TUSC: Friday Roar News and Notes (UPDATED)

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Several signings have been officially announced yesterday and today for the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Here’s a quick roundup:

  • Sage Karam’s tease of a “Christmas gift” came to fruition on Friday with the news the Firestone Indy Lights champion will co-drive the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Ford EcoBoost Riley Daytona Prototype. Ganassi’s longtime NASCAR driver, Jamie McMurray, is the fourth driver to round out the lineup alongside full-season drivers Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas.
  • The second CGR car may be the better overall endurance lineup, with two of Ganassi’s full-season IndyCar drivers Scott Dixon and Tony Kanaan joining new NASCAR recruit Kyle Larson and Dario Franchitti’s younger brother Marino in the No. 02 car. Larson and Karam will each be making their 24-hour race debuts.
  • As we hinted yesterday, 2012 IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay will return to SRT Motorsports for endurance races with Rob Bell the second endurance driver in the GTLM class SRT Viper GTS-Rs. Hunter-Reay joins full-season drivers Dominik Farnbacher and Marc Goossens in the No. 91, with Bell alongside Kuno Wittmer and Jonathan Bomarito in the No. 93.
  • Alex Brundle has officially been confirmed in Muscle Milk Pickett Racing’s No. 6 ORECA 03 Nissan alongside Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr. Tom Dyer joins the trio for the test. Additionally, the Pickett team has become an official partner with Nissan, and drivers from the Nismo Global Driver Exchange Program will race at further TUDOR Championship endurance races.
  • Per Sportscar365, John Martin will join the Frisselle brothers/Stefan Johansson/Fabien Giroix lineup in the No. 9 Action Express Racing Corvette DP for Daytona, and IMSA Prototype Lites champion Sean Rayhall will step up to a full season effort in the No. 87 BAR1 Motorsports PC car.

Here’s a list of pre-new year driver and team combinations, and a link to the Roar entry list. Meanwhile in series announcements, Tully’s Coffee has been announced as Official Coffee of the TUDOR Championship & a Proud Partner of IMSA.

Tully’s was a sponsor for the then-called Dempsey Del Piero Racing team in 2013 with proposed investment from Michael Avenatti, but Avenatti did not drive another race for the team after Monterey in May. Avenatti has resurfaced with the new GB Autosport team, which fields the No. 81 Porsche 911 GT America in the GT Daytona class, with co-drivers Damien Faulkner, Bob Faieta and Patrick Huisman.

Times from this morning’s first session are linked here, via IMSAtiming.com.

This post will be updated as further announcements roll in.

Eli Tomac, Ken Roczen’s two-man battle in Motocross provides surprises

Rich Shepherd, ProMotocross
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The 2019 Motocross season is one-third in the books and the title battle may have already come down to a two-man contest, while the pair of contenders might just be a little surprising in their own way.

Strictly by the numbers, no one can count Eli Tomac’s early season charge of first- and second-place finishes shocking, but threepeating in Motocross is such an incredibly difficult feat that no one would have been surprised to see him struggle out of the gates either. And in fact, that is precisely what happened.

Tomac came out of the gates slow in Round 1 and was seventh by the end of Lap 1 of Moto 1 – hardly the auspicious start he hoped for. He rebounded only as far as fourth and that ultimately cost him a chance to win the overall. Tomac won Moto 2 to claim second overall.

In Round 2, Tomac found his rhythm and won both Motos and grabbed the red plate. For the moment, he had the momentum with three consecutive Moto wins.

Tomac stumbled again in Round 3 – this time finishing only fifth in Moto 1 and earning only 16 points to dig a deep hole that eventually surrendered the red plate to Ken Roczen.

It was at Thunder Valley in Round 3 that a pattern emerged. Tomac would not make it easy on himself early in the day, but was more than capable of winning the second Motos to overcome his deficit.

That Roczen has won this season is also not a surprise in itself. Many believed his ascent to the top step of the podium was way overdue.

That he has run so well, however, was not entirely expected at the start of the season. Since injuring both arms in a pair of accidents, Roczen came tantalizingly close to snapping his winless streak a dozen times. He won heat races during the Supercross season and finished second at Anaheim I, Minneapolis, Dallas, and Seattle earlier this year.

He just couldn’t secure the overall win.

Roczen’s Moto 1 victory at Hangtown might have been the precursor to another disappointing weekend, but once Tomac got into the lead, Roczen zeroed in on the Kawasaki’s back tire and finished second in route to the overall victory.

Roczen lost the overall and the red plate to Tomac in Round 2 at Pala, but he stood on the podium in both Motos. Roczen podiumed twice again in Round 3 while taking that overall victory to regain the red plate in what has become a seesaw affair in the early part of the 2019 season.

Last week, Roczen looked more like Tomac with his desperate struggle in Moto 1 and sixth-place finish. That was the first (and so far only) time this season that he failed to stand on the podium.

Roczen’s Moto 2 win last week was just enough to put him second overall with barely enough points to force a tie at the top of the leaderboard with 176 points apiece.

Meanwhile, Tomac failed to win either Moto with a third in the first race and runner-up finish in the second.

The moral victory and advantage may shift to Roczen this week.

As they have swapped the victory in the first four rounds with Roczen winning the odd-numbered events, he sees this weekend’s Round 5 as an opportunity.

“I’m looking forward to next weekend’s race,” Roczen said in a team press release. “The track is sandy. It’s very similar—actually almost identical—to what I ride on a regular basis at home.”

Tomac and Roczen enter Round 5 with a 32-point advantage over two riders tied for third in the standings.

So far Zach Osborne and Jason Anderson have not been in the same league as the leaders, but it only takes one slip of the wheel to fall out of the points in in a race and allow these racers to close the gap.

Season passes can be purchased at NBC Sports Gold.

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