James Stewart may have stolen the headlines recently for both on-track and off-track reasons, but at the Red Bull Tennessee National, it was Ken Roczen returning to his early-season form and showing why he’s the current points leader. On the heels of a solid second-place finish in the first 450 Class moto, Roczen took the victory in Moto 2 to secure his third overall victory of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship season.
Roczen and his Red Bull KTM teammate Ryan Dungey were the head of the class in both motos at Muddy Creek Raceway. Roczen had a strong opportunity to win the first moto after moving past Eli Tomac on the opening lap to take over the lead, but a series of mistakes hampered Roczen’s chances throughout the race. The young German went down on Lap 2, giving up the lead and getting passed by Dungey in the process. Dungey and Roczen would end the moto 1-2.
The second moto was all about Roczen though. Despite the fact that Dungey raced to the MotoSport.com Holeshot, Roczen was soon right up on his rear wheel applying the pressure. The two teammates went back-and-forth during the first lap, racing side-by-side at times, and Roczen ultimately emerged in front and shut the door on Dungey. From there, Roczen would go on to lead the rest of the moto wire-to-wire, locking up both the moto win and the overall win for the day. Dungey kept it close throughout, but the two riders left the rest of the field in the dust.
“Felt good out there,” Roczen said after his moto win. “Happy it’s over. Another good weekend and [I] kept the points lead steady.”
Had Dungey been able to pass Roczen in Moto 2, he would have been able to take a huge chunk out of Roczen’s points lead, but he just couldn’t match the speed of his teammate. “Man, I pushed it the whole second moto,” Dungey remarked afterwards. “We gave it all we had, and that’s all I can do.”
Because he and Dungey swapped 1-2 finishes today, Roczen’s points lead over Dungey will hold steady at 16 points. The two riders were able to distance themselves a bit from James Stewart though, who had been inching closer but endured crashes in both motos en route to disappointing 5-11 moto finishes.
One rider who did perform well today was Eli Tomac. Coming back from a broken collarbone, the GEICO Honda rider was impressive in his first-ever race in the 450 Class. Hours after posting the fastest lap in qualifying, last year’s champion of the 250 Class raced to third-place finishes in both motos to secure a spot on the overall podium and could be even more of a factor as the season winds on.
Red Bull Tennessee National 450 Class Overall Results
1. Ken Roczen (2-1)
2. Ryan Dungey (1-2)
3. Eli Tomac (3-3)
4. Trey Canard (4-4)
5. Andrew Short (6-8)
6. Weston Peick (10-5)
7. Brett Metcalfe (9-7)
8. James Stewart (5-11)
9. Josh Grant (11-6)
10. Justin Brayton (8-15) *Moto 1 and Moto 2 results in parenthesis
MRTI: Chris Griffis Test Saturday times and notebook
New Tatuus PM-18. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
INDIANAPOLIS – Here’s a rundown of times and notes from Saturday at the Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Test, as all three rungs of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires ladder had their first day of testing on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. A link to Friday’s notebook is here.
Drivers and teams alike have raved about the pace, and the rather loud sound, of the new Tatuus PM-18 Mazda. Reports from private testing had the new car rather close to Indy Lights pace at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and rather quicker than the old car at Road America. The first tangible evidence of that occurred today as all 10 of the Pro Mazda drivers who got representative laps (second BN Racing car of Leonard Hoogenboom ran only a few laps in session four after engine issues all day) supplanted the Pro Mazda lap record at IMS – 1:22.8800 by Pato O’Ward in 2016 – easily. Oliver Askew’s best time of 1:19.8920 in the second session was nearly a full three seconds quicker on the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course.
Of the 11 Pro Mazda drivers that ran today, only Carlos Cunha, Robert Megennis, Nikita Lastochkin, Kris Wright and Sting Ray Robb ran in the 2017 season. But it wouldn’t be a surprise to see any or all five of them running full-time in 2018 for what would be each of their second seasons in the championship, as returning sophomores along with what should be a glut of strong rookies. Wright, who also races sports cars, looks poised to add a second program of some other series to a planned Pro Mazda full season.
Megennis is planning to test with other teams in the weeks to come, as he tests for Juncos this week after racing in USF2000 with Pelfrey the last two years. Both he and Robb missed portions of sessions today with new car issues.
Several Indy Lights spins and off-course excursions occurred but none produced any serious issues. Rinus Veekay and Anthony Martin were among those to test the course limits but kept on going unharmed. Veekay had a spin in session three on new tires, then promptly laid down the fastest lap of the session for Belardi later on.
His teammate this weekend, Nico Jamin, wound up with the fastest lap of the day in Indy Lights – although he wasn’t quickest in the cool evening session, the fourth of the day, when most of the field ran some sticker tire runs on their Cooper tires.
Pro Mazda title combatants Victor Franzoni (Juncos) and Anthony Martin (Andretti) made their Indy Lights test debuts. The perpetually happy Franzoni wrote on Instagram, “Awesome day!! We finished the day in P3!! The most import we learned a lot!! Tomorrow will be even better!!” Martin, meanwhile, said this: “It’s obviously a new car – bigger, faster and a lot more downforce, so I’m adapting to it and growing up to it nice and slowly. You don’t want to push yourself too early, so we’re working up to a few things. You have to do things a lot quicker and you have to use a lot more brake pressure.”
In USF2000, it was an excellent day at the office for Pabst Racing with Andres Gutierrez – who impressed in a pair of weekends with DE Force Racing this year – leading three of four sessions, while teammates Hunter McElrea and Lucas Kohl were also in the top-five. Pabst has been busy running cars in both USF2000 and Pro Mazda this weekend.
Beyond Pabst, Newman Wachs Racing also had an excellent day, mainly with sophomore Darren Keane and Californian rookie Jake Craig. Keane, who’s coached by Ozz Negri, led the fourth and final session of the day, and stands as a driver who could make a big leap forward in performance if he secures a full season in 2018.
Another team of note today was BN Racing, with Callan O’Keefe – Keane’s teammate when both drove for Team BENIK at this race weekend last May – second best on the day. The South African is poised to be that team’s lead driver next season. Teammates Elliott Finlayson and Zoey Edenholm are working towards seasons of their own; Finlayson having coming off a recent Super Sweep in SCCA Runoffs competition at IMS last month and Edenholm having only just graduated from karts into cars just this month.
While the USF2000 field was primarily rookie-dominated, two-year series veteran Aaron Telitz made a cameo return today with RJB Motorsports, and brought the ex-ArmsUp chassis its best pace yet in RJB’s hands as the Wisconsinite ran with Mirl Swan and Alex Barron’s crew support. Past RJB driver and two-time Team USA Scholarship, Michai Stephens, was also on site today.
Speaking of ArmsUp, its top rookie from 2017, Devin Wojcik was on hand today making the rounds as well, although wasn’t in a car. He looks to return to USF2000 for a second season in 2018.
USF2000 boasted some good diversity with Pabst, BN, Newman Wachs, Exclusive, Pelfrey, BENIK and RJB teams in the top 10 today, but there’s one notable omission: Cape Motorsports. The seven-time defending champions in the series are not testing in USF2000 this weekend, and has just a single Pro Mazda car on site for Oliver Askew. Granted, the team is also at Circuit of The Americas this weekend for F4 U.S. Championship action, where Kyle Kirkwood has taken that series’ championship. DE Force, which also ran in USF2000 this year, is also not here this weekend as it’s at COTA. ArmsUp isn’t here this weekend either.