DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Christian Fittipaldi will be putting in a few hours of extra work during the final start of his racing career.
With Action Express pulling Mike Conway from its No. 5 Cadillac DPI, the team will attempt to defend its Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona overall championship with Fittipaldi, Joao Barbosa and Filipe Albuquerque – the same trio that won last year’s race.
Conway encountered travel delays while trying to depart from England. “With the delay, it became obvious that he could not make the trip to Daytona in time for the final practice session,” team manager Gary Nelson said in a release. “We all decided that it may be best for the 5 car to race the Rolex with Christian, Joao and Fillipe. We will continue to work with Mike in other events in the 2019 endurance championship.”
Fittipaldi said the change probably will affect him the most because he was planning to be in the car only twice over the course of 24 hours. Now he will be driving at least three stints lasting somewhere from six to eight hours. Albuquerque likely will handle the largest workload at eight to 10 hours.
“We’ll try to run longer stints in the evening,” Fittipaldi said. “We’re still debating a little bit. A lot can happen depending on the pace of the race is and depending on how the conditions are and the wear on the tires. We sort of adjust according to the race. It’s not carved in stone.”
There was a surprise farewell party Thursday night at Daytona International Speedway for Fittipaldi, who turned 48 last week.
“In a way, last night was good because now I got over it,” he said. “So in my mind, I know it was official before. Now it’s official. This is done. Let’s just think about the race and see what we can get out of it, and that’s it. So just enjoy myself, but at the same time, take it as serious as possible and try to get a fourth win. That’s why we’re here. We’re not here to keep pound around in circles.”
Fittipaldi, who has eight victories over the past five years in IMSA, said he will “probably be more busier than when I was driving” as he will continue as a Cadillac ambassador and test driver after retiring.
At the Roar test at Daytona three weeks ago, he said he was “happy, sad, at peace with myself. I think that’s the most important. But if you ask me are you going to miss it? Shit yeah. If I tell you I won’t miss it, I’ll be lying. I did this 38 years of my life. How can you not miss something that you did 38 years of your life? It’s not humanly possible.”
The versatile veteran of IndyCar, NASCAR and Formula One said he hasn’t planned how he will fill the void left by racing.
“That’s a very good question, but always in life, when one chapter closes, another one opens,” he said. “So I’ve always known, not since beginning when I was 15 years old, but when I started understanding more about life, that I wouldn’t be a race car driver until I was 90 years old. At some point, this chapter is going to close, and some other opportunities are definitely going to show up.”
2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Motocross season opener: Jett Lawrence rockets to the top
As the SuperMotocross season heads outdoors, the NBC Power Rankings change significantly with results from the Motocross opener at Fox Raceway in Pala, California. The Power Rankings assign a numeric value to each individual moto (90 points maximum) as well as the overall standings (100 points) and averages that number over the past 45 days. Included in the Power Rankings are results from the final five Supercross rounds, which fit into that 45-day timeframe.
It didn’t take long for Jett Lawrence to rocket to the top of the SuperMotocross rankings – only about 74 minutes in fact. Lawrence dominated his first moto and beat his teammate Chase Sexton, the 2023 Monster Energy Supercross champion, to the line by 10 seconds. He had to fight a little harder for the second moto win as Sexton stalked him throughout the race and ended up less than a second behind.
Beginning this week, we have added the SuperMotocross points’ ranking beside the rider’s name and in one fell swoop, Lawrence went from being unranked in the 450 class to 26th. To qualify for the inaugural SuperMotocross’ guaranteed 20 positions that automatically make the gate for the three-race championship series, Lawrence needs to be inside the top 20 in combined Supercross and Motocross points. The bubble is currently held by Justin Starling and Lawrence needs to make up 44 points to overtake him.
Sexton’s second-place finish in the overall standings at Fox Raceway marked his ninth consecutive top-five finish. After the race, Sexton compared the battle he had with Lawrence to the one he experienced with Eli Tomac in last year’s Pro Motocross championship. These two riders had a significant advantage over the field in Pala, but there is still a lot of racing to be completed.
After missing 13 rounds to a concussion, Dylan Ferrandis told NBC Sports that he was not going to do anything risky in the season opener at Fox Raceway. If he dialed back his effort at all, one would be hard-pressed to notice. He finished third in both motos and was third in the overall standings. Ferrandis began the weekend just outside the top 20 in combined SuperMotocross points and climbed to 19th. In the next few weeks, he will get a little more breathing room over the cutline and then challenge for wins.
Adam Cianciarulo’s three-race streak of top-five finishes ended with a sixth-place overall at Fox Raceway, but that was enough to advance him one position in the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings and land him eighth in the combined points standings. His individual motos were moderate, but Cianciarulo is still battling the effects of injury and a nagging loss of strength in his wrist.
Aaron Plessinger returned from injury in the Supercross season finale to finish second at Salt Lake City. He added another top-five to his season total and now has six of those in the 13 rounds he’s made. With Ken Roczen and Eli Tomac not currently racing in Motocross, Plessinger has an opportunity to rise to the third seeding in short order.
A bad start to Moto 1 at Fox Raceway was not enough to deter Hunter Lawrence. Neither was the fact that he was riding with sore ribs after experiencing a practice crash earlier in the week. He was a distant 10th to start the first race and for most of the 30 minutes, it seemed he would finish off the podium. Lawrence did not win the 250 East Supercross championship by giving in to hopelessness or pain, however.
Lawrence picked off one rider and then another until he found the battle for the top five in front of him at the halfway point. Once the field started to lap riders, Lawrence used the opportunity to continue forward through the grid. He passed third-place Jo Shimoda with two laps remaining and challenged Maximus Vohland for second on the final trip around Fox Raceway, but had to settle for the final spot on the podium. Lawrence dominated Moto 2 and claimed the overall victory in Pala.
Justin Cooper made his first start of the season at Fox Raceway and earned enough NBC Power Average points to climb to second. Partly this was due to consistently strong runs in both motos and a 5-4 that gave him the fifth position overall, but he is also not weighed down with moderate Supercross results. It will take a week or two to see where his strength lands him on the grid.
RJ Hampshire may feel he has something to prove after finishing second to Jett Lawrence in the 250 SX West division. He certainly rode like that was the case in Moto 1 and easily outpaced the field on his way to victory lane. In Moto 2, he crashed twice on Lap 1 and dropped back to 39th. It took half of the race to get inside the top 20 and salvage points. By the end of the race, he was 11th and while that was enough to get him on the overall podium, it cost him points in the NBC SuperMotocross Power Rankings.
Haiden Deegan surprised the field in Houston in his 250 Supercross debut by finishing fifth. At the time, he said his strong result was because there were no expectations. He echoed that statement after the Motocross season opener. His second-place finish in the overall standings was enough to project him five positions up the SuperMotocross Rankings. In 11 rounds in the combined series, Deegan has earned seven top-fives and a worst finish of eighth.
Jo Shimoda did not make his first Supercross race of 2023 until late in the season. He finished fourth on the hybrid track of Atlanta, which had some similar elements to Fox Raceway. His fourth-place finish in Moto 1 of the Motocross opener made it seem likely he would score an overall podium, but a sixth in the second race cost him points in the NBC Power Rankings in a field that promises to be extremely tight.
Driver (SMX rank)
Hunter Lawrence (1)
Justin Cooper (42)
RJ Hampshire (3)
Haiden Deegan (4)
Jo Shimoda (16)
Guillem Farres (46)
Levi Kitchen (6)
Max Anstie (5)
Max Vohland (8)
Enzo Lopes (10)
Mitchell Oldenburg (13)
Carson Mumford (19)
Jordon Smith (7)
Ryder DiFrancesco (48)
Chris Blose (12)
Chance Hymas (27)
Tom Vialle (9)
Jett Reynolds (55)
Michael Mosiman (28)
Garrett Marchbanks (64)
* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner in Supercross and overall winner in Motocross. It awards 90 points for each Moto, Heat and Triple Crown win. The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.