Supercross Preview: Three races, three winners – will Oakland make four?

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Three weeks have produced three different winners in the 450 and 250 classes in Monster Energy Supercross competition and with the absence of some big names on the top step of the podium, Oakland might well produce another unique victor.

That is especially likely in 450s, where two of the three winners in 2019 have scored their first career wins. Blake Baggett ascended to the top for the first time In Glendale, Ariz. Last week, Cooper Webb grabbed his first win in the second Anaheim race. Even Justin Barcia in Round 1 had only two previous wins to his credit.

Take last year’s champions Jason Anderson out of the mix after a practice crash early in the week left him with a broken arm, cracked rib and lengthy recovery, and it’s anyone’s race to win. Anderson will be out for an estimated eight weeks as he recuperates.

The course this week will be made up of mostly doubles including one on which the riders will get major air before slamming into a hairpin that leads the whoops, another 180 and the finish line.

Ken Roczen keeps the red plate for the second week, but he’s still looking for his first win since his injury. Last week, it appeared he was on his way to a great event when he led 13 of 14 laps in the first Main of the Triple Crown only to be passed by Webb on the final lap. In the second and third Mains, he finished fifth and fourth to get an overall finish of fourth.

Colt Nichols also hangs onto his red plate for another week. His overall finish of third last week was just enough for a two-point advantage over the Anaheim II winner Shane McElrath.

During the week, Barcia was evaluated for a bruised tailbone after he took a hard landing and was helped from the track in the third Main at Anaheim II. He is expected to ride at Oakland.

Schedule:

Qualifying: 4 p.m. on NBC Sports, Gold
Race: Live, 9 p.m. on NBC Sports, Gold (Replay: Jan. 27, 3 p.m. on NBCSN)

Last Week:

Cooper Webb beat Marvin Musquin and Eli Tomac in the 450 class.
Shane McElrath beat Dylan Ferrandis and Colt Nichols in the 250 class.

Last year:

Jason Anderson beat Ken Roczen and Blake Baggett in the 450 class.
Aaron Plessinger beat Joey Savatgy and Justin Hill in the 250 class.

Winners

450s:
[1] Justin Barcia (Anaheim I)
[1] Blake Baggett (Glendale)
[1] Cooper Webb (Anaheim II)

250s:
[1] Colt Nichols (Anaheim I)
[1] Adam Cianciarulo (Glendale)
[1] Shane McElrath (Anaheim II)

Points Leaders

450s:
Ken Roczen (63)
Eli Tomac (61)
Cooper Webb (57)
Justin Barcia (56)
Marvin Musquin (56)

250s:
Colt Nichols (70)
Shane McElrath (68)
Dylan Ferrandis (63)
Adam Cianciarulo (62)
RJ Hampshire (57)

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter

April 9 in Motorsports History: Al Unser Jr. gets sixth Long Beach win

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The list of winners in the Grand Prix of Long Beach is a ‘who’s who’ of open-wheel racing.

Mario Andretti won at the famed street course four times. His son Michael won there twice.

Paul Tracy is also a four-time winner at the beach. Alex Zanardi, Juan Pablo Montoya, Sebastien Bourdais, and Alexander Rossi also have won at the famed course multiple times.

But there is only one “King of the Beach”: Al Unser Jr.

The winningest driver in the race’s history, Unser won at Long Beach four consecutive times from 1988-91. He won again in 1994 and entered the 1995 edition as the race’s defending champion and the defending CART champion as well.

Starting fourth, Unser made slight contact with Gil de Ferran when he passed the Brazilian on Lap 3. He then continued to move up to the front, taking the race lead from Teo Fabi on Lap 30.

Once he had the lead, Unser ran away from the field, winning by more than 23 seconds over Scott Pruett.

Unser’s victory was such a familiar scene that after the race, CART news manager John Procida began the winner’s news conference with the following statement: “Well, we have a very familiar face on the top rung of the podium. As we listed on the prerace press release, this seems to be the Al Unser Invitational.”

Indeed it was. Unser’s victory was his sixth at Long Beach, and the 28th of his career. overall. While it would be his last win there, Unser continued to race at Long Beach through 1998 before missing 1999 with a broken leg and moving to the Indy Racing Leauge in 2000.

In 2009, Unser was inducted into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame, which honors significant contributors to the race and California motorsports community.

“It truly is just an honor to be mentioned with the names and the legends that have already been put into the sidewalk,” Unser said during the induction ceremony. “To have Brian (Redman, the inaugural winner of the race) and Parnelli (Jones) is really an honor and just to be in their company is very, very special.”

Also on this date:

1971: Jacques Villeneuve was born in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Canada. The second-generation driver was one of the best in open-wheel racing during the 1990s, winning the Indianapolis 500 and CART championship in ’95 and becoming a Formula One champion two years later.

1989: Rick Mears dominated CART’s Checker Autoworks 200 at Phoenix International Raceway, leading every lap from the pole and lapping the field.

2011: Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas won the Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park, their sixth consecutive victory in Grand Am competition. Their lengthy win streak, which started on Aug. 7, 2010 at Watkins Glen, prompted Grand Am to offer a $25,000 bounty for any Daytona Prototype team that could beat the dominant duo. The Action Express trio of Joao Barbosa, J.C. France, and Terry Borcheller finally unseated Pruett and Rojas in the series’ next round at Virginia International Raceway.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994