He’s 27 now, an age when a guy in his sport starts thinking about running in the X Games or the Nitro Circus or the NASCAR Truck Series, if he can lay his hands on some serious sponsorship dollars.
Ryan Dungey clinched his third consecutive and fourth overall AMA Supercross 450SX championship Saturday night before an announced sellout of 39,509 at Sam Boyd Stadium to assume his rightful place among the great dirt bike riders. But if Dungey is thinking about the ‘R’ word, retirement seemed at least a few whoop-de-dos down the road after he held off dogged pursuer Eli Tomac in a taut battle for the title.
“It’s taken a toll on me,” said the popular and pleasant KTM rider from Minnesota, who finished fourth Saturday — the position he had to attain to clinch the crown even if Tomac, who finished second, won. “But this makes me want to keep going.
“I’ve got a lot of stuff to figure out these next two weeks. I want to perform at my highest potential. The challenge is only getting more (difficult); the competition is only getting tougher. We’ll see.”
Longtime Supercross observers said this was the most exciting season finale in a long time.
Tomac, a 24-year-old from Colorado, led 17 of the 19 laps aboard his green Kawasaki with Dungey always in hot pursuit. The two swapped the lead on a couple of occasions; each time Tomac would retake the point with passes featuring lots of aggression.
“I did not expect it to be like that,” Dungey said. “Those cheap shots were unbelievable, but I survived it.”
A big scrum on the final lap involving Dungey and other Kawasaki riders jumbled the finishing order, allowing Husqvarna’s Jason Anderson to grab a victory that was totally overshadowed by the Dungey vs. Tomac title tussle.
“We did all we could do, it was a good season,” said Tomac, who had a season-high nine victories to Dungey’s three. “We just couldn’t get it done. I could sit here and dwell on it, but we’ll just look forward to next year because of the improvement, and come out swinging.”
Tomac started Las Vegas nine points behind Dungey after leading the championship heading into the penultimate race at MetLife Stadium, where Tomac crashed and Dungey inherited a win when teammate Marvin Musquin either had a bobble or let him by on the final lap.
The difference between finishing first and second in the Meadlowlands was worth three points to Dungey. He won the championship by five, so at least what occurred in New Jersey did not wind up costing Tomac the title.
“This was a dream come true,” Dungey said after receiving the No. 1 plate on a raucous victory platform. “When I started racing dirt bikes, I wanted to be just good enough to make a living at it. This season was one of the toughest of my career, so this means that much more.”
The 250SX East and West Divisions also met in Las Vegas for their customary combined season finale, and it was a wild one. Adam Cianciarulo won the race. Zach Osborne came from far back to edge Cianciarulo for the East championship by two points after Joey Savatgy was eliminated in a last-lap crash (with Osborne) with the title within reach.
Justin Hill, who finished second in the bicoastal shootout, had clinched the West Division title before the starting gate dropped Saturday.
Contact Ron Kantowski at email@example.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.
The best of Supercross
Ryan Dungey won his fourth AMA Supercross championship Saturday night at Sam Boyd Stadium to take his place among the sport’s all-time greats. Following is a list of riders who have won multiple championships since Supercross’ inception in 1974:
— Jeremy McGrath (7)
— Ricky Carmichael (5)
— Ryan Dungey (4)
— Ryan Villopoto (4)
— Jeff Stanton (3)
— Bob Hannah (3)
— James Stewart Jr. (2)
— Chad Reed (2)
— Rick Johnson (2)
— Jeff Ward (2)