Do you think that Ryan Dungey is on a roll? Do you think that Ken Roczen is fading in the heat of the American summer? It’s nice that you are still thinking, but your brain power would be better utilized to solving how to get off a concrete starting line without spinning. Why? Because one man holds the key to the Ken Roczen versus Ryan Dungey showdown — and that man is Eli Tomac.
It doesn’t matter what Roczen and Dungey do as much as it matters what Eli does. First, you have to assume, based on current evidence, that the big three (Roczen, Dungey and Tomac) are going to be standing on the podium at the next three rounds. Thus, they will take the lion share of the points (with Trey Canard getting a sniff and James Stewart playing a wild card).
Second, with 25 points for first, 22 for second and 20 for third, the biggest swing in points possible in a single day is 10 points (assuming one rider goes 1-1 and the other goes 3-3, which is what happened between Dungey and Roczen at Washougal). First place pays three more points per moto than second and five more than third. That doesn’t allow for very many mathematical possibilities—especially given that there are several score combinations that could result in a tie on points on any given day (which would make that round a draw and draws work in Ken Roczen’s favor because he has the points lead).
Third, Dungey is 14 points behind Roczen. Dungey could get get those 14 points back by winning one moto — if Roczen finishes 10th or worse. But let’s assume that none of these three riders will have a disastrous moto over the next three races (Unadilla, Indiana and Utah). Gaining and losing points works both ways—and if Dungey has a 10th place moto, then Kenny can cruise to the title because he will have a 25 point lead. But, if nobody falls and they finish in the top three, gaining 14 points won’t be as easy as a miscue or a gift. For arguments sake, if Dungey won the next three motos and Roczen finished third in the next three motos — Dungey would have a 1-point lead…with three motos left.
However, the most important man in this picture is Eli Tomac. Here are Tomac’s scenarios.
SCENARIO 1: TOMAC SWEEPS THE NEXT THREE NATIONALS
If Eli Tomac wins the next three Nationals in 1-1 sweeps, he will take the majority of the points. By winning motos, he gets the 25 points, but more importantly he takes away the 3-point buffer that goes with being first instead of second. And by winning, Eli insures that the most points that Roczen or Dungey can earn (per moto) against each other is only 2 points (which is the difference between second and third place). With six motos left, the math is simple, 2×6=12 . If Tomac wins the remaining six motos it doesn’t matter whether Ryan Dungey finishes second in front of Ken Roczen because he willl lose the title to Kenny by 2 points (14–2=12).
SCENARIO 2: TOMAC FINISHES SECOND IN THE NEXT THREE NATIONALS.
Tomac is the spoiler (although Canard or Stewart could play the same role). If Tomac finishes second (between Ken and Ryan) he insures a 5-point gain for whoever wins. Thus, if Ryan Dungey wins and Tomac is second, Dungey gains 5 points (and would cut his 14-point deficit to 9 points in one moto). Conversely, if Roczen wins and Dungey is third, the gap between the two would grow to 19 points in Roczen’s favor. As you can tell, Dungey has to win motos to narrow the gap—because as Scenario 1 proved, Ryan can’t win by finishing second to Eli and he definitely can’t win by following Roczen across the line.
SCENARIO 3: TOMAC DOESN’T INTERFERE AND LETS KEN AND RYAN DUEL IT OUT
Okay, this isn’t going to happen. Tomac wants to win, not just to prove that he could have been the Champion if he’d been healthy, but for the $100,000 win bonus that goes with each National victory. So, even though starry-eyed fans might think that Eli Tomac should let Kenny and Ryan engage in their own personal duel for the title it isn’t going to happen. There are lots of riders on the track who should get out of their way, but Eli, Bubba and Trey aren’t among them.
But, let’s just say that this is the AMA Fairy Tale Nationals and Eli plays Prince Charming and let’s the two combatants go on their merry way. In this scenario, the man who wins gains three points on his competition. And mathematically that means that the maximum number of points for a rider that sweeps the next six motos is 18 points (3×6=18). If Dungey wins all six motos he wins the crown by 4 points. If he wins 5 motos he wins by 1 point (3×5=15), but if wins less than 5 motos he loses by 2 points (3×4=12). All of this is contingent on Roczen not finishing in front of Dungey in any of the six remaining motos (because when he does, he changes the math equation). But enough from Story Book Land.
THE FINAL OUTCOME OF THE 450 NATIONALS
The final outcome of the 2014 450 Nationals rests in the talented hands of Ken Roczen and Ryan Dungey. To win the title they have to win the races. But the linchpin to victory is Eli Tomac — because he can steal all the valuable points by winning, make the gap bigger by splitting the two contenders and generally make the math equation too hard for the home schooled. It is going to be exciting — get your calculator ready.
Photos by KTM, Geico, Suzuki, John Basher and Scott Mallonee