Ken Roczen completes his comeback at Thunder Valley


In a mirror image of Round 1 of the Motocross season, Ken Roczen won Moto 1 at Thunder Valley Motocross Park and protected his lead in Moto 2 to take his second overall victory of the season. In the process, he also regained the points’ lead in what is shaping up to be a great opening battle to the 2019 season.

After winning the first Moto, Ken Roczen picked up where he left off. He pulled out to a sizeable lead in the first 15 minutes, but recovering from a disappointing Moto 1 that forced him to the mechanic’s area for a goggle change he rode like a rider possessed. Just past the halfway mark, Eli Tomac started closing the gap.

With 10 minutes remaining, Tomac grabbed the lead and scored his fourth Moto win of the season.

Roczen did not need to win the battle in order to win the war. As with Hangtown, Roczen (1-2) rode a safe race at the end and scored his second overall win.

Tomac finished second with a 5-1, but he lost too many points in the first Moto to hold onto the points lead. Roczen took the lead by two points. Tomac finished second overall.

With a 2-4, Zach Osborne grabbed the third overall.

Roczen dominated the first Moto at Hangtown, but that was his only Moto victory and questions began to fly about whether he was really returning to his old form. Five minutes into Moto 1 at Thunder Valley, he was answering those queries with a nine second lead. By the end of the Moto, he had stretched that advantage to more than 30 seconds.

He beat Zach Osborne in second and Cooper Webb in third, both of who were unchallenged for their positions.

Eli Tomac was more than 1.5 seconds faster than the field in the first qualifier. But he had a terrible start to Moto 1.  When Marvin Musquin went down in Turn 2 of Lap 1, Tomac was slowed by the traffic jam. Just before the halfway mark he experienced trouble with his goggles – forcing Tomac into the pits after losing 43 seconds to the leader.

Tomac returned to the track 12th and immediately passed a pair of riders to get back to 10th. He charged up to fifth and was battling for fourth before he got bogged down in a deep rut with a lap remaining.
(18 wins entering this race; 37 Moto wins)

Privateer Dean Ferris scored an impressive sixth, which is his best finish of the season.

The disastrous start for Musquin dropped him to 40th. In five minutes, he’d passed half the field. Musquin climbed to eighth at the checkers.

In Moto 1, Cole Seely tipped over in a rut that swallowed his bike while he battled for fourth. He dropped back to ninth.

Joey Savatgy back for the first time since New Jersey in the Supercross season when he finished seventh. He crashed early in his MX debut and finished 40th after completing five laps.

In Moto 2, Dylan Merriam crashed and was helped from the course by the medical crew.

450 Moto 1 Results
450 Moto 2 Results
450 Overall Results
Points Standings

You can’t get much closer than this. Winning Moto 1 for the third straight week, Justin Cooper needed to show that he could finish that well in a Moto 2. He got the hole shot to lead early, but pressure from Adam Cianciarulo was relentless.

Cooper heard Cianciarulo on his back tire for the first 15 minutes of the Moto until he laid the bike down and handed the lead over to the points’ leader. Cooper would right himself in third behind Colt Nichols, but he would immediately climb back into second.

With no pressure to speak of and a six-second lead, Cianciarulo rode a safe, clean final 15 minutes and won Moto 2, giving him the overall with a 2-1 on the tiebreaker.

Controversy was part of the second Moto. Riding second at the time, Cianciarulo went off course in the rollers. He cut a corner and re-entered the track without gaining a place advantage, but Cooper believed that he made up some time and trimmed his lead. Cianciarulo’s pressure may have been the deciding factor.

Nichols held onto second in the Moto with Michael Mosiman fourth.

Weather has played a factor in two of the first three rounds of the Motocross season. Rain fell hard in the opener at Hangtown and started to fall again in the first Moto at Thunder Valley.

This time it may have saved a series of perfect starts for Cooper. He has become the a first Moto master – winning the opening race in the first three rounds now. This victory came in an abbreviated effort as the red flag waved. But points’ leader Cianciarulo was cutting into that lead aggressively, shaving nearly a second a lap off what was once an eight-minute lead when the series broached the halfway point.

“I was able to separate myself; get a little bit of a gap and then the rain started coming down pretty hard so the track started to get a little slick,” Cooper told NBC Sports Gold after the Moto. “I saw lightning and knew it was probably going to get called, so I I was just trying to keep it safe and Adam started getting close there at the end.”

Dylan Ferrandis rounded out the top three in Moto 1.

Ty Masterpool grabbed the holeshot, but gave it up to Hampshire before the end of Lap 1.

Pit stops are not something normally seen, but Colt Nichols and most of the field were caught off guard as the clouds popped up over the mountains. Nichols rode into the mechanics area for a fresh set of goggles a couple of minutes before the checkers waved. He finished 13th in the Moto.

250 Moto 1 Results

Moto Wins

[4] Eli Tomac (Hangtown II, Pala I & Pala II, Thunder Valley II)
[2] Ken Roczen (Hangtown I, Thunder Valley I)

[3] Justin Cooper (Hangtown I, Pala I, Thunder Valley I)
[3] Adam Cianciarulo (Hangtown II, Pala II, Thunder Valley I)

Next race: High Point Raceway, Mount Morris, Penn. June 15

Season passes can be purchased at NBC Sports Gold.

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Will Power says IndyCar field toughest in world: ‘F1’s a joke as far as competition’


DETROIT – With the 2023 Formula One season turning into a Red Bull runaway, Will Power believes the NTT IndyCar Series deserves respect as the world’s most difficult single-seater racing series.

“It’s so tough, an amazing field, the toughest field in the world, and people need to know it, especially compared to Formula One,” the defending IndyCar champion told NBC Sports during a media luncheon a few days ahead of Sunday’s Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix. “Formula One’s a joke as far as competition, but not as far as drivers. They have amazing drivers. And I feel sorry for them that they don’t get to experience the satisfaction we do with our racing because that is the top level of open-wheel motorsport.

“I think Formula One would be so much better if they had a formula like IndyCar. I love the technology and the manufacturer side of it. I think that’s awesome. But from a spectator watching, man, how cool would it be if everyone had a Red Bull (car)?”

INDYCAR IN DETROITEntry list, schedule, TV info for this weekend

It probably would look a lot different than this season, which has been dominated by two-time defending F1 champion Max Verstappen.

The Dutchman won Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix from the pole position by 24 seconds over seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton. It’s the fifth victory in seven races for Verstappen, whose 40 career wins are one shy of tying late three-time champion Aryton Senna.

Along with being a virtual lock to tie Senna’s mark for titles, Verstappen is poised to break his own record for single-season victories (15) that he set last year.

“You simply know Max is going to win every race if something doesn’t go wrong,” Power said. “Imagine being a guy coming out as a rookie, and you probably could win a race. It would be really cool to see. But you know that would never happen with the politics over there.”

Verstappen’s F1 dominance has been a stark contrast to IndyCar, where Josef Newgarden just became the first repeat winner through six races this season with his Indy 500 victory.

Team Penske (with Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin), Chip Ganassi Racing (with Palou and Marcus Ericsson) and Andretti Autosport (with Kyle Kirkwood) each have visited victory lane in 2023. Arrow McLaren (which has past winners Pato O’Ward, Alexander Rossi and Felix Rosenqvist) is certain to join them at some point.

Meanwhile, Verstappen and teammate Sergio Perez (two wins) have won every F1 race this season with the two Red Bull cars combining to lead more than 95% of the laps.

The primary differences are in the rulesets for each series.

While F1 teams virtually have complete autonomy to build their high-tech cars from scratch, IndyCar has what is known as a spec series in which the cars have a large degree of standardization.

IndyCar teams all use the Dallara DW12 chassis, which is in its 12th season. The development of the car largely has been maximized, helping put a greater emphasis on driver skill as a differentiator (as well as other human resources such as whip-smart strategists and engineers).

Alex Palou, who will start from the pole position at Detroit, harbors F1 aspirations as a McLaren test driver, but the Spaniard prefers IndyCar for competitiveness because talent can be such a determinant in results.

“Racing-wise, that’s the best you can get,” Palou said a few days before winning the pole for the 107th Indy 500 last month. “That’s pure racing, having chances to win each weekend.”

Of course, F1 is the world’s most popular series, and the 2021 IndyCar champion believes its appeal doesn’t necessarily stem from being competitive.

Though the ’21 championship battle between Hamilton and Verstappen was epic, F1 has grown its audience in recent years with the help of the “Drive To Survive” docuseries on Netflix that has showcased their stars’ personalities along with the cutthroat decisions of its team principals (IndyCar started its own docuseries this year).

“I don’t think the beauty of F1 is the race itself,” Palou said. “I’d say the beauty is more the development that they have and everything around the races, and that they go different places. But when we talk about pure spectacle, you cannot get better than (IndyCar).

“You can feel it as a driver here when you first come and jump in a car. When I was in Dale Coyne (Racing), we got a podium my rookie year. It wasn’t the best team, but we were able to achieve one of the best cars at Road America (where he finished third in 2020). It’s not that I was driving a slow car. I was driving a really fast car. I think we can see that across all the teams and the drivers.”

Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin, who will start second at Detroit, is in his third season of IndyCar after winning three championships in Supercars.

The New Zealander said recently that IndyCar has been “the most enjoyment I’ve ever had in my career. I had a lot of fun in Supercars, but there were still things like different uprights, engines, all that stuff. (IndyCar) is spec. Really the only things you can change are dampers and the engine differences between Honda and Chevy.

“I have a blast,” McLaughlin said. “Trying to extract pace and winning in this series is better than I’ve ever felt ever. I’m surprised by how satisfied it feels to win an IndyCar race. It’s better than how it ever has felt in my career. I’ve always liked winning, but it’s so satisfying to win here. That’s why it’s so cool. There are no bad drivers. You have to have a perfect day.”

Qualifying might be the best example of the series’ competitiveness tightness. The spread for the Fast Six final round of qualifying on Detroit’s new nine-turn, 1.645-mile downtown layout was nearly eight 10ths of a second – which qualifies as an eternity these days.

Last month, the GMR Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course produced a spread of 0.2971 seconds from first to sixth – the fourth-closest Fast Six in IndyCar history since the format was adopted in 2008. Three of the seven closest Fast Six fields have happened this season (with the Grand Prix of Long Beach ranking sixth and the Alabama Grand Prix in seventh).

While the technical ingenuity and innovation might be limited when compared to F1, there’s no arguing that more IndyCar drivers and teams have a chance to win.

“The parity’s great, and no one has an advantage, basically,” Power said. “The two engine manufacturers (Honda and Chevrolet) are always flipping back and forth as they develop, but we’re talking like tenths of a second over a lap. There’s not a bad driver in the field, and there are 20 people all capable of being in the Fast Six every week. Maybe more. It’s incredibly competitive. There isn’t a more competitive series in the world. I’m sure of that.

“If you want the ultimate driver’s series, this is it I’m from a big team that would benefit massively from opening the rules up, but I don’t think (IndyCar officials) should. I think this should always be about the team and driver getting the most out of a piece of equipment that everyone has a chance to do so. That’s the ultimate driver series. Who wants to win a championship when you’re just given the best car? It’s just ridiculous.”

Power believes the talented Verstappen still would be the F1 champion if the equipment were spec, but he also thinks there would be more challengers.

“There’s got to be a bunch of those guys that must just be frustrated,” Power said. “Think about Lewis Hamilton, George Russell, Lando Norris, (Fernando) Alonso. Those are some great drivers that don’t get a chance to even win. They’re just extracting the most out of the piece of equipment they have.

“All I can say is if everyone had a Red Bull car, there’s no way that Max would win every race. There are so many guys who would be winning races. It’d just be similar to (IndyCar) and different every week, which it should be that way for the top level of the sport.”