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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.

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Steinbrenner brings winning tradition to IndyCar Victory Lane

INDYCAR Photo by Chris Jones
INDYCAR Photo by Chris Jones
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AUSTIN, Texas – Opening Day for the New York Yankees in Major League Baseball is Thursday against the hapless Baltimore Orioles. But the Steinbrenner family can already celebrate a big-time, major league victory in 2019.

George Michael Steinbrenner, IV is the 22-year-old son of Yankees co-owner and co-chairman Hank Steinbrenner. He is the grandson of the legendary Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, whose fiery tenure at the helm of the Yankees restored the team to the prestige and pride it continues to enjoy as the most successful professional sports franchise in the world.

Steinbrenner, IV, is co-owner of Harding Steinbrenner Racing in the NTT IndyCar Series and the youngest team owner in IndyCar history.

When his grandfather was ruling the Yankees, excellence wasn’t expected; it was demanded. Those are traits that define the Steinbrenner family.

On Sunday at Circuit of the Americas, young Steinbrenner became an IndyCar winner in just his third race in the series in the INDYCAR Classic. It was also historic as his driver, Colton Herta, became the youngest driver in history to win an IndyCar race at race at 18 years, 11 months and 25 days. Graham Rahal was 19 years 3 months and 2 days when he won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in 2008.

“Break up the Yankees” was a popular battle cry around baseball in the glory days of the boys in pinstripes, from Joe DiMaggio to Mickey Mantle to Reggie Jackson to Derek Jeter and A-Rod.

What makes the latest Steinbrenner winner so stunning, is how quickly it happened.

“We didn’t think this was possible so soon,” Steinbrenner told NBC Sports.com from the team’s pit stand seconds after the checkered flag waved for Herta’s victory. “What a drive by Colton and what a job by the crew. They did everything they could to keep us ahead of the 2 car (Josef Newgarden) all day. Wow, I can’t believe it.”

Steinbrenner has the Yankees in his blood and DNA, but his passion has always been IndyCar racing. He was just 16 when he met then 12-year-old Herta at a Skip Barber race at Lime Rock, Connecticut. The two became friends and joined together to begin their climb to IndyCar.

“I interned at Bryan Herta Rallysport for the 2016 season, learning the top to bottom of how a race team operates during the week and during the weekend,” Steinbrenner recalled. “When Colton and I decided that we’d start this crazy journey together in Indy Lights, being able to partner with Andretti Autosport in Indy Lights was huge. They’re a buttoned-down organization, do everything right. To be able to learn from the folks there was a huge jump-start, the perfect jump-start I could have hoped for, for INDYCAR ownership.”

For two years, they joined forces with team owner Michael Andretti in Indy Lights. Andretti helped broker a deal for Steinbrenner and Herta to step up to IndyCar by joining a team owned by Indianapolis paving company owner Mike Harding.

Harding Steinbrenner Racing was announced last summer with tremendous fanfare at Yankee Stadium before a New York Yankees game.

Andretti is still part of the operation as Andretti Technologies supplies engineering and crew support to Harding Steinbrenner Racing.

“None of this would have been possible without Michael Andretti,” Herta said. “I’d like to say thank you to Michael and his team. He elevated us to the top really quick and without them we wouldn’t be here.”

When Steinbrenner announced his goal of taking Herta to the IndyCar, it was a long-term commitment. Herta’s first victory at an 18-year-old could be the start of something great, beginning another winning tradition for the Steinbrenners.

“We’ve had a pretty good start here,” Steinbrenner said. “This is huge, to get this win off our belts. We showed the IndyCar world what we could do.”

Herta qualified fourth and raced his way to third in a race that Will Power dominated. The Team Penske driver led the first 45 laps from the pole while he was pursued by Alexander Rossi.

The two front-runners planned on being the last two drivers in the 24-car field to make their final pit stop.

That plan was foiled, however, when James Hinchcliffe’s Honda ran into the back of Felix Rosenqvist’s Honda, sending it into the barrier in Turn 20. That was the only caution in the 60-lap race. Power and Rossi would go from the top two to 14thand 15thafter making their pit stops.

Power’s race ended on pit lane when a broken half-shaft kept his car from engaging in gear and he went from first to worst in the 24-car field.

That put Herta in the lead under caution. Right behind him was the intimidating sight of the No. 2 Chevrolet driven by Team Penske’s 28-year-old Josef Newgarden, the 2017 NTT IndyCar Series champion and the winner of the 2019 season-opener at St. Petersburg, Florida.

“We knew we got on the right side of the pit strategy and had the pace to stay ahead of two extremely fast guys behind us,” Steinbrenner said. “It was a matter of Colton staying out in front and nursing it home.”

When the green flag waved to restart the race with 10 laps left, the 18-year-old was calm and cool as he was able to get a great restart and pull away from Newgarden.

Back in the pit area, Steinbrenner stood on the timing stand in the pits alongside co-owner Mike Harding and team president and race strategist Brian Barnhart. Because COTA is a 20-turn, 3.41-mile road course, it takes a while to complete a lap. Herta had the fastest lap in the race on Lap 54 and it was 108.9853 seconds.

The long course added to the tension as the 60-lap race neared its conclusion.

Steinbrenner, who bears a resemblance to 1980s actor Fisher Stevens, remained cool on the timing stand.

When Herta’s Honda came out of Turn 20 on the final lap to the checkered flag, Steinbrenner could finally celebrate, pumping his fist in the air.

“I was very concerned,” Steinbrenner admitted. “Most of the guys in the paddock, you are concerned with in a situation like that, especially a former champion. It was nerve-racking.

“Wow. It’s a dream come true.”

Steinbrenner got his first win in IndyCar before the New York Yankees.

“Not too far apart, but a couple of days in front,” Steinbrenner laughed.

For a Steinbrenner, there are always more goals to achieve. Sunday’s first victory is like a “regular season” win to the Yankees. That team’s goal is to win the World Series.

Steinbrenner, IV’s goal is to win the biggest race in the world – the 103rdIndianapolis 500 on May 26.

“I think there’s a pretty big race in May,” Steinbrenner said. “I think for us, that’s the next big goal.

“I grew up with two passions: baseball and racing. I thought my family had one pretty well covered. We’ll go and chase another one.”

When a Steinbrenner sets a goal, don’t bet against it.