GP2: Japan F3 champion Matsushita joins ART Grand Prix

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ART Grand Prix has completed its line-up for the 2015 GP2 Series season with the signing of 21-year-old Nobuharu Matsushita.

The French team confirmed in January that McLaren junior driver Stoffel Vandoorne would be retained for 2015, with the Belgian hoping to go one better than his second-place finish in the standings last year.

However, Takuya Izawa has been dropped for the new season and replaced by Matsushita, who has enjoyed success in Japan’s junior championships.

“First of all, I would like to thank ART Grand Prix for giving me the opportunity to race in GP2,” Matsushita said. “I am honored to be a part of ART, which is one of the most prestigious teams in young drivers’ promotion.

“The GP2 Series gives me the chance to race alongside great rivals, following the Formula 1 calendar all around the world. This is a big challenge for myself but I am determined to do my best as GP2 is the best way to race in F1, which is my dream since my childhood.

“I would like to express my thankfulness to Honda who supports my challenge, my fans, friends and family.”

Matsushita won the Japanese F3 title in 2014 with six wins and five pole positions, following on from his Formula Challenge (now Japanese F4) win in 2012, and ART team owner Sebastien Philippe believes that he has the perfect teammate in Vandoorne.

“Nobuharu has a lot of experience in motorsport and his talent is a certainty just from reading his resume, including that he is the reigning Japanese F3 champion,” Philippe said.

“Nobuharu will have many new things to discover and the start of the season will be marked by a learning phase for him, but ART Grand Prix has full confidence in his qualities and in the team’s experience to help Nobuharu integrate very quickly into the discipline. With Stoffel Vandoorne by his side, he also has the ideal teammate.”

Supercross points leader Eli Tomac finds silver linings in interruption

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Though his Monster Energy AMA Supercross championship charge was put on hold, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic had a silver lining for Eli Tomac.

Off the road while the season was postponed for nearly three months, the points leader was able to be present as his girlfriend, Jessica, gave birth to their daughter, Lev, on April 26

“A huge blessing for us there,” Tomac told host Mike Tirico during a “Lunch Talk Live” interview (click on the video above) in which he also joked about becoming a pro at busting off diaper changes. “That was one good blessing for us as we had our daughter on a Sunday, that would have been on a travel day coming back from the race in Las Vegas.

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“That was probably the only positive out of all this mess was being able to be there for the birth.”

But there also could be more good fortune for Tomac as the series resumes Sunday at Salt Lake City, Utah (3-4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, 4-6 p.m. on NBC).

The final seven events will be held over 22 days in Rice-Eccles Stadium, which sits at just over 4,000 feet.

The elevation could favor Tomac, who was born and lives in Colorado and is accustomed to riding and training at altitude, which is a departure for many Supercross riders (many of whom hail from California and Florida).

COVID-19 TESTING REQUIRED: Supercross outlines protocols for last seven races

“That’s going to be the test for us,” said the Kawasaki rider, who five of the first 10 races this season. “We’re at elevation in Salt Lake, so when you’re on a motorcycle, you have a little bit of a loss of power. That’s just what happens when you come up in elevation. And a lot of guys train at sea level, and we’re at 4,000 to 5,000 feet, so cardio-wise, we’ll be pushed to the limit.

“Most of our races are Saturday nights and back to back weeks, but this go around it’s Sunday and Wednesday, so recovery is going to be key.”

Supercross will race Sunday and Wednesday for the next three weeks, capping the season with the June 21 finale, which also will be shown on NBCSN from 3-4:30 p.m. ET and NBC from 4:30-6 p.m. ET.

Tomac, who holds a three-point lead over Ken Roczen (who also recently visited “Lunch Talk Live”), told Tirico he had been riding for 90 minutes Thursday morning on a track outside Salt Lake City.

“Most of us we can rely on our past riding pretty well,” Tomac said. “The question is if you can go the distance. That’s what a lot of guys have to train on is going the distance. We go 20 minutes plus a lap. That’s what you’ve got to keep sharp is your general muscles. Within two to three days, your brain starts warming up more if you take a few weeks off the motorcycle.”

Here is the schedule and TV information for the rest of the season:

  • Sunday, May 31 (3-4 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4-6 p.m. ET, NBC);
  • Wednesday, June 3 ( 10:00 pm – 1:00 am ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 7 (5-8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 10 (7–10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 14 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 17 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 21 (3-4:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. ET, NBC).
Eli Tomac rides his No. 3 Kawasaki in the Feb. 29 race at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia (Charles Mitchell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).