Chevy seeks St. Pete three-peat; Honda looks to return to top in IndyCar opener

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A less heralded but still key talking point of the Verizon IndyCar Series season opener, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, is which engine manufacturer will emerge on top.

Chevrolet has taken the opening two season-openers since returning to the series in 2012. Helio Castroneves took the 2012 victory and James Hinchcliffe passed the Brazilian to emerge victorious one year ago.

For this 2014 edition, Honda opens up with its new twin-turbo specification for the first time, while Chevrolet is into year three of development with its own version after successive IndyCar Manufacturer’s Championships.

Some of the areas where Chevrolet still sought to improve throughout 2013 and into 2014 included fuel injection, cylinder heads, plenum / inlet system, exhaust headers and calibration, to improve upon an already immensely successful engine.

“Team Chevy is primed, prepared and positive about the start of the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series season kicking off on the streets of St. Petersburg, said Chris Berube, Chevrolet Racing Program Manager, Verizon IndyCar Series. “Chevrolet has had good results on this circuit the past two seasons since returning to IndyCar competition. With our updated 2.2L twin turbo direct injected V6 Chevrolet IndyCar engines, new formats to the championship points and a race on the road course at IMS to kick off the month of May, there is a plethora of new challenges to look forward to. Top it off with Verizon as the new Series sponsor to engage the fans with leading edge communication technology and this could be the season to remember.”

On the team side, Chevrolet loses Andretti Autosport but gains Chip Ganassi Racing. In total, they’ll have just four teams and 10 cars.

Honda, which has lost technical director Roger Griffiths, has seven teams and 12 cars. The manufacturer’s new engine is designed, manufactured, maintained and developed by HPD.

“We’ve been encouraged by the performance of the new Honda Indy V6 and the improvements we’ve made during the off-season,” said Mark Crawford, HPD Large Project Leader for the IndyCar program. “We believe we have a great lineup of teams and drivers, including a good balance of proven race winners and promising new stars. We’re looking forward to the start of the 2014 season on the streets of St. Petersburg, and taking on the challenge presented by Chevrolet in the battle for the Manufacturers’ Championship.”

Andretti’s group has the highest number of Hondas in the field, with four entries.

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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