Supercross Preview: Indianapolis will be pivotal to 2019 season

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Round 11 of the Supercross season at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis could be the defining moment in the 2019 championship – unless Cooper Webb stumbles, that is. In the past five weeks since Minneapolis, Webb has finished first or second while his three principle rivals have all finished outside the top five at least once. That has allowed him to build up a 19-point advantage over the field, which equates to 2.7 points per round for the remainder of the year.

Eli Tomac’s win last week at Daytona put him in a tie for second with Marvin Musquin, but he has not been able to back up one of his three victories with a top-five finish. That leaves his future in question.

Round 1 winner Justin Barcia will climb back on his metal steed after sitting out two weeks with a concussion. His return comes just in time because the team is losing Aaron Plessinger to a broken heel for an indeterminate period. Jason Anderson (various injuries), Vince Friese (knee) and Malcolm Stewart (leg) are also out for the foreseeable future.

The 250 East division is back in action and so far none of the Eastern riders have been able to catch Austin Forkner. If hometown advantage means anything, Chase Sexton could upset the points contender after coming up just one spot shy in the last two weeks.

Blake Wharton will be out for the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. This is the second straight season that has been abbreviated with this injury.

MORE: Eli Tomac’s wins have come with cost
MORE: Aaron Plessinger breaks heel in Daytona Supercross

Schedule:

Qualifying: 1 p.m. on NBC Sports, Gold
Race: Live, 7 p.m. on NBC Sports, Gold and 11 p.m. on NBCSN

Last Week:

Eli Tomac climbed to second in the points with his third win of the year over Cooper Webb and Marvin Musquin in the 450 class.
Austin Forkner remains perfect in the East with a win over Chase Sexton and Justin Cooper.

Last Year:

Marvin Musquin won over Dean Wilson and Justin Brayton in the 450 class.
In 250s, Jeremy Martin won over Adam Cianciarulo and Luke Renzland in the 250 class in an East/West Showdown.

Winners

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

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

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

Top-5s

450s:
Ken Roczen (9)
Marvin Musquin (8)
Cooper Webb (8)
Eli Tomac (7)
Blake Baggett (6)
Joey Savatgy (3)
Dean Wilson (2)
Chad Reed (2)
Justin Barcia (1)
Jason Anderson (1)
Justin Bogle (1)
Justin Brayton (1)
Aaron Plessinger (1)

250 West:
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:
Austin Forkner (5)
Justin Cooper (5)
Chase Sexton (5)
Jordon Smith (3)
Martin Davalos (2)
Alex Martin (2)
Mitchell Oldenburg (1)

Points Leaders

450s:
Cooper Webb (222)
Eli Tomac (203)
Marvin Musquin (203)
Ken Roczen (201)
Blake Baggett (161)

250 West:
Adam Cianciarulo (140)
Dylan Ferrandis (125)
Shane McElrath (123)
Colt Nichols (120)
RJ Hampshire (86)

250 East:
Austin Forkner (125)
Justin Cooper (102)
Chase Sexton (102)
Alex Martin (78)
Brandon Hartranft (71)

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The road to the 2023 Daytona 500 is not paved for Travis Pastrana, he’ll attempt the DIRTcar Nationals

Pastrana DIRTcar Nationals
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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Travis Pastrana will attempt to make his first NASCAR Cup series race on February 19 with the grandaddy of them all, the Daytona 500, but his road to get there will not be paved and his car will have only two fenders as he tackles Florida Speedweeks and the DIRTcar Nationals.

In mid-January, it was announced Pastrana will attempt to qualify a third car from 23XI Racing that fields fulltime entries for Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick. Sponsorship will come from Black Rifle Coffee, who approached him during the offseason to ask what kind of “really cool stuff” he would like to do. Pastrana replied, “the Daytona 500” with a characteristic laugh in his voice.

“It’s good,” Pastrana said in a press release. “We’re going to go down, we’re going to go hangout with [NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion] Matt Crafton, one of [Black Rifle’s] drivers, we’ll go to Modified races and watch all the Late Models. We’ll watch the racing, and we’ll bring [United States military] veterans down and hangout with [Steve] Arpin.”

But there is a saying among dirt track fans that goes, ‘asphalt is for getting to the track; dirt is for racing’ – and Pastrana is taking that to heart.

After racing on the snow in Nitro Rallycross February 4-5 in Calgary, Alberta, the original plan was to head to Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Florida to watch the modified and late model races. Until Crafton called him out for not racing.

Pastrana relayed the conversation: “I told Crafton [I was coming to watch] and he goes, ‘Ah, too much of a sissy to drive?’ I called Arpin, and said, ‘So, Longhorn, I heard you guys have vehicles that can kick the crap out of Crafton’s vehicle.’ [Arpin] said, ‘Yeah, if you don’t suck, you can beat him.’ I said, ‘Alright, I’m in.’”

The DIRTcar Nationals run from February 6-18. The first week features six UMP Modified Mains each night they run, on Monday (Feb. 6), Friday (Feb. 10), and then the prestigious Gator Championship race on Saturday (Feb. 11). Pastrana hopes to run every night in one of Arpin’s cars, also with sponsorship from Black Riffle Coffee.

And this is not just for bragging rights; there is money on the line. Pastrana and Crafton have a $1 bet on who has the best finish.

While Pastrana is accustomed pitching his car sideways on a combination of left and right turns in a rally car – he won the Nitro Rallycross race at ERX Motorsports Park in Minneapolis, Minnesota last October and became the first two-time winner in the 2022/23 season at Wild Horse Pass in Phoenix, Arizona in November – the DIRTcar Nationals will be an entirely different proposition.

It took a day for Pastrana to get comfortable in the modified. And it took a little coaching from Arpin, who has experience in both dirt modifieds and rally cars to make him fast.

“[Arpin] showed up the second day after hearing how bad the first day was,” Pastrana said, which is confirmed in the Instagram post embedded above. “But he just told me, until you commit, it’s not going to work. Once I committed, it started making a lot of sense. But coming in, if you’re lifting off the gas while trying to turn, it just doesn’t turn and all your natural instincts say, ‘Don’t get on the gas.’ So, yeah, I feel like it should suit my driving style because I’m more of an aggressive sideways type of driver, but it was very difficult. Turning and sliding, I’m fine. Getting it there is not the easiest.”

Pastrana has one previous start in a dirt late model that came in the 2010 Prelude to the Dream. He finished 23rd in the 27-car field and was three laps off the pace. He wasn’t the only driver having difficulty getting a feel for the car that night; Jeff Gordon finished on the same lap, only one position ahead of him.

Travis Pastrana will race one of Steve Arpin’s dirt modifieds during Florida Speedweeks as he prepares for the 2023 Daytona 500. – Jacy Norgaard, World Racing Group

The price of the weekend could well exceed the dollar he may lose to Crafton.

“It’s going to be an expensive weekend,” Pastrana said. “Not everything is covered. If I crash anything, it is going to be all on me. This is one of those things where I want to come down and have fun. I want to hang out with the crowd, I want to sign autographs and give high fives. Especially for the Modified crew, that’s the grassroots racing that I love and some of my friends are involved with. We’ll be camping down there with Arpin and all the Longhorn guys, just hanging out. I feel like that’s a great opportunity for us to bring a lot of [US] veterans and bring people that are into racing and aren’t into racing, friends and family, and just have an awesome time.”

And it’s not out of the question that Pastrana could add another top-10 to his record book in the DIRTcar Nationals. After the rocky first day, Pastrana gained speed. Enough so that Arpin’s confidence was raised.

“We’re pretty confident Crafton is going to have to run hard to keep his dollar,” Arpin said.