Blake Baggett passes Jeremy Martin late to secure 250 Class Motocross overall win at Budds Creek

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With the second half of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship kicking off at Budds Creek, it once again came down to Blake Baggett and Jeremy Martin battling for the win in the 250 Class.

Jason Anderson took the victory in the opening 250 Class moto of the day, earning the first moto win of his career and joining Baggett, Martin and Cooper Webb as the only riders to win a moto this season. Martin and Baggett were hot on Anderson’s heels though as the riders crossed the checkered flag after the duo spent much of the race working their way up to second and third, respectively. Although neither rider could surpass Anderson by the end of the race, they both set themselves up in a strong position to take the overall win if they could grab the victory in Moto 2.

Watch the recap of 250 Moto 1:

In that second moto, Jeremy Martin cruised to the MotoSport.com Holeshot Award and seemed like he might just check out and pick up the win easily. Baggett was stuck in fourth place behind Christophe Pourcel and Anderson after the first lap and would have to overtake those two riders before challenging Martin. Pourcel in particular was difficult to pass, holding up Baggett for a good ten minutes before finally ceding second place to the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider. Martin was unable to take advantage of their battle and pull away out front, and as a result, Baggett steadily cut into his lead until he was right on Martin’s rear fender with about six minutes left on the countdown clock.

On the 12th lap of the moto, Baggett passed Martin on the inside and would take over the lead. Martin seemed to admit defeat after being passed and toned down his riding, ultimately finishing 15 seconds behind Baggett. On a day when many riders may have been worn down by the heat and humidity at Budds Creek, Baggett was in peak form.

Watch the recap of 250 Moto 2:

The pass for the lead not only gave Baggett the moto win, it also represented a six-point swing in the championship race that both secured Baggett the overall victory and allowed him to chip away at Martin’s points lead, albeit by a single point.

Baggett is now 27 points back of Martin, who still holds onto the red number plate signifying his championship lead. “Even if I [have to take] the red plate the last moto at Utah [the final round of the series], then that’s what we’re gonna do,” Baggett said after the victory. “We’re not going to stop fighting until then.”

Watch Baggett’s post-race interview:

The stage is being set for a showdown between Martin and Baggett over the final five rounds. Things should be particularly interesting next week when the series heads to Spring Creek, a track that is quite literally Jeremy Martin’s home track – his parents own the facility, and he grew up riding it.

Budds Creek 250 Class Overall Results
1. Blake Baggett (3-1)
2. Jeremy Martin (2-2)
3. Jason Anderson (1-7)
4. Christophe Pourcel (6-3)
5. Cooper Webb (5-4)
6. Justin Bogle (4-5)
7. Justin Hill (13-6)
8. Cole Seely (10-9)
9. Anthony Rodriguez (9-10)
10. Marvin Musquin (8-14)
*Moto 1 and Moto 2 results in parenthesis

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

Follow@KyleMLavigne