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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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Ryan: Stressful second title is a soup good for Josef Newgarden’s soul

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MONTEREY, Calif. – At her family’s home in Nashville, Tennessee, Tina Newgarden always keeps an extra stash of corn chowder in the freezer.

She never knows when her son, Josef, unexpectedly might drop by in desperate need of his go-to comfort food.

“It’s just in case I’m not at home, and he just goes in and grabs it himself if he’s coming home from out of town,” Tina said with a knowing smile. “And then you’ll catch him down there eating his favorite soup and watching a movie.”

When he gets done this week with the whirlwind of media obligations required after becoming an NTT IndyCar Series champion for the second time, you probably will find Newgarden curled up on the couch with a warm bowl of old-fashioned goodness in his lap and an inspirational flick on the TV (perhaps a screening of “Return of the Jedi” for a Star Wars fan).

He was crowned Sunday as the best driver on a highly competitive circuit after a season of excellence (average start of 5.5, average finish of 5.6), but Josef Newgarden really has had a tough couple of months.

That was evident in the tears that flowed immediately after he exited his No. 2 Dallara-Chevrolet and seemed ready to collapse in a pool of relief from the mental exhaustion and high anxiety that had followed his quest to become a two-time champion.

“I don’t ever cry,” Newgarden, 28, said Sunday after gritting out an eighth-place finish that clinched the championship in the season finale at Laguna Seca Raceway. “Actually, it infuriates my fiancée because I don’t think I’ve ever cried in front of her. It disturbed her in some ways. She’s like, ‘You never cry! I don’t know why you don’t do that. You should cry at some point.”

If there’s anyone who knew how the 2019 points battle weighed on him, it was Ashley Welch and the rest of Newgarden’s family – the outlet that was emotionally invested and supportive of his career but also provides a release from the tension.

Josef Newgarden celebrates with his father, Joey (left), his grandmother Karen Rasmussen (front), his fiancee, Ashley (second from right), and mother Tina (right) after his second championship (Photo by Robert Reiners/Getty Images).

They were all on hand Sunday (including his father, Joey, and his “Mormor” Karen Rasmussen, the 80-year-old maternal grandmother who came from Denmark to attend her second IndyCar race) and shared in the culmination of what’s been a very emotional and eventful year (which still has wedding bells ahead).

Josef Newgarden with his grandmother (Photo by Robert Reiners/Getty Images).

Was it stressful?

“To say the least,” a beaming Welch said as she watched her fiancé hoist the Astor Cup on the championship stage. “The level of competitiveness in this sport is unreal. Any different guy can come in and win any different race.

“For him to be leading all of those different guys who had just as much potential, if not more sometimes. It means so much. We had a friend tell him after the first one, anyone can win one championship, but they remember you if you win two. So I think he feels like ‘Oh, it’s not just luck. I’m meant to be here.’ And that is …”

Welch paused and her voice briefly quavered as she watched Newgarden, whom she has been together with for seven years (they were engaged last October), hoist the Astor Cup above his head.

“Beautiful,” she smiled. “So I think you see all his emotion coming from it. I know him, and he’s thinking about how many people put their neck on the line to get him to where he is today. He talks about when he was little and starting to watch IndyCar racing, Penske was his pinnacle. Getting to drive for them but being able to perform and make an impact on their history, he feels it so much.

“You saw all the outpouring of “My dreams have come true! I’ve worked so hard, and they’re here!”

It certainly was a different feeling than two years ago when Newgarden won the pole position at Sonoma, led 41 laps and won punctuated his inaugural championship with a runner-up finish in the season finale.

Sunday’s drive was indicative of the weight – and wait — that Newgarden had endured while leading the championship standings for virtually six consecutive months since winning the season opener at St. Petersburg (he was out of the points only once – after a fourth in the Indianapolis 500 that now is the only void in his career).

“The first (championship), it was shocking and overwhelming,” Tina Newgarden said. “The second time it’s almost like he had this mark on his back because he’s been leading the points the whole season. So it would be really sad, devastating if he didn’t get it at the end of the season. But I’m so proud of him. He’s very disciplined. He just loves it so much.”

“If he’s down and has a bad day, then we’re down having a bad day as well. It’s terrible, but that’s just how it is. This is a good year, so now we can all breathe. The last two months has really been a little stressful. So yeah. We’ve been trying to keep the mood up, but God, I’m so happy!”

Newgarden, who qualified fourth and never had winning pace all weekend, said he felt “more nervous because I felt like this one was more ours to lose, and I thought we deserved (the championship). I didn’t want to make a mistake. I got a bit nervous in the middle of the race because I thought we were going down a rabbit hole we didn’t want to be down.”

But the very un-Newgarden-esque eighth – only the fourth time in 17 races he finished outside the top 10 this season – was the outcome of a sound pit strategy that delivered the title by 25 points over Simon Pagenaud, who proclaimed his Penske teammate “the most deserving guy” to win the title.

“It didn’t really start weighing on me until we got (to Laguna Seca),” Newgarden said. “I knew it would hit me here because it was double points. You know it’s going to be a very difficult situation. It’s just that intensity and that unknown, where if you make a small mistake, it can turn into a very big mistake. At another event, it wouldn’t be that way.”

Team owner Roger Penske noticed Newgarden had butterflies on the race morning before he would join Sam Hornish Jr. as the only American to win multiple IndyCar championships in the past two decades. “I think there’s so much emotion inside for someone like that because you’ve got to be perfect,” Penske said. “And I think the fact that he was able to execute the way he did, it was just a time to let it all out.”

Newgarden now is among lofty company on a list of multi-time champions at Team Penske that includes Rick Mears, Tom Sneva, Al Unser and Gil de Ferran. And his four-win season helped him take a critical step toward putting his name with true IndyCar legends such as A.J. Foyt (seven championships), Scott Dixon (five) and Mario Andretti (four).

“I’ve heard a lot of people say it’s harder to win a second championship than a first,” he said. “And I think in a lot of ways, that’s true. It’s very difficult to win a championship. But then to follow it up and make it happen again, it seems like a bigger mountain almost.

“I don’t know what causes that. But I just had it in my mind that if we could get this done, it’d be the achievement of the year.”

It’s especially impressive considering everything Newgarden is trying to accomplish in 2019. Besides winning a championship, he also:

–Will be getting married Oct. 26 to Welch in Nashville;

Moved from Davidson, North Carolina, (near Team Penske headquarters) to his hometown;

–Began building a house with Welch, who also brought home a rescue pup named Zoomer (or affectionately known as “Zoom” around home). “They say a year, but it’s going to be a year and a half” to finish, Welch said with a laugh. “We were in a one-bedroom apartment. I told him I don’t want to have kids in a one-bedroom apartment.”

–Underwent several oral surgeries to correct some improper dental work from childhood.

“We could have taken a couple things off the plate,” Newgarden said. “But you know what? Everything needed to be done. We wanted everything to get done, and we’re doing it all. I don’t know how the year worked out, because (racing) is the priority. You do all those things and decide, ‘Yeah, we’re going to make the plate this full.’ But something still has to take the cake at the end of the day, and the racing is what does that. And everyone knows that’s the program, and this is the most important part of the year, because you don’t get that back.

“If you have an opportunity to race and compete for a championship, when it’s there, you’ve got to take it. So I tried to keep that at the forefront of my mind all year, and I made it the priority, but it was just a little more difficult with all the other things going on.”

Josef Newgarden kisses his fiancee, Ashley Welch, after winning the NTT IndyCar Series championship (Photo by Robert Reiners/Getty Images).

Welch, who knew nothing about racing while working as a princess cast member at Disney World when Newgarden “swept me off my feet,” provides a release valve. Though she is comfortable with being a knowledgeable member of the paddock (“I know what push to pass means. That was a big thing for me”), Welch also can help distract him from the pressure of IndyCar.

“I think it’s better to know less, because then he is able to escape at home and make home be home, and then work be work,” she said. “Because when you’re in a professional sport, you can’t really escape the work. It comes home with you whether in interviews or social media, or just obligations in general, or practice, or research. You’re always living in it, so I think it’s really smart to just have your home be home.”

In that sense, staying busy in his personal life has been good for the extremely affable Newgarden, a self-described introvert who gradually has withdrawn from social media in his late 20s.

Though he is as articulate and eloquent as any driver in auto racing, he also is happy to defer to his teammates on promotional opportunities because “I go home and am happy to be away from all of it. … I don’t mean that in a bad way, it’s just my introverted-ness that’s getting worse. I really try to do the best I can for the series and team and partners. It is so important to represent in the right way, but at the same time, it’s gotten harder” to be on social media in a professional setting.

“It’s all the racing,” Tina Newgarden said when asked about the source of her son’s stress. “Him building a house and all that, that’s nothing. That’s easy. (Winning a championship) is not easy. Anything else is easy.

“He got it, so I’m so proud of him. He’s one of the very lucky ones that made it here, because for every one, I’m sure there are 500 (drivers) looking in, wanting to have that. But he worked hard, and I just told him one time, ‘Don’t be so moody about it when it doesn’t go well.’ He’s still moody about it if it doesn’t go well! He’s still the same.”

That’s why the bowl of corn chowder still is waiting in her freezer.

A hearty meal for two-time champion who finally can relax.