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What To Watch For: Russian GP (NBCSN, Live Extra from 6:30am ET)

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With the end of the 2015 Formula 1 season now in sight, today’s Russian Grand Prix has the potential to be one of the most important races in the championship battle so far.

Nico Rosberg may trail Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton by 48 points at the top of the drivers’ standings, but the German enjoyed the edge in qualifying on Saturday as he claimed pole position by three-tenths of a second.

Hamilton will start alongside Rosberg on the front row of the grid, and knows that a win in Russia will give him the chance to wrap up a third world title next time out in the United States Grand Prix.

For now though, here’s what to watch for in today’s Russian Grand Prix.

What To Watch For – 2015 Russian Grand Prix

Hamilton, Rosberg ready for first lap drag race

The Sochi Autodrom is hardly the most inspiring circuit on the F1 calendar, but the long run from the start line to the first braking point at turn two will create a great drag race on the opening lap of the race.

Rosberg ruined his race by trying to pass Hamilton at turn two last year, and both drivers will have studied the 2014 footage to find areas for improvement. It will be intriguing to see how things play out on the first lap between our championship protagonists.

Can Vettel keep Mercedes in sight?

Sebastian Vettel was highly frustrated to have only qualified fourth on Saturday, but remains very confident for today’s race, believing that Ferrari will be able to take a step towards Mercedes compared to qualifying.

Although victory is very unlikely given Mercedes’ dominance in qualifying, Vettel will be doing all he can to keep the Silver Arrows in sight and – perhaps as a first step – beat Williams’ Valtteri Bottas to complete the podium.

Sainz declared fit to race

Remarkably, Carlos Sainz Jr. is set to start today’s Russian Grand Prix despite suffering a terrifying crash during practice on Saturday. The Spaniard pitched under the TecPro barriers, prompting concern for the medical crews that were sent to rescue him.

Sainz was taken to hospital but was unharmed and eventually discharged last night. After passing this morning’s FIA medical check, the Toro Rosso driver will line-up on the grid last – but simply making the start is a shown of great resolve from the youngster.

A happy 250th for Alonso?

Fernando Alonso is celebrating his 250th grand prix this weekend, but not in the fashion he may have liked to. For a driver widely regarded as being one of F1’s all-time greats, starting P19 thanks to a 35-place grid penalty and following a Q1 exit is hardly the fanfare desired.

Alas, Alonso will continue to fight as he has done throughout his racing career, and if the pace of teammate Jenson Button is anything to go by, Alonso could yet fight his way up towards the fringes of the top ten, and potentially into the points.

Mercedes looks to wrap up constructors’ championship

At no point this year has it ever been in doubt, but Mercedes may finally clinch its second F1 constructors’ championship today, wrapping it up in Sochi for the second year in succession.

To be crowned champion, Mercedes simply has to outscore Ferrari by three points in today’s race. Team boss Toto Wolff admitted on Saturday that the team does have special t-shirts to celebrate stashed away just in case they are needed, but this confidence should not be mocked. Mercedes has been a tour de force in F1 over the past two years, and such success is richly deserved.

Starting Grid for the 2015 Russian Grand Prix

1. Nico Rosberg Mercedes
2. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
3. Valtteri Bottas Williams
4. Sebastian Vettel Ferrari
5. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
6. Nico Hulkenberg Force India
7. Sergio Perez Force India
8. Romain Grosjean Lotus
9. Max Verstappen Toro Rosso
10. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull
11. Daniil Kvyat Red Bull
12. Felipe Nasr Sauber
13. Jenson Button McLaren
14. Pastor Maldonado Lotus
15. Felipe Massa Williams
16. Marcus Ericsson Sauber
17. Will Stevens Manor
18. Roberto Merhi Manor
19. Fernando Alonso McLaren
20. Carlos Sainz Jr. Toro Rosso

The Russian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 6:30am ET on Sunday.

Adam Enticknap paves the way for the ‘Other 19’

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Once the 2020 Monster Energy AMA Supercross season kicks off in Anaheim, Calif. on January 4, eyes inevitably will begin to focus on the front of the field.

One rider will win that race. Two will stand on either side of him on the podium. Nineteen others will ride quietly back to the garage and if they’re lucky, get a few minutes to tell the tale of their race to a few members of the media. On their way off the track, the other 19 will take a minute to wave to the fans in the stands.

Adam Enticknap will motion for them to follow him.

One of the most engaging riders in the sport, Enticknap not only recognizes his role as a dark horse on Supercross grid, he revels in it.

“Not everyone is going to win,” Enticknap said last week at the Supercross media sessions. “There’s only one winner on a weekend; that’s it. There can’t be more than one winner. And everyone else has got to go home and eat too.”

A recognized Hip Hop artist known for his video ‘My Bikes Too Lit’, Enticknap is bringing new fans to the track – and as a result, he is putting a spotlight on riders deeper in the field.

Last year Enticknap was coming off a broken femur that marred his SX season. He made only three Mains with a 20th in Indianapolis, 15th at Houston, and an 18th at Las Vegas. In October, he earned a career-best 14th in the Monster Energy Cup at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. He got there by being consistent in the three heats, finishing 16-15-15.

But that’s not the point for Enticknap. Yes, he wants to win but it is just as important to be the ambassador for those riders who are known only to their fans.

“I’ve made a path for riders that are not going to win,” Enticknap said. “And that’s not saying that I don’t want to win, or that I’m not going to win, but I’ve made it so that the guy who’s finishing 20th and barely making the Mains can make a full career out of it. I’m probably the most famous, slowest guy on the track. It’s come from the way I’ve marketed myself and the way I’ve been with my fans and I’ve appreciated every second that I’ve been here.”

On a good weekend, Enticknap is one of the “other 19” in the Main Event.

“Without all of us, there really is no winner. Everybody’s got to show up and everybody’s got to compete during the weekend. In our sport, everyone is so hyper-focused on the guy who is winning all the time, but I hope that I’ve opened people’s eyes that sometimes it’s not just about the guy who wins the race as much as it is about the guy who is succeeding during the weekend.”

For Enticknap, success looks different than for last year’s champion Cooper Webb or Eli Tomac who won six of the 17 races in 2019. It’s about knowing that when it’s time to ride back to the hauler – whether that is at the end of the Main or after a Last Chance Qualifier – that nothing was left on the track.

“My best finish was a 14th at the Monster Energy Cup – ever in my career,” Enticknap emphasized. “Making my way from the bottom is huge. I made my way from not even making the top 40 to finishing 14th in A-Main Event. That’s huge.”

And that’s progress.

In his second season with H.E.P. Motorsports, Enticknap predicts he will make 10 Mains this year.

Even if he advances to only half of the Features, it will be his best season in eight years at this level. Enticknap qualified for seven Mains in 2017 with a best of 18th at Vegas. He was in five Mains in 2018 with a best of 16th at San Diego before signing with his current team – and getting injured without rightly being able to show what he could do with them.

“I want to break into the top 10 – that’s my goal for the year – but as of right now I’m succeeding in all the little goals that I’ve set and I want to keep succeeding,” Enticknap said.

It’s not enough to want to finish well, however; riders have to visualize a path to success. For Enticknap, that will come with because of how he approaches stadium races. Towering over the field, Enticknap is not a small man by anyone’s measure so it’s ironic that he makes a comparison between Supercross and ballet. The indoor season is about precision, technical mastery, and finesse. And that is where Enticknap believes he shines.

“Supercross is more of a ballet. It’s more perfection. It’s something that takes so much talent – and you can see it in real life. When you watch an outdoor race, you’re like ‘that guy’s a beast’; he’s manhandling it; he’s hammering the throttle. And when you see a Supercross race it’s just so rhythmic and flowing and light. So much finesse on everything. Just such a fluent, technical race.”

Enticknap credits his background in BMX racing as one of the reasons why he is so fluid on a tight track.

“Supercross fits my riding style a lot,” Enticknap said. “I don’t like to just hang it out and get all sideways and just swap, swap, swap. I like to be very precise in all my movement. I’m a perfectionist. It helps in Supercross because everything is just timed by the millisecond.”

More: Michael Mosiman expects magic in this third year

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