Beginner’s luck? Maybe a little.
Beginner’s skill? Definitely a bunch.
Rookie Adam Cianciarulo held off Eli Tomac in a battle of Kawasaki teammates to win the third main event and overall championship of the Monster Energy Cup AMA Supercross all-star race Saturday night in front of an announced crowd of 35,424 at Sam Boyd Stadium.
“My first goal was just to not put the bike on the (Interstate) 15 freeway,” Cianciarulo said in reference to crashing and losing the 250cc West championship during May’s regular-season supercross final in Las Vegas. “It feels good to get on the bike and gel with it right away.”
Tomac and Malcolm Stewart won the first two main events. It was the first time in three years a $1 million bonus for sweeping the three 10-lap mains was not awarded. Tomac took home the big check last year after Marvin Musquin pulled off the trifecta in 2017.
Cianciarulo edged Tomac by .867 of a second in their taut battle that lasted virtually all 10 laps. Stewart was third on a Honda. The three riders started the final moto deadlocked in points.
After doggedly pursuing his teammate to no avail, Tomac changed strategy in an attempt to overtake Cianciarulo by negotiating the “Joker lane” — the Monster Energy Cup’s version of a NASCAR pit stop — on the next-to-last lap instead of waiting for the final circuit, as Cianciarulo did.
But that didn’t work, either.
“We had a pace going there, it was gnarly, I tried to do something different (because) we were both going so fast,” said Tomac, the Colorado native who was bidding for his third victory in the all-star event. “But Adam held that last lap together really well, and I couldn’t get it done.”
Tomac got the evening off to a flying start by overtaking Vince Friese on the sixth lap of the first main event and pulling away to 2.068-second victory over Cianciarulo.
Stewart won the second main to set up a final showdown with Cianciarulo and Tomac, who went down outside the stadium on the second lap, ending his bid for a second consecutive $1 million payday. Tomac battled back to third behind Cianciarulo, who trailed Stewart by 2.321 seconds at the checkered flag.
Cianciarulo’s task was made a little easier with the absence of several top competitors, including the last two supercross series champions.
Reigning champ Cooper Webb is recuperating from a motocross injury and was on hand only to sign autographs. Jason Anderson, the 2018 title winner, sat out after competing in the recent Motocross of Champions in the Netherlands. Musquin is recovering from a motocross injury and did not enter the postseason all-star race.
None of that mattered to Cianciarulo.
“I knew this would be a huge challenge,” the Floridian said. “For me just to come in here and battle with these guys, it’s unreal. To get the win is just a bonus on top of that.”
Monster Energy Cup
Final standings at Sam Boyd Stadium:
1. Adam Cianciarulo, Kawasaki
2. Eli Tomac, Kawasaki
3. Malcolm Stewart, Honda