Justin Barcia, Colt Nichols win Anaheim Supercross opener

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On a heavy, rutted track Justin Barcia scored the 450 win at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif. to claim the first of 17 rounds. It was his third career victory in 450s and his first in six years.

No one quite knew what to expect since for the first time since 2008, the season opening Supercross race was run under very muddy conditions. And as the gate dropped on the 450 feature, rain that began with the last chance qualifiers fell as hard as it had all day.

Barcia took the lead with about three minutes remaining on the clock and stretched his advantage to almost five second at the checkers.

Ken Roczen finished second after overcoming an injury last year.

Eli Tomac grabbed third in the final laps.

But the heartwarming story of the race belonged to the rider in fourth. Earlier in the week, Dean Wilson was selling t-shirts and hoodies to raise money simply to make the race. He took the lead on the opening lap and held it for more than 10 minutes until he succumbed to the pressure from Barcia.

Getting the action started, Cooper Webb went down in Turn 1.

Defending champion Jason Anderson was aiming for the hole shot, but pulled up when it got crowded. That handed the lead to the privateer Wilson.

Webb got back on his bike to salvage a fifth-place finish. Anderson faded a lap off the pace to 14th.

In 250 action, Colt Nichols grabbed the hole shot when Adam Cianciarulo slid off track in Turn 1. Nichols was uncontested for the remainder of the race and scored his first Supercross 250 win in his 23rd career start.

With time running off the clock, the battle intensified for second. McElrath held the spot, but Dylan Ferrandis had chased him down from behind. The two riders swapped crossovers with Ferrandis taking the spot before the final lap began.

Cianciarulo’s night should not have been that difficult. He looked like he was going to get the hole shot in the 250 feature. Unfortunately, he overcooked the first lap and drove off course in Turn 1 – falling to 12th in the process. He was back up to sixth (14.204 seconds behind leader Nichols) after five minutes elapsed.

With a little more than seven minutes remaining, Cianciarulo caught RJ Hampshire for fourth and ran him high in a turn. Hampshire repaid the move at the end of the whoops and put Cianciarulo on the ground.

Hampshire finished fourth; Cianciarulo survived in fifth.

450 Heat 1 (6 minutes + 1 lap): Ken Roczen won over Dean Wilson

450 Heat 2 (6 minutes + 1 lap): Justin Barcia won over Malcolm Stewart

450 Last Chance Qualifier (5 minutes + 1 lap): Carlen Gardner won over Chad Reed. Ben Lamay and Kyle Chisholm also advanced through the LCQ. Reed made the season-opening A-Main for the 18th straight time – a Supercross record.

250 Heat 1 (6 minutes + 1 lap): RJ Hampshire won over Shane McElrath

250 Heat 2 (6 minutes + 1 lap): Adam Cianciarulo won over Colt Nichols

250 Last Chance Qualifier (5 minutes +1 lap): Bradley Lionnet won over Matthew Jorgensen. Logan Karnow and Jerry Robin also advanced through the LCQ.

Next race: January 12, State Farm Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.

Season passes can be purchased at NBC Sports Gold.

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Three-time F1 champion Niki Lauda dies at 70

AP Photo/Luca Bruno, File
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BERLIN (AP) Three-time Formula One world champion Niki Lauda, who won two of his titles after a horrific crash that left him with serious burns and went on to become a prominent figure in the aviation industry, has died. He was 70.

The Austria Press Agency reported that Lauda’s family said in a statement he “passed away peacefully” on Monday. Walter Klepetko, a doctor who performed a lung transplant on Lauda last year, said Tuesday: “Niki Lauda has died. I have to confirm that.”

Lauda won the F1 drivers’ championship in 1975 and 1977 with Ferrari and again in 1984 with McLaren.

In 1976, he was badly burned when he crashed during the German Grand Prix but made an astonishingly fast return to racing just six weeks later.

Lauda remained closely involved with the Formula One circuit after retiring as a driver in 1985, and in recent years served as the non-executive chairman of the Mercedes team.

Born on Feb. 22, 1949 into a wealthy Vienna industrial family, Nikolaus Andreas Lauda was expected to follow his father’s footsteps into the paper-manufacturing industry, but instead concentrated his business talents and determination on his dreams of becoming a racing driver.

Lauda financed his early career with the help of a string of loans, working his way through the ranks of Formula 3 and Formula 2. He made his Formula 1 debut for the March team at the 1971 Austrian Grand Prix and picked up his first points in 1973 with a fifth-place finish for BRM in Belgium.

Lauda joined Ferrari in 1974, winning a Grand Prix for the first time that year in Spain and his first drivers’ title with five victories the following season.

Facing tough competition from McLaren’s James Hunt, he appeared on course to defend his title in 1976 when he crashed at the Nuerburgring during the German Grand Prix. Several drivers stopped to help pull him from the burning car, but the accident would scar him for life. The baseball cap Lauda almost always wore in public became a personal trademark.

“The main damage, I think to myself, was lung damage from inhaling all the flames and fumes while I was sitting in the car for about 50 seconds,” he recalled nearly a decade later. “It was something like 800 degrees.”

Lauda fell into a coma for a time. He said that “for three or four days it was touch and go.”

“Then my lungs recovered and I got my skin grafts done, then basically there was nothing left,” he added. “I was really lucky in a way that I didn’t do any (other) damage to myself. So the real question was then will I be able to drive again, because certainly it was not easy to come back after a race like that.”

Lauda made his comeback just six weeks after the crash, finishing fourth at Monza after overcoming his initial fears.

He recalled “shaking with fear” as he changed into second gear on the first day of practice and thinking, “I can’t drive.”

The next day, Lauda said he “started very slowly trying to get all the feelings back, especially the confidence that I’m capable of driving these cars again.” The result, he said, boosted his confidence and after four or five races “I had basically overcome the problem of having an accident and everything went back to normal.”

He won his second championship in 1977 before switching to Brabham and then retiring in 1979 to concentrate on setting up his airline, Lauda Air, declaring that he “didn’t want to drive around in circles anymore.”

Lauda came out of retirement in 1982 after a big-money offer from McLaren, reportedly about $3 million a year.

He finished fifth his first year back and 10th in 1983, but came back to win five races and edge out teammate Alain Prost for his third title in 1984. He retired for good the following year, saying he needed more time to devote to his airline business.

Initially a charter airline, Lauda Air expanded in the 1980s to offer flights to Asia and Australia. In May 1991, a Lauda Air Boeing 767 crashed in Thailand after one of its engine thrust reversers accidentally deployed during a climb, killing all 213 passengers and 10 crew.

Lauda occasionally took the controls of the airline’s jets himself over the years. In 1997, longtime rival Austrian Airlines took a minority stake and in 2000, with the company making losses, he resigned as board chairman after an external audit criticized a lack of internal financial control over business conducted in foreign currency. Austrian Airlines later took full control.

Lauda founded a new airline, Niki, in 2003. Germany’s Air Berlin took a minority stake and later full control of that airline, which Lauda bought back in early 2018 after it fell victim to its parent’s financial woes.

He partnered with budget carrier Ryanair on Niki’s successor, LaudaMotion.

On the Formula One circuit, Lauda later formed a close bond with Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton, who joined the team in 2013. He often backed Hamilton in public and provided advice and counsel to the British driver.

Lauda also intervened as a Mercedes mediator when Hamilton and his former Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg feuded, argued and traded barbs as they fought for the title between 2014-16

Lauda twice underwent kidney transplants, receiving an organ donated by his brother in 1997 and, when that stopped functioning well, a kidney donated by his girlfriend in 2005.

In August 2018, he underwent a lung transplant that the Vienna General Hospital said was made necessary by a “serious lung illness.” It didn’t give details.

Lauda is survived by his second wife, Birgit, and their twin children Max and Mia. He had two adult sons, Lukas and Mathias, from his first marriage.