At the beginning of the 2021 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship season, Eli Tomac announced the shocker of leaving Monster Energy Kawasaki at the end of the year. Marking the last time he will be racing the green machines, his outdoor season started slow with a best moto finish of eighth in the opening two races at Fox Raceway I and Thunder Valley Motocross Park. Things turned around quick with a Moto 2 win and a podium overall at High Point Raceway and Redbud MX. The three-time champion was looking to make a mid-season charge, but Dylan Ferrandis and Ken Roczen continued to be the two in charge of the field.
While Ferrandis locked up the title a round early at Fox Raceway II, Tomac had a chance to steal the other side of the championship podium. Winning both overalls at Ironman and Fox Raceway II put momentum on his side. An unfortunate did-not-start (DNS) for Roczen in Moto 2 opened the door for that championship runner-up spot, but also an opportunity for the overall.
His 4-1 day was edged out by the Frenchman’s 1-3 motos, but he did secure second in the championship.
“It was close,” Tomac shared about his last race of the season. It was disheartening for Moto 1 because I had a really good pace going. I felt like I was going to be able to catch those guys. I just missed my one line by just a couple inches and washed my front end out. Ended up crashing and tweaked my thumb pretty good. That’s why my up-and-going speed was kind of mediocre. Thankfully I could tape it and get some strength back into it for Moto 2. Rode pretty good and made my way to the front, but once again, Dylan (Ferrandis) was strong for those two motos.
“I was watching (the gap). I was marking (Christian) Craig and I believe (Max) Antsie was there, and I saw the red plate and thought, ‘Uh oh.’ I kinda knew my chances were gone, but I was pumped. When it was five to go, Dylan came through. You can only control what you got for yourself.”
The track had its unique challenges. Though Hangtown is usually held earlier in the season, the track workers prepare the dirt surface differently than that of other races on the calendar. Many riders had inconsistent lap times while learning different lines, off-camber hill turns, odd jumps and two line corners. For Tomac, he liked the challenge and hopes more tracks can find their unique touch, even though he took a fall during one of the motos.
“It started out more of a hard base,” Tomac explained to the media. “The track was more hard base than what we had in the past. It had pretty good character toward the end of the day. To be honest, I think that’s fine. I don’t think every track needs to be the same and ripped deep in water to perfect conditions. I did enjoy some hard packed conditions, even though it did bite me going down that off-camber.”
As for his 2022 plans, there’s still no word yet on where he will go next. After a few starts in the 450 class in 2013, his first full-time season in 2014 was with Honda Racing Corporation. After two full-time seasons, he joined Kawasaki in 2016 and kicked it off strong with three consecutive podiums in Pro Motocross. He went on to win three consecutive Motocross championships from 2017 to 2019, then claimed his first indoor championship with Monster Energy AMA Supercross in 2020. Looking back, he enjoyed the success and relationships within the organization.
“Obviously I can’t say where I’m going or what my future holds that way,” stated Tomac. “I’m pretty emotional today, up and down that way. We had so much success with Kawasaki, and it ended with my mechanic, Brian Kranz. That’s what’s hard to swallow. You kind of become like family as a team. We (Kawasaki) didn’t end on any bad terms to where we’re not speaking to each other or working with each other. We worked on good terms throughout this Motocross season. It was tough leaving the track, but you know life goes on.
“Just out of respect for my past success with Kawasaki, I can’t (talk about leaving at the end of the 2021 season). We ended on good terms, so I’m not going to share exactly why.
That’s the fight for the Supercross 450 title. Obviously the 450 Motocross title was first, and that was huge too. But that Supercross title was pretty elusive to us for some time. That’s one season I look back on during COVID. We all had a lot going on in 2020, so that was a special year.”
The Colorado native ends not only a long standing relationship with Kawasaki, but also a successful relationship with his mechanic, Brian Kranz. According to Racer X, the duo hold second in all-time rider/mechanic wins in AMA Motocross and Supercross. After working together for over a decade, the end of an era has come.
“It’s going to be strange,” said an emotional Tomac. “Basically, you become family that way. When you show up to the races, it’s like you’re a team. Man, we’ve had a long standing relationship of 11 years. Kranz was bulletproof. I could trust the bike every weekend, when you never have any questions whatsoever.
“He had a gnarly track record that way. It’s tough to think about not having him there.”
The 28-year old will go into yet another season of indoor Supercross and outdoor Motocross. His runner-up in Motocross and third in Supercross show he still has the skill, talent and endurance to compete for more hardware. While most riders start to look at retirement, what is it that keeps Tomac pushing for more?
“I still have the itch for chasing green flags and checkered flags.”