Eli Tomac sweeps Spring Creek, earns first 450 Class Motocross win

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It only took four rounds for Eli Tomac to record his first career victory in the 450 Class.

Sidelined by a broken collarbone for the early part of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship season, Tomac made his premier class debut three weeks ago at Muddy Creek and has finished on the podium at every round since then. Last season’s 250 Class champion may be out of title contention this year, but he proved that he’ll be a force to contend with over the rest of the season after sweeping both of today’s motos at the Spring Creek National.

In the first moto of the day, Ken Roczen got off to the early lead, but Tomac had tracked him down by the midpoint of the race. Tomac was finally presented with the opportunity to make a pass attempt later in the moto, but Roczen was resilient and repeatedly countered the GEICO Honda rider’s moves – leaving the two racing side-by-side through the sand whoops and over jumps. In one of the season’s best duels so far, the battle see-sawed back and forth until Tomac eventually made a pass stick with about four minutes left on the clock and went on to win the first moto of his 450 Class career.

Tomac faced far less of a challenge en route to his victory in the second moto. After a malfunction with the starting gate forced the race to be red-flagged and restarted, Tomac came out firing with an excellent start, emerging from the first turn with the lead. Although he was briefly passed by Justin Brayton, Tomac came right back and retook the top spot, ultimately leading every lap of the moto.

Watch the recap of 450 Moto 2 below:

The 1-1 sweep earned Tomac his first-ever 450 Class overall win.

“Luckily enough, I got another [holeshot after the red flag],” Tomac said following the second moto. “Brayton just beat me down the first straightaway, but after that, I was just hitting my marks. I felt really comfortable on this track today.”

Minnesota native Ryan Dungey (3-2) finished second overall in front of the hometown fans, and Ken Roczen (2-4) rounded out the final spot on the overall podium.

Roczen’s fourth-place finish in Moto 2 marked the first time this season that he has failed to finish inside the top three in a moto. He allowed Dungey to pick up two points on him today, but Roczen still holds a 24-point edge heading into next weekend’s race at Washougal.

Spring Creek 450 Class Overall Results
1. Eli Tomac (1-1)
2. Ryan Dungey (3-2)
3. Ken Roczen (2-4)
4. Trey Canard (4-3)
5. Josh Grant (5-5)
6. Brett Metcalfe (6-6)
7. Andrew Short (9-7)
8. Weston Peick (8-8)
9. Fredrik Noren (11-10)
10. Matt Goerke (12-11)
*Moto 1 and Moto 2 results in parenthesis

The road to the 2023 Daytona 500 is not paved for Travis Pastrana, he’ll attempt the DIRTcar Nationals

Pastrana DIRTcar Nationals
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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Travis Pastrana will attempt to make his first NASCAR Cup series race on February 19 with the grandaddy of them all, the Daytona 500, but his road to get there will not be paved and his car will have only two fenders as he tackles Florida Speedweeks and the DIRTcar Nationals.

In mid-January, it was announced Pastrana will attempt to qualify a third car from 23XI Racing that fields fulltime entries for Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick. Sponsorship will come from Black Rifle Coffee, who approached him during the offseason to ask what kind of “really cool stuff” he would like to do. Pastrana replied, “the Daytona 500” with a characteristic laugh in his voice.

“It’s good,” Pastrana said in a press release. “We’re going to go down, we’re going to go hangout with [NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion] Matt Crafton, one of [Black Rifle’s] drivers, we’ll go to Modified races and watch all the Late Models. We’ll watch the racing, and we’ll bring [United States military] veterans down and hangout with [Steve] Arpin.”

But there is a saying among dirt track fans that goes, ‘asphalt is for getting to the track; dirt is for racing’ – and Pastrana is taking that to heart.

After racing on the snow in Nitro Rallycross February 4-5 in Calgary, Alberta, the original plan was to head to Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Florida to watch the modified and late model races. Until Crafton called him out for not racing.

Pastrana relayed the conversation: “I told Crafton [I was coming to watch] and he goes, ‘Ah, too much of a sissy to drive?’ I called Arpin, and said, ‘So, Longhorn, I heard you guys have vehicles that can kick the crap out of Crafton’s vehicle.’ [Arpin] said, ‘Yeah, if you don’t suck, you can beat him.’ I said, ‘Alright, I’m in.’”

The DIRTcar Nationals run from February 6-18. The first week features six UMP Modified Mains each night they run, on Monday (Feb. 6), Friday (Feb. 10), and then the prestigious Gator Championship race on Saturday (Feb. 11). Pastrana hopes to run every night in one of Arpin’s cars, also with sponsorship from Black Riffle Coffee.

And this is not just for bragging rights; there is money on the line. Pastrana and Crafton have a $1 bet on who has the best finish.

While Pastrana is accustomed pitching his car sideways on a combination of left and right turns in a rally car – he won the Nitro Rallycross race at ERX Motorsports Park in Minneapolis, Minnesota last October and became the first two-time winner in the 2022/23 season at Wild Horse Pass in Phoenix, Arizona in November – the DIRTcar Nationals will be an entirely different proposition.

It took a day for Pastrana to get comfortable in the modified. And it took a little coaching from Arpin, who has experience in both dirt modifieds and rally cars to make him fast.

“[Arpin] showed up the second day after hearing how bad the first day was,” Pastrana said, which is confirmed in the Instagram post embedded above. “But he just told me, until you commit, it’s not going to work. Once I committed, it started making a lot of sense. But coming in, if you’re lifting off the gas while trying to turn, it just doesn’t turn and all your natural instincts say, ‘Don’t get on the gas.’ So, yeah, I feel like it should suit my driving style because I’m more of an aggressive sideways type of driver, but it was very difficult. Turning and sliding, I’m fine. Getting it there is not the easiest.”

Pastrana has one previous start in a dirt late model that came in the 2010 Prelude to the Dream. He finished 23rd in the 27-car field and was three laps off the pace. He wasn’t the only driver having difficulty getting a feel for the car that night; Jeff Gordon finished on the same lap, only one position ahead of him.

Travis Pastrana will race one of Steve Arpin’s dirt modifieds during Florida Speedweeks as he prepares for the 2023 Daytona 500. – Jacy Norgaard, World Racing Group

The price of the weekend could well exceed the dollar he may lose to Crafton.

“It’s going to be an expensive weekend,” Pastrana said. “Not everything is covered. If I crash anything, it is going to be all on me. This is one of those things where I want to come down and have fun. I want to hang out with the crowd, I want to sign autographs and give high fives. Especially for the Modified crew, that’s the grassroots racing that I love and some of my friends are involved with. We’ll be camping down there with Arpin and all the Longhorn guys, just hanging out. I feel like that’s a great opportunity for us to bring a lot of [US] veterans and bring people that are into racing and aren’t into racing, friends and family, and just have an awesome time.”

And it’s not out of the question that Pastrana could add another top-10 to his record book in the DIRTcar Nationals. After the rocky first day, Pastrana gained speed. Enough so that Arpin’s confidence was raised.

“We’re pretty confident Crafton is going to have to run hard to keep his dollar,” Arpin said.