WATCH LIVE: Will James Stewart reverse his fortunes as Motocross season’s second half starts at Budds Creek?

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The first half of the 2014 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship is in the books, and the series is set up for some great second-half racing over the next six rounds, beginning today at Budds Creek.

Get set for a full afternoon of racing with the pre-race show airing exclusively online at 12:15 P.M. ET on ProMotocross.com and NBC Sports Live Extra. All four motos will then stream live from 1:00-5:00 P.M. ET, with NBCSN also televising live coverage of second motos in both classes at 3 P.M. ET. Click here to access the Live Extra stream.

Clearly this is Ken Roczen’s championship to lose right now in the 450 Class. The Red Bull KTM rider his finished on the podium in all 12 motos that have been run this season – an incredible display of consistency that has given him a 26-point cushion over teammate Ryan Dungey. Historically though, Roczen has been a much better rider in the first half of the season. When he was racing in the 250 Class last year, one crash at Round 9 was all it took to wipe out his points lead and hand the championship over to Eli Tomac. As long as Roczen can avoid those big mistakes, he will be the favorite to earn a title in his rookie season in the premier class.

Tomac battled with Roczen throughout the season last year in the 250 Class, and had Tomac been healthy entering this season, you have to think he may have added some extra intrigue to this 450 Class title race. Tomac is out of the championship running after missing the first four rounds with a broken collarbone, but since his return, there has been no adjustment period needed. The GEICO Honda rider has been a podium threat in every single moto he’s raced, battling with Ryan Dungey, who has been his usual consistent self this season, and Trey Canard, who has continuously improved throughout the year and could be on the verge of a moto win.

One of the biggest conundrums in the series right now is James Stewart. Just a few weeks ago, Stewart was being talked about as a legitimate title contender after sweeping both motos at High Point to move within striking distance of Roczen in the championship race. In the two rounds since then though, the Yoshimura Suzuki rider has been nowhere to be seen near the front of the field, repeatedly doomed by first-turn crashes which have forced him to work his way up from the back and just salvage as many points as he can. The slide has coincided with the news that Stewart was provisionally suspended by the FIM for a failed drug test during the Supercross season and could face even heavier sanctions pending the outcome of his case. Whether or not the controversy hanging over Stewart is affecting him mentally, the last two rounds have taken him out of the championship discussion for now.

Even if he can’t win a title, Stewart is still a competitor at heart and will be hungry to win races. He turned the fastest lap time in 450 Class practice this morning at Budds Creek, the first time this season he’s earned the distinction of being the top qualifier. Being the top qualifier will allow Stewart to choose any gate he wants for the start of the first moto, which could help propel him to a good start. If he can get a clean start and put himself near the front, maybe he can finally reverse his fortunes this afternoon.

Supercross points leader Eli Tomac finds silver linings in interruption

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Though his Monster Energy AMA Supercross championship charge was put on hold, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic had a silver lining for Eli Tomac.

Off the road while the season was postponed for nearly three months, the points leader was able to be present as his girlfriend, Jessica, gave birth to their daughter, Lev, on April 26

“A huge blessing for us there,” Tomac told host Mike Tirico during a “Lunch Talk Live” interview (click on the video above) in which he also joked about becoming a pro at busting off diaper changes. “That was one good blessing for us as we had our daughter on a Sunday, that would have been on a travel day coming back from the race in Las Vegas.

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“That was probably the only positive out of all this mess was being able to be there for the birth.”

But there also could be more good fortune for Tomac as the series resumes Sunday at Salt Lake City, Utah (3-4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, 4-6 p.m. on NBC).

The final seven events will be held over 22 days in Rice-Eccles Stadium, which sits at just over 4,000 feet.

The elevation could favor Tomac, who was born and lives in Colorado and is accustomed to riding and training at altitude, which is a departure for many Supercross riders (many of whom hail from California and Florida).

COVID-19 TESTING REQUIRED: Supercross outlines protocols for last seven races

“That’s going to be the test for us,” said the Kawasaki rider, who five of the first 10 races this season. “We’re at elevation in Salt Lake, so when you’re on a motorcycle, you have a little bit of a loss of power. That’s just what happens when you come up in elevation. And a lot of guys train at sea level, and we’re at 4,000 to 5,000 feet, so cardio-wise, we’ll be pushed to the limit.

“Most of our races are Saturday nights and back to back weeks, but this go around it’s Sunday and Wednesday, so recovery is going to be key.”

Supercross will race Sunday and Wednesday for the next three weeks, capping the season with the June 21 finale, which also will be shown on NBCSN from 3-4:30 p.m. ET and NBC from 4:30-6 p.m. ET.

Tomac, who holds a three-point lead over Ken Roczen (who also recently visited “Lunch Talk Live”), told Tirico he had been riding for 90 minutes Thursday morning on a track outside Salt Lake City.

“Most of us we can rely on our past riding pretty well,” Tomac said. “The question is if you can go the distance. That’s what a lot of guys have to train on is going the distance. We go 20 minutes plus a lap. That’s what you’ve got to keep sharp is your general muscles. Within two to three days, your brain starts warming up more if you take a few weeks off the motorcycle.”

Here is the schedule and TV information for the rest of the season:

  • Sunday, May 31 (3-4 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4-6 p.m. ET, NBC);
  • Wednesday, June 3 ( 10:00 pm – 1:00 am ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 7 (5-8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 10 (7–10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 14 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 17 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 21 (3-4:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. ET, NBC).
Eli Tomac rides his No. 3 Kawasaki in the Feb. 29 race at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia (Charles Mitchell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).