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United States GP Paddock Notebook – Thursday

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AUSTIN, Texas – Pick your weather term de jour – rainy, cloudy, muggy or overcast – and you have Thursday from edition 4.0 of the United States Grand Prix at Austin’s Circuit of The Americas in a nutshell.

There haven’t been a ton of updates to note, but still enough to keep things interesting.

Here’s a roundup of news, features and other items from the paddock at COTA today (and some from Wednesday rolled into this post):

PADDOCK NEWS AND FEATURES

WEDNESDAY PRE-RACE ITEMS

THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK

How wet will it get?

Preparations are in full force for rain this weekend, as evidenced by the frantic, furious and frequent mounting of Pirelli intermediates and full wet weather tires up and down the paddock. The question on most minds isn’t necessarily will it rain, but how much, for how long, and more.

I guess it’s fitting I’m here for this one – having been to two prior Circuit of The Americas events this year, the Pirelli World Challenge event back in March when it was absolutely freezing (ambient temperatures hovering in the 30s, Fahrenheit, then with rain on the Sunday) and then last month for the Lone Star Le Mans joint FIA World Endurance Championship/IMSA weekend (a scorcher with temps in the 90s), that the trilogy of less than ideal weather acts rolls on with a likely swampy deluge set to occur here this weekend.

There’s a long running joke about me and rainy weather, and combined with USA Today Sports’ Brant James, I think the two of us have locked down the title of “rain-meisters” in the media centre.

Hamilton enters with poise, confidence, swagger

Five of the six drivers in the FIA Press Conference held earlier today appeared in normal kit, with the lone exception perhaps Daniel Ricciardo of Infiniti Red Bull Racing in his “Wolverine 2.0” get up of intense side burns and a goatee. Then champion-elect Lewis Hamilton walked in, sunglasses on, gold chain present atop his black Mercedes AMG Petronas T-shirt, and it was though you needed an American wrestling type announcer or something to say “The champ is here!” upon entry.

A reporter asked a question you don’t ordinarily hear in these type press conferences – asking how to create more enthusiasm in urban black America for F1 – and Hamilton responded, “Don’t look at me, ask the others first… I’d love to see what others think!” When it did get around to Hamilton, he said it’s difficult for people to get attached, but he hopes one day F1 can engage with some of the stick-and-ball sports that are so popular in this country.

Frankly, F1 could do worse with an “F1 in America” ambassador; as my colleague Luke Smith touched on earlier today, this is Lewis’ de facto second “home grand prix” as it is, and he embraces it. NBC’s Leigh Diffey had an interview with Hamilton earlier today that will be part of our broadcast this weekend (TV times linked here). The early mood this weekend is already one of “this is Hammer Time,” as Hamilton stands on the precipice of clinching his third World Championship.

Rossi ready for racing

The build-up is obvious for American Alexander Rossi ahead of his home Grand Prix. But I have to imagine for as great as he’s been in all his pre-race media commitments, Rossi is keen to get behind the wheel and actually drive his Manor Marussia Ferrari in Friday’s sessions.

I asked him during today’s FIA Press Conference whether having done FP1 here two years ago, then in a Caterham, would be of any help to him. He said it was good to have the track experience, but the car difference night and day will make for an entirely different session.

“It gives you a baseline but at the same time the cars in ’13 were clearly very different to what they are now,” Rossi said. “I don’t know how much is applicable to be honest. I think it’s more of a bonus, the fact that I’ve actually driven the track, more than anything else.”

Fan events kick off tonight

Come rain or shine, tonight marks the true and proper kick off to the fan events taking place this weekend in Austin. I’ll be at Buxton’s Big Time Bash later this evening (details here), with a full report to come later in the weekend. Additional link outs to other fan events are featured in this post.

That’ll be it for today, with more to come on Friday and throughout the weekend on MotorSportsTalk. We appreciate your reading and support.

Supercross: Tomac, Roczen square off in Arlington; Webb gives chase

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The Monster Energy Supercross championship battle remains tight after Eli Tomac took the lead from Ken Roczen just last week at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. Now the series heads to Arlington, Texas, and the AT&T Stadium for Round 8. (Watch on NBCSN or stream live.)

Tomac’s third win of the 2020 season and Roczen’s third-place finish at Tampa gives Tomac a four-point advantage in what is essentially a wide-open title fight with three races on tap in Arlington.

And while it is still much too early to call this a two-man battle, Cooper Webb is 11 points back with Justin Barcia 20 points out and Adam Cianciarulo 27 points in arrears – and all three cannot afford to lose any ground this week.

Tomac has the momentum. He allowed the field to get a jump after finishing seventh at Anaheim in the season opener, but finished fourth or better in the remaining events.

Roczen also got off to a slow start in Anaheim 1 with a sixth-place finish. He seemed to have a firm grasp on the red plate with four consecutive podium finishes until he slipped to sixth for a second time at San Diego.

Webb is coming into his own with three consecutive podiums in the last three events. If not for a 12th at St. Louis, he would be in immediate contention for the red plate.

This week is the second Triple Crown race of the season and Roczen hopes he has the same success as he did at Glendale. He won all three Mains that weekend and easily walked away with the overall victory. Tomac finished 2-2-3 for second overall. It is going to be imperative that a rider takes the early lead.

Blake Baggett qualified for last week’s Main, but chose to sit it out after experiencing sever muscle spasms. He will ride in Arlington.

Henry Miller will return to riding at Arlington after breaking a scapula in Australia.

Subscribe to the Supercross Pass for complete qualification and race coverage of the 2020 season.

For the third time in his career, Shane McElrath started the season with a victory. He won the season-opener in 2017 and 2018 in the West division at Anaheim, but failed to lock down a 250 title. His seventh career win moved him to 25th on the chart, however, with Travis Pastrana, Trey Canard, and a host of others.

Chase Sexton got his title hunt off to a strong start last week as well. He finished second to earn his 10th podium in 19 starts, but he will be hungry for a win. Despite the fact that he won last year’s 250 West championship, he has only one race victory to his credit.

Last week, Jeremy Martin looked like he had not been off his bike for more than a year. Returning from a 2018 injury, Martin snagged a podium finish in his first race back.

Schedule:

Qualifying: 1 p.m. on NBC Sports Gold
Race: 8:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Gold and NBCSN

Last Week:

Eli Tomac beat Cooper Webb and Ken Roczen in the 450 class.
Shane McElrath beat Chase Sexton and Jeremy Martin in the 250 class.

Last Dallas race (February, 2019):

Cooper Webb beat Ken Roczen and Marvin Musquin in the 450 class.
Austin Forkner beat Justin Cooper and Chase Sexton in the 250 class.

Points Leaders

450s:
Eli Tomac (155)
Ken Roczen (151)
Cooper Webb (144)
Justin Barcia (135)
Adam Cianciarulo (128)

250 West:
Dylan Ferrandis (135)
Justin Cooper (128)
Austin Forkner (122)
Brandon Hartranft (110)
Alex Martin (98)

250 East:
Shane McElrath (26)
Chase Sexton (23)
Jeremy Martin (21)
Garrett Marchbanks (19)
Jordon Smith (18)

Wins

450

(3) Eli Tomac (Anaheim 2, Oakland and Tampa)
(2) Ken Roczen (St. Louis and Glendale)
(1) Justin Barcia (Anaheim 1)
(1) Cooper Webb (San Diego)

250 West

(3) Dylan Ferrandis (Anaheim 2, Oakland, and San Diego)
(2) Austin Forkner (St. Louis and Glendale)
(1) Justin Cooper (Anaheim 1)

250 East

(1) Shane McElrath (Tampa)

Top-5s

450

(6) Eli Tomac
(6) Cooper Webb
(5) Jason Anderson
(5) Ken Roczen
(5) Justin Barcia
(3) Adam Cianciarulo
(2) Zach Osborne
(2) Blake Baggett
(1) Justin Hill

250 West

(5) Dylan Ferrandis
(5) Austin Forkner
(5) Justin Cooper
(4) Michael Mosiman
(4) Brandon Hartranft
(3) Alex Martin
(1) Christian Craig
(1) Jett Lawrence
(1) Jacob Hayes
(1) Luke Clout

250 East

(1) Shane McElrath
(1) Chase Sexton
(1) Jeremy Martin
(1) Garrett Marchbanks
(1) Jordon Smith

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