Eli Tomac sweeps Spring Creek, earns first 450 Class Motocross win

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It only took four rounds for Eli Tomac to record his first career victory in the 450 Class.

Sidelined by a broken collarbone for the early part of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship season, Tomac made his premier class debut three weeks ago at Muddy Creek and has finished on the podium at every round since then. Last season’s 250 Class champion may be out of title contention this year, but he proved that he’ll be a force to contend with over the rest of the season after sweeping both of today’s motos at the Spring Creek National.

In the first moto of the day, Ken Roczen got off to the early lead, but Tomac had tracked him down by the midpoint of the race. Tomac was finally presented with the opportunity to make a pass attempt later in the moto, but Roczen was resilient and repeatedly countered the GEICO Honda rider’s moves – leaving the two racing side-by-side through the sand whoops and over jumps. In one of the season’s best duels so far, the battle see-sawed back and forth until Tomac eventually made a pass stick with about four minutes left on the clock and went on to win the first moto of his 450 Class career.

Tomac faced far less of a challenge en route to his victory in the second moto. After a malfunction with the starting gate forced the race to be red-flagged and restarted, Tomac came out firing with an excellent start, emerging from the first turn with the lead. Although he was briefly passed by Justin Brayton, Tomac came right back and retook the top spot, ultimately leading every lap of the moto.

Watch the recap of 450 Moto 2 below:

The 1-1 sweep earned Tomac his first-ever 450 Class overall win.

“Luckily enough, I got another [holeshot after the red flag],” Tomac said following the second moto. “Brayton just beat me down the first straightaway, but after that, I was just hitting my marks. I felt really comfortable on this track today.”

Minnesota native Ryan Dungey (3-2) finished second overall in front of the hometown fans, and Ken Roczen (2-4) rounded out the final spot on the overall podium.

Roczen’s fourth-place finish in Moto 2 marked the first time this season that he has failed to finish inside the top three in a moto. He allowed Dungey to pick up two points on him today, but Roczen still holds a 24-point edge heading into next weekend’s race at Washougal.

Spring Creek 450 Class Overall Results
1. Eli Tomac (1-1)
2. Ryan Dungey (3-2)
3. Ken Roczen (2-4)
4. Trey Canard (4-3)
5. Josh Grant (5-5)
6. Brett Metcalfe (6-6)
7. Andrew Short (9-7)
8. Weston Peick (8-8)
9. Fredrik Noren (11-10)
10. Matt Goerke (12-11)
*Moto 1 and Moto 2 results in parenthesis

MRTI: Barber Recap

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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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