He may not be in contention for a championship this year, but Eli Tomac is the rider getting the most buzz heading into this weekend’s Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship race.
Tomac missed the first four rounds of the season as he recovered from a broken collarbone but has been a major force in the series since returning and making his 450 Class debut. In the four rounds he’s raced, the GEICO Honda rider has finished on the podium each time, and he put on a masterful display a week ago at Spring Creek, sweeping both motos to earn his first career overall win.
Had Tomac not missed any races, he very well could be battling with Ken Roczen and Ryan Dungey for the 450 Class championship this season. Instead, Tomac will have to settle for playing the role of spoiler to the Red Bull KTM duo. He has a lot of momentum headed into today’s MotoSport.com Washougal National, and as we saw last year when Tomac won the 250 Class championship, he has the ability to step up his riding in the second half of the season.
Is Tomac ready to go on a run and reel off several more wins before the season concludes, or will Roczen and Dungey reassert their place at the front of the field today at Washougal?
Here’s a few other news and notes for today’s race.
Stewart Sitting Out
One week after being unable to race the second moto at Spring Creek due to a spell of dizziness, James Stewart will not compete today at Washougal. The Yoshimura Suzuki team said that they hope to have him return for the next round at Unadilla, but Stewart has a history of being a mercurial man, so nothing is guaranteed.
Andrew Short has quietly been one of the most consistent riders in the series – something that seems to be said about him every year. Although he sits just eighth in points, his streak of 13 consecutive top-ten moto finishes is topped only by Roczen, Dungey and Trey Canard.
Title Hopes Slipping Away
In the 250 Class, the pressure is on for Cooper Webb and Blake Baggett, who both lost a lot of points to Jeremy Martin last week thanks to crashes. Martin was able to stretch his points lead out to the equivalent of nearly two full motos, so with just eight motos left on the schedule, Webb and Baggett can’t afford to make any more mistakes.
Wilson Rounding into Form?
It’s been a rough season for Dean Wilson, who was expected to be a contender for the 250 Class title before an injury at the first round caused him to miss several weeks and ended those hopes. Wilson had his best day of the season last week, posting 5th-place finishes in both motos, and could be rounding back into form. Wilson is among a group of riders – Christophe Pourcel, Marvin Musquin and Justin Bogle included – who could conceivably still capture their first moto win before the end of the season.
Coverage from Washougal resumes with the pre-race show at 3:15 PM E.T., available online exclusively on ProMotocross.com and NBC Sports Live Extra. The pre-show will lead right into first and second motos for both classes from 4:00-8:00 PM E.T. Click here to access the Live Extra stream.
NBCSN will also televise live coverage of second motos from 6:00-8:00 PM E.T.
MRTI: Chris Griffis Test Sunday times and notebook
Thompson (90, Exclusive) and Hoogenboom (78, BN) in Pro Mazda. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
The two-day Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Test concluded on Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Combined times after the two days of running are below, with Nico Jamin (Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires) and Oliver Askew (Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires) remaining on top from Saturday to Sunday, and Darren Keane (Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda) supplanting Andres Gutierrez at the head of that field.
Previous notebooks are linked here (Friday, Saturday), with additional Sunday notes to follow.
Several drivers pulled double duty between series, namely Parker Thompson (Exclusive Autosport in Pro Mazda and USF2000), Carlos Cunha (Juncos Racing in Indy Lights and Pro Mazda) and Aaron Telitz (Team Pelfrey in Pro Mazda, RJB Motorsports in USF2000). Telitz (above) added a run in Pro Mazda in Team Pelfrey’s No. 82 car; the Wisconsinite has done a lot of the series’ testing for the new Pro Mazda Tatuus PM-18, and had hoped to run all three series. We’ll have more meanwhile on Thompson and Exclusive’s double in the days to come; the Michael Duncalfe-led team out of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan was one of three new Pro Mazda teams adding those cars to USF2000 efforts (Pabst Racing, BN Racing) this week.
There were a handful of drivers that changed cars or teams for Sunday’s second day of the test, primarily in USF2000. While Keane ran both days at Newman Wachs, the Brian Halahan-managed team ran David Osborne and Oscar DeLuzuriaga in the Nos. 37 and 38 cars, taking over from Jake Craig and Max Peichel. Osborne switched from Team Pelfrey, where he ran Saturday, and where Jacob Loomis ran Sunday. Justin Gordon ran a second Exclusive Autosport chassis, switching to the No. 90 on Sunday after running the No. 92 Saturday.
The PM-18 best lap set by Askew is more than three seconds faster than the series’ official track record (Pato O’Ward in 2016, at 1:22.8800, 105.941 mph). Askew’s best time of 1:19.8142 averages 110.010 mph around the 2.439-mile circuit. Neither the Indy Lights nor USF2000 cars eclipsed the existing lap records in those categories.
Drivers largely extolled the PM-18’s outright pace and potential with the horsepower upgrade, in what is a significant step forward for the series. “Following prototype testing of the new PM-18, I believed that we had a special race car and this weekend’s testing confirms that,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “Based on team and driver comments, this is a fantastic race car and I am very pleased with what Tatuus, Elite Engines and my team have assembled. It fits perfectly in between the USF-17 and the IL-15 in terms of lap times and, more importantly, it takes what a driver learns in the first step and introduces higher HP, higher grip and higher aero. This will be a great training car for years to come, and seeing our program now with three excellent and well-designed cars is very satisfying to me.”
Keane, one of the few veterans (relatively speaking) within USF2000 was plugged in this weekend as the only driver outside Pabst Racing to threaten the top of the timesheets. “It’s a good boost in confidence for me heading into next year. I am really happy with how everything is going with the team. They are a great group of guys and it’s just really good to see us improving and being where we want to be,” he said.
Rinus Veekay hailed the Indy Lights Dallara IL-15 Mazda this weekend in his first test there, although the talented Dutch teenager may well focus on Pro Mazda next season and shoot to win that championship, and continue his battle with Askew established in USF2000. “The car is very nice, quick,” noted VeeKay. “You can really feel the downforce and it was a pleasure to drive.”
The MRTI is done with official running for the year, but the $200,000 MRTI Scholarship Shootout remains in December at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, the former Firebird Raceway, outside Phoenix. The winner of that will get a ticket into USF2000 for the 2018 season.
Full MRTI spring training will take place at Homestead-Miami Speedway in February 2018, with undoubtedly a bevy of driver and team announcements to come over the following months.