Ryan Dungey wins at Muddy Creek for second straight Pro Motocross victory

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As the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship headed east to Muddy Creek Raceway for the fourth round of the season, the 450 Class had a new points leader entering today – Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey, a two-time champion in the premier class. His points lead over his remaining challengers grew even larger today after a strong outing at the Red Bull Tennessee National extended his winning streak.

In the first moto of the day, Justin Barcia grabbed the holeshot but crashed on the opening lap of the race, handing the lead over to his JGR Yamaha teammate Phil Nicoletti. Nicoletti led the first two laps of the race, but behind him Dungey had worked his way around Jason Anderson for second and was on the attack. Dungey aired it out over one of the track’s biggest jumps, using the momentum to move past Nicoletti into the lead, and from there he would open up a comfortable gap and win the moto.

Nicoletti lost two more spots to Anderson and Ken Roczen and would finish fourth. In front of him, Roczen challenged Anderson for second, but Anderson eventually pulled away from the defending champion to earn a career-best moto finish. Roczen would settle for third in the moto, a result which would prove costly later in the day.

The second moto was all about Roczen though – he edged out Cole Seely for the holeshot and from there went unchallenged for the rest of the moto, even as rain began to fall midway through the race, and won by nearly nine seconds.

The moto win was Roczen’s first of the season, however it would not be enough to get him the overall victory, as Dungey bounced back from a poor start in the second moto to work his way up to second place. Although Dungey was unable to catch Roczen, his 1-2 results put him on top of the leaderboard for the overall standings on the day. Roczen (3-1) ended up second overall.

Behind Roczen and Dungey, a trio of rookies battled for positions in Moto 2, with Blake Baggett, Jason Anderson and Cole Seely rounding out the top five. Anderson’s 2-4 moto finishes landed him on the podium in third overall for the second time this season.

After winning the 450 Class championship last year, Roczen struggled early this season after being crippled by a back injury right before the first round. The young German has improved each week since then and is returning to form, however he is currently 37 points behind Dungey in the championship standings thanks to his slow start. With Eli Tomac out for the rest of the season after a dominant start, it looks like Dungey vs. Roczen will be a recurring theme for the next eight rounds.

Lucas Oil Pro Motocross resumes next Saturday, June 13th at High Point Raceway.

450 Class Overall Results
1. Ryan Dungey (1-2)
2. Ken Roczen (3-1)
3. Jason Anderson (2-4)
4. Blake Baggett (5-3)
5. Phil Nicoletti (4-9)
6. Cole Seely (8-5)
7. Broc Tickle (7-7)
8. Justin Barcia (9-6)
9. Weston Peick (6-11)
10. Justin Brayton (11-8)
*Moto 1 and Moto 2 finishes 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.”