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Marvin Musquin wins Indy 450s Supercross, Austin Forkner remains perfect

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Round 11 of the Supercross season in Indianapolis may have been the last opportunity for the three challengers to catch points leader Cooper Webb. Marvin Musquin took that to heart, grabbed the holeshot and led all 26 laps on his way to his first victory of the season.

As he clicked his heels together flying over the finish line, he shaved five points off Webb’s lead, but more importantly, he served notice that Webb could be beaten.

Musquin’s win came with a comfortable lead over Blake Baggett.

Baggett put heavy pressure on Musquin with 5 minutes remaining, but that in turn allowed Webb to catch up. Once he was forced to look over his shoulder, Baggett faded.

By his recent standards, Webb struggled in the first half of the race, falling back to fourth after stalling his bike.

He recovered to finish third and minimize the damage to Musquin while adding two points over fourth-place Eli Tomac.

For Tomac this was a moral victory, however; it is the first time in the last six weeks that he backed up a win with a top-five finish.

Webb’s day wasn’t exactly clean. With 7 minutes remaining, he missed a corner, cross-rutted, shortened the course, and landed on a tough block. It whipped his bike around and allowed him to make a pass over Tomac (riding third at the time).

In his first race back after being sidelined by a concussion, Justin Barcia rounded out the top five. This was Barcia’s first top-five finish since he won the season opener at Anaheim I.

Complete Results
Points Standings

When he was asked earlier in the season how he could beat Austin Forkner, Chase Sexton said by keeping the pressure on to force a mistake. That’s hard to do from 7 seconds back, which is where Sexton was by Lap 10.

Forkner grabbed an early advantage, settled into a comfortable position on the track and never worried one minute about the rest of the field. As he has done all year long, Forkner made winning look easy as he grabbed his fifth trophy of the year.

Sexton finished second and saw the Forkner’s points lead extend to one full race of 26 points.

Justin Cooper rounded out the podium.

Mitchell Oldenburg was looking for his first podium of the season after welcoming a new son into the world this week. He held onto that spot until the clock ran to zero and was passed by Cooper on the final lap. Oldenburg missed the podium, but tied for a season-best finish.

Martin Davalos got around Kyle Peters at the end of the race to grab fifth.

Complete Results
Points Standings

450 Heat 1: All of the championship contenders were in Heat 1 with the exception of Cooper Webb, but it was Dean Wilson that grabbed the heat win. … The challengers wound up second through fourth with Marvin Musquin, Ken Roczen and Eli Tomac all getting great gate positions. … Mike Alessi grabbed the holeshot, but got into the tough blocks on the opening lap and fell to 18th; he could get back to only 13th and had to move into the LCQ.

450 Heat 2: Blake Baggett took the early lead over Cooper Webb, but the points leader would not be denied. When Baggett came up short in the rhythm section and could not execute a triple jump, it allowed Webb to get around. … Baggett refused to go away and closed to within three-tenths of a second with one minute left on the clock. … With the clock at zero, the rider of the No. 4 bobbled and handed second over to Joey Savatgy … Baggett held on to finish third.

450 Last Chance Qualifier: Mike Alessi did not waste his good start in the LCQ. He fell in his heat after getting the holeshot, but he maintained his lead from the holeshot in the semi and held Ben Lamay at bay. Kyle Chisholm and Adam Enticknap finished third and fourth to advance to the Main. … This is Enticknap’s first Main of the season. … Carlen Gardner started hopping through the whoops while running third on the opening lap. He fell to the back of the pack and failed to advance.

250 Heat 1: Chase Sexton fell back to third on the opening lap, regained his momentum and mounted a charge to grab the lead by Lap 4. He held on to secure his first heat win of the season. … He beat Mitchell Oldenburg by 2.215 seconds with Alex Martin a little more than two seconds further back.

250 Heat 2: After Austin Forkner went down on the opening lap, the battle for the win heated up with dramatic three-manbattle for the lead. … With time off the clock, Martin Davalos and Justin Cooper swapped the lead on the final lap. Cooper got back to the checkers first with Davalos in second. … Kyle Peters rounded out the top three. … Forkner was on his way to grabbing the holeshot, but he took a jump while turning and went down hard. Lane Shaw ran over the top of him. Forkner climbed back on his bike 17th, 16 seconds down to the leaders. He was ninth in the final transfer with two minutes left on the clock. Forkner finished fifth.

250 Last Chance Qualifier: Lane Shaw took the lead from Kevin Moranz on Lap 3 and settled into a comfortable running position. He won the LCQ by 1.817 seconds over Moranz. … Isaac Teasdale and Cade Autenreith swapped third and fourth in the closing laps, but both advanced to the Main. … Steven Clarke finished fifth and was the first rider on the outside looking in.

Points Leaders

450s
Cooper Webb (243) (5 wins)
Marvin Musquin (229) (1 win)
Eli Tomac (222) (3 wins)
Ken Roczen (216)
Blake Baggett (184) (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 (151 points) (5 wins)
Chase Sexton (125)
Justin Cooper (123)
Alex Martin (92)
Martin Davalos (89)

Top 5s

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

Next race: March 23, CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wa.

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