bigger bike

Without a doubt, the most intriguing part of the 2019 MEC was seeing Adam Cianciarulo make his 450 debut, since he hadn't made any cameos in the big-bore class. His riding style is extremely violent and at times frightening. I wasn’t sure how this style would work on the bigger bike; the additional weight and power can cause problems for riders who live on the edge. On the other hand, sometimes the additional power complements their style and they look amazing. I still have my doubts about Adam moving forward because he once again made a silly mistake while leading the first moto. That hiccup aside he served notice to Cooper Webb, Eli Tomac, Ken Roczen, Jason Anderson and Marvin Musquin. There is a new 450 contender, and his name is Adam Cianciarulo!

Eli and Joey

“The whole situation is a bummer.”

Last year’s MEC winner, Eli Tomac, was there to defend his title and possibly win another million, maybe without assistance? During a recent SwapMoto Live podcast with Michael Antonovich, Joey Savatgy admitted to slowing and letting Eli pass in the third moto of the 2018 MEC. Joey was candid and spoke from the heart, he explained why he pulled over and how it wasn’t premeditated, which would have been a criminal offense. Joey said in the interview he regrets pulling over, but at the time he felt like it was the right thing to do. By doing so, he lost a bonus from Kawasaki and 20k in purse money. Sometime after the event, he claimed the Tomac camp offered to compensate his lost money but then reneged on the goodwill gesture. 

Despite many of the sport's top riders sitting out

In the interview, Joey spoke about the 2019 season and his relationship, or lack of relationship, with Eli. I caught up with Eli on Saturday night and asked him about Joey’s interview, “The whole situation is a bummer.” Eli was adamant nobody planned or asked his teammate to pull over and Joey also confirmed this wasn’t premeditated. When I asked Eli about compensating Joey he said, “You can’t even do it, it’s actually against the law. That’s where I leave it.” I am not sure who in Eli’s camp agreed to compensate Joey, but he said it wasn’t him. Clearly Eli considered paying Joey but wasn’t about to break the law. As to Eli never saying thanks to him, he seemed baffled that Joey said this. “I am sure we high-fived after the race and (said) like good race and thanks kinda thing. That part wasn’t necessarily true. There’s no way I just completely blew the guy off.”  

This isn’t the first or last time teammates and competitors have seen things differently. I do, however, respect both guys for their candid responses. I don’t think one or the other is necessarily right or wrong, and both have valid reasons for their feelings. Joey and Eli are two of the most private racers in the sport and hearing of their conflict only raises their popularity. Hearing that these guys had a miscommunication reminds us that despite their status they are still human. While everyone loves on-track racing action, it’s the backstory that takes entertainment to the next level. Drama doesn’t need to be faked, just uncovered. 

History was also made as the 2019 MEC track was run in both directions. While riders seemed annoyed, I enjoyed watching them adapt and learn quickly. I could do without the Joker Lane and three starting gate locations, but I really hope Triple Crown events go both directions moving forward. Unfortunately, both Dean Wilson and Jordi Tixer had terrifying crashes during practice, and the specific jump had a funky lip on the landing. After Wilson’s accident, the track crew shaved the lip and made it much safer. I don’t believe going both directions had any effect on their crashes!

Despite many of the sport's top riders opting to sit out, the 2019 MEC was a huge win for Cianciaurlo. Does Cianciarulo’s win mean as much as a regular-season win? I don’t think it does, but he did fend off Eli Tomac’s best efforts in the third moto and that doesn’t happen often. The 2020 season opener is not until January, so let the predictions and bench racing begin.

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