Supercross Preview: Razor thin margins separate title contenders

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The top four riders this week enter Arlington with only two points separating them. A slight bobble by Ken Roczen, Cooper Webb, Eli Tomac or Marvin Musquin could break up this dominance – but since all four of them have swept the top 10 in the first six rounds – don’t expect anyone to make a big mistake this week.

That’s because the hard-packed Northern Texas dirt has a reputation for holding its consistency throughout the event. By the time the Feature lines up, they should all be comfortable with the racing lines. Riders have a chance to find their rhythm and slowly improve as the night progresses.

Zach Osborne could play the role of spoiler. He returns to competition this week after suffering a broken collarbone before the season opener at Anaheim I, which is good news after injuries thinned the field of his teammate Jason Anderson, Justin Hill and Malcolm Stewart.

Dean Wilson continues to stand in for Anderson as Osborne’s teammate. He has almost shown the same level of consistency as the top four with only one result (a 12th in the mud at San Diego) outside the top 10.

Meanwhile in the 250 class, Christian Craig is expected to miss Arlington to allow his thumb to heal after sustaining an injury in December. He climbed aboard his steed at Minneapolis last week, but could only manage a 20th-place finish.

Schedule:

Qualifying: 2 p.m. on NBC Sports, Gold
Race: Live, 6:30 p.m. on NBCSN and NBC Sports, Gold

Last Week:

Cooper Webb won his third event over Ken Roczen and Marvin Musquin in the 450 class.
Austin Forkner won the East season opener over Jordon Smith and Justin Cooper in the 250 class.

Last year:

Eli Tomac beat Marvin Musquin and Blake Baggett in the 450 class.
Zach Osborne beat Colt Nichols and James Decotis in the 250 class.

Winners

450s:
[3] Cooper Webb (Anaheim II, Oakland and Minneapolis)
[1] Justin Barcia (Anaheim I)
[1] Blake Baggett (Glendale)
[1] Eli Tomac (San Diego)

250 West:
[3] Adam Cianciarulo (Glendale, Oakland, San Diego)
[1] Colt Nichols (Anaheim I)
[1] Shane McElrath (Anaheim II)

250 East:
[1] Austin Forkner (Minneapolis)

Top-5s

450s:
Ken Roczen (6)
Eli Tomac (5)
Marvin Musquin (5)
Cooper Webb (4)
Dean Wilson (2)
Blake Baggett (2)
Justin Barcia (1)
Jason Anderson (1)
Justin Bogle (1)
Chad Reed (1)
Joey Savatgy (1)
Justin Brayton (1)

250 West:
Shane McElrath (5)
Adam Cianciarulo (5)
Colt Nichols (4)
RJ Hampshire (3)
Dylan Ferrandis (3)
James Decotis (2)
Jacob Hayes (1)
Garrett Marchbanks (1)
Jess Pettis (1)

250 East:
Austin Forkner (1)
Jordon Smith (1)
Justin Cooper (1)
Alex Martin (1)
Chase Sexton (1)

Points Leaders

450s:
Ken Roczen (125)
Cooper Webb (124)
Eli Tomac (123)
Marvin Musquin (123)
Dean Wilson (95)

250 West:
Adam Cianciarulo (114)
Shane McElrath (105)
Colt Nichols (104)
Dylan Ferrandis (102)
RJ Hampshire (75)

250 East:
Austin Forkner (26)
Jordon Smith (23)
Justin Cooper (21)
Alex Martin (19)
Chase Sexton (18)

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F1 tests: Mercedes innovates with wheel adjustment system

Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images
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MONTMELÓ, Spain — Veteran Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest time on the second day of Formula One preseason testing on Thursday, but Mercedes still garnered more attention by introducing an innovative wheel adjustment system.

On-board footage showed defending champion Lewis Hamilton pulling the steering wheel back and forth on the front straight to apparently change the angle of the front wheels on his Mercedes car.

The team stayed tight-lipped about the car’s new feature but guaranteed it was “safe” and “legal.”

“I probably won’t shed a great deal more light than what you saw on the TV but yeah we have a system in the car, it’s a novel idea,” team technical director James Allison told F1 TV. ”We’ve got a name for it, it’s called DAS, if you’re interested, and it just introduces an extra dimension for the steering, for the driver, which we hope will be useful during the year. But precisely how we use it and why we use it, that’s something we will keep to ourselves.”

Allison said governing body FIA knew in advance that the team was introducing the new system.

“It’s something we’ve been talking to them (about) for some time,” he said. “The rules are pretty clear about what’s permitted on steering systems and we’re pretty confident that it matches those requirements. I’m pleased we got it on the car, it seems to be useful, and we’ll see over the coming days how it benefits us.”

Hamilton said he was still trying to get used to the system, but praised the team for coming up with the innovation.

“I’ve only had one morning on (it, so) I don’t really have a lot to talk about with it. We’re trying to get on top of it, understand it, but safety-wise no problem today and the FIA are OK with the project.

“For me it’s really encouraging to see that my team is continuing to innovate and stay ahead of the game, and I think that’s down to the great minds in the team and so hopefully that’ll work to our benefit.”

Hamilton led the time charts on Wednesday but was only ninth-fastest on Thursday.

MORE: Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas fastest in Day 1 of F1 practice
MORE: Sergio Perez fastest early on Day 2 of F1 Practice

The 40-year-old Raikkonen, who has a chance this season to break the record for most race starts in F1, was fastest with a time of 1 minute, 17.091 seconds in his Alfa Romea. He was 0.2 seconds quicker than Sergio Pérez with Racing Point. Daniel Ricciardo of Renault was third.

Raikkonen caused a red flag near the end of the afternoon session when his car stopped on the track with an apparent mechanical issue. The Finnish driver had spun earlier in the session, as did Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes, Romain Grosjean of Haas and Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri, formerly known as Toro Rosso.

Grosjean had the most laps among the 13 drivers who went to the track on Thursday, with 158.

Bottas was the slowest driver of the day, while Sebastian Vettel was sixth-fastest with Ferrari.

Pérez had set the quickest time in the morning session. The Mexican driver had been third fastest on Wednesday, behind Hamilton and Bottas.

Drivers will be back on the track on Friday to close out the first week of testing. Teams will have another three days to test next week.

Preseason testing has been reduced from eight to six days to help compensate for the record 22 races on the calendar, including a new Vietnam Grand Prix and the return of the Dutch GP. Midseason testing also has been eliminated.

The season opens on March 15 at the Australian GP.

The Barcelona-Catalunya track will host the Spanish GP on May 10.