James Stewart sweeps Motocross race at High Point, tightens 450 Class championship standings

Leave a comment

After a slow start to the season, James Stewart appears to be back where he belongs – in the championship hunt.

Leading 33-of-34 laps across the two 450 Class motos Saturday at High Point, it was a dominant day for Stewart en route to a 1-1 sweep. It’s the first overall victory of the season for the Yoshimura Suzuki rider, who has now won three of the last four motos raced.

Stewart, who wasn’t fully satisfied with his bike during the first two rounds, will head into the off-week with a lot of momentum. “Good way to go into the break,” the 2008 series champion said after the win. “We still got a ways to go, but we’re starting off the right way. We’re getting there.”

The most exciting racing in both motos came directly behind Stewart with Trey Canard, Ken Roczen and Ryan Dungey repeatedly engaged in tight three-way battles for position. All three riders seemed fairly evenly-matched, and most of the position changes came from mistakes on the track.

In the first moto, Roczen – who had fallen from the bike at one point – moved up from fourth to second late in the race after miscues from both Dungey and Canard. Dungey got cross-rutted going off a jump, causing him to come up short on the landing and go off the track. A few minutes later, Canard crashed on a jump with two laps left.

Canard would fare better in Moto 2, successfully defending the second-place spot from his challengers. Meanwhile Roczen would benefit from another mistake by Dungey. Having already swapped positions twice in the battle for third, Dungey went down with two laps to go and handed the spot back to Roczen. Thanks to the late pass, Roczen secured third in the moto and second-overall for the day, while Dungey missed the overall podium for just the second time since 2011.

More importantly for Dungey, it’s a setback as he attempts to track down Roczen in the championship race. Giving up a position to Roczen in each moto resulted in an 8-point swing in the standings, increasing Roczen’s lead to 16 points. Meanwhile Stewart is closing in, having now pulled to within 22 points of Roczen.

High Point 450 Class Overall Results
1. James Stewart (1-1)
2. Ken Roczen (2-3)
3. Trey Canard (4-2)
4. Ryan Dungey (3-4)
5. Josh Grant (6-6)
6. Weston Peick (10-5)
7. Andrew Short (7-8)
8. Chad Reed (5-10)
9. Brett Metcalfe (9-7)
10. Phil Nicoletti (8-12)
*Moto 1 and Moto 2 results in parenthesis

MRTI: Barber Recap

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
Leave a comment

The weekend at Barber Motorsports Park for the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires was a tale of two completely different days.

Saturday was a picturesque Spring day for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, with bright sunshine and temperatures above 70 degrees. Sunday, however, was much cooler and wetter, with rain hitting both the Pro Mazda and Indy Lights races.

Still, the packed weekend for both series produced plenty of drama, and each now sees its championship picture beginning to take shape.

Major stories to surface from the weekend at Barber for both series are below.

Indy Lights

  • Pato O’Ward has been, by a considerable margin, the fastest driver after four races in 2018. A winner of three races – which easily could be four if not for a mistake while leading Race 2 in St. Petersburg – and a polesitter for two, O’Ward has asserted himself as the early-season man to beat in the title chase, leading Santi Urrutia with 110 points to 94. O’Ward already has big-league championship to his name – he was a co-champion of the Prototype Challenge class in the IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship last year, and he is poised to add to that in 2018.
  • Victor Franzoni is starting to get his arms around the IL-15. Last year’s Pro Mazda champion gets better with every race, and he earned his first Indy Lights podium in Race 2 at Barber, finishing second. It would hardly be a surprise if Franzoni breaks into the win column soon.
  • Aaron Telitz’s run of hard luck continued in Race 1 on Saturday, as he was collected by a spinning Dalton Kellett and retired from the race with a damaged right-front. That meant through three races, Telitz had completed a combined four corners. Race 2 finally produced a clean day for the 2016 Pro Mazda champion, as he ran all the laps on his way to finishing fourth.
  • Colton Herta scored a double-podium at Barber, with finishes of second and third. Sitting on 83 points, he is 19 back of leader O’Ward. He’ll need to break into the win column to make up ground, but consistently finishing on the podium will also help his efforts, and prevent O’Ward from making big leaps away from him.

Pro Mazda

  • Although he might be disappointed to miss out on sweeping the weekend, Parker Thompson has lots of reasons to smile leaving Barber, as he overtook Rinus VeeKay for the championship lead by four points, 102 to 98. Thompson has had two strong weekends to open the Pro Mazda season, with finishes of second, fifth, first, and second after four races. He and VeeKay have emerged as possible title combatants after the opening two weekends.
  • Speaking of VeeKay, the 17-year-old Dutchman had a quiet weekend at Barber, with finishes of fourth and fifth after lacking pace in qualifying – he qualified seventh and ninth for Race 1 and Race 2. After dominating at St. Pete, VeeKay’s lack of pace was somewhat puzzling, though it could be indicative of a Pro Mazda field that is deep with talent. Expect him to rebound at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course in May.
  • Oliver Askew’s troublesome start to the 2018 season only got worse at Barber, with finishes of seventh and 12th on a weekend in which he never factored into the outcome. The struggles of him and Cape Motorsports is mystifying given their prowess in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda on their way to winning the championship last year. Getting into championship contention at this point is a tall task – he is 46 points behind Thompson – but righting the ship will be priority No. 1 for him and Cape heading to Indianapolis.
  • Harrison Scott enjoyed a great rebound after struggling in St. Pete, where he finished ninth and 12th. He took his first Pro Mazda podium in Race 1, finishing second, and then survived a chaotic and rainy Race 2 to take his first victory. The successful weekend also vaulted him into fourth in the championship.
  • David Malukas has also put together a solid season through four races, with finishes of seventh, second, third, and fifth. The BN Racing driver sits third in the championship, and may well end up challenging for race wins soon.

All three series of the Mazda Road to Indy will be in action at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course during the weekend of the INDYCAR Grand Prix (May 11-12), with USF2000 returning after a two-month break following the season opener in St. Petersburg.

Follow@KyleMLavigne