Denver Supercross Preview: And then there were three

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And then there were three.

Three rounds remain in the 2019 Supercross season and Cooper Webb’s lead is looking safer every week. Marvin Musquin’s modest sixth-place finish in Nashville dropped him 21 points behind Webb while Eli Tomac surged to his fourth victory and is currently tied for second in the standings. With 26 points available to the winner, Webb is closing in on a full-race cushion.

Webb’s magic number is slightly better than fourth. If Tomac manages to sweep the final three races and Webb finished fourth each time, Tomac would tie the points and win the championship on a tie-breaker. If Webb finishes third in one of the final three races and fourth in the others, he will be the champion.

But Tomac has a slight advantage this week. Heading to the Mile High City, the Colorado native is most accustomed to the elevation and anyone who has ever tried to exercise this close to the clouds knows what a difference that can make.

The championship is also coming down to three contenders: Ken Roczen’s eighth-place finish last week virtually eliminates him from contention as he needs to make up 14 points on Webb while leapfrogging Tomac and Musquin.

Justin Barcia announced this week that he will miss the remainder of the season in order to completely heal before the start of the Motocross season (May 18, Hagerstown). Suffering a variety of injuries before crashing in Seattle and Houston, he hit a Tuff Block last week and failed to finish the Main.

Barcia will be replaced with Josh Grant in the final three rounds.

In 250s, Dylan Ferrandis has won back-to-back races in Seattle and Houston to cut Adam Cianciarulo’s lead to just five points.

As and added incentive to keep his points lead, Cianciarulo has come up on the losing end of two six-closest losses in 250 competition. He finished second to Aaron Plessinger in the West division in 2018 and was runner-up to Zach Osborne in the East in 2017. Both margins of victory were only two points.

MORE: The Supercross 250 season is coming down to the wire 

Schedule:

Qualifying: 2:30 p.m. on NBC Sports, Gold
Race: Live, 7:30 p.m. on NBC Sports, Gold and 8 p.m. NBCSN

Last Week:

Eli Tomac rode to victory over Blake Baggett and Cooper Webb.
In 250s, Martin Davalos became the first rider other than Austin Forkner to win an East race this year. He beat Chase Sexton and Justin Cooper.

Last Year:

This is the first Supercross event in Denver since 1996.

Winners

450s:
[6] Cooper Webb (Anaheim II, Oakland, Minneapolis, Arlington, Atlanta, and Houston)
[4] Eli Tomac (San Diego, Detroit, Daytona and Nashville)
[2] Marvin Musquin (Indianapolis and Seattle)
[1] Justin Barcia (Anaheim I)
[1] Blake Baggett (Glendale)

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

250 East:
[5] Austin Forkner (Minneapolis, Arlington, Detroit, Daytona and Indianapolis)
[1] Martin Davalos (Nashville)

Top-5s

450s:
Cooper Webb (12)
Marvin Musquin (11)
Eli Tomac (11)
Ken Roczen (10)
Blake Baggett (8)
Joey Savatgy (4)
Dean Wilson (4)
Chad Reed (2)
Justin Barcia (2)
Jason Anderson (1)
Justin Bogle (1)
Justin Brayton (1)
Aaron Plessinger (1)
Cole Seely (1)
Zach Osborne (1)

250 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)

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

Points Leaders

450s:
Cooper Webb (309)
Eli Tomac (288)
Marvin Musquin (288)
Ken Roczen (267)
Blake Baggett (238)

250 West:
Adam Cianciarulo (182)
Dylan Ferrandis (177)
Colt Nichols (142)
RJ Hampshire (126)
Shane McElrath (123)

250 East:
Austin Forkner (151)
Chase Sexton (148)
Justin Cooper (144)
Martin Davalos (115)
Mitchell Oldenburg (105)

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New Chip Ganassi driver Marcus Armstrong will team with boyhood idol Scott Dixon

Marcus Armstrong Scott Dixon
Joe Portlock - Formula 1/Formula Motorsport Limited via Getty Images
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Marcus Armstrong was a Scott Dixon fan his entire life, and when he was 8, the aspiring young racer asked his fellow New Zealander to autograph a helmet visor that he hung on his bedroom wall.

Next year, Armstrong will be Dixon’s teammate.

Armstrong was named Friday as the fourth IndyCar driver in the Chip Ganassi Racing lineup and will pilot the No. 11 next season on road and street courses.

A driver for the five oval races on the 17-race schedule will be named later.

The No. 11 is essentially the No. 48 that seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson drove the last two seasons, with Chip Ganassi making the change to run four cars numbered in sequential order. Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson drives the No. 8, six-time champion Dixon drives the No. 9, and 2020 IndyCar champion Alex Palou drives the No. 10.

So just who is the second Kiwi in the Ganassi lineup?

A 22-year-old who spent the past three seasons in Formula One feeder series F2, a Ferrari development driver in 2021, and former roommate of Callum Illot and former teammate of Christian Lundgaard – both of whom just completed their rookie IndyCar seasons.

“I’ve always been attracted to the IndyCar championship because it’s one of those championships that’s been really well televised in New Zealand since I was young, mainly because of Scott and his success,” Armstrong told The Associated Press. “As time progressed, as I got closer to F1 and single-seaters, the attraction to IndyCar grew just because of how competitive the championship is – I like to challenge myself and the level of competition in IndyCar is remarkably high.”

Armstrong, from Christchurch, New Zealand, was set to travel from his current home in London to Indianapolis this weekend to meet his new team. He won’t need an introduction to Dixon, the 42-year-old considered the best IndyCar driver of his generation and Armstrong’s unequivocal childhood hero.

Last season, Dixon earned his 53rd career victory to pass Mario Andretti for second on the all-time list. Dixon has driven for Ganassi in all but 23 of his 345 career starts.

“For a long time I’ve been a Scott Dixon fan. I don’t want to make him cringe with our age difference,” Armstrong told the AP.

Despite the two-decade age difference, Armstrong never considered someday racing with Dixon a fantasy.

He convinced his father after winning five national karting championships to allow him to leave New Zealand for Italy at age 14, where he moved by himself to pursue a racing career. Armstrong said as soon as he’d received parental permission, he’d never look back.

Armstrong was in Formula 4 two years after his move to Italy and won that title in his first season. He won four races and four poles in F3 in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, then collected four wins and eight podiums in three seasons of F2.

“Maybe it’s a strength, or maybe it’s a weakness, but I always thought I was capable of doing great in the sport,” Armstrong told the AP. “I think you probably have to succeed in the sport, you need to believe in yourself. I always pictured myself being in IndyCar.

“As Scott’s teammate? I can’t specifically say I saw that. It’s an extraordinary chain of events.”

Armstrong becomes just the latest driver to leave Europe, where F1 is the pinnacle but has only 20 seats each year. Alexander Rossi began the trend in 2016 when the American left F1 and won the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. He’s been followed by Ericsson, last season’s Indy 500 winner, Romain Grosjean, Illot, Lundgaard, and on Thursday three-time W Series champion and Williams F1 reserve driver Jamie Chadwick was announced as driver for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar’s second-tier development series.

Armstrong said he could have remained in F2 for a fourth season, but he’d been watching IndyCar for so long, and after conversations with Illot and Lundgaard, he decided to make the move to what he believes is the most balanced racing series in the world. He tested for Dale Coyne Racing at Sebring in October.

He doesn’t know if European racing is done for good, just that he wants to be in IndyCar right now.

“I don’t want to think too far into the future, I’m just grateful for this opportunity that is standing right in front of me,” Armstrong said. “I want to perform as well as I can in the near future and just consolidate myself in the fantastic chance that is IndyCar and just do my best.

“I’m not looking at F1 as a landing spot – I am looking at IndyCar, and that’s exactly why I am here.”