James Stewart, Marvin Musquin win first-ever Red Bull Straight Rhythm

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In an event that seemed tailor-made for the two-time 450 Class Supercross champion, James Stewart delivered a flawless performance to win the inaugural Red Bull Straight Rhythm.

The event pitted 32 riders (16 in the Open Class, 16 in the 250 Class) head-to-head down a half-mile straightaway of rhythm sections, jumps, whoops and sand sections in a four-round, best-of-three bracket format.

Stewart made it through all four rounds of head-to-head competition, sweeping each matchup along the way.

After disposing of Scott Champion in the opening round and Josh Hansen in the quarterfinals, Stewart faced a much tougher test in the semifinals, where he was matched up with his own brother, Malcolm Stewart. Headed into the matchup, it was Malcolm who held the fastest lap of the day from any rider, but James stepped things up and needed only two runs to get the better of his sibling and advance into the final round.

The other Open Class semifinal featured a heated contest between Dean Wilson and Justin Brayton, both of whom just switched teams this week and have only been on their new bikes for a few days. Red Bull KTM’s Wilson beat BTO Sports KTM’s Brayton in the first run, but Brayton made a hard charge through the final whoops section on his second run to defeat Wilson in a near-photo finish and force a rubber match.

With a win in his third run vs. Wilson, Brayton completed the come-from-behind victory to earn a trip to the final round. He was no match for Stewart though, as the Yoshimura Suzuki rider only needed two runs to eliminate Brayton and lay claim to the first-ever Red Bull Straight Rhythm win in the Open Class.

“I’m more tired now than I am after I do 20 laps [at a supercross race],” Stewart admitted after the event. “I think it’s a great test for us as racers, and for the fans, it’s simple – it’s head to head racing. Win or go home, baby.”

Throughout the day, the make-or-break feature of the track proved to be the whoops section right before the finish line, with the right lane seemingly offering a slight edge. The more powerful bikes also proved to have a distinct advantage in that section.

The most powerful bike in the field may have been the “RM-Zilla” of Travis Pastrana, a 500cc two-stroke Suzuki whose power was clearly on display in the whoops section. In his much-anticipated return to motocross racing today, Pastrana didn’t make it out of the first round though after being eliminated by Josh Hansen, but he clearly had fun at the event. Pastrana beat Hansen in the second of their three runs and then landed a backflip over the final jump in celebration, much to the delight of all the fans in attendance.

In the 250 Class, the inaugural event win went to Marvin Musquin, who like James Stewart, was dominant throughout the day. He defeated his brand-new Red Bull KTM teammate Justin Hill in the final round of competition to secure the victory.

“Everything went perfect,” Musquin said. “Each run, everyone was getting better and faster, so I just had to be really consistent and hit the whoops perfect and the rhythms perfect.”

Open Class Top Four
1. James Stewart
2. Justin Brayton
3. Malcolm Stewart
4. Dean Wilson

250 Class Top Four
1. Marvin Musquin
2. Justin Hill
3. Jessy Nelson
4. Justin Bogle

Kyle Busch interests McLaren for Indy 500, but team is leaning toward experience

McLaren Indy Kyle Busch
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
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With Arrow McLaren SP heavily weighing a fourth car for the Indy 500 next year, Kyle Busch is a candidate but not at the top of the IndyCar team’s list.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown addressed the possibility Wednesday morning during a video news conference with Gavin Ward, the team’s newly named racing director.

“I have not personally spoken with Kyle Busch, but you can read into that that someone else in our organization has,” Brown said. “We want to make sure if we run a fourth car, we’re in the mindset that we want someone that is experienced around the 500. It’s such an important race, and from a going for the championship point of view, we’ve got three drivers that we want to have finish as strong as possible, so if we ran a fourth car, we’d want to be additive, not only for the fourth car itself, but to the three cars and so bringing in someone who’s not done it before potentially doesn’t add that value from an experience point of view.”

Busch will race the No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing next season in NASCAR under a new deal that will allow the two-time Cup Series champion to make his Indy 500 debut. Busch, who had a previous deal to run the Indy 500 nixed by Joe Gibbs Racing, openly courted Chevy IndyCar teams to contact him during his introductory news conference with RCR last month.

After Team Penske (which has given no indications of a fourth car at Indy alongside champion Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin), McLaren is the second-best Chevy organization, and it’s fielded an extra Indy 500 car the past two years for Juan Pablo Montoya. The Associated Press reported last month that McLaren was in “serious conversation” about running Busch at Indy with Menards sponsorship.

But with its restructured management, the team is in the midst of significant expansion for 2023. AMSP is adding a third full-time car for 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi to team with Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist, and a massive new shop also is being built in the Indianapolis area.

“(It’s) not because of him but purely because of experience,” Brown said of Busch. “He’s an awesome talent and would be huge, huge news for the speedway. But yeah, I think everyone is under consideration if we decide to do it, but experience is right at the top of the list as far as what’s going to be the most important to us.”

And it seems likely there will be a veteran joining Rossi, O’Ward and Rosenqvist at the Brickyard.

“A fourth car at the 500 is very much under consideration,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t even want to get ahead of ourselves, but we wouldn’t be ruling out a fourth car in the future on a full-time basis. That definitely wouldn’t be for ’23. But as we expand the team and get into larger facilities and things of that nature, it’s something that Gavin and I have spoken about.

“I think we would be in a position to run a fourth car at the 500 this upcoming year. If we do decide to do that, we’ll make that decision soon for maximum preparation, and I would say we’re open minded to a fourth car in ’24 and beyond and probably will make that decision middle of next year in time to be prepared if we did decide to do that.”

Brown also addressed the future of Alex Palou, who will be racing for Chip Ganassi Racing next season after also signing a deal with McLaren. Though Brown declined to get into specifics about whether Palou had signed a new deal, he confirmed Palou will continue to test “our Formula One car from time to time.

“Everyone has reached an amicable solution,” Brown said. “We’ve now had Alex in our Formula One car as we have Pato. That will continue in the future, which we’re quite excited about. At this point we’re laser-focused on 2023 and glad to have the noise behind us and now just want to put our head down and get on with the job with the three drivers we have.”