Motocross: Canard, Pourcel set fastest laps in qualifying at Unadilla

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The dominant trio in the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship’s 450 Class recently has consisted of Ken Roczen, Ryan Dungey and Eli Tomac. After setting the fastest lap in timed qualifying this morning, Trey Canard is hoping to put his name into that mix today at Unadilla.

Canard topped the charts in both of this morning’s practice sessions – consistently posting times that were a full second quicker than the rest of the field.

Still in search of his first moto win, Canard has shown that he can get up front and lead a few laps but has stuggled to stay there over the course of a full 30+ minute moto. After practice, he noted that the track is shaping up to provide quite a challenge for the riders today.

“The track is gonna be tough today,” Canard said. “It’s really rutty, and it’s been pretty muddy, but I think it’s gonna dry out and get kind of hard and edgy. So I think it’s gonna be fun, I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully we can have a good couple motos.”

In the 250 Class, Christophe Pourcel edged out points leader Jeremy Martin to qualify first. Pourcel has made a habit out of dominating practice this year – he has now posted the fastest lap in eight out of ten races.

Qualifying in first will once again entitle Pourcel to the first gate pick for Moto 1. It’s been working out well for him this year, at least in the sense that he’s been able to use the first gate pick to propel himself to strong starts. Pourcel has won the holeshot in seven out of 18 motos so far this season.

Like Canard, Pourcel’s issue has been holding onto the lead once he gets out front, and he is in search of his first moto win of the season as well. Pourcel is a big fan of Unadilla though and feels plenty optimistic about his odds today.

“This track is the best for me, it’s my favorite track,” Pourcel said. “So I enjoy it. I think they put a little bit too much water [on the track] this morning. But the track’s getting together and they’re fixing corners. So I think it’s gonna be a good day, and it always feels good to go fast.”

450 Class Top Qualifying Times
1. Trey Canard, 2:14.313
2. Eli Tomac, 2:15.538
3. Ryan Dungey, 2:16.146
4. Ken Roczen, 2:16.813
5. Brett Metcalfe, 2:17.385

250 Class Top Qualifying Times
1. Christophe Pourcel, 2:14.349
2. Jeremy Martin, 2:14.424
3. Zach Osborne, 2:16.023
4. Blake Baggett, 2:16.108
5. Marvin Musquin, 2:16.130

Coverage of the Red Bull Unadilla National resumes at 12:15 PM E.T. with the pre-race show, which can be seen online exclusively on NBC Sports Live Extra. First motos in both classes will stream live starting at 1:00 PM E.T., with second motos to follow at 3:00 PM E.T. Click here to access the Live Extra stream.

NBC will also have live television coverage of the second 450 Class moto at 3:00 PM E.T., with coverage shifting over to NBCSN at 4:00 PM E.T. for the second 250 Class moto.

New Chip Ganassi driver Marcus Armstrong will team with boyhood idol Scott Dixon

Marcus Armstrong Scott Dixon
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Marcus Armstrong was a Scott Dixon fan his entire life, and when he was 8, the aspiring young racer asked his fellow New Zealander to autograph a helmet visor that he hung on his bedroom wall.

Next year, Armstrong will be Dixon’s teammate.

Armstrong was named Friday as the fourth IndyCar driver in the Chip Ganassi Racing lineup and will pilot the No. 11 next season on road and street courses.

A driver for the five oval races on the 17-race schedule will be named later.

The No. 11 is essentially the No. 48 that seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson drove the last two seasons, with Chip Ganassi making the change to run four cars numbered in sequential order. Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson drives the No. 8, six-time champion Dixon drives the No. 9, and 2020 IndyCar champion Alex Palou drives the No. 10.

So just who is the second Kiwi in the Ganassi lineup?

A 22-year-old who spent the past three seasons in Formula One feeder series F2, a Ferrari development driver in 2021, and former roommate of Callum Illot and former teammate of Christian Lundgaard – both of whom just completed their rookie IndyCar seasons.

“I’ve always been attracted to the IndyCar championship because it’s one of those championships that’s been really well televised in New Zealand since I was young, mainly because of Scott and his success,” Armstrong told The Associated Press. “As time progressed, as I got closer to F1 and single-seaters, the attraction to IndyCar grew just because of how competitive the championship is – I like to challenge myself and the level of competition in IndyCar is remarkably high.”

Armstrong, from Christchurch, New Zealand, was set to travel from his current home in London to Indianapolis this weekend to meet his new team. He won’t need an introduction to Dixon, the 42-year-old considered the best IndyCar driver of his generation and Armstrong’s unequivocal childhood hero.

Last season, Dixon earned his 53rd career victory to pass Mario Andretti for second on the all-time list. Dixon has driven for Ganassi in all but 23 of his 345 career starts.

“For a long time I’ve been a Scott Dixon fan. I don’t want to make him cringe with our age difference,” Armstrong told the AP.

Despite the two-decade age difference, Armstrong never considered someday racing with Dixon a fantasy.

He convinced his father after winning five national karting championships to allow him to leave New Zealand for Italy at age 14, where he moved by himself to pursue a racing career. Armstrong said as soon as he’d received parental permission, he’d never look back.

Armstrong was in Formula 4 two years after his move to Italy and won that title in his first season. He won four races and four poles in F3 in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, then collected four wins and eight podiums in three seasons of F2.

“Maybe it’s a strength, or maybe it’s a weakness, but I always thought I was capable of doing great in the sport,” Armstrong told the AP. “I think you probably have to succeed in the sport, you need to believe in yourself. I always pictured myself being in IndyCar.

“As Scott’s teammate? I can’t specifically say I saw that. It’s an extraordinary chain of events.”

Armstrong becomes just the latest driver to leave Europe, where F1 is the pinnacle but has only 20 seats each year. Alexander Rossi began the trend in 2016 when the American left F1 and won the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. He’s been followed by Ericsson, last season’s Indy 500 winner, Romain Grosjean, Illot, Lundgaard, and on Thursday three-time W Series champion and Williams F1 reserve driver Jamie Chadwick was announced as driver for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar’s second-tier development series.

Armstrong said he could have remained in F2 for a fourth season, but he’d been watching IndyCar for so long, and after conversations with Illot and Lundgaard, he decided to make the move to what he believes is the most balanced racing series in the world. He tested for Dale Coyne Racing at Sebring in October.

He doesn’t know if European racing is done for good, just that he wants to be in IndyCar right now.

“I don’t want to think too far into the future, I’m just grateful for this opportunity that is standing right in front of me,” Armstrong said. “I want to perform as well as I can in the near future and just consolidate myself in the fantastic chance that is IndyCar and just do my best.

“I’m not looking at F1 as a landing spot – I am looking at IndyCar, and that’s exactly why I am here.”