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Ken Roczen wins 450 Class Motocross championship Saturday in Utah

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It wasn’t Ken Roczen’s best race of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship season, but it may have been his smartest one. A third-place finish in the first moto and a fourth-place finish in the second moto at Saturday’s Utah National were enough to secure the 450 Class title in the final race of the season.

Although Roczen – who led his Red Bull KTM teammate Ryan Dungey by 20 points entering the day – intended to come into Saturday’s race with the mindset that he needed to keep the pressure on and go for the win, in reality he could have cruised to a championship with a pair of top-five moto finishes, and that’s what ended up happening.

Roczen got a great start in the first moto, putting himself into second place behind Trey Canard and setting himself up for a chance to take over the lead. Roczen briefly pressured Canard for the top spot but couldn’t make the pass, and as Canard began to open up a gap, a pivotal battle for second came to fruition once Dungey caught Roczen. The position changed hands three times, with lapped riders a factor on several occasions. Dungey – who finished second behind Canard – ended up with the spot and beat Roczen but still faced a substantial points deficit to overcome in the second moto.

The second moto started off much the same way as the first one. Canard and Roczen emerged as the top two, and after Roczen’s challenge for the lead was denied, he was content to let Canard ride away with the top spot. Roczen soon fell into the clutches of both Dungey and Eli Tomac but didn’t put up a fight as they moved past him, and Roczen then settled into fourth place – easily good enough for the 450 Class rookie to lock up the championship.

Watch the recap of the 450 Moto 2 race:

“I’ve been trying to play it cool [all weekend] but I’m not going to lie, I’ve been really nervous about today,” Roczen admitted after the race. “I just didn’t want to talk about it and [wanted to] go out there and ride. I just pumped myself up for the motos and went, but it was honestly hard to put it out of my mind. I just went out there and did what I needed to do and made it happen, which is a huge accomplishment.”

While Roczen celebrated the first Lucas Oil Pro Motocross title of his career, Canard had reason of his own to celebrate. With a sweep of both motos, Canard earned the first overall win of his 450 Class career. He also closed the year out strong, winning four of the season’s final five motos. Prior to that streak, he had never won a 450 Class moto since moving up to the premier division several years ago.

“I’ve gotten more comfortable [the last few weeks],” Canard noted. “It’s no secret we made bike changes and it was instant for me in gaining more confidence. I really have to attribute that to the team and I’ve had a lot of fun. I’ve been through such a roller coaster career, I thought that if I didn’t win today then it would be hard to win [ever]. I just wanted to put two motos together to give us [momentum] going into next year.”

Ryan Dungey (2-2 moto results) finished second overall for the day, and Eli Tomac (4-3 moto results) edged out Roczen for the final podium spot.

The 2014 season is over, but don’t expect a quiet offseason. Several top riders will be switching to new teams, with official announcements still to come, then the preparation for the 2015 Supercross season – which starts in January – will begin.

Utah 450 Class Overall Results
1. Trey Canard (1-1)
2. Ryan Dungey (2-2)
3. Eli Tomac (4-3)
4. Ken Roczen (3-4)
5. Brett Metcalfe (7-5)
6. Ryan Sipes (9-6)
7. Andrew Short (6-12)
8. Fredrik Noren (10-9)
9. Weston Peick (13-7)
10. Justin Brayton (12-8)
*Moto 1 and Moto 2 results in parenthesis

450 Class Final Point Standings
1. Ken Roczen, 532
2. Ryan Dungey, 518
3. Trey Canard, 468
4. Brett Metcalfe, 334
5. Eli Tomac, 319
6. Andrew Short, 302
7. Weston Peick, 290
8. Josh Grant, 259
9. James Stewart, 226
10. Fredrik Noren, 207

Sainz keen to race in Russia; decision to be made on Sunday

xxxx during final practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on October 10, 2015 in Sochi, Russia.
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Carlos Sainz Jr. has been discharged from hospital in Sochi following his practice accident, and is now hoping to take part in tomorrow’s Russian Grand Prix.

Sainz crashed at turn 13 with considerable force during final practice on Saturday, pitching underneath the TecPro barrier that made extracting him from the car difficult.

After 20 minutes, the rescue staff on site were able to remove Sainz from the car before transporting him in an ambulance to the medical centre.

Sainz gave a thumbs up to fans on the way there, and tweeted from hospital that he was unharmed after undergoing a number of checks.

In a statement issued by Toro Rosso after qualifying on Saturday, it was confirmed that Sainz had been discharged from hospital. The Spaniard has now set his sights on starting tomorrow’s race.

“My back and my neck are just a bit sore from the accident, but I’m totally ready,” Sainz said. “Hopefully tomorrow I will wake up in a good shape and maybe I can try and race – this is definitely the intention!

“Obviously we need to be cautious. I’ve always been conscious. As soon as the accident happened I tried to talk to the team on the radio, but it wasn’t working and those must have been some scary moments.

“I’d like to thank everyone for their support, it’s really nice to receive all your messages at a moment like this one! I hope to see you all tomorrow out there!”

Team principal Franz Tost confirmed that a decision will be made on Sainz’s participation following further medical checks on Sunday before clarifying the suspected cause of the accident.

“I’m very happy that Carlos is okay and out of hospital, this is the most important thing for us,” Tost said. “I hope he will have a good night’s sleep and tomorrow morning he will have to go through the FIA medical checks to decide if he will be able to take part in tomorrow’s race.

“Now, just to clarify what happened. Prior to the accident, Carlos had completed a long-run on the option tire, before changing to the prime to do two further laps. On primes the grip level is lower.

“In addition he had changed the brake shape on the steering wheel, which meant he had more braking rearwards. A combination of these two factors might have been the cause of the rears locking, which made the car uncontrollable.”

Should Sainz be deemed fit by the FIA medical delegate, he will have to start the race from the pit lane.

The Russian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 6:30am ET on Sunday.

Hamilton unsure about Mercedes’ race pace in Russia

xxxx during qualifying for the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on October 10, 2015 in Sochi, Russia.
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Lewis Hamilton remains unsure about Mercedes’ race pace after losing the majority of practice running to a number of incidents on Friday and Saturday.

The entire field was limited to just one hour of dry running on Friday when a diesel spillage caused the session to be shortened.

Heavy rain washed out FP2, and FP3 was red flagged after 35 minutes when Carlos Sainz Jr. crashed hard at turn 13.

Mercedes showed few signs of weakness in qualifying, though, as it locked out the front row of the grid with Nico Rosberg scoring his third pole position of the season.

Hamilton admitted that he made a mistake on his final lap in Q3, but is unsure how Mercedes will shape up in the race compared to the rest of the field.

“Everyone was in the same position today with the limited practice,” Hamilton said. “I didn’t get a hooked-up lap together but Nico did, so well done to him.

“It’s going to be a long race tomorrow though, so hopefully I might have a chance. There’s a long run down to turn two, so we’ll both be studying the line to take tonight. Maybe I can get a good start, we’ll see.

“We haven’t done a lot of laps, so I’m not really sure what our pace is like compared to the others. Our goal in the race as always is to finish well for the team, so we’ll be trying to do that.”

The Russian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 6:30am ET on Sunday.