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.
Tom Blomqvist keeps eye on IndyCar during impressive rise: ‘ I would love to give it a go’
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In between two of his latest superstar-driver-in-waiting performances, Tom Blomqvist walked through the Daytona International Speedway garage in anonymity.
“Nobody knows who the (expletive) I am,” he said to a team member with a laugh (and without a trace of being miffed), evincing the cheeky humor of someone born in England, raised in New Zealand and also of Swedish descent.
The lack of recognition in the garage might have been because he was clad in a relatively nondescript shirt, hat and sunglasses instead of a colorful firesuit covered by sponsor logos. But he also was on the way to a Friday race eve media availability where his entrance was greeted by only one reporter (after a few minutes).
He carries the quiet confidence of knowing his immense talent will ensure results that will make him impossible to ignore.
“To a degree, I guess, it’s definitely ramped up a lot for me,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports. “In America, I’m starting to get a lot more (attention). In the last year, I’ve quite often got a lot of maybe what you’d call the glory moments. It’s been fun. And within the paddock, there’s a lot of respect for me anyway. It’s been good.”
There have been several moments of acclaim since he joined MSR barely a year ago in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. In his first start for the team at last year’s Rolex 24, Blomqvist turned in a Herculean performance to position the No. 60 Acura for the victory (giving way to Helio Castroneves because he was too “cooked” to complete the last 74 minutes).
He was even better this year at Daytona.
He ripped off a monster “one and done” pole-winning lap to beat the clock in qualifying on the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course. During the race, Blomqvist was as dominant in his first stint as his last in the ARX-06 while taking the checkered flag. He set the mark for the fastest time on Lap 6 that no one topped over the final 755 laps.
A year earlier at the same track, he had burst onto the radar of car owner Mike Shank, who was intrigued by Blomqvist’s results as a BMW factory driver in the Formula E and DTM series. In 2014, Blomqvist also finished between second in F3, between champion Esteban Ocon (now with Alpine’s F1 team) and Max Verstappen (who has won the past two Formula One championships).
“He did a lot of high-level stuff, and then kind of fell out of favor, or I don’t know what happened, but he was a free agent,” Shank said. “I started looking at his numbers, and I’m like, ‘We should test this guy. So I take him to Road Atlanta in the fall of ’21, and he got in the car and just slayed it.”
Within minutes, he had called co-owner Jim Meyer.
“I’ve got our guy,” Shank said. “This is our guy. There’s no question about it.
“Now what’s happened, though, and I think if you look back at the Rolex here last year (and) what he did, he’s a gold nugget. He reminds me a little bit when (Robert) Wickens came into IndyCar out of DTM (as a rookie in 2018).
“He truly believes he’s the fastest guy out there, and he proved it (at the Rolex 24).”
Said David Salters, president for Honda Performance Development: “We love Tom. He’s the real deal, isn’t he? Immensely talented, super smart, and on it.
The great thing about our teams, the strength in depth is tremendous. But if you look through the sports car racing now, that’s the standard you have to have. Tom, brilliant, Filipe (Albuquerque), brilliant. Ricky (Taylor). You can go through that list. They’re all superstars. Tom is awesome. His lap in qualifying quite frankly was unbelievable.”
Having conquered one of the world’s greatest endurance races twice with Acura, Blomqvist could be ticketed for the world’s biggest race next – the Indy 500 — with HPD’s primary brand.
And with Castroneves, 47, beginning a one-year deal with MSR’s IndyCar team, there could be an obvious opening in 2024.
“Obviously, it’s not in the cards this year,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports the day before the Rolex. “Yeah, I would love to give it a go. To be honest, I think that would be an amazing step for me in my career. I enjoy the sports car stuff so much. It’s been really good to me lately. I really enjoyed the style of racing.
“But I feel like IndyCar would be a step up for me and my career. It would be fantastic if I could get that opportunity. But yeah, I guess I have to keep pushing Mike or something to give me a shot. But obviously for now, the focus is here in the sports car stuff. It’s not really down to me at the end of the day. And I’ve got to do my job and then the people who pay the bills and make the decisions obviously have to decide if that’s something worth pursuing.
“But yeah, I’d love to give it a go, and I definitely would be up for it.”
A transition from IMSA to IndyCar naturally would be easier than switching teams, but it also would be comfortable because Blomqvist already seems such a good fit at MSR.
It might have seemed an unusual pairing given his European-heavy background, but Blomqvist likes the Midwestern culture that’s been built at MSR. Based just outside Columbus, Ohio, the team’s shop has “no egos, and that just enables each and every one of to reach our potential.
“Obviously, with Honda, we obviously have some great resources, but we’re up against Porsche, BMW and some big heavy hitters in the motorsports world,” he said. “I wouldn’t say we’ve got a huge team compared to them, but we’ve obviously got a very capable team, and I think that’s what has been so impressive and really, really nice to see about the work that’s been done. No stone has been left unturned.”
Blomqvist still is living in Europe and planning to commute for the nine-race GTP schedule (which has a nearly two-month break after the Rolex 24 until the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring). But though he’s “got good friends in America, so I do have places to stay,” he seems open to being based more permanently near MSR in America.
“Let’s see what the future brings, and if that means me spending more time over here,” he said. “It’s a fantastic team. It’s a different environment to what I’m used to. It’s obviously now a hugely successful team, but it is a small team. It does feel like a very small family-operated team, which it is.
“I think Mike’s really just built this thing. It hasn’t happened overnight. Mike’s a great guy and put a lot of trust and faith in me, and I played a relatively good part in some of the success last year. I was able to reward him and give him my all every time I’m on track, and he respects that. But we are still a small team. In the grand scheme of things, we still are a really, really small team.”
Blomqvist said the BMW factory program would have two or three times the staffing of MSR – just on one of its two GTP cars.
“But it’s not the number of people that makes a difference, it’s the quality of people, and obviously Mike and HPD are a fantastic operation to go racing,” Blomqvist said. “We’re racers at heart.
This is what it’s all about. Not just a team but a 𝙁𝘼𝙈𝙄𝙇𝙔
“I’ve been part of some big outfits, and the European way of working is very, very different to how people go about racing in America. I’d say it’s more seat of your pants. A lot of emotion and kind of rides on that competitive spirt, competitive nature and on their personalities. It’s a lot more pure. It feels very pure. You want to win, so we go out and don’t cut corners on trying to win.”
Though it’s aligned with Liberty Media and has big-budget backing and support from Honda Performance Development, MSR also is much less corporate than most GTP teams.
A longtime and respected team owner who has built a sponsor portfolio, Shank also describes his maniacal dedication to success as “messed up,” and he’s known for dropping vulgarities into postrace interview with his blunt and self-deprecating sense of humor.
With a more laid-back but sometimes just as biting demeanor, Blomqvist has become the team’s unquestioned leader behind the wheel
“I definitely feel a lot more immersed,” he said. “Within the team, I was a bit more of an unknown quantity the start of last year. Obviously after last season, the team trusts me a lot. And that gives me a lot of pleasure, pride and confidence. In this sport, confidence is a huge aspect of drivers’ psychology in a way. We’re in extremely high-pressure moments where my job is to perform under the pressure of these organizations and the brand as well.
“It’s just a good, healthy team to be a part of. It’s a high-pressure environment, but the team obviously have put a lot of faith in me, and I’ve been able to deliver for them on occasions.”