Supercross Preview: East meets West in 250 showdown

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“East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet,” wrote Rudyard Kipling in 1889. Some 130 years later, the AMA Supercross is out to prove him wrong in the 250 class.

Kipling’s tale of an epic showdown between two strong men standing face to face “tho’ they come (from) the ends of the earth” will play out in Atlanta as the best of the East, Austin Forkner takes on Adam Cianciarulo and the rest of the Western contingent.

Last week, Forkner added another weekend to his perfect start and enters with three wins. In five starts in the West division, Cianciarulo also has three victories and another pair of top-fives to his credit. The two bring their respective points’ lead into the battle that only one can win. And if not Forkner or Cianciarulo, Shane McElrath (West), Jordon Smith, Justin Cooper and Chase Sexton (East) also bring perfect records of top-five finishes to the weekend.

This will be the first of two matchups between the East and West divisions in the 250 class. The other will be in the season finale in Las Vegas.

In the 450 class, Cooper Webb will try to protect a lead that stands at six points over Ken Roczen. Last week Webb finished second  to Eli Tomac, but managed to gain a little ground over Roczen in fourth.

Justin Barcia will miss his first round of the season after crashing on his test track in Florida. The winner of the opening round in Anaheim, he has finished in the top 10 in all but one race since.

Schedule:

Qualifying: 1 p.m. on NBC Sports, Gold
Race: Live, 7 p.m. on NBC Sports, Gold and NBCSN

Last Week:

Eli Tomac got back on track with his second win of the year over Cooper Webb and Chad Reed in the 450 class.
Austin Forkner remained perfect with a win over Jordon Smith and Chase Sexton in the 250 class.

Last Year:

This was a Triple Crown event.
Jason Anderson (2-1-4) beat Marvin Musquin (4-5-1) and Eli Tomac (5-3-2) in the 450 class.
In 250s, Austin Forkner (4-2-3) won over Zach Osborne (1-3-5) and Jordon Smith (3-4-6) in the 250 class.

Winners

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

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

250 East:
[3] Austin Forkner (Minneapolis, Arlington and Detroit)

Top-5s

450s:
Ken Roczen (8)
Marvin Musquin (6)
Eli Tomac (6)
Cooper Webb (6)
Blake Baggett (4)
Dean Wilson (2)
Joey Savatgy (2)
Chad Reed (2)
Justin Barcia (1)
Jason Anderson (1)
Justin Bogle (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 (3)
Jordon Smith (3)
Justin Cooper (3)
Chase Sexton (3)
Martin Davalos (2)
Alex Martin (1)

Points Leaders

450s:
Cooper Webb (173)
Ken Roczen (167)
Marvin Musquin (161)
Eli Tomac (160)
Dean Wilson (122)

250 West:
Adam Cianciarulo (114)
Shane McElrath (106)
Colt Nichols (104)
Dylan Ferrandis (102)
RJ Hampshire (75)

250 East:
Austin Forkner (78)
Jordon Smith (65)
Justin Cooper (63)
Chase Sexton (60)
Alex Martin (51)

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Valtteri Bottas takes pole position for season-opening Austrian GP

Leonhard Foeger/Pool via Getty Images
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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas upstaged Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to take pole position Saturday for the Formula One Austrian GP.

The Finnish driver edged out the world champion by 0.012 seconds to claim the top spot for the season opener at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. He clenched his fist as he climbed out of his car and shared a hug with Hamilton.

“It’s something special when you push the car to the limit,” said Bottas, who is chasing an eighth career win. “Feels so good. It’s very impressive (from the team).”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third, and Lando Norris gave McLaren a boost by finishing fourth. Verstappen has won the past two years here, including 2019 when he started third behind Hamilton and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

“It’s going to be interesting quite a bit warmer tomorrow and hopefully this will play to our advantage,” Verstappen said. “Today, Mercedes was on a different level, unfortunately. Last year we were also a little bit off in qualifying so I expect we will be a bit better in the race.”

Bottas had the leading time when drivers embarked on their final laps and beat his own mark before sliding off the track into the gravel.

Hamilton was chasing a record-extending 89th career pole. He was ahead but then dropped off slightly as Bottas secured a 12th career pole.

“Great job by Valtteri. It’s a great start to the season,” Hamilton said. “We show year on year that we continue to be the best team. We’re open-minded … constantly learning from each other and pushing the boundaries.”

Ferrari struggled for speed, with Leclerc nearly one second behind in seventh and Sebastian Vettel failing to make it into the third and final part of qualifying, known as Q3. He starts the race from 11th on the grid.

Vettel is leaving Ferrari at the end of the season with his future in F1 uncertain.

Earlier, Hamilton posted the fastest time in morning practice. The 35-year-old British driver was also quickest in both sessions on Friday.

Midway through third practice, F1 newcomer Nicholas Latifi misjudged the exit of a turn and spun his Williams car into a protective tire wall.