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Las Vegas 250 Supercross Preview: Two championships on the line

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Unlike the 450 class, which is all but wrapped up with Cooper Webb’s massive lead, the Supercross 250s have much tighter battles on the line and both championships will be decided this week in Las Vegas during the second East/West Showdown of the year.

In the West, Adam Cianciarulo holds an eight-point advantage over Dylan Ferrandis.

In the East, Chase Sexton has an advantage of nine points over Justin Cooper.

In both, it’s a two man battle, but since this is an East/West Showdown with both divisions on track at the same time, there will be four riders to watch Saturday night.

Cianciarulo’s magic number is fifth. If he finishes there or better, it’s Cianciarulo’s title no matter what Ferrandis does. In the last East/West Showdown at Atlanta, Cianciarulo and Ferrandis finished first and second.

Cianciarulo got where he is by winning five races and sweeping the top five. Ferrandis has two wins and five runner-up finishes, but he lost significant ground in Glendale during Round 2 and in the mud at San Diego three weeks later when he finished outside the top five.

Sexton’s safety valve is sixth or better. Even if Cooper wins and ties Sexton with one win apiece, Sexton has three second-place finishes to Cooper’s one and so he holds the tiebreaker.

With the dominance of Austin Forkner, Sexton has been the forgotten man. He finished fourth in the last Showdown at Atlanta, but that was one of only two times that he failed to stand on the podium. A sixth-place finish is not a foregone conclusion, but one would be hard-pressed to bet against Sexton.

Like Sexton, Cooper has a perfect record of top-fives but his average finish lags behind Sexton has an average of 2.75; Cooper’s is 3.25.

With two division on track, finishing among the top six is not a foregone conclusion. Eat coast rider Mitchell Oldenburg has three top-fives in his last four starts including a second last week in New Jersey. Colt Nichols has third-place finishes in his last two attempts and he won the season opener in Anaheim.

MORE: Austin Forkner out for the season
MORE: Cooper Webb wants to win in style

Schedule:

Qualifying: 4 p.m. on NBC Sports, Gold
Race: Live, 10 p.m. on NBC Sports, Gold and USA Network

Last Week:

Chase Sexton scored his first win of the East season over Mitchell Oldenburg and Justin Cooper.

Last Year:

Adam Cianciarulo won over Jordan Smith and Shane McElrath

Winners

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

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

Top-5s

West:
Adam Cianciarulo (9)
Dylan Ferrandis (7)
Colt Nichols (6)
Shane McElrath (5)
RJ Hampshire (5)
James Decotis (4)
Jacob Hayes (1)
Garrett Marchbanks (1)
Jess Pettis (1)
Michael Mosiman (1)
Chris Blose (1)
Michael Mosiman (1)

East:
Justin Cooper (8)
Chase Sexton (8)
Austin Forkner (6)
Martin Davalos (5)
Jordon Smith (3)
Mitchell Oldenburg (3)
Alex Martin (2)
Brandon Hartranft (2)
Kyle Peters (1)

Points Leaders

250 West:
Adam Cianciarulo (208)
Dylan Ferrandis (200)
Colt Nichols (163)
RJ Hampshire (145)
James Decotis (128)
Cameron McAdoo (128)

250 East:
Chase Sexton (174)
Justin Cooper (165)
Austin Forkner (152)
Martin Davalos (134)
Mitchell Oldenburg (128)

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter

Provisional Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew ready for IndyCar ride

Road to Indy
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Provisional Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew has done nothing but dominate the 2019 season, winning seven of the 16 races run so far and finishing on the podium in all but two of those events.

Now all the 22-year-old Floridian needs to do to formally clinch the 2019 title is simply start the final two races of the season, both of which will be held this weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

For Askew, his maiden Indy Lights season will likely be one he’ll never forget. 

“It’s been a dream come true,” Askew told NBC Sports. “Being with the championship-winning team from last year, we had a really good shot at winning it again for Andretti Autosport. It’s very rare that we show up to a track and struggle to find speed. 

“That’s a fantastic feeling, especially as a driver. That gave me a lot of confidence and hopes of holding the million dollar check at the end of the year. That was the goal going into it.”

This weekend, Askew will accomplish said goal. The championship will not only bring him a sense of pride, but also the opportunity of a lifetime. 

As an award for being crowned the Indy Lights champion, Askew will be awarded a scholarship that guarantees him entry into a minimum of three NTT IndyCar Series events next year – including the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500. 

Time will only tell which team Askew will race for in IndyCar next season, and whether or not Askew’s rookie campaign will be a full-time or part-time affair, but Askew’s performance during the last few seasons in the Road to Indy system has certainly drawn attention of IndyCar’s top team owners.

In August, Askew had the chance to drive an Indy car for the first time in his career during a test session at Portland International Raceway, driving the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda usually piloted by Scott Dixon.

“It was an opportunity with Chip Ganassi Racing that I was very fortunate to have,” Askew said. “I think with my experience in the past couple of years with Cape Motorsports and this year with Andretti Autosport, going into that test was very helpful.

“Going into the test, it was more of trying to treat it as just another day at the racetrack, when it really wasn’t. It was a fantastic opportunity for me – a great experience – and I hope I can take that into my rookie season next year in IndyCar.” 

The final two races of the 2019 Indy Lights season will take place this weekend on Saturday, September 21 at 6 p.m. ET and Sunday, September 22 at 12:05 p.m. ET. Both races will air live on NBC Sports Gold.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter