Jeremy Martin could clinch 250 Class Motocross championship Saturday at Indiana

1 Comment

Jeremy Martin entered the 2014 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship as an afterthought for many. Now, he can no longer be ignored.

Martin has been this season’s breakout rider in the 250 Class. It all started when he opened up the year with five consecutive moto wins – most of them coming in dominating fashion. Since then, the Yamalube/Star Racing/Yamaha rider has successfully overcome patches of adversity and now sits on the verge of a championship – one that he’s very likely to lock up this weekend in Indiana.

“The title would be a pretty big deal,” Martin said when we caught up with him at the track this week. “I always dreamed of winning an outdoor national championship as a kid, and to be able to make it happen would definitely be a dream come true. I’ll be pretty happy when that happens.”

Despite generating a lot of buzz with his rides in the latter half of the 2013 motocross season, Martin was overlooked in the 2014 championship discussion thanks to a deep field of riders in the 250 Class and a disappointing Supercross season. Being the underdog suits Martin just fine though.

“Honestly, I didn’t care to be in the discussion at all,” he said. “I figured, leave it for the other riders that want it and enjoy being in that limelight and being the center of attention. I’m more off in the shadows and like to do my own thing. I knew what I could do, and I wanted to go out and do it for myself, and it was pretty cool to be able to do that.”

Ten rounds into the season, Martin has racked up four overall victories and eight moto wins. It’s his consistency that has set him apart from the rest of the field though.

The end result is that he now holds a 66-point lead over Blake Baggett and a 74-point advantage over Cooper Webb with four motos left in the season. Martin could officially clinch the title as soon as the end of the first moto in Indiana – a victory for him, plus a sixth-place (or worse) finish for Baggett would be enough to get the job done.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Martin said of his prospective championship. “Hopefully it will later, but right now we’ve got a job to do.”

As for the future, Martin has already re-signed with the Star Yamaha team for another two years. Barring a major disaster, he’ll enter 2015 as the defending champion in the 250 Class, but he doesn’t expect to feel any extra pressure riding with the #1 plate next season.

“It’s not gonna be any different than what it is now,” Martin said. “When you’re the guy leading the points every week, everyone’s gunning to beat you because they know they can’t afford to lose any more points to you. It’s gonna be the same – the only difference is the idea of knowing that you’ve got the #1 plate.”

Based on the way he’s handled the pressure this whole season, the rest of the field will have their work cut out for them if they want to take the title away from him next year.

Watch Martin attempt to secure the 250 Class championship on Saturday. Live streaming coverage of the Thor Indiana National begins at 10:30 a.m. ET with the second practice session, followed by the pre-show at 12:15 p.m. ET. First motos in both classes get underway at 1:00 p.m. ET, with second motos to follow at 3:00 p.m. ET. Watch the live stream via ProMotocross.com or NBC Sports Live Extra.

NHRA shocker: Englishtown ceases drag racing operations, including NHRA Summernationals, effective immediately

Photo courtesy NHRA
1 Comment

If put in baseball terms, Wednesday morning’s news from the NHRA is comparable to Yankee Stadium closing down for good.

One of the most popular and longest-running race tracks on the NHRA national event circuit — Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey — announced in a statement that “it will no longer host any drag racing events at its facility, effective immediately. This includes the 49th Annual NHRA Summernationals, scheduled to take place this June.”

This is massive — and terrible news — for NHRA fans, particularly those on the East Coast, as the track more commonly known simply as “Englishtown” has long been a destination point for fans in the New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland area for decades. That not only includes NHRA national events, but also local bracket racing at the track.

Few details on the decision to stop all drag racing events are known. However, the track has long struggled being landlocked and unable to expand its runoff area for cars that have problems stopping under their own power. That is especially problematic for Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars, which are the most powerful cars in the sport and, due to the 10,000 horsepower they produce, often need longer stopping distances.

NHRA Funny Car driver Scott Kalitta was killed in a crash at Old Bridge Raceway on June 21, 2008, when his car was unable to stop in the runoff area and collided with a portable crane past the runoff area.

NHRA spokesperson Jessica Hatcher told NBC Sports in an email Wednesday morning that the sanctioning body will not look to find a replacement venue for Englishtown on the 2018 racing schedule.

As a result, the 2018 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule will shrink from 24 to 23 going forward with Englishtown’s departure.

” ‘Stunned’ is the perfect word to describe how we are all feeling right now,” Hatcher said. “For 2018, we are focusing on the remaining 23 events and do not foresee any additional changes to the schedule.”

New NHRA president Glen Cromwell said in a media release, “NHRA drag racing events have been held at the track in Englishtown for almost 50 years. The Summernationals have played an important part of our heritage and we hope that fans in the area will try to make it to another of our events.

“Our focus remains on making the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series a memorable experience for our fans, racers, sponsors, partners and tracks.”

The nearest venues to Englishtown that will host NHRA events this season are Maple Grove Raceway outside Reading, Pennsylvania (105 miles west of Englishtown) and New England Dragway in Epping, New Hampshire (310 miles northeast).

The Napp family, which owns Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, issued a statement that the facility will remain open and continue business as usual going forward — with the exception of eliminating all drag racing events, both national and local.

“Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, the Napp family owned and operated business announced today a reorganization of the company’s business operations,” the statement said. “To achieve this goal, Raceway Park will no longer conduct quarter mile or eighth mile drag racing events effective immediately.

“Raceway Park will retain and use the ‘stadium’ portion of the facility including the VIP hospitality tower and grandstands and continue most of its operations including the spring and fall auto swap meets, numerous car shows, both motocross racing and practice, kart racing, as well as drifting, a full schedule of road course activities, mud runs, monster truck shows, musical concerts, & festival events and more. The long standing Old Bridge Township Airport, owned and operated by Raceway Park will also continue to operate as normal.”

From a driver’s perspective, veteran NHRA racer Shawn Langdon, who is switching from a long career in Top Fuel to Funny Car this season for Kalitta Motorsports, won in Top Fuel at Englishtown in 2013 and laments the decision to drop drag racing there.

“It really caught me by surprise because I had not heard a thing about that,” Langdon said. “It’s unfortunate because that place has such rich history and so many great things have come out of that race in the past. It was a track that meant a lot to the Kalitta family and with Scott. They always wanted to win one for Scott. We’d have loved to have the opportunity to go back to the track and win that race for Scott.”