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Eli Tomac, Austin Forkner win Daytona Supercross

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On a monster of a track that rewards stamina above all else, Eli Tomac scored his third Daytona win by nearly seven seconds over Cooper Webb in Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross season.

“(I) went huge off the wall to finish the pass (on Blake Baggett) and then after that I felt really good,” Tomac told NBCSN after the race.

Feeling good, Tomac settled into a comfortable rhythm in the second half of the race.

Tomac jumped from fourth to second in the standings. And while the win shaved only three points off a points lead for Webb that currently stands at 19, it was the type of moral victory needed for the Cortex, Colo. native after an up and down season that has seen him win three times, but has also seen him finish worse than fifth on three occasions.

Webb lost much of his ground in the second half of the race as he was pestered relentlessly by teammate Marvin Musquin. The rider of the No. 25 was pressuring Webb with two laps to go – trying to get his less experienced rival to make a mistake. Instead, it was Musquin that bobbled when he bogged down in the sand and lost five seconds. Musquin held onto to finish third.

That Musquin could challenge for second was an accomplishment. He had to overcome an off track excursion early in the race. On Lap 6 while riding third, he rode off course and then stalled his bike in the next corner, losing two positions in the process.

Blake Baggett took the early lead and held if for three laps until Tomac got around. He fell Webb on Lap 5 and Musquin on Lap 10 of 18 before finishing fourth.

Joey Savatgy was fifth to earn his third top five of the season.

Ken Roczen was a victim of the sand and it caused him to miss the top five for the first time this year. He wrecked on Lap 1 and fell to 19th. Roczen mounted a charge, but once he got to eighth, he could go no further. It was a bitter disappointment for a rider who should have been one of the favorites on the tough track.

In his first 450s race of the season, Shane McElrath finished 12th.

On Lap 5 Aaron Plessinger had a hard dismount on the pit road rhythm section and limped off the track. Lying on the ground, he motioned feverishly toward his leg calling for medical support. He finished last, and later revealed on Instagram that he suffered a broken heel in the incident.

Complete Results
Points Standings

250s

Austin Forkner added another milestone to his 2019 season. Beating Chase Sexton to the line by nearly six seconds, he won his fourth win at the place where the Supercross series began. Unlike much of the season, Forkner was not entirely uncontested this time. Exiting Turn 1 on Lap 1 he was in second after Kyle Peters blasted around Forkner and Sexton in the first hairpin.

Peters led for the first two laps as Forkner was embroiled in a spirited battle with Sexton. It took a lap to resolve that issue and then Forkner bided his time before outpowering Peters down the pit road rhythm section.

“This was one of the ruttiest tracks I’ve ridden all year,” Forkner told NBCSN after the race. “They’ve all been pretty gnarly – East Coast dirt tends to do that – but this one specifically (was) – especially with the sand, was tough.”

Sexton held onto second.

“I’ve just got to get that win,” Sexton said. “It hurts watching Austin beat me every race now, so I’ve got just get out there and get ahead of him.”

Justin Cooper was never out of contention for a podium finish. Riding no worse than fourth during the 14-lap feature, he settled into a comfortable spot and beat fourth-place Mitchell Oldenburg by 13 seconds.

Alex Martin rounded out the top five.

Peters faded to seventh at the finish.

Complete Results
Points Standings

450 Heat 1: Eli Tomac grabbed the early lead  and took an easy win over Ken Roczen and Dean Wilson. … Zach Osborne braked a little too hard on the final lap and got his weight over the bars. He crashed and was not able to keep the pressure on fourth-place Chad Reed. Osborne finished fifth. …
250 West rider Shane McElrath advanced to his first 450 feature with an eighth-place finish.

450 Heat 2: Blake Baggett rode past Cole Seely midway through the heat and held on to win. … Cooper Webb got a slow start and entered the first hairpin third in line. He went down, but got back up and maintained a transfer position through Lap 1. He was seventh at the time, but rode like a man possessed and charged past Seely in the final turn to grab second. … Webb’s pass on Seeley put the rider of the No. 14 in a precarious position that allowed Joey Savatgy to ride past after a little contact. … Seely went from second to fourth in that last turn.

450 Last Chance Qualifier: Mike Alessi passed won the LCQ and advanced to his 123rd career feature, passing James Stewart on the all time start list. … He beat Kyle Chisholm and Chris Blose. … The final transfer spot was not decided until the finish line. Scott Champion and Dakota Alix drag raced to the line with Champion prevailing by .084 seconds.

250 Heat 1: To no one’s surprise, Austin Forkner ran away from the field and beat Alex Martin to the checkers by 17.623 seconds. Mitchell Oldenburg rounded out the top three. … Joshua Cartwright buried his front wheel early in the heat and took a while to right his bike; he finished 14th.

250 Heat 2: Justin Cooper took the lead from Jordan Bailey on Lap 3 and held on to the end to earn his first heat win of the season. … Bailey maintained second, but narrowly held off Brandon Hartranft by .574 seconds. … The dramatic run of the heat was put in by Chase Sexton. He got the holeshot, but took the first sandy hairpin aggressively, clipped a tough block and laid his bike down in front of the entire field. He dropped to 14th at the end of Lap 1, but rebounded to eighth by Lap 2 – ultimately finishing the race in fourth.

250 Last Chance Qualifier: Lorenzo Locurcio got the holeshot twice and led till the end of the LCQ. … He beat Steven Clarke by nearly eight seconds. TJ Albright rounded out the top three. … A ferocious battle for fourth and the final transfer spot resolved in Luke Neese’s favor on Lap 3. … A full restart was necessary following a crash in Turn 1 involving Lane Shaw and Joshua Cartwright among others. Cartwright restarted

Points Leaders

450s
Cooper Webb (222) (5 wins)
Eli Tomac (203) (3 wins)
Marvin Musquin (203)
Ken Roczen (201)
Blake Baggett (161) (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 (125 points) (4 wins)
Justin Cooper (102)
Chase Sexton (102)
Alex Martin (78)
Martin Davalos (71)
Brandon Hartranft (71)

Top 5s

450 top 5s
Ken Roczen: 9
Marvin Musquin: 8
Cooper Webb: 8
Eli Tomac: 7
Blake Baggett: 6
Joey Savatgy: 3
Dean Wilson: 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: 5
Justin Cooper: 5
Chase Sexton: 5
Jordon Smith: 3
Martin Davalos: 2
Alex Martin: 2
Mitchell Oldenburg: 1

Next race: March 16, Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Ind.

Season passes can be purchased at NBC Sports Gold.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter

Behind the scenes of how the biggest story in racing was kept a secret

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In a world where nobody is able to keep a secret, especially in auto racing, legendary business leader and race team owner Roger Penske and INDYCAR CEO Mark Miles were able to keep the biggest story of the year a secret.

That was Monday morning’s stunning announcement that after 74 years of leadership and ownership of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Hulman George Family was selling the track, the Indianapolis 500 and INDYCAR to Penske.

In an exclusive interview with NBC Sports.com on Thursday, Miles revealed the extreme lengths both sides went to so that nobody found out about this deal ahead of time. That included meeting with Penske at his Detroit offices early on Saturday mornings and late on Sunday nights.

The most important way of keeping it confidential was containing the number of people who were involved.

“We thought it was important to keep it quiet until we were ready to announce it,” Miles told NBC Sports.com. “The reason for that is No. 1, we wanted employees and other stakeholders to hear it from us and not through the distorting rumor mill.

“That was the motivation.

“We just didn’t involve many people. For most of the time, there were four people from Roger’s group in Michigan and four people from here (IMS/INDYCAR) involved and nobody else. There were just four of us. We all knew that none of the eight were going to talk to anybody about it until very late.”

Even key members of both staffs were kept out of the loop, notably Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles, who admitted earlier this week he was not told of the impending sale until Saturday when he was at Texas Motor Speedway for the NASCAR race.

Both Penske and Miles realize the way a deal or a secret slips out is often from people far outside of the discussions who have to get called in to work to help set up an announcement.

Miles had a plan for that scenario, too.

“On Saturday, we had to set up a stream for Monday’s announcement,” Miles said. “We came up with an internal cover story so if anybody saw what was going on, there was a cover story for what that was, and it wasn’t that announcement.

“The key thing was we kept it at only those that needed to know.”

It wasn’t until very late Sunday night and very early Monday morning that key stakeholders in INDYCAR were informed. Team owner Bobby Rahal got a call at 7:30 a.m. on Monday. Racing legend Mario Andretti was also informed very early on Monday.

At 8 a.m. that day came the official word from Hulman & Company, which owns the Indianapolis 500, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and INDYCAR as well as a few other businesses, that Penske was buying the racing properties of the company. It was an advisory that a media conference was scheduled for 11 a.m. at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

It was a masterful move by both Penske and Miles.

Penske is already famous for keeping one of greatest secrets in racing history in 1993 and 1994. That is when his famed racing team along with Ilmor Engineering created “The Beast” – a 209 cubic-inch, pushrod engine that was designed, developed and tested in total secrecy. A small, select group of Team Penske mechanics were involved in the top-secret project and were told by Penske that if word of the engine leaked out, “it would be like cutting your paycheck.”

Nobody talked.

History repeated itself with the biggest racing story of the 21st Century, the sale of the world’s most famous race course that hosts the largest single-day sporting event in the world – the annual Indianapolis 500.

When INDYCAR held its “Victory Lap” award ceremony on Sept. 26 in Indianapolis, Miles told the crowd of an impending announcement that would be big news for the sport.

Was he coming close to giving away Monday’s announcement?

“No, that was about a sponsor announcement that will be coming along later,” Miles said on Thursday night.

Penske is one of America’s greatest and most successful business leaders. He is also the most successful team owner in auto racing history with 545 wins in all forms of racing including a record 18 Indianapolis 500 wins, a record 16 NTT IndyCar Series championships as well as two Daytona 500 wins and two NASCAR Monster Energy Cup championships just to name a few.

Penske was not the only bidder, but he was the one who made the most sense to the Hulman George Family, because it was important to find an owner who believed in “stewardship” of the greatest racing tradition on Earth more so than “ownership” of an auto racing facility and series.

“There were a number of parties that were engaged in thinking about this with us,” Miles revealed to NBC Sports.com. “There were a couple that got as far as what I call the ‘Red Zone.’

“Then, Tony George reached out to Roger Penske on Sept. 22.

“Price and value were always important, but the thing that nobody could match was the attributes that Roger could bring to the table, in terms of his history of the sport, his knowledge of the sport, combined with his business sense.

“He was viewed as the leader from a legacy or stewardship perspective, which was a very important factor.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500 

McLaren IndyCar boss breaks down team’s first test since missing Indy 500

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McLaren Sporting Director Gil De Ferran left Sebring International Raceway last Tuesday with a much happier outlook than when he left the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 19.

That was when McLaren and famed two-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso arrived at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway ill-prepared. They failed to make the 33-car starting lineup for the 103rd Indianapolis 500.

That day in May, De Ferran vowed that McLaren would return.

Last Tuesday, what is now known as Arrow McLaren Racing SP after purchasing into Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, De Ferran was back to evaluate the team’s NTT IndyCar Series effort.

Instead of Alonso in the cockpit, it was the team’s recently named full-time drivers for 2020 at the test. That included 20-year-old Pato O’Ward of Monterrey, Mexico, the 2018 Indy Lights champion and 22-year-old Oliver Askew of Jupiter, Florida, the 2019 Indy Lights champion.

O’Ward was in the car for the test with Askew watching from the pit area.

“Pato did a great job, did not put a foot wrong, got on to it straight away and it was all good,” De Ferran told NBC Sports.com. “It was a positive day on all fronts. To work together, to build the team together and embark on this team together was very positive.”

De Ferran is a two-time CART champion with titles in 2000 and 2001 when he was with Team Penske. He also won the 2003 Indianapolis 500 for Team Penske before retiring as a driver at the end of that season.

Since then, he has been involved in numerous Formula One, IndyCar and Sports Car efforts. As McLaren’s Sporting Director, De Ferran is involved in both Formula One and IndyCar.

Arrow McLaren Racing SP also includes partners Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson. Arrow also has a financial stake in the team in addition to serving as sponsor.

The chance to work with two young drivers is something that has De Ferran excited.

“They are both very young, but they have been around for a while,” De Ferran said. “It’s not like these guys are completely clueless about racing. They have been racing ever since they were kids. Generally speaking, as a trend in motorsports, they start much younger than I did. They move to cars at a younger age and tend to reach this level of the sport at a younger age then when I was coming up.

“Although they don’t have a lot of experience in IndyCar, several members of the team can help in their development. These guys are very accomplished and top-level guys. They have won a lot of races and championships before getting the nod from our team.”

Last week’s test was part of INDYCAR’s evaluation of the new aeroscreen that will be on all cars beginning in 2020. Arrow McLaren Racing SP is a Chevrolet team. Honda team Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser and Sullivan also participated in the test with four-time Champ Car Series champion Sebastien Bourdais as the driver.

This was the only test that Arrow McLaren Racing SP will conduct in 2019. Testing time is severely limited De Ferran said it won’t be back on track until the 2020 regulations take effect.

Arrow McLaren Racing SP has already experienced some controversy after the team said several weeks ago that popular driver James Hinchcliffe would not be driving for the team. He remains on the payroll and is expected to be at the track in a public relations capacity.

That has angered many IndyCar fans who are huge fans of the popular Canadian driver.

“I have nothing more to add to this than what was said at the time,” De Ferran told NBC Sports.com. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s head-down. We have to go racing. We are on a journey here together with this partnership and two young drivers that are very accomplished and have a lot of talent. Our job is to deliver the results on the track.

“That is where my focus is. I’m completely focused on improving every aspect of everything that we do trackside.

“One thing I guarantee you, whatever we start, to have that focus to improve everything that we do we will continue to move forward. It was like that when I was driving, and it was like that throughout my professional career away from the cockpit. We will keep looking for opportunities to improve.

“Eventually, good things will happen.”

It was just Day One on the track, but after seeing this team struggle at last year’s Indianapolis 500, McLaren took its first step in returning as a full-time NTT IndyCar Series team.

“This is the beginning of a journey that we embarked on several months ago now and you do a lot in the background,” De Ferran said. “The guys from SPM and us have put a lot into this partnership. Behind the scenes, we have been working hard together.

“We’re all racers, man. We want to see cars on track. This has been like a little check off the box and it feels good that we were on track.

“We have a long journey ahead, but it’s good to be working together, at the race track, how the car is handling, the engine is working and how the drivers do.

“First day on the track for Arrow McLaren Racing SP. It’s a good day.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500