Seattle Supercross: Marvin Musquin penalized, keeps win

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Marvin Musquin has been allowed to keep his win in Saturday’s Round 12 of Monster Energy Supercross at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, but was penalized seven points for jumping in a medical (red cross) flag segment of the track. The red cross was flying so that medical attention could be performed on Justin Brayton and Chad Reed.

“I was leading and all the nerves and excitement,” Musquin said at the time. “You can see on the video that right there I am slowing down, but then I’m jumping. We’ll see what’s going on with that, but nothing I can do right now.”

Under Section 4.16 of the AMA Supercross rulebook, riders must keep their wheels on the ground when they are going through a medical flag. For violating the rule, Musquin was penalized the points and purse equal to two positions in the final results, plus two points.

“Here’s the thing. As the red cross flag was coming out, I was rolling and I saw (Musquin) doubling through,” second-place finisher Ken Roczen said after the race. “And I was like, ‘Oh. That’s not ok.’ I knew right there and then. That’s when he gapped me quite a bit.”

Eli Tomac crossed under the checkers third.

Musquin’s penalty means that instead of cutting Cooper Webb’s points lead in half, he leaves Seattle 14 points back of him. It could be a critical moment in the 450SX championship, especially since Webb didn’t have a great night.

At the beginning of the Main, Webb was as far back as sixth on Lap 10. He continued to lose ground to the leader, but steadily began to pick up positions as the riders in front of him made mistakes. He finished a distant fourth – 8.673 seconds behind Tomac.

“It was a tough main event,” Webb said. “I’ve been really good on my starts and I didn’t execute, so it’s pretty frustrating.”

Joey Savatgy rounded out the top five.

During qualification, Roczen announced he has been battling with his energy level over the past two weeks.

On Lap 1 Chad Reed had a hard off his bike and was landed on by Kyle Chisholm.

Complete Results
Points Standings

When Dylan Ferrandis found the rhythm to quadruple jump one on the straights, he shed the role of bridesmaid and earned his first career 250SX victory after finishing second four times already this season. He took the lead on Lap 3 from James Decotis, but when he looked over his shoulder one lap later it was the points leader Adam Cianciarulo chasing him.

Ferrandis stretched his advantage to nearly two seconds in the middle stage of the race, but Cianciarulo would not go away. The red plate loomed large in the closing laps and Ferrandis won by .571 seconds.

“It was crazy,” Ferrandis said on NBCSN. “It’s been a while since I led a race; AC (Adam Cianciarulo) was really fast. He pushed me. … I just tried not to make a mistake.”

“Congrats to Dylan,” Cianciarulo said afterward. “He’s been so close all year, and really just a world class rider.”

James Decotis emerged from a three-rider snarl on the first lap to take the early lead, but he could not hold it for long. Colt Nichols passed Decotis, but then dumped his bike in the rhythm section when he landed awkwardly on a second triple. Once the two points leaders got around, Decotis faded to a distant third, more than 22 seconds back.

Michael Mosiman and Chris Blose rounded out the top five.

The last time the riders were on the track in the East/West Showdown in Atlanta, Ferrandis finished second behind Cianciarulo.

Third in the points entering Seattle, Shane McElrath’s title hopes took a hit when it was announced just prior to Heat 2 that he would miss the night with a back injury. He was 17 points out of first and two points away from second.

Complete Results
Points Standings

450 Heat 1: After back-to-back features outside the top five, Ken Roczen scored his fourth heat win of the year. … Marvin Musquin emerged victorious during a handlebar-to-handlebar battle with Blake Baggett in the opening laps to finish second. … Zach Osborne rounded out the top three after Baggett faded to fifth at the checkers.

450 Heat 2: Cooper Webb struggled in qualification (11th), but as he’s shown on several occasions this season, he found his rhythm when it mattered most. He grabbed the holeshot and led flag to flag. … Eli Tomac made him work for it, pressuring Webb for the entire heat. The difference came in the whoops, where Webb jumped effortlessly through them as Tomac tried to blitz. Tomac consistently lost momentum at the end of the straight. … Dean Wilson held off a determined challenge by Joey Savatgy as the pair finished third and fourth respectively.

450 Last Chance Qualifier: Ben Lamay is making a career out of winning LCQs. He took the lead at the gate drop and held it till the checkers for his third win. … Ryan Breece finished 2.78 seconds behind. … Alex Ray and Austin Politelli had a spirited battle for third and fourth, but both transferred. … Joshua Grant was challenging for the lead, but he stalled in the whoops and fell to fifth. With two laps remaining, he was gaining on fourth until the whoops bit him again. This time he went down hard and shook his head in resignation.

250 Heat 1: Adam Cianciarulo grabbed the holeshot the field and yarded James Decotis by more than six second to earn his third heat race of the year. … Cameron McAdoo rounded out the top three.

250 Heat 2: Colt Nichols got off to a slow start and finished the first lap in third. He worked his way past Chris Blose by Lap 4. … Dylan Ferrandis moved into second a few laps later and held on for the finish. … Blose rounded out the top three. … The holeshot went to Jacob Hayes, but he slipped to fourth at the checkers. … RJ Hampshire went down in the whoops on a bike that pitched and bucked like a wild horse; he recovered to finish sixth.

250 Last Chance Qualifier: Robbie Wageman passed Jerry Robin on the last lap to win the LCQ. … Killian Auberson rounded out the top three. … The battle for the final transfer heated up on the final lap when Chris Howell bumped Mathias Jorgensen off course. Jorgensen kept the throttle twisted and reentered the course at the end of the straight. He finished fourth, but was penalized for accelerating off track. … Gage Schehr went down hard early in the LCQ to bring out the red flag; he walked to the medical cart under his own power with a splint on his right arm.

Points Leaders

450SX
Cooper Webb (262) (5 wins)
Marvin Musquin (248) (2 wins)
Eli Tomac (243) (3 wins)
Ken Roczen (239)
Blake Baggett (200) (1 win)

250SX West
Adam Cianciarulo (163 points) (4 wins)
Dylan Ferrandis (151) (1)
Shane McElrath (123) (1)
Colt Nichols (121) (1)
RJ Hampshire (103)

250SX East
Austin Forkner (151 points) (5 wins)
Chase Sexton (125)
Justin Cooper (123)
Alex Martin (92)
Martin Davalos (89)

Top 5s

450SX
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

250SX West
Adam Cianciarulo: 7
Dylan Ferrandis: 5
Shane McElrath: 5
Colt Nichols: 4
RJ Hampshire: 3
James Decotis: 3
Jacob Hayes: 1
Garrett Marchbanks: 1
Jess Pettis: 1
Michael Mosiman: 1
Chris Blose: 1

250SX East
Austin Forkner: 6
Justin Cooper: 6
Chase Sexton: 6
Jordon Smith: 3
Martin Davalos: 3
Alex Martin: 2
Mitchell Oldenburg: 2

Next race: March 30, NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas

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

Arrow McLaren Racing SP Photo
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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