Eli Tomac headlines riders to watch today at Washougal Motocross Park

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He may not be in contention for a championship this year, but Eli Tomac is the rider getting the most buzz heading into this weekend’s Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship race.

Tomac missed the first four rounds of the season as he recovered from a broken collarbone but has been a major force in the series since returning and making his 450 Class debut. In the four rounds he’s raced, the GEICO Honda rider has finished on the podium each time, and he put on a masterful display a week ago at Spring Creek, sweeping both motos to earn his first career overall win.

Had Tomac not missed any races, he very well could be battling with Ken Roczen and Ryan Dungey for the 450 Class championship this season. Instead, Tomac will have to settle for playing the role of spoiler to the Red Bull KTM duo. He has a lot of momentum headed into today’s MotoSport.com Washougal National, and as we saw last year when Tomac won the 250 Class championship, he has the ability to step up his riding in the second half of the season.

Is Tomac ready to go on a run and reel off several more wins before the season concludes, or will Roczen and Dungey reassert their place at the front of the field today at Washougal?

Here’s a few other news and notes for today’s race.

Stewart Sitting Out
One week after being unable to race the second moto at Spring Creek due to a spell of dizziness, James Stewart will not compete today at Washougal. The Yoshimura Suzuki team said that they hope to have him return for the next round at Unadilla, but Stewart has a history of being a mercurial man, so nothing is guaranteed.

Shorty’s Streak
Andrew Short has quietly been one of the most consistent riders in the series – something that seems to be said about him every year. Although he sits just eighth in points, his streak of 13 consecutive top-ten moto finishes is topped only by Roczen, Dungey and Trey Canard.

Title Hopes Slipping Away
In the 250 Class, the pressure is on for Cooper Webb and Blake Baggett, who both lost a lot of points to Jeremy Martin last week thanks to crashes. Martin was able to stretch his points lead out to the equivalent of nearly two full motos, so with just eight motos left on the schedule, Webb and Baggett can’t afford to make any more mistakes.

Wilson Rounding into Form?
It’s been a rough season for Dean Wilson, who was expected to be a contender for the 250 Class title before an injury at the first round caused him to miss several weeks and ended those hopes. Wilson had his best day of the season last week, posting 5th-place finishes in both motos, and could be rounding back into form. Wilson is among a group of riders – Christophe Pourcel, Marvin Musquin and Justin Bogle included – who could conceivably still capture their first moto win before the end of the season.

Coverage from Washougal resumes with the pre-race show at 3:15 PM E.T., available online exclusively on ProMotocross.com and NBC Sports Live Extra. The pre-show will lead right into first and second motos for both classes from 4:00-8:00 PM E.T. Click here to access the Live Extra stream.

NBCSN will also televise live coverage of second motos from 6:00-8:00 PM E.T.

March 28 in Motorsports History: Adrian Fernandez wins Motegi’s first race

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While auto racing is an international sport, oval racing remains uniquely American. 

That almost always has remained the case since the inception of the sport, but in 1998, the citizens of Japan got their first taste of American oval racing.

Having opened the previous year, Twin Ring Motegi was built by Honda in an effort to bring Indy-style racing to the Land of the Rising Sun. 

Adrian Fernandez was the first driver to win at the facility, taking the checkered flag in CART’s inaugural race after shaking off flu earlier that day.

Fernandez held off a hard-charging Al Unser Jr to win by 1.086 seconds. The victory was the second of his career and his first since Toronto in 1996.

Adrian Fernandez celebrates with Al Unser Jr and Gil de Ferran after winning the inaugural race at Motegi. (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)

The race was also memorable for a violent crash involving Bobby Rahal.

Running third with 15 laps remaining, Rahal’s right front suspension broke in Turn 2, causing his car to hit the outside wall and flip down the backstretch.

Luckily, Rahal walked away from the accident without a scratch.

“The car was on rails through (turns) 1 and 2, and all of a sudden it just got up into the marbles, and it was gone,” Rahal said. “Thank God we’ve got such safe cars.”

The following season, Fernadez went back-to-back and won again at Motegi. The track remained on the CART schedule until 2002.

In 2003, Honda switched their alliance to the Indy Racing Leauge, and Motegi followed suit.

The track continued to host IndyCar racing until 2011 with the final race being held on the facility’s 2.98-mile road course, as the oval sustained damage in the Tōhoku earthquake earlier that year.

Also on this date:

1976: Clay Regazzoni won the United States Grand Prix – West, Formula One’s first race on the Long Beach street circuit. The Grand Prix would become an IndyCar event following the 1983 edition of the race.

1993: Ayrton Senna won his home race, the Grand Prix of Brazil, for the second and final time of his career. The victory was also the 100th in F1 for McLaren.

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