Motocross goes mile high: Thunder Valley preview


The Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship goes mile-high this week as Round 3 is contested just outside of Denver, Colo. at Thunder Valley Motocross Park.

The Supercross debut in Denver two months ago provides a sneak peak of what viewers can expect. Eli Tomac was favored to win in his home state, and he lived up to expectations as his late-season surge put pressure on Cooper Webb.

Tomac should be able to pick up where he left off after winning this April in the Broncos Stadium at Mile High and last week on Fox Raceway at Pala, Calif. because he is the defending winner on Thunder Valley as well. If he can score back-to-back victories on this track, he will be the first repeat winner in five years. Blake Baggett won in 2017, Ken Roczen in 2016 and Ryan Dungey in 2015.

Roczen expects to challenge, however. He won the opener at Hangtown and finished third last week. He is also the most recent repeat winner with a victory in 2014. Still battling a mysterious health issue that drains his strength, Roczen will have to overcome the high altitude this week. He finished only seventh in the Denver SX race.

The track will be altered from its weekly format with the addition of sand to soften the surface. As the day progresses, the sand and native soil churn together creating new conditions and challenges with each lap.

In addition, the altitude will starve the engines of oxygen – changing the throttle response from what the riders have experienced during the past two weeks.

Baggett bent his front wheel in Moto 1 at Pala and hurt his throttle wrist, but has been cleared to race.

Rookie Joey Savatgy has recovered from a shoulder injury sustained in the Nashville SX race and a deep leg bruise from Las Vegas. He is expected to be back on his Kawasaki this week.

MORE: Third Time’s the Charm for Blake Baggett
MORE: Eli Tomac Outfoxes the Field at Pala


Qualifiers: 12:15 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold
Race: Live, 3 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold (Moto 1) and 5:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold (Moto 2); replay 4 p.m. ET, June 2

May 25 – 2019 Fox Raceway at Pala

450: Eli Tomac (1-1) won over Marvin Musquin (3-2) and Ken Roczen (2-3).
250: Adam Cianciarulo (3-1) won over Justin Cooper (1-4) and Dylan Ferrandis (7-3).

June 2, 2018 – Thunder Valley

450: Eli Tomac (1-1) defeated Ken Roczen (2-2) and Blake Baggett (3-3).
250: Jeremy Martin (2-1) beat Alex Martin (3-2) and Justin Cooper (1-8).

Overall Wins

[1] Ken Roczen (Hangtown)
[1] Eli Tomac (Pala)

[2] Adam Cianciarulo (Hangtown, Pala)

Moto Wins

[3] Eli Tomac (Hangtown II, Pala I & II)
[1] Ken Roczen (Hangtown I)

[1] Justin Cooper (Hangtown I, Pala I)
[1] Adam Cianciarulo (Hangtown II, Pala II)

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Roger Penske discusses flying tire at Indy 500 with Dallara executives: ‘We’ve got to fix that’


INDIANAPOLIS – Roger Penske spoke with Dallara executives Monday morning about the loose tire that went flying over the Indianapolis Motor Speedway catchfence and into a Turn 2 parking lot.

The left-rear wheel from Kyle Kirkwood’s No. 27 Dallara-Honda was sheared off in a collision at speed as Kirkwood tried to avoid the skidding No. 6 Dallara-Chevrolet of Felix Rosenqvist on Lap 183 of the 107th Indianapolis 500.

No one seriously was hurt in the incident (including Kirkwood, whose car went upside down and slid for several hundred feet), though an Indianapolis woman’s Chevy Cruze was struck by the tire. The Indy Star reported a fan was seen and released from the care center after sustaining minor injuries from flying debris in the crash.

During a photo shoot Monday morning with Indy 500 winner Josef Newgarden at the IMS Yard of Bricks, Penske met with Dallara founder and owner Gian Paolo Dallara and Dallara USA CEO Stefano dePonti. The Italian company has been the exclusive supplier of the current DW12 chassis to the NTT IndyCar series for 11 years.

“The good news is we didn’t have real trouble with that tire going out (of the track),” Penske, who bought Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2020, told a few reporters shortly afterward. “I saw it hit. When it went out, I saw we were OK. I talked to the Dallara guys today. We’re going to look at that, but I guess the shear (force) from when (Rosenqvist’s) car was sitting, (Kirkwood’s car) went over and just that shear force tore that tether. Because we have tethers on there, and I’ve never seen a wheel come off.

“That to me was probably the scariest thing. We’ve got to fix that. We’ve got to fix that so that doesn’t happen again.”

Asked by NBC Sports if IndyCar would be able to address it before Sunday’s Detroit Grand Prix or before the next oval race at Iowa Speedway, Penske said, “The technical guys should look at it. I think the speed here, a couple of hundred (mph) when you hit it vs. 80 or 90 or whatever it might be, but that was a pinch point on the race.”

In a statement released Monday to WTHR and other media outlets, IndyCar said that it was “in possession of the tire in Sunday’s incident and found that the tether did not fail. This is an isolated incident, and the series is reviewing to make sure it does not happen again. IndyCar takes the safety of the drivers and fans very seriously. We are pleased and thankful that no one was hurt.”

IndyCar provided no further explanation for how the wheel was separated from the car without the tether failing.

IndyCar began mandating wheel suspension tethers using high-performance Zylon material after a flying tire killed three fans at Charlotte Motor Speedway during a May 1, 1999 race. Three fans also were struck and killed by a tire at Michigan International Speedway during a July 26, 1998 race.

The IndyCar tethers can withstand a force of more than 22,000 pounds, and the rear wheel tethers were strengthened before the 2023 season.