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Cooper Webb, Adam Cianciarulo win Atlanta Supercross

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Cooper Webb led Round 9 of the Supercross season flag to flag, but it was anything but an easy ride in Atlanta.

On Lap 5, Webb was under heavy pressure by teammate Marvin Musquin when he got crossed up in the sand. Musquin was right on his back wheel and actually got slowed up more than Webb. He lost a second in the incident.

Musquin closed to within less than half a second and forced Webb into a minor mistake. Webb overcame the pressure and extended his advantage to a full second again. Musquin closed to less than half a second a few laps later before Webb squirted out to another one-second lead.

Ultimately, it was a battle between Blake Baggett and Musquin that gave Webb a little breathing room. Baggett climbed into second on Lap 14 and kept the pressure on, but was never able to get close enough to force another mistake. Webb won his fifth race of the season and extended his points lead.

“It was all about lines,” Webb told NBCSN after the race. “I had to ride a little defensive, but also offensive. I knew there were a couple of places where they were catching me. I was searching, I was skimming, I was trying all kinds of stuff. I got a little tight in the middle, but by the end I found my groove.”

Baggett finished second and felt that the sand was partly to blame.

“The track conditions and the sand,” Baggett said. “It’s tough when they put sand in a Supercross event; I’m definitely not for it. You could get a run up to them, but then you were going through tear-offs so fast you needed to hang back.”

With his second-place finish, Baggett climbed into fifth in the points around Dean Wilson who finished eighth.

Musquin rounded out the podium.

Ken Roczen finished fourth and remains the only 450 rider with a perfect record of top-five finishes. He now sits 13 points behind Webb.

Aaron Plessinger rounded out the top five in fifth.

Eli Tomac had another slow start. He was 13th on Lap 1 and forced to make another charge through the field. He cracked the top 10 on Lap 5 and ultimately landed sixth on the leaderboard.

Complete Results
Points Standings

250s

It was a tale of brother versus brother (or at least teammate versus teammate) and East versus West when Adam Cianciarulo got around Chase Sexton on Lap 3 and set his sights on Austin Forkner. Nine laps later, the West Coast rider Cianciarulo passed Forkner and became the first to do so during the 2019 season.

Cianciarulo held on to win by nearly five seconds over Dylan Ferrandis.

It was his third Showdown win after winning the season finales at Las Vegas for the past two years. Cianciarulo is the first rider to win three Showdowns.

“Those guys are riding so good,” Cianciarulo told NBCSN after his victory. “I can’t say enough good things about Chase (Sexton) and Austin both. Their pace was unreal. For me it was just about trying to learn their pace and learn where they were better than me. That’s what I’m most proud of in that Main. I didn’t feel good all day. Honestly, I was pretty good in practice, but just terrible in my heat. I just stayed patient. I told myself on the line, ‘whatever you do, just do your very best the entire time.’ And my best was good enough for a win.”

Forkner grabbed the holeshot and appeared to have the race in hand until Cianciarulo chased him down. Two laps later, he lost second to another West rider Dylan Ferrandis. Forkner finished third, but it was the first time this year that Forkner lost a race after winning his heat earlier in the day on the heels of a perfect first three rounds of competition.

“I had a pretty rough day in practice,” Forkner said afterward. “I crashed twice pretty hard in the whoops and just wasn’t feeling it tonight. That’s where I was losing my time, obviously. That’s where I got passed both times.

“I just wasn’t willing to go any faster. Simple as that.”

Forkner made the decision to protect his points lead and keep from experiencing a disastrous run that might ultimately cost the championship. He ended the night with an 18-point lead over Justin Cooper and the field.

Sexton finished fourth and gave up minimal points to Forkner.

Cooper rounded out the top five.

Complete Results
250 East Points Standings
250 West Points Standings

450 Heat 1: Blake Baggett scored his first heat race of the season. … Points leader Cooper Webb kept the pressure on with a second-place finish. … Marvin Musquin rounded out the top three to give KTM a sweep. … Zach Osborne was knocked down in the first corner, but recovered to finish sixth.

450 Heat 2: Cole Seely led flag to flag. … Dean Wilson finished 2.155 seconds back in second. … Justin Brayton rounded out the top three. … Chad Reed slipped in the sand clipped wheels with Eli Tomac, who went to the ground. … Reed finished sixth; Tomac recovered to finish eighth.

450 Last Chance Qualifier: Justin Bogle dominated the LCQ with a margin of nearly nine seconds over Cedric Soubeyras. … Alex Ray finished third, another two seconds back. … Mike Alessi made his Main since March 2017 by taking the final transfer spot..

250 East Heat: Austin Forkner remained perfect for the time being. Through this heat, he had not lost a race yet this season through three rounds that included a Triple Crown event. … Forkner got off to his worst start of the season – allowing Chase Sexton the opportunity to get the holeshot and a more than one second lead. … A red flag gave Forkner the opportunity to catch back up and get the lead on the restart. … Sexton held on to finish second. … Martin Davalos rounded out the top three. … Wilson Fleming crashed on Lap 2 to bring out the red flag. … Anthony Rodriguez finished ninth to take the final transfer spot; Lorenzo Locurcio finished 10th and headed to the LCQ,

250 West Heat: Shane McElrath grabbed the holeshot, but he had pressure from Colt Nichols throughout the heat. … He nipped Nichols by one second. … Adam Cianciarulo rounded out the top three. That was a great recovery, however because Cianciarulo got squirrelly on the start and fell back to seventh on the first lap.  … Dylan Ferrandis slipped outside the top nine and had to battle his way back to seventh in order to secure a transfer spot. … Garrett Marchbanks took the final guaranteed spot in ninth. … Cameron McAdoo finished 10th and headed to the LCQ.

250 Last Chance Qualifier: East and West rode head to head for the first time in 2018. East rider Joshua Osby grabbed the win. … Jordan Bailey (East) and Cameron McAdoo (West) finished second and third respectively, but were less than a second behind the leader. … Kyle Cunningham (East) took the final transfer spot. … James Decotis (West) went down in the sand while running one position out of the transfer in fifth.

Points Leaders

450s
Cooper Webb (199) (5 wins)
Ken Roczen (186)
Marvin Musquin (182)
Eli Tomac (177) (2 wins)
Blake Baggett (142) (1 win)

250s West
Adam Cianciarulo (140 points) (4 wins)
Dylan Ferrandis (125)
Shane McElrath (123) (1)
Colt Nichols (120) (1)
RJ Hampshire (86)

250s East
Austin Forkner (99 points) (3 wins)
Justin Cooper (81)
Chase Sexton (79)
Jordon Smith (70)
Alex Martin (60)

Top 5s

450 top 5s
Ken Roczen: 9
Marvin Musquin: 7
Cooper Webb: 7
Eli Tomac: 6
Blake Baggett: 5
Dean Wilson: 2
Joey Savatgy: 2
Chad Reed: 2
Jason Anderson: 1
Justin Barcia: 1
Justin Bogle: 1
Justin Brayton: 1
Aaron Plessinger: 1

250 West top 5s
Adam Cianciarulo: 6
Shane McElrath: 5
Colt Nichols: 4
Dylan Ferrandis: 4
RJ Hampshire: 3
James Decotis: 2
Jacob Hayes: 1
Garrett Marchbanks: 1
Jess Pettis: 1

250 East top 5s
Austin Forkner: 4
Justin Cooper: 4
Chase Sexton: 4
Jordon Smith: 3
Martin Davalos: 2
Alex Martin: 1

Next race: March 9, Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Fla.

Season passes can be purchased at NBC Sports Gold.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter

Graham Rahal’s “Weighty Issue”

INDYCAR Photo by Chris Owens
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MONTEREY, California – Graham Rahal admits that he can’t wait until the day he doesn’t have to worry about his weight. Being a 6-foot-2, big-boned individual can have its advantages, but not when it comes to fitting into an IndyCar.

That is why the son of 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner and three-time CART IndyCar champion Bobby Rahal has begun a body shaping therapy known as “Sculpting” that uses laser to trim away body fat.

“Honestly, it is no secret, I’m not shy about this, that I’ve struggled with my weight,” the 201-pound Rahal told a group of reporters during INDYCAR’s Open Test at Laguna Seca on Thursday. “I can guarantee you that from a strength perspective and a stamina perspective, there’s very few guys out here that can keep up with me. I’m just not a super skinny build. It’s never been my thing.

“I’ve tried. We’ve kind of looked around, there was some mutual interest from them to look into trying this, see if it works. I’ll be honest. I was always very skeptical of the stuff. Where I’m at, I’ve done one treatment. I can’t even tell you today if it’s something that really works or not.”

That led Rahal to try out the sculpting process that was invented by a doctor who found it with swelling in kid’s cheeks. The “Sculpture” process uses a laser that kills the fatty cells.

“I’ve done one treatment,” Rahal said. “It takes a long time, I think. It’s going to take multiple I think to get there.”

Watch Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey on NBC at 3 p.m.

A race driver needs to be thin, yet very strong to have the physical strength and stamina to compete at a high level in the race car. When it comes to the NTT IndyCar Series, it’s even more important because of the size of the cars and tight cockpit.

Additionally, the extra weight can impact the performance of the race car. The lighter the driver, the less weight inside of the car and that can determine. In INDYCAR, drivers are weighed and for the lighter weight drivers, lead weight is added to the car to meet a requirement.

But in Rahal’s case, the lead weight ballast has to be reduced and that sometimes throws off the center of gravity in the car.

“The facts are it’s not going to work if you don’t work out, too, and eat well,” Rahal said. “It doesn’t do anything. But earlier this year, man, I had given up drinking completely for three, four months. I was working out every day, twice a day on most occasions. I went to a nutritionist, doing everything. I literally was not losing an ounce. It was the most frustrating period of time for me.

“I am the biggest guy here. Is it ever going to be equal for me? No matter what these guys talk about with driver ballast, it’s a whole different thing, where my center of gravity is, so on…”

That is what led the 30-year-old driver from Ohio to study the “Sculpting” procedure. He realizes he is never going to have the metabolism of some of the thinner drivers, but he needs to maintain a weight that minimizes his disadvantage.

“It is a challenge,” he admitted. “Ricky Taylor and Helio Castroneves (on Penske Team Acura in IMSA) weigh 60 pounds less than me or something. There is no ballast there. That’s a big swing, a lot of weight to be carrying around.

“We have to try anything we can. If you’re going to be serious, try to find the performance advantage and the edge, you’ve got to look outside of the box.

It is something new for me. But the fight I guess against being an ultra-skinny guy…

“I fly home with most of these guys after races, I see most of these guys a lot of times, they’re sitting there eating In-N-Out Burger, whatever else. Literally I cannot do it. If I do it, it immediately reflects for me. These guys you see them the next weekend, they’re like this big.

“It’s like, (bleep), it’s not my build.”

Because of Rahal’s height and size, he chose to step away from the endurance races for Team Penske in IMSA at the end of last season. He was replaced at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring by fellow IndyCar driver Alexander Rossi.

Rahal complained that the steering wheel actually hit his legs inside of the Acura, making it difficult for him to drive on the challenging road courses. Since that time, Acura Team Penske has moved the steering column up by a few inches and it no longer impacts a driver the size of Rahal.

For the IMSA season-ending Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta on October 12, Rahal will be back in the Team Penske Acura.

“Back in the (Team Penske) shop three weeks ago, I could actually turn the steering wheel, which I was shocked about,” Rahal said. “My head touched the roof, whatever, I’m used to that. Physically being able to steer, which I now should be able to do better.

“So I’m excited about it. It’s another great opportunity obviously with Penske. But more importantly for me is Acura, Honda. It’s a great thing to be back in.

“But that wasn’t a weight thing. It’s purely size. They just don’t build cars for guys my size. I used to talk to J.W. (Justin Wilson) about that. It’s the facts of life. Even the GT cars. You would think a GT car would be big. I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a GT car, I was comfortable in either. They’re built for small guys. That’s the way it goes.”

Rahal is taller than his father, Bobby, who is also his IndyCar team owner along with David Letterman and Michael Lanigan.

“I blame my dad,” Rahal said. “I do. You can tell him I said that. I told him, ‘It’s a genetic thing. I got good genes in some ways.’

“I told my wife this the other day, I’m very excited for someday when my career ends just to have a ‘Dad Bod,’ be able to let go for a minute, see how things turn out, because this is getting a little bit exhausting.

“We’re going to stay committed through the winter. I try my hardest every year, but I never tried harder this year to be thin. I weigh about the same as last year, but it took so much effort to get there, I just have to think outside the box.”