Austin Forkner: When hyperbole simply isn’t enough

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There are times when hyperbole is simply not enough.

Austin Forkner was perfect through the first two rounds of the Supercross 250 East schedule, winning every heat and feature he entered, and it was quickly noted that no one had ever gotten off to as strong a start.

The rush to proclaim his perfection was because a Triple Crown at Ford Field in Detroit lurked next on the schedule.

Since the debut of the Triple Crown in 2018 – an event in which three Main Events are averaged to provide an overall winner – no one had managed to sweep all three races. Surely that would put an end to Forkner’s perfection. This format had not been particularly kind to him in 2018.

Forkner gave the field a glimmer of hope in qualification when he allowed Chase Sexton to post a faster time in the second session. Then, he let Jordon Smith lead the first lap of Main 1. It would turn out to be the only lap another rider would lead all evening. Forkner took the lead from Smith on Lap 2 and stretched his advantage to more than 10 seconds at the checkers.

Forkner led the next two Mains flag-to-flag to add another first to his record. One week after being hailed as the first rider to be perfect in the opening two rounds of a 250 Supercross season, he became the first rider ever to sweep a Triple Crown – and in the process, extended his perfection to three rounds.

Forkner’s success fits in the context of the Supercross season as a whole. In the 450 class, Cooper Webb seemingly came from nowhere to lead the division after finishing ninth in the standings last year. Forkner was fourth in the East standings in 2018, but nearly 60 points (the equivalent of about 2.5 races) behind the champion Zach Osborne

What are the odds of Forkner extending his winning streak to four? That depends on exactly what statistic one credits most.

Forkner and the Supercross East riders head to Atlanta this weekend. Last year, this was Round 3 of their season and it was a Triple Crown event. Forkner won his second consecutive race ahead of Zach Osborne. While he took the overall victory, Forkner failed to win any of the mains with a best of second in Main 2. By comparison, Osborne won Main 1 and tied in points, but Forkner won the tiebreaker because he had the best finish – a third to Osborne’s fifth – in the final main.

Atlanta is the first of two Showdown events pitting the best East rider against the best of the West. Last year, Forkner finished sixth in a Showdown race at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind. He missed the second Showdown at Las Vegas after sustaining an injury at Minneapolis in another Triple Crown event, so it is unclear how he will fare against that group of riders.

There’s a great thing about records, however; no matter how Round 4 plays out, no one can take away Forkner’s achievement. He remains the most perfect rider this deep into a season even if he struggles in Atlanta. At least until a more perfect rider comes along in the future.

Kyle Larson wins third consecutive High Limit Sprint race at Eagle Raceway, Rico Abreu second again

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It took four attempts for Kyle Larson to win his first High Limit Sprint Car Series race in the series he co-owns with brother-in-law Brad Sweet, but once he found victory lane, he has been undefeated with his win at Eagle (Nebraska) Raceway. For the second week, Abreu led early only to fall prey to Larson.

The win was Larson’s third straight victory and the fifth consecutive top-five, giving him a perfect sweep of the season after finishing 10th in last year’s inaugural race at Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville, Indiana.

Larson started third behind Abreu and Brent Marks but was embroiled in a fierce battle with Anthony Macri for third during the first dozen laps. Larson slipped by Macri in traffic until a red flag waved for a flip by Lachlan McHugh.

Meanwhile at the front of the pack, Marks retook the lead from Abreu on Lap 18. Larson followed one lap later and then caution waved again. Tyler Courtney lost power and fell to 24th after starting eighth.

Marks scooted away on the restart but tragedy struck in Lap 26. Leading the race, Marks hit a pothole in Turn 1, bicycled and then flipped, handing the lead to Larson.

Abreu caught Larson again during the final laps and in a reprise of their battle at Tri-City Speedway, the two threw sliders at one another for several laps until Larson built some separation and ran away to the checkers.

“I didn’t feel like my pace in [Turns] 1 & 2 slowed down a ton,” Larson said from victory lane. “I missed it once there and then I saw his nose in 3 & 4. I didn’t know if he nailed the bottom that well behind me and I think he might have slid me in the next corner, so he was definitely on the top.

“I was nervous to move up there because my car was really pogoing up in the entry of 1. I got up just in time, made a few mistakes and he threw a couple more sliders at me but he was just a little too far back and I was able to squirt around him. Then I really had to commit to hitting my marks – back my effort down a bit to avoid mistakes.”

After leading early, Abreu fell back as far as sixth, but faith in his car kept hope alive.

“I just needed to do a few things a few laps before I did and fix some angles, then my car got a whole lot better,” Abreu said. “I’m thankful for this team; they do an amazing job. They don’t give up on me. I know my car is going to be there right at the end of these races, so it’s just the discipline of being patient.”

For Abreu, it was his third near-miss this season. He was leading at Lakeside in the 2023 opener until a tire went flat in the closing laps and he lost the lead to Larson late in the Tri-City Speedway race. Abreu has finished sixth or better in his last three High Limit races with each result being progressively better until his pair of runner-up results.

Third-place finisher Scelzi was the hard charger, advancing from 17th.

“I had a very specific plan; don’t go near [the hole in Turn 1],” Scelzi said. “It worked out. No one wanted to start on the top. I think I gained a couple of rows there on the choose cone and ran the middle, which seemed to be better than right around the bottom.”

Michael “Buddy” Kofoid in fourth and Macri rounded out the top five.

World of Outlaws star and former NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne was one of 41 entrants, but he was not among the 26 starters. He failed to advance to the Main after finishing eighth in the B Main and seventh in his heat.

Feature Results

A Feature (40 Laps): 1. 57-Kyle Larson[4]; 2. 24-Rico Abreu[1]; 3. 18-Giovanni Scelzi[17]; 4. 71-Michael Kofoid[5]; 5. 39M-Anthony Macri[3]; 6. 9-Chase Randall[9]; 7. 26-Zeb Wise[14]; 8. 1X-Jake Bubak[15]; 9. 8-Aaron Reutzel[10]; 10. 14D-Corey Day[18]; 11. 11-Cory Eliason[12]; 12. 5T-Ryan Timms[11]; 13. 88-Austin McCarl[13]; 14. 21H-Brady Bacon[22]; 15. 48-Danny Dietrich[16]; 16. 7S-Robbie Price[19]; 17. 21-Brian Brown[23]; 18. 22-Riley Goodno[26]; 19. 52-Blake Hahn[25]; 20. 15H-Sam Hafertepe Jr[21]; 21. 3J-Dusty Zomer[6]; 22. 14-Cole Macedo[7]; 23. 19-Brent Marks[2]; 24. 7BC-Tyler Courtney[8]; 25. 25-Lachlan McHugh[20]; 26. 53-Jack Dover[24]

2023 High Limit Sprint Car Series

Race 1: Giovanni Scelzi wins at Lakeside Speedway
Race2: Anthony Macri wins at 34 Raceway
Race 3: Kyle Larson wins at Wayne County Speedway
Race 4: Kyle Larson wins at Tri-City Speedway