Rosberg praises team’s setup as help in securing Austin pole

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AUSTIN – Nico Rosberg has praised his Mercedes’ team’s setup on his W05 as the deciding factor in claiming his ninth pole position of the year Saturday at Circuit of the Americas. That total leads all drivers, and is two ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton’s seven.

This one seemed a bit of a surprise as Hamilton had led all three practice sessions coming into qualifying. But Rosberg said setup, rather than his own digging deep and finding the time needed to snatch the pole, was more to thank.

“It worked out very well together with my engineers,” he said post-qualifying. “I was very happy with the balance. It was quite a challenge with the wind changing, conditions were different, and a lot colder (earlier in the day). In the end we had a great setup, great car.”

Rosberg exploited it to his advantage, particularly in what was a scintillating first sector. With a 25.662 sector one to Hamilton’s 25.847 on his ultimate best, Rosberg had time in hand to improve his fastest lap down to 1:36.067 at his final lap.

It was an impressive lap time, as the new formula of 1.6L V6 power units and on Pirelli’s soft tires (last year, the medium was the alternate whereas this year that’s the prime with the soft the alternate), produced a pole time quicker than Sebastian Vettel’s of 1:36.338 one year ago with the previous formula.

Rosberg upped the gap to 0.376 over Hamilton thanks to his pole time, and the Englishman could come no further.

Asked about the first sector specifically, Rosberg again downplayed it.

“I finally got the right setup together with the team,” he said. “We’ve continued to improve the car all the time. I felt comfortable and was finally able to push.”

Rosberg’s pole means he’ll start on the clean side of the track whilst Hamilton will be on the dirty side.

“I haven’t thought that far ahead yet, but if you say that’s good, that’s great,” Rosberg opined.

A win for Rosberg would be vital in the championship chase. He enters 17 points down to Hamilton with three races remaining. A Rosberg-led Mercedes 1-2 would close the gap to 10, and further inroads could be made if Hamilton falls further back on Sunday.


Eli Tomac, Ken Roczen’s two-man battle in Motocross provides surprises

Rich Shepherd, ProMotocross
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The 2019 Motocross season is one-third in the books and the title battle may have already come down to a two-man contest, while the pair of contenders might just be a little surprising in their own way.

Strictly by the numbers, no one can count Eli Tomac’s early season charge of first- and second-place finishes shocking, but threepeating in Motocross is such an incredibly difficult feat that no one would have been surprised to see him struggle out of the gates either. And in fact, that is precisely what happened.

Tomac came out of the gates slow in Round 1 and was seventh by the end of Lap 1 of Moto 1 – hardly the auspicious start he hoped for. He rebounded only as far as fourth and that ultimately cost him a chance to win the overall. Tomac won Moto 2 to claim second overall.

In Round 2, Tomac found his rhythm and won both Motos and grabbed the red plate. For the moment, he had the momentum with three consecutive Moto wins.

Tomac stumbled again in Round 3 – this time finishing only fifth in Moto 1 and earning only 16 points to dig a deep hole that eventually surrendered the red plate to Ken Roczen.

It was at Thunder Valley in Round 3 that a pattern emerged. Tomac would not make it easy on himself early in the day, but was more than capable of winning the second Motos to overcome his deficit.

That Roczen has won this season is also not a surprise in itself. Many believed his ascent to the top step of the podium was way overdue.

That he has run so well, however, was not entirely expected at the start of the season. Since injuring both arms in a pair of accidents, Roczen came tantalizingly close to snapping his winless streak a dozen times. He won heat races during the Supercross season and finished second at Anaheim I, Minneapolis, Dallas, and Seattle earlier this year.

He just couldn’t secure the overall win.

Roczen’s Moto 1 victory at Hangtown might have been the precursor to another disappointing weekend, but once Tomac got into the lead, Roczen zeroed in on the Kawasaki’s back tire and finished second in route to the overall victory.

Roczen lost the overall and the red plate to Tomac in Round 2 at Pala, but he stood on the podium in both Motos. Roczen podiumed twice again in Round 3 while taking that overall victory to regain the red plate in what has become a seesaw affair in the early part of the 2019 season.

Last week, Roczen looked more like Tomac with his desperate struggle in Moto 1 and sixth-place finish. That was the first (and so far only) time this season that he failed to stand on the podium.

Roczen’s Moto 2 win last week was just enough to put him second overall with barely enough points to force a tie at the top of the leaderboard with 176 points apiece.

Meanwhile, Tomac failed to win either Moto with a third in the first race and runner-up finish in the second.

The moral victory and advantage may shift to Roczen this week.

As they have swapped the victory in the first four rounds with Roczen winning the odd-numbered events, he sees this weekend’s Round 5 as an opportunity.

“I’m looking forward to next weekend’s race,” Roczen said in a team press release. “The track is sandy. It’s very similar—actually almost identical—to what I ride on a regular basis at home.”

Tomac and Roczen enter Round 5 with a 32-point advantage over two riders tied for third in the standings.

So far Zach Osborne and Jason Anderson have not been in the same league as the leaders, but it only takes one slip of the wheel to fall out of the points in in a race and allow these racers to close the gap.

Season passes can be purchased at NBC Sports Gold.

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