1 month ago | Words: Eric Johnson | Photos: Supercross Live and Bell Helmets

As recent racing history has taught us, on May 3, 2024, word came out of California that Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing pilot Eli Tomac had decided to line up and compete in the 2024 SuperMotocross World Championship, beginning with the Pro Motocross opening round set for Fox Raceway in Pala, California, on May 25, 2024.

The next day, at the penultimate round of the 2024 Monster Energy Supercross held at Empower Field at Mile High in Denver, Tomac hit the dirt during free practice and injured his thumb. The result of the minor crash? A Bennett Fracture. According to the National Library of Medicine, the Bennett Fracture is the most common fracture involving the base of the thumb. It refers to an intra-articular fracture that separates the palmar ulnar aspect of the first metacarpal base from the rest of the first metacarpal.

Got all that? We think we do. Long story short, on May 9, Yamaha announced via a press release that Tomac had decided to undergo surgery for the injury. This would put him out of racing action for six to eight weeks. Immediately ruled out of the season-concluding Salt Lake City Supercross, it was also communicated that Tomac would miss the opening rounds of Pro Motocross. Tentatively expected to return to action at the Southwick National on June 29, Tomac, from his home in Cortez, Colorado, spoke about what happened with his thumb.

“It was just in free practice there in Denver, and I just tipped over. I must have landed on it wrong, with the weight of my body on it, and it tore my ligament. I also actually even fractured a piece of my thumb, so it was kind of wild.

“What was interesting about it is that I did a quick X-ray at Alpinestars at the track,” continued Tomac, the four-time Pro Motocross 450MX Champion. “This was right after the fact. I guess we missed it or didn’t have the correct angle, so I thought it was just kind of a jam or a sprain. It obviously hurt, but I was like, ‘Well, I can just try and get through this.’ I did get through the main event, but I crashed, and that was actually because my hand gave out. At that point, I didn’t really know what was up and said, ‘Well, I’ll give it a couple of days here and see.’ It never got better, and I knew I had to get a real MRI on the thumb. Sure enough, there was some bad news with the thumb.”

Just thinking back, for it being a comeback season from a big Achilles tendon injury, I was feeling pretty good, and I was getting stronger. It was just unfortunate timing for this to happen.

A race winner and six-time podium finisher in the 2024 Monster Energy Supercross Series, Tomac believed he was building speed, confidence, and momentum heading toward the opening phase of the AMA Pro Motocross Championship.

“Well, I was beginning to gain momentum,” explained Tomac. “I feel like my results have been a little bit up-and-down this season, but overall, I felt like I was coming around. My speed was pretty good most of the time. I was good in qualifying. I had one main event win this season and a handful of second-place finishes. Just thinking back, for it being a comeback season from a big Achilles tendon injury, I was feeling pretty good, and I was getting stronger. It was just unfortunate timing for this to happen. You know, I was just enjoying the moment and enjoying the racing, and it’s still what I love to do. Yeah, man, stuff like this is a bummer, but I guess it’s a part of racing, you know?”

So once again, Tomac, as a result of thumb surgery and the healing process that will follow, will be forced to watch the motocross world go on without him.

“Yep, I do have to wait it out now,” he said. “So, I’m getting this fixed on Monday. That’s as soon as they could get me in to fix this thumb issue. I guess the only positive outlook to all of this is that it won’t be as long of a recovery as, say, my Achilles or my shoulder injuries. I think I’ll be back around the two-month mark. They said that I have to have pins in for six weeks, and then they pull it, and then basically, you just have to let the wound heal. That’s when I can get back to riding. I envision myself back in two months or somewhere along that timeframe, and that puts me somewhere in the middle of the motocross season. If I can get a few of those rounds in and then really be strong for the SMX, that would be another successful comeback in my eyes.”

Undaunted and genuinely enthused to get back to racing as soon as possible this summer, Tomac realizes that all is certainly not lost.

“Yes. That’s the good thing,” pointed out Tomac. “I’m not out the whole year, and I’ve got something to go for, you know? And that’s just trying to get back healthy, and I know I can get back to racing before we round out the year. And it has been a good year. It was solid. Of course, I wanted more, and I wanted to be closer to the championship run, but at the same time, I have to have realistic expectations from what I came back from. I would consider it solid up to this point with a win in there. That was my goal number one in coming back from my Achilles injury, and I accomplished that. Yeah, I wanted to be in the points race. I missed that a little bit. I don’t know… I’d rate the season an eight out of ten. Ten out of ten would have obviously meant winning the championship, but I got that one goal of winning the race and was able to make a successful comeback. The Achilles injury was really a horror story, and it can be for most people.”

“If I’m in the position to race it, and I’m top two in those Open or 450 classes, yes, sign me up. It’s a race like no other, you know?

What did Tomac make of the sensational Jett Lawrence, as well as the other world-class racers he faced off against in the NFL football and MLB baseball stadiums of the United States all winter long?

“It was very competitive, and Jett is the newcomer right now,” stated Tomac. “He’s the guy. Cooper Webb made a bike switch, and he’s on my team on Star Yamaha. There was newness to the season, and it seems like every year there is always another level that you have to step up to. That’s the evolution of racing, and I felt like we were able to step up in some parts, but there are other things that we definitely have to work on to catch up to those new guys.”

Photo: Garth Milan / Red Bull Content Pool

Fourteen years ago, on May 22, 2010, to be exact about it, rookie racer Eli Tomac lined up and won the very first AMA Pro Racing event he ever lined up in at Hangtown in Northern California. Along the way, there were more than a few ups-and-downs for Tomac, but he continued to build his fan base. Nowhere was that more evident than the ’24 Monster Energy Supercross Series, where legions of fans cheered their hearts out and fully supported the veteran Tomac.

Of course, I wanted more, and I wanted to be closer to the championship run.”

“I have noticed that with the fans, and it’s so cool to see,” said an appreciative Tomac. “I feel like the sport as a whole is growing. The stadiums seem like they’re more packed. Our autograph lines have been ginormous this year. Unfortunately, people have to get cut off because there are so many fans in the lines. The support for myself and the sport has just been fantastic. Yeah, I’ve been in this a while now, and like you said, since 2010. It has gone by in a flash, but at the same time, it has been the most enjoyable ride ever, so right now, I’m trying not to consider myself done at all. I want another season. I want to make a run at it in 2025, so it has been great. Wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s really cool. I mean, you think back to when you start at the beginning, and you try and build that fanbase. Obviously, it helps when you get good results and all that, but yeah, it’s just pretty hard to believe when you’re in my shoes and you see all these people wearing your T-shirt and hats and merchandise, but it’s so awesome. I want to leave a good example for the kids and anyone watching the sport, so yeah, I am just grateful for it all.”

“You know, if you would have asked me when I started my career if I would have been second place on the all-time supercross career win list with 52 wins, I would have said, ‘Well, that’s a lofty goal.’“.

2024 marks Eli Tomac’s third year with the Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing organization. A career move that comes at the back half of Tomac’s storied career, the relationship between Tomac and the entire Yamaha contingent has been both positive and fulfilling.

“It has been a great fit for us. Right off the bat in 2022, we really came out swinging. We basically did the best that we could. We won both championships there. In 2023, we should have had the supercross championship locked up, but that’s when I injured my ankle. Overall, it has been an outstanding team. I’ve been able to have a good ride. Yeah, the Monster Energy Star Racing team has been an excellent spot for us.

“You know, if you would have asked me when I started my career if I would have been second place on the all-time supercross career win list with 52 wins, I would have said, ‘Well, that’s a lofty goal.’ You look at some of those names on that list, and it is amazing, but I have achieved that, so it has been so good. I’m really grateful that I’ve made it in the sport to the age of 30, and I’m still at a high level. Man, winning 450 championships, that’s the number one thing, and I’ve been able to accomplish that.”

Eli Tomac, MXON 2022.

And what of the approaching 2024 Motocross of Nations, poised for the sprawling Matterley Basin circuit in Great Britain on October 6, 2024? If he’s healed up and up to speed, would Tomac like to represent Team USA at the storied event that has been running annually since 1947?

“Oh yeah,” Tomac answered assuredly. “If I’m in the position to race it, and I’m top two in those Open or 450 classes, yes, sign me up. It’s a race like no other, you know? There is no environment like it. Yeah, it’s a very cool event for us. But right now, yeah, I’ve got to keep myself in shape, so it’s not like I’m out six months this time. I’m out for a couple of months, so I’ll be cross-training and hanging out with my family as much as I can and really just trying to get ready for the later part of the summer of racing. Those are my goals, and that’s my intention. Although I don’t have this under contract yet, that’s what I want to try and do. Right now, that’s my mindset, and we’re doing everything we can to make that happen.”

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