Big results for Kanaan, Andretti in delayed Firestone Fast Six

Leave a comment

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. – In a Verizon IndyCar Series Firestone Fast Six, you expect names like Will Power, Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay to be in the group. At St. Petersburg, you’re now starting to expect Takuma Sato – who qualified second last year and made it one spot better with pole this Saturday.

But Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti? Considering neither has been a hugely successful qualifier in recent years, seeing both make it into today’s Fast Six was a minor surprise.

In 2013, Kanaan had two and Andretti just one Fast Six appearances. In each, they qualified fourth. But both qualified decently well at St. Pete, with Andretti seventh last year (he ultimately finished third) and Kanaan 11th (finished fourth).

On Saturday, Kanaan took what has long been Dario Franchitti’s No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing entry, now with Chevrolet power, up to second. He joked about his recent qualifying sessions after Saturday’s outing.

“A lot of people made a lot of comments over the years because we struggled so much in qualifying in street and road courses and nobody was counting on that. I like to be the element of surprise,” said “TK.” “Nobody was talking about us at Indy last year and nobody was talking about this weekend. Although this is not even half of the battle because this is qualifying. Front Row, man it feels pretty good! I used to see 16 or 17 cars in front of me in a circuit like that so it feels pretty good.”

Meanwhile Andretti ended sixth, and second best of the now-Honda-powered Andretti Autosport quartet, for his first Firestone Fast Six appearance on a street circuit since St. Pete in 2010 – when he qualified fourth. He’s qualified seventh in St. Pete each of the last three years prior to 2014.

“We have to consider more than weather, it’s the first race back and with a new engine, we don’t really know as far as fuel mileage and stuff how we’ll do until warm up,” said Andretti. “There’s a lot to sort of see how it plays out, not sure what to expect but hopefully a good day and we can keep the track position. We were able to save a set of reds for the race which will be good.”

Look forward to seeing how two of the series’ best racers do Sunday from improved grid positions.

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

Rich Shepherd, ProMotocross
Leave a comment

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.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter