Roczen, Dungey will settle championship fight at Motocross season finale today

Leave a comment

The battle for the 450 Class title has come down to the final Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship race of the season.

All season long, Red Bull KTM teammates Ken Roczen and Ryan Dungey have both kept themselves in contention thanks to their consistent results. Dungey had closed the gap down to a mere seven points until he had his worst moto of the season one week ago at Indiana. The deficit now stands at 20 points, a margin that will be difficult – but not impossible – for Dungey to overcome at today’s Utah National.

“It’s a big monkey off the back seeing the points lead really go up, and it just takes a little bit of pressure off having a 20-point lead now,” Roczen said after the last race. “But I can’t back down. I need to have another good week.”

“It’s looking a little slim,” Dungey admitted, “but you can’t ever give up. By no means do I wish anything bad [on Roczen], I’m just gonna go out there and give it two hard motos, and hopefully that’s a 1-1, and if the rest works itself out, great. If we get a win and it doesn’t, then it wasn’t meant to be.”

With a maximum of 25 points on the line in each of the two remaining motos, Dungey will likely need a DNF from Roczen in one of those motos in order for the title to work out in his favor. It’s a tall order though, considering that Roczen hasn’t finished worse than fourth in a moto this season.

Canard on a hot streak
Dungey and Roczen may own the headlines this week, but the rise of Trey Canard has been one of the biggest developments in the 450 Class in recent weeks.

Canard has dealt with several severe injuries over the course of his career that kept him repeatedly sidelined, but he has come back stronger than ever this year. Although Canard has been a part of the lead pack all season long, moto wins kept eluding him until he finally broke through for a victory two weeks ago at Unadilla in the second moto, breaking a winless drought that dated back several years to his time in the 250 Class. With another second moto win last week in Indiana, he has now won two of the last three motos raced.

“It was huge,” Canard said of the wins. “It’s been a couple years, so even to win a moto was really special. You start to lose a lot of confidence and faith that it’ll happen. So I was grateful.”

Canard credits the Honda Muscle Milk team with making huge strides in improving the bike over the course of the season and says that has been the biggest difference that has led to his recent success.

“I feel like I was pretty on point right off the bat [when returning from injury this year],” he said. “I think the bike has gotten a lot better. I’ve really enjoyed riding it, and that will obviously lead to more confidence in riding it.”

Now that he has the first 450 Class moto wins of his career under his belt, Canard will be in search of his first overall win in the class today at Miller Motorsports Park.

Watch live coverage of every moto from the Utah National today. First motos in both classes stream live on ProMotocross.com and NBC Sports Live Extra at 3 p.m. ET, with second motos in both classes getting underway at 5 p.m. ET. Click here to access the Live Extra stream.

NBCSN will also provide same-day television coverage of second motos. The second 450 Class moto can be seen at 6:30 p.m. ET, and the second 250 Class moto will air at 1 a.m. ET.

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

Leave a comment

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.”