Preview: Martin, Musquin battle for Pro Motocross championship in series finale (Today, Live Extra)

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The 2015 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship concludes today with the Bud Light Ironman National, the final round of the season, and there’s a lot on the line.

NBC Sports Live Extra will have coverage all day starting at 10:30 a.m. ET. Coverage will include the inaugural Legends Race, which features past champions such as Ricky Carmichael, and the crowning of a 250 Class champion. Click here to access the Live Extra steam.

Ironman National: Live Extra Schedule
10:30 a.m. ET – Practice
11:30 a.m. ET – Pre-Race Show
12:30 p.m. ET – Legends Race
1:00 p.m. ET – 450 Moto 1
2:00 p.m. ET – 250 Moto 1
3:00 p.m. ET – 450 Moto 2
4:00 p.m. ET – 250 Moto 2

The biggest story of the day revolves around the championship battle in the 250 Class. Eleven rounds have come and gone, and with one final race left before the season ends, there is still no clear-cut favorite between Yamalube/Star Racing/Yamaha’s Jeremy Martin and Red Bull KTM’s Marvin Musquin.

All summer long, the two riders have traded wins, and the points lead – which has never grown larger than 19 points – has exchanged hands a few times. Now the two title contenders enter the last round separated by just two points, making this one of the most highly-anticipated Nationals in quite some time.

As always, today’s race will feature two motos. Here’s a look at all the different outcomes in play for both riders:

  • If either Martin or Musquin sweeps both motos, they will win the championship.
  • If Martin gets 1-2 or 2-1 moto finishes, he will win the championship.
  • If Martin finishes ahead of Musquin, earns the same number of points as Musquin or loses no more than 1 point to Musquin, Martin will win the championship.
  • If Musquin picks up 3 or more points on Martin, Musquin will win the championship.
  • If Musquin picks up exactly 2 points on Martin, it will come down to a tiebreaker. The first tiebreaker is number of moto wins, a category that Musquin currently leads 10-9.

The title fight appears destined to come down to the final moto of the season, but despite the intense pressure they’ll be faced with today, both riders will try to block out all the distractions once the gate drops.

“Come Saturday, I focus on what I can control,” Martin said. “That’s how I’m gonna ride and that’s how I’m gonna approach the situation. I knew that it would come down to the wire. I was 19 points down after Glen Helen, Round 2, and I knew it was gonna come down to the last round, to the last moto. So I’m mentally prepared for it.”

Musquin echoed that sentiment. “The goal is to win both motos and not think about anything else or anybody on the track,” he said. “I just want to do my job and do the best I can. Honestly it’s gonna be a lot of pressure – that’s for sure – but I want to focus on myself and not think about the other guys. That’s the best I can do.”

This title fight has brought the topic of “team tactics” to the forefront of discussion. Last weekend at Utah, Cooper Webb – a teammate of Martin’s under the Star Yamaha rig – was leading Moto 2 with Martin in second and Musquin in third. When Martin caught up to Webb, Webb didn’t put up a fight, instead allowing Martin to move around him into the lead. The pass moved Martin back into the points lead. Had Webb kept himself in front of Martin, Musquin would be holding the championship lead instead right now.

While Martin could potentially receive help again from Webb this week, Musquin does not have that luxury. If Musquin wants to win this title, he’ll have to do it on his own.

“At the end of the day, what you want is to win by yourself,” Musquin said. “It’s an individual sport. I don’t have teammates, and if I win, I’ll be proud of myself. Winning on your own is the best.”

A championship would be significant for both riders for different reasons. For Musquin, this is his final season in the 250 Class and therefore his last opportunity to win a title before moving up to a 450 next year.

As for Martin, he is looking to defend last year’s championship and hold on to the #1 plate for another year. “It’d be nice to be able to defend the title in the first try,” he said. “Not a lot of people are able to defend it their first try. The first one’s sweet, but the second one is gonna be even sweeter.”

 

Podcast: James Hinchcliffe might find a silver lining in disguise at Indy after ‘an emotional roller coaster’

Richard W. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway
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INDIANAPOLIS – No one could blame James Hinchcliffe for going incognito at Indianapolis Motor Speedway this weekend, and he might do exactly that on the eve of the Indianapolis 500.

But it won’t be because the SPM driver is bummed about missing the biggest race of the IndyCar season. Actually, it’s because the crushing disappointment of getting bumped from the field a week ago might have a silver lining.

“I’ve heard all these stories from way back when to the present day of what it’s like just outside the speedway on Saturday night before the race,” Hinchcliffe said during a new episode of the NASCAR on NBC Podcast that was recorded and released Saturday. “Up Georgetown (Road), in the Coke Lot, you hear all these crazy stories about all these crazy parties and the rest of it.

“And honestly, we’re always isolated in our little bubble inside the speedway in the drivers lot. Part of me is tempted to dress up in disguise and just venture out there and see what it’s all about. I’m very tempted to do that and maybe document some of the exploits out there.”

And if Hinchcliffe lingers well into the night? Well, it’s not as if he has a 500-mile race to worry about Sunday.

“I know the (track’s) cannon is going to go off at 6 a.m. (Sunday) and wake us up, but I have fewer responsibilities tomorrow than most of my colleagues,” the Canadian said with a laugh.

Of course, it still has been one of the longer weeks in the life of a 31-year-old who is ranked fifth in the points standing and seemed on track for a career season. Before Indy, Hinchcliffe’s average finish in the first five races was 5.8, including a third at Barber Motorsports Park.

But the momentum screeched to a halt when his No. 5 Dallara-Honda was knocked out of the field in the closing hour of the opening day of qualifying at the Brickyard last Saturday.

Hinchcliffe gamely accepted the outcome with a series of graceful interviews shortly afterward and has maintained a brave face during a week of promotional appearances

“It’s been an up and down week,” he said. “It’s been an emotional roller coaster. The term good days and bad days doesn’t even apply. You have good hours and bad hours.

“The busier I’m keeping myself, the better I’m feeling. There were times you have that little driver tantrum in your head like, ‘I don’t want to do any of this stuff because I’m in a bad mood! And blah, blah blah.’ But talking about it helps you get over it, and staying busy takes your mind off it a little bit.”

Still, there is no escaping the reality of when the green flag falls on the 102nd running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

“Sunday is probably going to suck,” he said. “There’s no way around that. The start of the race is really going to suck. Then when I see how hard it is out there, I might think it sucks a little less.”

It has been easier to swallow because of “fan support that has just been completely overwhelming,” and Hinchcliffe of course has a perspective about Indianapolis that few have after a near-fatal practice crash in 2015 (“(Missing the race) actually wasn’t the worst day I’ve ever had at Indianapolis Motor Speedway”).

His comeback from the brush with death brought his team closer together, and he’s hoping the latest spate of adversity will do the same.

“One of the hardest parts was just being back with the crew right afterward, getting back to the garage and seeing a group of like 10 grown men literally brought to tears over what just happened,” said Hinchcliffe, whose team misjudged the amount of time left in the session after a tire vibration problem quickly ended what would be his final attempt. “It shows you how much this race means. If we had a really bad crash at Detroit on Saturday morning and couldn’t get the car fixed in time for Sunday. We’d all be like, ‘Man that really sucks. We’ll fix the car and come back next week.’

“But not getting to start Indy, man, is just such a gut punch for these guys and for all of us. But at the same time, it brought us closer as a group. There were mistakes made that we’re going to learn from. There’s no doubt that we come back as a stronger unit because of this. Emotionally, from a preparation point of view, from an execution point of view.”

There was a jolt of positivity from a second-place finish in a pit stop competition Friday. Hinchcliffe’s team, which has posted the fastest pit stop in two races this season, fell to Scott Dixon’s team in the final after pulling out a surprise victory over Will Power’s crew from the non-preferred right lane in the semifinals.

“Even if we beat Dixon in the finals, it wouldn’t have felt as good as that win did,” Hinchcliffe said. “It was such an awesome performance. The guys have been killing it in the pits. It’s definitely a point of pride for us.

“It was fun to get back in the car and do something for the fans and do something for the boys. We won a check at the end of the day. Add it to the beer fund and go have a fun Sunday night.”

Other topics discussed in the podcast:

–How and why he became a popular star by learning how to showcase his affable personality early in his career;

–Why the IndyCar Series needs a driver to play the villain role;

–An expanded explanation of why he believes the Indianapolis 500 should be separate from the championship;

To listen to the podcast, click here for Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Play or play the Art19 embed below: