IndyCar

Will Power impressed with Charlotte Motor Speedway ROVAL

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While visiting Charlotte Motor Speedway on Wednesday during the Parade of Power tour, Team Penske’s Will Power got a chance to sample the newly configured “roval,” the road course built within Charlotte that incorporates a mix of an infield road course with parts of the 1.5-mile oval.

Power, who was at Charlotte with his Team Penske Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series counterpart Ryan Blaney, along with NHRA Pro Stock racer Greg Anderson, explained afterward that the circuit left a good impression on him.

“I haven’t gotten to do a whole lap, but I’ve seen the two chicanes and the turn that goes into the infield. It looks pretty nice,” Power detailed. “I know the old track (the oval), I’ve driven around the old track. I don’t know how much it’s changed, but (the roval) looks like it’ll be a lot of fun.”

Power got a chance to sample the circuit in a ride-along with Blaney, who drove Power around in a two-seat version of his No. 12 Penske Racing Ford.

Power also revealed that, per a conversation he had with Blaney, the circuit could pose a unique challenge and produce some very intense racing.

“Blaney says it was quite difficult to get his head around (the track), but he says it’s going to be solid racing (on it) – a lot of moving people out of the way and that type of thing. He seems to think the fans will like it.”

The Verizon IndyCar Series has previously raced at Charlotte Motor Speedway, between 1997 and 1999. And Power, who lives in North Carolina, would welcome the idea of the track returning to the schedule.

“That would be a total home race for me. I’d love to see that, that would be awesome. But, I have no clue if that would ever happen,” Power revealed.

A hypothetical return to Charlotte would follow a recent trend of IndyCar returning to venues it hasn’t visited in recent years. IndyCar heads to Portland International Raceway on Labor Day Weekend (September 2, on NBCSN), a circuit that hasn’t held an IndyCar race since the old Champ Car World Series raced there in 2007, their final season prior to unification.

And the series is also slated to return to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in 2019 after an absence that dates back to 2004 – Champ Car’s final race at the circuit came in that season, with Patrick Carpentier taking the win.

The return of such venues, stalwarts on the open wheel calendar through the 1990s and into the 2000s, is nothing short of positive in Power’s mind.

“You think about how big the crowds were when CART was going to Portland and Laguna Seca – there is a good fan base there, and those tracks have good history and they’re great tracks to drive on. So, I’m really excited about the additions to the schedule,” he added.

The next Verizon IndyCar Series event is the ABC Supply 500 from Pocono Raceway (August 19, on NBCSN), while the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series tackles the Charlotte “roval” on September 30 for the Bank of America Roval 400.

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Cooper Webb leaps from obscurity to Supercross lead

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Cooper Webb could not even locate the radar tower before the 2019 season began – let alone expect to see his number dead center in the radar screen.

His ascent to 450 competition came with little fanfare. Finishing 13th in Supercross in 2017 and then eighth in Motocross, Webb did not turn many heads as a rookie. Last year was more of the same.

Through Round 7 at Arlington, Webb failed to record a single top five. That elusive result would come the following week at Tampa with a fourth-place finish. Two weeks later, he stood on the podium at Daytona for the only the second time in his Supercross 450s career. But at season’s end, Webb was only ninth in the standings in both Supercross and Motocross.

No one expected much from him when Anaheim rolled around this year.

Webb started the season much the same as he ended 2018. A fifth-place finish in Anaheim I in muddy and equalizing conditions was followed by a modest 10th at Glendale, but the rider from North Carolina believed in himself.

In professional racing, nothing is more difficult than winning the first race. Webb’s first taste of victory came in Heat 1 of the Triple Crown at Anaheim II. Everyone remained skeptical – it was only one heat race after all. The skepticism turned to interest when he won Heat 2. Then Webb finished third in Heat 3 to take the overall victory. It was his first win in the 450 class.

That was all it took to unleash his potential. Webb won the following week in Oakland and then again two weeks later in Minneapolis.

The Supercross riders left Minnesota and headed straight down Interstate 35 to Arlington with four of them separated by two points. All eyes were focused on Ken Roczen, Eli Tomac, Marvin Musquin – and, oh yeah Webb who sat in second.

Someone was likely to stumble in Arlington and the odds on favorite to do so was Webb. That seemed to be confirmed once the feature started. While the three more experienced riders led by Tomac scooted away from the field, Webb was mired outside the top five for the first six lap.

It was Tomac who tripped and fell, however. Webb passed the stricken rider and surged to fifth on Lap 7. He was in fourth by Lap 10 and third on Lap 16.  As Webb and teammate Musquin battled for the second, they slowly reeled in the leader Roczen. Once Webb broke free on the conflict with the runner-up position firmly his, he could see the red plate on Roczen’s Honda like a cape being waved in front of a bull.

Webb charged through the final six laps getting closer and closer until he edged Roczen for the closest finish in Supercross history. It was Webb’s fourth victory of the season, coming only four weeks after he scored his first career win.

Relive the final laps in the video posted above.

As incredible as Webb’s rise to the points lead is, it has been done before.

Last year Jason Anderson seemingly came out of nowhere to lead the standings after Round 2. Anderson held the advantage for the remainder of the year, while Webb has been part of a game of hot potato in which no one seems to want to don the red plate for more than a week.

The pressure continues to mount. Webb now has a two-point advantage over Roczen, who is the only rider to sweep the top five this season.

Webb’s advantage over third is a mere four points, while Musquin has a current five-race streak of podium finishes to his credit.

Tomac’s trouble in Texas serves as a cautionary tale that a single loss of focus can be devastating and Webb still lacks the seat time of his three principal rivals, but last week’s incredible come-from-behind victory is showing that Webb is riding above experience level.

Follow the complete Supercross and Motocross seasons on NBC Sports, Gold.