Last week’s winner at Daytona, Aric Almirola, crashed with around 20 minutes remaining in second practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this morning at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Going into Turn 3, Almirola lost control, spun, and then slammed into the wall. The impact flattened the left side of his primary No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Ford, and has forced RPM to roll out his backup car.
Almirola later confirmed that a blown tire was the cause of his crash, making him the second driver this weekend to crash after suffering a tire failure. Joey Logano lost his left-rear and hit the wall during Friday’s first practice.
Logano also needed a backup car but was able to qualify sixth yesterday for the Camping World RV Sales 301. Almirola qualified 19th, but will have to start from the back of the grid for Sunday’s main event since his incident took place after qualifying.
“It was fine down the back straightaway and right about the time I was getting on the brakes into Turn 3, I felt [the tire] go down and I was just along for the ride,” Almirola told Fox Sports.
“It’s disappointing. Our [car] was decent – we still had some work to do, but it was decent…We’re gonna have to make our backup car work for us.
“Our backup car may be even better than our primary car. We were struggling a little bit to get this [primary] car to go across the center of the corner like we wanted it to.”
Brad Keselowski was fastest in the 50-minute practice session with a lap of 133.745 mph around the Magic Mile. Jamie McMurray was second-quickest (133.086), followed by Jeff Gordon (133.035), Denny Hamlin (132.901), and Kyle Larson (132.868).
Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.
There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.
Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.
Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.
By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.
With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.
This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit. Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome in 1974. Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.
Two privateers have started the season on a high note.
Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.
The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.
Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.
In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.