Jeremy Martin, Cooper Webb highlight riders to watch for today’s Motocross race at Hangtown

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The opening round of the 2014 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship raised a lot of questions last weekend. The second round today at Hangtown should hopefully answer at least a few of them.

The most intriguing question of all: After their 1-2 sweep at Glen Helen, can Jeremy Martin and Cooper Webb continue their success in the 250 Class?

The Yamalube/Star Racing/Yamaha teammates were far and away the best riders on the track last week. The fact that Martin is winning races should come as no surprise – he was one of the strongest riders throughout the second half of the 2013 season. What was unexpected though was how dominant he was in winning those races. Martin finished 15 seconds ahead of the second-place rider in Moto 1, then 21 seconds ahead in Moto 2.

The second-place finisher in both those motos was his teammate Webb. The 18-year-old from North Carolina faced his share of ups and downs last season, but showed flashes of excellence amidst bouts of inconsistency.

Both riders are entering their second full seasons of pro racing and have clearly taken a big step forward this year. Hangtown will provide a true barometer though – can the rest of the field catch up to the sophomore sensations, or will this become their championship to lose?

Beyond Martin and Webb, here’s a few other stories to keep an eye on throughout today’s motos.

250 Class

Blake Baggett: With teammate and fellow 250MX title contender Dean Wilson now out indefinitely with a leg injury, Baggett’s championship hopes get a boost. He finished a disappointing eighth in Moto 1 at Glen Helen, and although he rebounded for third-place in Moto 2, he needs to show that he can run with Martin and Webb.

Cole Seely: The AMA Supercross specialist is starting to make a mark in Lucas Oil Pro Motocross. Fresh off a third-place overall finish in the 250 Class at Glen Helen, another trip to the podium today would prove that he’s become even more well-rounded as a racer.

450 Class

Josh Grant: Grant won the first 450 Class moto last week, leading from start to finish. He crashed on the first lap of Moto 2 though, making it hard to assess what tier he belongs in, relative to the rest of the field. Could top-five finishes become the new norm for him?

James Stewart: Widely expected to contend for the 450MX championship, Stewart underwhelmed at Glen Helen with sixth-place finishes in both motos. He’s won before at Hangtown, so this presents a good opportunity for him to finish on the podium. Otherwise, his title hopes could start to slip away.

Ryan Dungey vs. Ken Roczen, Round 2: Dungey enters Hangtown with the lead in the championship standings but holds just a one-point edge over his teammate Roczen. After last week’s incredible battle – which featured Dungey making a last-lap pass for the win – what’s in store for an encore?

Live coverage from Hangtown begins today at 1:30pm E.T. on ProMotocross.com and NBC Sports Live Extra with the second practice session of the day. Coverage resumes with an online-only pre-show airing at 3:15pm E.T., followed by four motos of live racing from 4-8pm E.T. Click here to access the Live Extra stream.

NBCSN will also televise live coverage of the second motos in the 450 and 250 Classes from 6-8pm E.T.

Title contenders stumble on the streets of Toronto

Photo: IndyCar
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The championship picture of the Verizon IndyCar Series saw a massive shakeup after Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto. While points leader Scott Dixon ended up in victory lane, his third win on the streets of Toronto and his third win of the 2018 season, all of his championship rivals stumbled.

Josef Newgarden, the pole sitter and second-place man in championship – he trailed Dixon by 33 points entering Sunday – led from the pole and looked to be a contender for the win, but a Lap 34 restart saw his day come apart.

Newgarden ran wide exiting the final corner coming to the green flag and smacked the outside wall. He plummeted through the field and pitted under caution – for a Turn 1 pileup involving Graham Rahal, Max Chilton, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Will Power, and Sebastien Bourdais – to allow the No. 1 Hitachi Chevrolet Team Penske group to examine the car for damage.

Newgarden continued on, but was never a contender the rest of the day, ultimately finishing ninth.

“I knew it would be low grip, but not zero grip. I just lost the front end completely,” Newgarden said in describing how the wall contact happened. “I feel terrible, it’s not fun to make a mistake.”

Alexander Rossi, who sits third in the championship, ran a steady sixth in the first stint until Lap 27, when contact with Will Power damaged his front wing. Rossi was then caught up in the melee on the Lap 34 restart, getting airborne over the left-front of his Andretti Autosport teammate Hunter-Reay.

Rossi again pitted for a new front wing – he had six stops in total – and ended up eighth on a day when he felt like a podium beckoned.

“It’s a pretty disappointing result. I don’t think we had the car to beat Scott (Dixon), but for sure with the problems that everyone had, we could’ve finished second. It’s been a difficult string of races,” Rossi said afterward.

Hunter-Reay, too, had a day forget. After going from sixth to third on the start, he spun his No. 28 DHL Honda into the Turn 3 Barrier on Lap 27. And like Rossi, he was caught up in the Lap 34 pileup, falling off the lead lap in the process.

Hunter-Reay languished in 16th at the checkered flag.

“It was a very unfortunate day and a big loss for us in points,” Hunter-Reay lamented. “The DHL Honda was running comfortable in third and pushing hard, but I had too much front brake lock and found the tire barrier – that’s my fault. Then after that, we got caught up in a wreck, which put us a lap down. From there we just fought to stay in front of the leader.”

Power, too, hit his struggles after the first stint, when contact with the Turn 11 wall, an incident similar to the one that his Team Penske teammate Newgarden had, bent the right-rear suspension of his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet. He also had contact with Rossi later that lap.

Power lost two laps in the pits as the team made repairs, and he took the checkered flag in 18th.

“In the last corner, I brushed the wall and bent a rear toe link, so the car was a little bit out of whack. I didn’t even know that (Alexander) Rossi and I touched. I was just kind of trying to hang on until we got a yellow and could pit,” Power explained. “I’ve never had so many DNFs; not DNF for this race, but like a DNF in a season. Still, it’s kind of how this sport can go.”

All told, their struggles mean that Dixon leads the championship by 62 points over Newgarden. Rossi sits third, 70 points of the lead, followed by Hunter-Reay and Power, who sit 91 and 93 points out of the lead respectively.

And the next race, the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (July 29 on NBCSN) won’t make it easy for them to make up ground, as Dixon’s record there is astoundingly strong. The four-time IndyCar champion has five wins at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, his most recent triumph coming in 2014, a race in which he famously came from last on the grid (22nd) to win.

Conversely, Newgarden, Rossi, Hunter-Reay, and Power have a combined one win at Mid-Ohio (Newgarden, last year).

However, the likes of Newgarden and Rossi still appear confident that they can make up for their Toronto struggles.

“We have to move on now and try to pick it back up. With the championship battle, we’ve got a long way to go. This doesn’t help but look, we have plenty of racing (left),” said Newgarden. “We need to keep our head up here. We’re going to be just fine, we’ve got fast cars and the best in the business. If we get our mistakes sorted out, we’re going to be just fine.”

Rossi, who finished sixth at Mid-Ohio last year, echoed similar sentiment, and thinks Mid-Ohio presents an opportunity to get back on track.

“We’re very good at Mid-Ohio, we’re kind of circling Toronto and Mid-Ohio as two races we were going to be pretty good at, so we got to reset, man, and just execute,” Rossi explained afterward. “We’re fast. We’re there every weekend. That’s the important thing. It’s a lot harder to be outside the top 10 and looking for answers. We’re fighting for pole every weekend. We’re in the Fast Six virtually every weekend, so you’re putting yourself in position to have a good result, it hasn’t come really since Texas.”

The 2018 championship is far from over – the season-ending GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma being a double-points event helps ensure as much. But, if Dixon does claim the 2018 title, Toronto may be the race that serves as the turning point.

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