It took six weeks for the highly anticipated clash between Jett Lawrence and Eli Tomac to develop but they squared off in Round 6 at Glendale, Arizona as they jockeyed for a podium finish. Lawrence came out ahead by one position.
After the race, Lawrence did not seem overly impressed by the confrontation.
Both riders got modest starts in the main event. Tomac crossed the line fifth at the end of the first lap; Lawrence was ninth.
With a podium finish, Jett Lawrence takes possession of the red plate.
After passing Vince Friese on Lap 2 and then getting elevated to third on the following lap when Aaron Plessinger crashed, Tomac had command of the final step on the box. He remained there for the next 12 laps.
Lawrence made his mistakes early. He landed short on a jump while trying to pass Cooper Webb on Lap 5 and nearly crashed, but that did not scrub any speed from the No. 18 Honda. When he got around the winner of Anaheim 2, Lawrence was nearly 5 seconds behind Tomac and 12 off the lead of Ken Roczen.
Lawrence had Tomac in sight by the halfway point. He slowly and steadily closed the distance during the next five laps. As he came within a couple of jumps of Tomac, he had a chance to evaluate his riding style.
"It was kind of learning how he flows and learning where the kink in the armor could be," Lawrence said in the postrace news conference. "It was cool to follow him."
Both riders doubled where they should have doubled and tripled where they should have tripled, but Lawrence was just a little faster on landing recovery and surged past in a rhythm section.
"Obviously these days it's not exactly like the same beast he used to be, but it's still Eli Tomac, so it was cool to follow him and just learn off him," Lawrence said. "I got close enough to where we could kind of maybe make a pass.
"I was looking forward to a battle, but I was able to get on the inside of him a little bit and still leave a bit of room and put my head down and click the laps off."
Eli Tomac has the most Phoenix area wins and has podiumed in each even-numbered race of 2024.
Tomac's season has been a seesaw.
In the first five rounds, he podiumed in each even-numbered event and finished barely inside the top 10 in the odd-numbered races. His statistics entering Glendale suggested this would be another strong run. While Tomac failed to get the podium, his fifth-place finish kept that trend alive.
But Lawrence also has struggled. A ninth-place finish in the muddy San Francisco race and sixth overall in the Anaheim 2 Triple Crown was not exactly what everyone expected from the rider who scored a perfect season in Pro Motocross last year.
In a season where no one has been dominant, that has allowed Lawrence to assume the red plate of the championship leader by six points over Chase Sexton.
The rivalry between Lawrence and Tomac is far from settled. Tomac may not be "the same beast he used to be" but without the Achilles tendon injury that kept him out of last season's Supercross finale in Salt Lake City, he likely would have been the 2023 champion.
Lawrence will have plenty more opportunities to study the master.
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