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Eli Tomac of Cortez launches bid for fourth Motocross title

Eli Tomac of Cortez, a three-time winner of the AMA Pro Motocross series, will take to the track Saturday in Pala, California.
In final season for Kawasaki, Tomac still has one goal: trying to win

Eli Tomac of Cortez, a three-time winner of the AMA Pro Motocross series, will take to the track Saturday in Pala, California, aboard a Kawasaki 450 in a bid for his fourth title.

And amid this month’s news that Tomac and Kawasaki will part company at the end of the 2021 season, Tomac said Wednesday that he’s focused on winning.

“I’ve got one goal as always, and it’s trying to win,” Tomac said during a Zoom news conference Wednesday. “So, it definitely sucks getting both No. 1 plates taken away from you, so that’s my motivation at this point is to get one of them back and do my best to do that. ... Going into this season feeling good right now. Yesterday’s ride at Pala was nice.”

Noted for his dramatic comebacks and notorious for his slow starts, Tomac spoke about challenges ahead.

“I’m not a big fan of playing catchup,” he said. “I’ve done it a few times, and it gets harder and harder as the season goes on. I like to come out swinging, if possible."

The AMA Motocross season comes less than a month after his third-place finish in the 2020 AMA Supercross series. Two-time champion Cooper Webb surged midway through the series to overtake Ken Roczen for the crown.

The depth of the racing field during the Supercross season made a late Tomac comeback difficult to pull off as Justin Barcia, Aaron Plessinger, Malcolm Stewart and Dylan Ferrandis clogged the gap behind the leaders.

“The field is deep again,” Tomac said. “It’s harder every year. ... One thing is for sure, there’s going to be a handful of guys that are going to be hard to pass and stuff."

Earlier this month, Kawasaki confirmed that the team and its ace for the past six years would separate. Silencing talk that Tomac, 28, would retire, industry reports indicated that Tomac would switch to the Monster Energy/Star Racing Yamaha in 2022.

Tomac has raced the past six years in the 450cc class for Monster Energy Kawasaki, after starting in 2013 with Geico Honda.

With Kawasaki, Tomac has won 60 races in 165 starts, the most wins in the field, and missed just one scheduled main event.

He won the Motocross championship three times with Kawasaki, from 2017 through 2019. He won his first Supercross championship in 2020, at age 27.

The agreement to not pursue a new contract with Tomac reportedly was mutual.

“We are extremely proud of the success that Eli and the Monster Energy Kawasaki team achieved over the last six years,” said Dan Fahie, Kawasaki’s senior manager of racing. “We have built a great relationship with Eli and his family, and we are proud that Kawasaki played a strong role in Tomac’s racing legacy.”

Star Yamaha has one year’s experience in the premier 450cc class. Stewart, Plessinger and Ferrandis rode the Yamaha YZ450F to fifth-, sixth-, and seventh-place finishes, respectively, in the 2020 Supercross series.

Kawasaki has not named a replacement for Tomac but announced it would continue with a two-rider lineup in 2022 that included Adam Cianciarulo.

The inaugural race of the 2021 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross series is Saturday at Fox Raceway in Pala, California. The two 450cc motos begin at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Mountain time.