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Eli’s Coming: Tomac heads into the Motocross season with momentum

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Eli Tomac ended the 2019 Supercross season with more momentum than any other rider, but he came up one position short of the championship. The unique thing about motorcycle racing, however, is that there is absolutely no time to rest on one’s laurels.

And for Tomac, that is a huge blessing.

As the series heads to Rancho Cordova, California and Hangtown we got Tomac on the line to discuss the end of Supercross and start of the outdoor season.

Over the final four Supercross races, Tomac won three times and swept the podium. The champion Cooper Webb had one win and an average finish of 2.25 to Tomac’s 1.5.

If that record looks eerily similar to last year, it’s because it is. In 2018 Tomac ended the Supercross season with three wins and two runner-up finishes in the last five races.

“The cool thing about our two seasons is that we’re racing the same guys,” Eli Tomac said. “We’re lining up against each other every week, so if you carry the momentum – this sport is very mental.

“In the mental game, it’s always good when you win the last race (of the season) when you’re racing against this competition.”

Tomac knows that to be true because after winning the final round of the 2018 Supercross, he stormed into the outdoor season with five straight wins and immediately established himself as the rider to beat.

The field couldn’t beat him and Tomac scored his second consecutive Motocross championship. With an average finish of 2.58 over 12 rounds, it was his best year ever.

“I feel like I’m ready again and don’t see why I can’t get another championship, the way that we’ve done the last two seasons,” Tomac said. “I don’t feel like there is anything holding me back coming into the season, so I’m ready to go and as confident as ever.”

But for all the success he’s  had, Tomac feels there is a gaping hole in his record. He has never finished worse than third in either Supercross or Motocross, but he’s missing that all important SX championship.

“This season I would say was successful, not to the point of being totally satisfied because the execution would be the championship, but we did have  good run at the end.

“And for me, looking back at it, I had to start the season with an injury that set us back a little bit. But we kept pushing forward and the positive outlook is that we made progress throughout the season and really started getting the wins toward the end while carrying that momentum.”

Would winning a third straight Motocross championship fill that void?

“I wish I could say it would, but ‘no,’ ” Tomac said. “It would be amazing to do a third one in a row, there is always going to be that empty spot until I get that Supercross title.”

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Valtteri Bottas takes pole position for season-opening Austrian GP

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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas upstaged Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to take pole position Saturday for the Formula One Austrian GP.

The Finnish driver edged out the world champion by 0.012 seconds to claim the top spot for the season opener at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. He clenched his fist as he climbed out of his car and shared a hug with Hamilton.

“It’s something special when you push the car to the limit,” said Bottas, who is chasing an eighth career win. “Feels so good. It’s very impressive (from the team).”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third, and Lando Norris gave McLaren a boost by finishing fourth. Verstappen has won the past two years here, including 2019 when he started third behind Hamilton and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

“It’s going to be interesting quite a bit warmer tomorrow and hopefully this will play to our advantage,” Verstappen said. “Today, Mercedes was on a different level, unfortunately. Last year we were also a little bit off in qualifying so I expect we will be a bit better in the race.”

Bottas had the leading time when drivers embarked on their final laps and beat his own mark before sliding off the track into the gravel.

Hamilton was chasing a record-extending 89th career pole. He was ahead but then dropped off slightly as Bottas secured a 12th career pole.

“Great job by Valtteri. It’s a great start to the season,” Hamilton said. “We show year on year that we continue to be the best team. We’re open-minded … constantly learning from each other and pushing the boundaries.”

Ferrari struggled for speed, with Leclerc nearly one second behind in seventh and Sebastian Vettel failing to make it into the third and final part of qualifying, known as Q3. He starts the race from 11th on the grid.

Vettel is leaving Ferrari at the end of the season with his future in F1 uncertain.

Earlier, Hamilton posted the fastest time in morning practice. The 35-year-old British driver was also quickest in both sessions on Friday.

Midway through third practice, F1 newcomer Nicholas Latifi misjudged the exit of a turn and spun his Williams car into a protective tire wall.