What to watch for: Pro Motocross at Unadilla (Today on Live Extra, NBC and NBCSN)

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The Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship heads to upstate New York today for Round 10 of the 2015 season, the Red Bull Unadilla National. Live coverage begins at 10:30 a.m. ET with the second practice session in both classes, followed by the pre-race show at noon ET and all four motos at 1:00 p.m. ET. Click here to access the NBC Sports Live Extra stream.

Second motos will also be televised on NBC networks, with 450 Moto 2 airing live on NBC at 4:00 p.m. ET and 250 Moto 2 airing on NBCSN at 5:30 p.m. ET.

Here a few of the major storylines heading into today’s races.

BARCIA, ROCZEN BATTLE FOR 2ND PLACE

With a 69-point lead over both Justin Barcia and Ken Roczen, Ryan Dungey is getting closer to a third 450MX championship. A title clinch at Unadilla is not out of the question, but next week at Utah is much more likely. While Dungey looks to have things in hand, an intriguing battle has developed behind him for second place between Barcia and Roczen, who enter the day tied in points.

Barcia has arguably been the strongest rider in the series over the last four rounds. During that time, his average finishing position and total number of accumulated championship points tops all other riders in the 450 Class.

Despite recording a number of podium finishes during that time, Roczen has not been a threat to win races. To fix that, Roczen and the RCH Suzuki team have reportedly been working hard on figuring out the necessary bike changes. With the week off before Unadilla, were they able to find the right combination to get the defending champion back into the mix and halt Barcia’s surge up the standings?

NEW BLOOD IN THE 450 CLASS

With the championship standings beginning to stabilize for the most part, some new drama will be injected into the 450 Class this week via a couple of debuts.

Now recovered from a torn ACL and MCL, Red Bull KTM’s Dean Wilson will make his Lucas Oil Pro Motocross season debut at Unadilla. Wilson was the 250MX champion in 2011, but he has not raced in over six months because of the injury. This will be just his third career race in the 450 Class.

GEICO Honda’s Justin Bogle is returning from injury as well, albeit with a twist. He will be making his 450 Class debut aboard the injured Eli Tomac’s bike. Bogle will be moving up to the 450 Class full-time next year, so the final three rounds of this season will be an opportunity for him to showcase himself for a 2016 ride. He has not raced since suffering a shoulder injury at the season opener in May during a 250 Class race.

Also joining the ranks of the premier class, although just for one week, is Scotland’s Shaun Simpson. Simpson races the MXGP series in Europe, which is currently on a two-week break, and this will be his first career Lucas Oil Pro Motocross race. Fresh off a 1-1 sweep last weekend at the MXGP of Belgium, Simpson turned the fifth-fastest lap time in the first practice session of the morning at Unadilla.

NO CLEAR FAVORITE IN THE 250 CLASS

Just when it looked like Jeremy Martin was starting to inch away from Marvin Musquin in his quest for a second straight 250 Class championship, it’s back down to a 4-point margin after Musquin’s victory and Martin’s struggles last time out at Washougal. The two have exchanged the points lead several times already, and both riders control their own destiny today in that a 1-1 sweep by either Martin or Musquin would secure them the championship lead heading into next week’s penultimate round at Miller Motorsports Park.

While the championship battle is a two-rider duel, the fight for race wins is deeper than that, as Cooper Webb has proven he has the speed to match both Martin and Musquin since returning from injury. It’s really a toss-up as to which one of the three will be fastest in any given moto.

All three riders have no shortage of motivation to beat each other, which should make for another exciting round of racing at Unadilla.

Provisional Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew ready for IndyCar ride

Road to Indy
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Provisional Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew has done nothing but dominate the 2019 season, winning seven of the 16 races run so far and finishing on the podium in all but two of those events.

Now all the 22-year-old Floridian needs to do to formally clinch the 2019 title is simply start the final two races of the season, both of which will be held this weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

For Askew, his maiden Indy Lights season will likely be one he’ll never forget. 

“It’s been a dream come true,” Askew told NBC Sports. “Being with the championship-winning team from last year, we had a really good shot at winning it again for Andretti Autosport. It’s very rare that we show up to a track and struggle to find speed. 

“That’s a fantastic feeling, especially as a driver. That gave me a lot of confidence and hopes of holding the million dollar check at the end of the year. That was the goal going into it.”

This weekend, Askew will accomplish said goal. The championship will not only bring him a sense of pride, but also the opportunity of a lifetime. 

As an award for being crowned the Indy Lights champion, Askew will be awarded a scholarship that guarantees him entry into a minimum of three NTT IndyCar Series events next year – including the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500. 

Time will only tell which team Askew will race for in IndyCar next season, and whether or not Askew’s rookie campaign will be a full-time or part-time affair, but Askew’s performance during the last few seasons in the Road to Indy system has certainly drawn attention of IndyCar’s top team owners.

In August, Askew had the chance to drive an Indy car for the first time in his career during a test session at Portland International Raceway, driving the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda usually piloted by Scott Dixon.

“It was an opportunity with Chip Ganassi Racing that I was very fortunate to have,” Askew said. “I think with my experience in the past couple of years with Cape Motorsports and this year with Andretti Autosport, going into that test was very helpful.

“Going into the test, it was more of trying to treat it as just another day at the racetrack, when it really wasn’t. It was a fantastic opportunity for me – a great experience – and I hope I can take that into my rookie season next year in IndyCar.” 

The final two races of the 2019 Indy Lights season will take place this weekend on Saturday, September 21 at 6 p.m. ET and Sunday, September 22 at 12:05 p.m. ET. Both races will air live on NBC Sports Gold.

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