250 battle heats up as Austin Forkner crashes in Nashville Supercross

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The last time a rider won the Feature after winning the Last Chance Qualifier was on February 2, 2013, when Ryan Dungey performed the feat at Anaheim. Until Saturday night at Nashville in Round 14, that is.

Eli Tomac experienced engine problems in his heat after leading the first four laps. He failed to finish and was pushed into the LCQ.

In the “B” Main, his ride was smoking at the end of the race. But Tomac overcame his early woes to win his fourth race of the 2019 Supercross season.

“Talk about some adversity there,” Tomac said after the race on NBCSN. “I was able to recover. I’m kind of at a loss for words right now, really. The qualifying wasn’t so good today. … Then leading that heat race and we know what happened.

“That Main event there was something. … Overall, felt good that whole Main. Felt like I made some gains there.”

Now the series rolls into Denver – Tomac’s home track, where he may be alone in regard to physical conditioning for the high elevation.

When it’s your year, it’s your year, though. Cooper Webb went down hard on Lap 1 of his heat and would have struggled to finish with the leaders in that race, but a complete restart reset the field. Even with the mulligan, Webb struggled in his heat and finished an uncompetitive second.

Points are only awarded in the feature, however, and Webb grabbed the hole shot and held off a spirited battle with Marvin Musquin. After last week’s tangle between the two, Musquin was highly motivated to make the pass for the lead, but got off-line in the whoops and went down hard. He dropped to 20th. Webb took advantage of the mistake and built some separation between himself and the field.

Webb fell one more position to Blake Baggett in the closing laps, but still managed to earn his 10th podium finish in 14 races this year.

“I struggled all day, to be honest,” Webb said. “I’m lucky after that heat race when I got landed on. I was just sitting there and I think it hit me that this was a big deal.

“I got a blessing with that restart. That’s the championship. It tests you every race and I’m just happy to be up here. I was terrible in the whoops – and that was this racetrack. I think as everyone can see, I was just a fish out of water.”

Musquin’s fall and subsequent sixth-place finish cost him four points. Tomac cut into Webb’s lead and is tied for second in the standings. But overall, Webb now has a 21-point advantage over his closest competitors.

Dean Wilson finished fourth with Zach Osborne rounding out the top five.

Ken Roczen’s shot at the championship practically evaporated when Joey Savatgy went down on Lap 3 immediately in front of him while they battled for second. Roczen flipped over the top of the high-banked hairpin and had to scramble up the mountain. By the time he righted his Honda, he had fallen to 22nd. He climbed to eighth at the checkers and was the last rider to finish on the lead lap. Roczen is now 42 points out of the lead.

Complete Results
Points Standings

In 250s, the story was more about what did not happen, than what did.

Austin Forkner did not ride in the feature at Nashville and failed to earn any points with time running out in the 250 East division. He entered Nashville with a 26-point advantage over Chase Sexton and a 29-point lead over Justin Cooper, but a hard off in qualification left him with an injured leg. He limped off track and tried to get back on his bike for a few laps, but the pain in his leg was too much.

Forkner will have an MRI on Monday, at which point his future for 2019 will be known.

Sexton knew this was his opportunity to catch Forkner if he could win and capture the 26 points. Cooper could close to within two points and would hold his fate in his own hand if Forkner is able to return to competition. And as this was the first sign of weakness all year, both riders were desperate for a strong showing. Forkner has been perfect with five wins in East division. He was the top finishing East rider in the East/West Showdown in Atlanta.

Cooper attempted to take Sexton wide on Lap 1 and crashed both bikes.

Martin Davalos did all he could to help his teammate. He rode past Sexton and Cooper while they picked up their bikes and scored his fifth career win in his 99th start. His last victory came in April 2016 at Foxborough.

Once they separated, Sexton and Cooper were able to stay out of trouble and march back toward the front. Sexton fell as far back as 16th on Lap 1. He climbed into the top five on Lap 5, grabbed third on Lap 11 and set his sights on Davalos on Lap 13. At the checkers, he was able to cut the advantage to 3.508 seconds with a second-place finish.

“I got a really good start, which I was really happy about,” Sexton said to NBCSN after the race. “Made – I thought – a clean move on (Cooper) in the third corner. I came into the inside and he just ran us into the tough blocks and took us both out. It’s ok. We came back and passed him from dead last basically. It was good to get second and salvage points.”

Cooper climbed to third – 5.067 seconds behind Sexton.

Sexton was not able to completely catch Forkner, but he cut the lead to three points. Cooper is now seven behind.

Kyle Peters in fourth and Brandon Hartranft in fifth scored their first top-fives of the season.

Complete Results
Points Standings

450 Heat 1: Joey Savatgy rode Cooper Webb hard in the heat and took the win. … Trying to keep the pressure on, Webb jumped into the opposite lane on the last lap, but salvaged a second. … Justin Bogle rounded out the top three. … Marvin Musquin was riding well before the race was red flagged and restarted. He was not competitive after the restart and finished a distant eighth. … Eli Tomac’s bike shut off on Lap 3 while he was leading, sending him to the back of the field and into the LCQ. … Mike Alessi bombed Webb on Lap 1, but a red flag occasioned a complete restart for an accident involving Ronnie Stewart and Tyler Enticknap.

450 Heat 2: Ken Roczen keeps impressing in the heats with his fifth win of the season. … He took the checkers more than six seconds ahead of Cole Seely. … Zach Osborne rounded out the top three with Dean Wilson fourth. … Alex Ray took the final transfer position by a margin of 12 seconds over Ryan Breece.

450 Last Chance Qualifier: Eli Tomac got a bad start, but was patient during the first lap and picked off Justin Starling and Ryan Breece to sit comfortably in a transfer spot. One lap later, he slipped past Charles Lefrancois. By Lap 4, he rode easily past Austin Politelli to take the lead. On the white flag lap, his bike began to smoke, but he nursed it home to score his second LCQ win of the year. … Politelli, Starling, and Breece also advanced to the Main.

250 Heat 1: Martin Davalos rode to an easy win of 7.205 seconds over Alex Martin. … Martin was distracted by his fierce battle with Justin Cooper over the last couple of laps, but he held that advantage with Cooper winding up third. … That Cooper was around for the finish was in question. Riding third on Lap 1, Ramyller Alves went down on a jump and nearly collected Cooper.

250 Heat 2: Chase Sexton smelled blood in the water after Austin Forkner sustained an injury in qualification. He earned the holeshot and never looked back on his way to an almost 14 second lead. … Ryan Sipes took second easily over Mitchell Oldenburg. … Forkner was scheduled to ride in this race, before he scratched.

250 last Chance Qualifier: Steven Clarke won over James Weeks. … On the final lap, Cade Autenrieth squeezed past Kevin Moranz when Moranz was almost bucked from his Kawasaki. … After crashing in his heat, Ramyller Alves went down a second time in the LCQ. This time, he went down hard while leading.

Points Leaders

450SX
Cooper Webb (309) (6 wins)
Eli Tomac (288) (4 wins)
Marvin Musquin (288) (2 wins)
Ken Roczen (267)
Blake Baggett (238) (1 win)

250SX West
Adam Cianciarulo (182 points) (4 wins)
Dylan Ferrandis (177) (2 wins)
Colt Nichols (142) (1 win)
RJ Hampshire (126)
Shane McElrath (123) (1 win)

250SX East
Austin Forkner (151 points) (5 wins)
Chase Sexton (148)
Justin Cooper (144)
Martin Davalos (115) (1 win)
Mitchell Oldenburg (105)

Top 5s

450SX
Cooper Webb: 11
Marvin Musquin: 10
Eli Tomac: 10
Ken Roczen: 9
Blake Baggett: 8
Dean Wilson: 4
Joey Savatgy: 3
Chad Reed: 2
Justin Barcia: 2
Jason Anderson: 1
Justin Bogle: 1
Justin Brayton: 1
Aaron Plessinger: 1
Cole Seeley: 1
Zach Osborne: 1

250SX West
Adam Cianciarulo: 8
Dylan Ferrandis: 6
Shane McElrath: 5
Colt Nichols: 5
RJ Hampshire: 4
James Decotis: 4
Jacob Hayes: 1
Garrett Marchbanks: 1
Jess Pettis: 1
Michael Mosiman: 1
Chris Blose: 1

250SX East
Austin Forkner: 6
Justin Cooper: 7
Chase Sexton: 7
Jordon Smith: 3
Martin Davalos: 4
Alex Martin: 2
Mitchell Oldenburg: 2
Kyle Peters: 1
Brandon Hartranft: 1

Next race: April 13, Broncos Stadium at Mile High, Denver, Colo.

Season passes can be purchased at NBC Sports Gold.

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Roger Penske, Chip Ganassi bring their storied rivalry to a new level at Rolex 24

Ganassi Penske Rolex 24
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – To measure the impact of Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi squaring off for the first time in overall sports car wins (starting at the Rolex 24), look at the auto racing titans’ lineups.

There are 12 combined drivers across four entries representing Chip Ganassi Racing (competing as Cadillac Racing) and Team Penske (as Porsche Penske Motorsport) in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona.

And with the possible exception of six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, none of those behind the wheel is as famous and accomplished as the U.S. motorsports icons who will be sitting atop the pit stands at Daytona International Speedway.

In the NTT IndyCar Series, Penske and Ganassi are synonymous with success, having combined for 23 Indy 500 victories and 30 championships. They also competed in the NASCAR Cup Series for two decades with several signature wins for each.

DETAILS FOR THE 61ST ROLEX 24How to watch, entry lists, schedules for the IMSA season opener

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN GTPRolex 24 at Daytona kicks off new golden era for sports cars

Until now, the rivalry never extended to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, where they competed in different classes from 2018-19 and have competed in the top category in differing times over the years.

But the 2023 season opener at Daytona will mark the beginning of a new era in which Ganassi and Penske will compete for sports car overall victories on two continents. A Ganassi Cadillac Racing V-LMDh and Porsche Penske Motorsports Penske 963 will run full time in both the premier prototype divisions of IMSA and the European-based World Endurance Championship – whose crown jewel is the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Having two of the world’s biggest sports car races welcome the Ganassi-Penske battle seems only fitting in a season in which IMSA’s new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class is expected to introduce a stiffer level of competition.

“We obviously like beating each other,” Ganassi told NBC Sports. “I think if you beat Penske, you know you’ve beaten someone. You’ve accomplished something great. It’s going to be the same as always. Just another platform at another track, but the rivalry will be just as heated I’m sure.

“On one hand, he’s always the first guy to call us out for a penalty or something. On the other hand, he’s also the first guy to congratulate me on a win, so I think it’s a healthy rivalry, but we certainly pound each other’s heads into the ground on race day. Monday through Friday it switches to more of a good relationship.”

After starting his career in sports cars, Penske also is looking forward to having a new arena to race Ganassi.

“There is a lot of anticipation and excitement about the Rolex 24 and the upcoming sports car season overall,” Penske said in a statement to NBC Sports statement. “With the new hybrid prototype formula ready to make its debut, and some great competition expected on the track between teams, drivers and manufacturers, there is a lot of momentum building right now. Porsche Penske Motorsport is excited to compete in both the IMSA WeatherTech Championship, as well as the FIA World Endurance Championship, this season and I can’t wait to see the No. 6 and No. 7 Porsche 963s in action at Daytona this weekend. We also look forward to bringing some new rivalries and storylines to the sport.

Roger Penske confers with Chip Ganassi before the 2013 Honda Indy Toronto (Andrew Weber/USA TODAY Sports Images).

“In the new IMSA GTP class, there should be a good competitive balance between Porsche, Cadillac, Acura and BMW. We have seen how the rivalry between Team Penske and Ganassi Racing has developed in the NTT IndyCar Series in recent years, and that could certainly extend to sports cars as our teams and drivers continue to develop the new formula and push the production on track in both IMSA and WEC. We will see how the competition plays out, starting this weekend, as we always enjoy racing against Chip and his teams.”

Though there have been some fiery moments over the years (Dario Franchitti vs. Will Power, anyone?), Ganassi vs. Penske mostly has been a story of respect between two organizations whose main strengths are people.

“It’s just the depth of the organizations going up against each other,” Ganassi said. “It’s not just he and I. It’s at every level of the organization.

“We’re smaller. I’d like to think we’re a little more nimble. This is all I do is race cars. I don’t have 200 car dealerships or a truck rental company or a transportation company. I just have racing is all I have.”

Heading into Saturday’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, here are the thoughts of Ganassi and Penske drivers in the Rolex 24 at Daytona:


Earl Bamber, No. 02 Ganassi Cadillac: “When I grew up as a kid, I remember watching Chip Ganassi Racing and Penske battle each other for many years, obviously following Scott Dixon and his career in IndyCar (Bamber is a New Zealand native like Dixon). And when the opportunity came up to come and race for Chip, it’s a no-brainer. It’s one of those teams you want to drive for in the world. It’s one of the biggest and most successful teams in the world. And then we’ve got Porsche, where I used to drive, with Penske. It’s going to be a phenomenal rivalry over the next couple of years and that rivalry continues between two absolute legends of our sport. Two people who have been the most successful. I hope we can get Cadillac and Chip their first Le Mans win. That’s obviously the ultimate goal for us and beat his old rival, Roger.

“Those two powerhouses of the sport, they definitely raise the bar. You’ve seen it in IndyCar for years and years. One finds something and the next pushes it forward and forward. You’ll see the same in sports car racing. We all saw what Chip Ganassi Racing did back in the day with the GT program. So no doubt we can do the same again. It’s the ultimate highest level of motorsport when it comes to sports car racing, and there’ll be no stone unturned to make sure that we’re winning these races. It will be a really great fight, great for the fans and great for the sport, because both of them love winning.”

Dane Cameron, No. 6 Porsche Penske: “I think anytime you have Chip and Roger come to town to start fighting for wins, it raises the profile of the whole thing. Hopefully it brings a few more eyes to everything. Certainly brings a lot of expectation with it as well, and I also think it reflects really strongly on the championship to show how competitive it is. They respect the championship and challenge, but when they come to town, they come to win for sure.”

Scott Dixon, No. 01 Ganassi Cadillac: “The battle between Chip Ganassi Racing and Penske is always a fierce one. I obviously know it well from the IndyCar side. But I think it’s a lot more than that. It’s impressive to see a lot of the manufacturers that have come in for this battle. I imagine if it’s not from the first race but during the season that Penske and Ganassi will fight it out pretty hard.

“I think the rivalry between Chip Ganassi racing and Penske has always been strong and in a good way. There’s been some battles and the 2010s for me and other drivers when it gets fierce. Some disagreements here and there. But it’s always been a great pure battle, which is what I think these championships are made of and what brings the fans to the track. So I’d sum it up as a very healthy rivalry.”

Alex Lynn, No. 02 Ganassi Cadillac: “Even as a little boy (growing up in England), you knew exactly who Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi were. You knew what their teams represented. For me to represent Chip and his team is a huge honor. I’m extremely motivated to try to add to his legacy and be part of the fabric of this team. I think having the battle between Penske and Ganassi is iconic. Also Porsche and Cadillac as brands, respectively, just adds to the occasion. Makes me smile even thinking about it knowing what we get to represent when the flag drops.”

Felipe Nasr, No. 7 Porsche Penske: “I think it’s fantastic especially because we’re merging the IMSA and WEC Series and giving the opportunity for teams like Penske and Ganassi to fight for overall victories. You look at the history of those teams, they’ve been on top. We always hear it from the IndyCar guys or the NASCAR side, you’re talking two big names in motorsports. You expect nothing but them fighting for wins. For sure Ganassi has strengths, and we have strengths as well. I’m pretty glad I have the opportunity to be representing Team Penske and continue to write history with them and Porsche is a great opportunity.”

Richard Westbrook, No. 02 Ganassi Cadillac: “The chance for the two most famous teams in America to go head to head in the Daytona 24 Hours and also the Le Mans 24 Hours. I expect that rivalry to keep going up more notches.”

Renger van der Zande, No. 01 Ganassi Cadillac: “Obviously, it’s such the big houses of racing in the U.S. Penske and Ganassi are taking it at each other. The rivalry is big. The best of the best. The most famous ones in the U.S.

“Ganassi is part of Cadillac. We’re the race team that runs the factory program for Cadillac. Penske is running it for Porsche, obviously a high brand as well. Those teams have their little rivalry, but they’re working for a bigger company, a bigger brand, which is Cadillac and Porsche. So those two premium brands taking on each other and then two of the best teams in America taking on each other. It’s very simple: Cadillac got the best team in the U.S. and Porsche got the best team in the U.S. So let’s see what happens. It’s going to be a cool fight.”