Motocross: Jeremy Martin secures first career 250 Class championship on muddy Indiana track

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On any other day, a season-worst 15th-place moto finish for Jeremy Martin may have left the young rider feeling seriously disappointed.

Not Saturday though. Martin had plenty of reason to celebrate after officially clinching the 250 Class title in the 2014 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship.

Thanks to some heavy rain on Saturday morning that came in time for the first practice session at the Thor Indiana National, the Ironman Raceway track was turned into a wet, sloppy, muddy mess. Although the rain held off once the racing got underway, the damage had already been done. Lap times were slow. Several riders found themselves stuck in the mud and struggled to get their bikes free. Riding behind someone else meant getting roosted in the face with mud, and as a result, some riders were forced to toss their goggles and pull into the mechanic’s area to get a new pair.

Despite the unpredictable conditions, Martin didn’t have much issue navigating the track in the first 250 Class moto. The Yamalube/Star Racing/Yamaha rider finished second behind Jessy Nelson, and thanks to poor outings from the two riders still mathematically alive in the title race – Blake Baggett and Cooper Webb – Martin was able to lock up the title with three motos still left in the season.

A 15th-place finish in Moto 2 left Martin off the overall podium for the day, but after the conclusion of the race, he was presented with the #1 plate in honor of his championship. The title is the first of Martin’s career, and he accomplished it in just his second full season of professional racing.

“To be able to have the number one plate, I’ve been thinking of how good it would feel to hear Kevin [Crowther] from the AMA to be passing on the number one plate to me and this is the greatest moment of my life,” Martin said after receiving the plate.

Martin also acknowledged the fans that have been supporting him throughout the season.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” he said, “I heard the fans cheering me on the whole time out there, and that was the motivation I needed. You guys [the fans] have been cheering me on all year, and you don’t know how much that means to me.”

The overall victory in Indiana went to Red Bull KTM’s Marvin Musquin, who placed third in Moto 1 and then won Moto 2. After starting the year off slow as he recovered from ACL surgery, Musquin is on fire lately, with victories at two of the last three rounds.

Joey Savatgy (4-3 moto finishes) had his best race ever and finished second overall. Jessy Nelson – whose Moto 1 victory was the first of his career – earned the final spot on the overall podium despite an eighth-place finish in the second moto.

Indiana 250 Class Overall Results
1. Marvin Musquin (3-1)
2. Joey Savatgy (4-3)
3. Jessy Nelson (1-8)
4. Christophe Pourcel (9-2)
5. Cooper Webb (6-5)
6. Dean Wilson (8-6)
7. Alex Martin (7-7)
8. Jeremy Martin (2-15)
9. Jason Anderson (5-10)
10. Blake Baggett (14-4)
*Moto 1 and Moto 2 results in parenthesis

Newgarden, Rossi ready for a red-white-and-blue INDYCAR finale

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MONTEREY, California – In an international series that personifies diversity from all over the globe, the two main combatants in the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series championship are from the United States.

Josef Newgarden of Tennessee takes a 41-point lead over Alexander Rossi of Northern California into Sunday’s double-points season finale at WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca. This year’s Indianapolis 500 winner, Simon Pagenaud of France, is just 42 points out of the lead.

It’s been quite a while since the two drivers entering the final race of the season were both Americans. Four of the top 10 drivers in the series are from the United States. Last year, five of the top 10 were from the USA.

All but one race in the 17-race NTT IndyCar Series schedule is contested in the United States.

Patriotism still matters in IndyCar.

“I think so,” said Andretti Autosport driver Rossi, who is the last American driver to win the Indianapolis 500 in 2016. “I know I’ve read a lot of things from other drivers saying, ‘It doesn’t matter, it’s not important, no one cares.’

“I can’t really get onboard with that.

“I think me as an American, growing up, being a fan of the Olympics and everything, like you cheer for Americans, right? That’s what you do as a patriotic person. Canadians cheer for James. We see the Swedish contingent that comes to the races for Marcus Ericsson and Felix Rosenqvist.

Getty Images“I think Americans will cheer for Americans. I would love to see an American to win the championship. I think it’s important for the young kids watching hoping to be IndyCar drivers one day, that they see someone who grew up in Tennessee or California or wherever. It’s like, there’s a lot of relate-ability to that for a young kid with aspirations of being a racecar driver.”

Since Sam Hornish, Jr. won the final of his three IndyCar Series championships in 2006, just two American drivers have won the title – Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2012 and Newgarden in 2017. During that span, Scott Dixon of New Zealand won four of his five NTT IndyCar Series championships and Dario Franchitti of Scotland won all four of his IndyCar titles.

The last time two Americans had a chance to win the championship in the final race of the season came in 2001 when Hornish won the championship over Colorado’s Buddy Lazier. Connecticut’s Scott Sharp was third and Arizona’s Billy Boat was fourth in the final standings that year.

That was a much different time and place for IndyCar. At that time, many of the top drivers were in CART while the old Indy Racing League featured a predominantly American lineup. Once unification brought the two sides together in 2008, the championships have been fought on American soil, but international drivers were victorious.

The last time two American drivers finished 1-2 in CART was 1996 when Jimmy Vasser of California defeated Pennsylvania’s Michael Andretti for the crown. In 1992, Bobby Rahal of Illinois defeated Andretti and Al Unser, Jr. of New Mexico for the CART title.

Prior to that, the IndyCar “National Championship” was dominated by drivers from the United States.

 

While Rossi openly choose to wrap himself in the American flag, it’s not as important to Newgarden.

“For me, it’s never been something I put a lot of emphasis on,” said the Team Penske driver. “I’m proud to have grown up in such a wonderful country as the United States, but what I’ve always loved about the IndyCar Series is that they bring the best of the best from around the world. That’s always been important to me.

“It means more I think when you have the best from all over the place coming to compete at the Indianapolis 500, during the whole championship. You really feel like you have that in the IndyCar Series. You get the best drivers from around the world.

“To pair with that, I think we need strong Americans running, as well. So for sure, having guys like Alex and Graham Rahal, some young guys coming up like Colton Herta, myself, it’s really great to have young American competition representing as well and running so strongly.

“What I’ve always loved is the great mix of talent from around the world. To me that’s just so important. If it was all Americans running in the championship, I don’t think it would mean as much. I like that we have that great diversity and that great mix from around the world.”

Although these two drivers are both from the USA, they are fierce rivals. They have mutual respect for each other, but they sure aren’t considered close friends.

“Josef and I honestly aren’t that close,” Rossi admitted. “He never lived in Indy when I moved here, or he was just moving. I actually never really hung out with Josef.

“We obviously have a lot of respect for each other. We raced together for a short period of time in Europe. We have a lot of mutual friends.

“Josef and I don’t talk or socialize really. So, it doesn’t have any impact.”

Newgarden agrees that these two men choose to embrace the rivalry.

“I think it’s just really business,” Newgarden said. “He lives in Indianapolis. I live in Nashville. I don’t see him too often outside of the racetrack. We go and we compete. He’s a great competitor. He’s definitely a tremendous talent, has done a great job in his career.

“It’s been a good, competitive relationship I would say.”

With the return of American drivers capable of winning races, championships and Indianapolis 500s, it has sparked a rejuvenation in IndyCar racing. With drivers from all over the world fighting it out for glory, this series that was born and bred in the United States can take pride in featuring some of the best racing in the world as the series continues to grow in popularity.

“I think we just need to continue a focus on our product,” Rossi said. “I think we have the best race product on the planet in terms of entertainment, the variance of winners that we have throughout a season, how many guys are capable, teams are capable of winning races.

“But that’s an ever-moving target. I think IndyCar has done a good job of placing the priority on that. I just think we need to continue doing that and everything will be moving in the right direction.”