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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Rossi remains ‘The Story’ in IndyCar in 2019

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ELKHART LAKE, Wisc. – Alexander Rossi’s greatness was on full display Monday at Road America.

He started on the outside of the front row, drafted behind pole sitter Colton Herta at the drop of the green flag, pulled out a perfectly timed move to race side by side with Herta going into Turn 1.

By Turn 2 of the first lap, Rossi’s No. 27 NAPA Honda was out front and drove away from the field, easily winning the REV Group Grand Prix of Road America by nearly 30 seconds over Team Penske’s Will Power.

Rossi was so good, it appeared he was running on a different race course than the other 23 competitors. There was some outstanding racing throughout the field with 191 total passes, including 175 for position, but none of those passes were at the front.

According to Rossi’s engineer, Jeremy Milles, there was just one thing kept Rossi’s race from being deemed complete perfection.

“It we had stayed out two laps longer on the last pit stop, we would have led every single lap instead of Graham Rahal leading one lap,” Milless told NBC Sports.com. “It’s good to see when we give him a proper car, he puts it to work.

“He’s not like a lot of drivers.”

Rossi led 54 of the 55 laps in the race and defeated Power by 28.4391 seconds – a huge margin of victory by today’s standards. Back in 1982, Hector Rebaque defeated Al Unser by a full lap at the 4.014-mile, 14 Road America road course, but those were far different times than today’s very deep field in the NTT IndyCar Series.

Although it was Rossi’s second victory of the season and the seventh of his career, the 27-year-old from Nevada City, California, has been the driver everyone talks about in 2019. The win snapped a four-race streak where he finished second three times and fifth in the other.

Simon Pagenaud won the 103rdIndianapolis 500 on May 26, but the fans and media were talking about Rossi’s bold, daring moves, including some wildly aggressive passes down the front straight and to the outside in Turn 1.

Rossi had a fantastic car the next week in the first race of the Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle but was burned by the timing of a caution period for a crash as his main challenger, Josef Newgarden, dove into the pit area to make a stop just before pit lane closed because of the caution.

Rossi had to wait until the pits were reopened to make his stop, and that put him behind Newgarden and ultimately decided the race.

After a fifth-place finish the following day in Race No. 2, Rossi was once again standing up in his seat and on top of the steering wheel in a tremendous battle with Newgarden at Texas Motor Speedway on June 8. Rossi tried his best to make his car stick on the outside lane going into Turn 1, but when he discovered the risk was much higher than the reward, he had to begrudgingly settle for second, finishing 0.816 seconds behind the current NTT IndyCar Series points leader.

Rossi left no doubt on his Sunday drive through the Wisconsin woods as he never was challenged.

In just three short seasons, Rossi has developed into one of the greatest drivers in a generation in IndyCar. He doesn’t even have 10 victories yet, and he already had the makings of a legend.

“It’s almost like Juan Pablo Montoya, when he arrived as a rookie, he was great immediately,” Rossi’s team owner Michael Andretti told NBCSports.com after the race. “Juan is one of the greats, and I think as time moves on, Alex will prove to be one of the greats.

“He is very aggressive, very calm, very confident, everything you want in a driver. He wasn’t racing anybody all day; he was just racing himself not to make any mistakes.”

For Andretti, this is a very important time in his relationship with Rossi. The driver’s contract concludes at the end of this season, and he is the focal point of speculation on where he will race in 2020.

Before Pagenaud revived his career with a sweep of the major events at Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the Month of May, Rossi looked like “Penske Material” as the driver that would take over the No. 22 Chevrolet. After Pagenaud won the Indy 500, team owner Roger Penske assured him he would be back on the team in 2020.

Rossi’s loyalties lie with Honda. Both he and his father, Pieter, share a close relationship with the engine manufacturer that helped the former Formula One test driver at Manor find a full-time home in the NTT IndyCar Series.

Andretti told NBCSports.com on Friday that he was “optimistically confident” that he will re-sign Rossi once a sponsorship agreement with NAPA is completed.

INDYCAR Photo by Chris Jones

Andretti remains confident after Rossi’s win on Sunday.

“We’re getting there,” Andretti said. “I think we’re getting there. We are feeling pretty good about it.”

There are others, however, that aren’t as optimistic.

If Roger Penske wants a driver, who turns down an opportunity like that? After all, Team Penske is far and away the winningest team in IndyCar history, including a record 18 Indy 500 wins.

Think of these scenarios.

What if McLaren makes a substantial offer to align with Andretti Autosport for a full-time NTT IndyCar Series team in the future after McLaren’s debacle in this year’s Indy 500?

In order for that to happen, though, Andretti would have to switch to Chevrolet, because Honda ‘s parent company in Japan will no longer do business with McLaren.

The last time Andretti considered leaving Honda for Chevy, Rossi was set to leave Andretti to join another Honda team, Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports in 2017.

If Andretti Autosports and McLaren joined together, that would also mean the Andretti-aligned Harding Steinbrenner Racing would become a Chevy operation.

Honda could keep Rossi as one of its drivers by leading him to Chip Ganassi Racing. Five-time Cup Series champion Scott Dixon remains on top of his game, but it’s unlikely he will be racing Indy cars 10 years from now.

Barring unforeseen circumstance, Rossi will still be in the cockpit and winning races in a decade, and that would position Ganassi’s team for the future. The team’s second driver is rookie Felix Rosenqvist, who is currently racing with a one-year contract.

Even Rossi knows his situation for next year is complicated, which is why he chooses not to talk about it. He has developed a strong bond with Milless as his engineer and Rob Edwards (white shirt on left) as his race strategist.

Do both of those key members end up on a different team with Rossi? Edwards is a key member of management at Andretti Autosport as the Chief Operating Officer.

Rossi is as cerebral as he is aggressive. After his victory, when pressed upon his next contract, he concluded the conversation perfectly.

“I have no considerations,” Rossi said regarding his contract status. “It’s in God’s hands.”