One thing is certain, Kawasaki isn’t putting all its eggs in the Tomac basket. With the addition of Cianciarulo, the squad truly has two title contenders under its tent.
Cianciarulo was one of the most highly anticipated riders to come out of the amateur ranks in 2013. He was already a factory rider with Kawasaki as an amateur and compiled one of the best amateur records in the history of the sport.
When he turned pro the expectations were sky high. One pundit even predicted he would be like James Stewart and win championships right out of the box. It didn’t happen.
The first three years of Cianciarulo’s career were spent battling one injury after another. It was so bad that eventually, many considered the young Floridian the motocross equivalent of a championship-contending boxer who had a glass jaw.
But Cianciarulo turned it around and began winning races and became a consistent championship contender.
He was runner-up in the 250 East and West Series in 2017 and ’18. Last year, in his final campaign in the 250 SX class, he appeared to have the 250 West Supercross Series title wrapped up before an inexplicable crash during the season finale in Las Vegas cost him the championship.
Cianciarulo has bounced back strong after the disappointment of Las Vegas last May. During the summer, he won the coveted 250cc title in the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship. His momentum became even stronger after he won the Monster Energy Cup in October, earning a $100,000 prize.
On the podium, the new Monster Energy Cup champion was elated.
“My first thought was, ‘What a life I get to live!’ That whole race I knew he (Tomac) was behind me,” Cianciarulo said. “We had a gap and I knew it was going to come down to the Joker Lane and — just the opportunity to race with Eli. He’s accomplished so much and just to be out there on the track with him. I’m stoked to be out there. Honestly, I always looked up to Eli and so just to be out there racing with him is unreal.
“To come out on top of my first race, I just can’t ask for anything better.”
Cianciarulo also showed some insight into a racer’s development when asked if the win taking place in the stadium where the 250cc Supercross championship slipped away gave him a sense of redemption.
“It’s a little bit of redemption, but to be honest with you I look at Vegas now — after winning the outdoor motocross championship — I look at Vegas as something that helped me get there,” Cianciarulo explained. “I really don’t look back on that race and think, ‘Oh, man.’ I think it’s really helped me grow. And what a better way to get a Monster Cup win in a 450. I always love coming here, even that night, it sucked, obviously, but I love Vegas and I’m just so grateful and I can’t say that enough.”
With those kinds of performances coming into the 2020 campaign, Cianciarulo has made himself one of the leading contenders as he enters his rookie season in the premier 450 class of Supercross.
“We have a very strong 2020 team roster,” said Dan Fahie, senior manager of Kawasaki Racing. “We are excited to be continuing our championship journey with Eli and welcoming Adam and his storied Kawasaki racing career onto our 450 team. We learned a lot about our KX450 and are in a good place heading into 2020 with the development of the motorcycle.”
The 2020 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series has a lot of storylines.
Can Cooper Webb defend his title? Will Honda’s Ken Roczen continue his amazing comeback from injuries that nearly ended his career? Will Jason Anderson catch fire again like he did en route to winning the Supercross crown in 2018? Can Marvin Musquin parlay his consistently strong finishes into a title?
But easily the biggest questions to be answered in the stadiums from Anaheim to Daytona this winter will be: Can Eli Tomac finally win the title so many expected he should have won multiple times by now? Will a rookie named Cianciarulo surprise the big boys? And can Kawasaki get back on the type of winning streak in Supercross it enjoyed during the Villopoto era?
We are about to find out.