High Point preview: Ken Roczen, Eli Tomac battle for MX supremacy

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Ken Roczen has ample reason to look forward to the this week’s Round 4 of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross season at High Point Raceway in Mount Morris, Penn. He came out of the gates strong this year with a Moto 1 victory and overall win at Hangtown and backed that up with another win at Thunder Valley to complete his comeback.

Last week’s victory gave Roczen the red plate for the second time this year with a two-point advantage over Eli Tomac.

Roczen is also the only 450 rider entered this week with two wins at High Point after taking back-to-back wins in 2015 and 2016.

Accustomed to being considered a favorite for winning the championship at this stage of the season, Tomac is going to have to stop throwing away the first Moto if he wants overall wins. Dropping back deep in the pack at both Hangtown and Thunder Valley he failed to recover and earn a podium in either race – giving Roczen an easy task of winning the overall. At Pala, Tomac won both Motos.

Zach Osborne sits 24 points out of second and 26 from the lead.

Meanwhile, 250 Supercross champion Cooper Webb is mired deep in sixth, 38 points behind the leader, after finishing fifth at Hangtown and sixth at Pala and Thunder Valley. This week the focus shift from winning and making a run at the title to simply earning a podium.

With the controversy from Thunder Valley put to rest and no penalty handed down to Adam Cianciarulo for shortening the course, the 250 class leader remains undefeated. The first three rounds have all gone the same way with Justin Cooper winning Moto 1 and Cianciarulo winning Moto 2.

There are no former winners entered in the 250 class this week, which means a new winner is guaranteed.

Siting 11th in the points, Shane McElrath will miss High Point because of a practice crash. Jordan Smith (14th) will also miss this week’s race and is out for an undetermined length of time as he undergoes surgery to fix tendons in his right wrist.

MORE: Cole Seely out for the remainder of the season

Schedule:

Qualifiers: 10:15 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold
Race: Live, 1 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold (Moto 1), 450 Moto 2 at 3 p.m. ET on NBC and NBC Sports Gold, switching to NBCSN and NBC Sports Gold at 4 p.m. ET.

June 1 – 2019 Thunder Valley Motocross Park

450: Ken Roczen (1-2) won over Eli Tomac (5-1) and Zach Osborne (2-4).
250: Adam Cianciarulo (2-1) won over Justin Cooper (1-2) and Michael Mosiman (4-3).

June 16, 2018 – High Point

450: Eli Tomac (2-1) defeated Marvin Musquin (1-2) and Justin Barcia (3-5).
250: Aaron Plessinger (1-1) beat Austin Forkner (4-2) and Justin Cooper (3-4).

Overall Wins

450:
[2] Ken Roczen (Hangtown, Thunder Valley)
[1] Eli Tomac (Pala)

250:
[3] Adam Cianciarulo (Hangtown, Pala, Thunder Valley)

Moto Wins

450:
[4] Eli Tomac (Hangtown II, Pala I & II, Thunder Valley II)
[2] Ken Roczen (Hangtown I, Thunder Valley I)

250:
[3] Justin Cooper (Hangtown I, Pala I, Thunder Valley I)
[3] Adam Cianciarulo (Hangtown II, Pala II, Thunder Valley II)

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Graham Rahal’s ‘Weighty Issue’

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MONTEREY, California – Graham Rahal admits that he can’t wait until the day he doesn’t have to worry about his weight. Being a 6-foot-2, big-boned individual can have its advantages, but not when it comes to fitting into an IndyCar.

That is why the son of 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner and three-time CART IndyCar champion Bobby Rahal has begun a body shaping therapy known as “Sculpting” that uses lasers to trim away body fat.

“Honestly, it is no secret, I’m not shy about this, that I’ve struggled with my weight,” the 201-pound Rahal told a group of reporters during INDYCAR’s Open Test at Laguna Seca on Thursday. “I can guarantee you that from a strength perspective and a stamina perspective, there’s very few guys out here that can keep up with me. I’m just not a super skinny build. It’s never been my thing.

“I’ve tried. We’ve kind of looked around. There was some mutual interest from them to look into trying this, see if it works. I’ll be honest. I was always very skeptical of the stuff. Where I’m at, I’ve done one treatment. I can’t even tell you today if it’s something that really works or not.”

That led Rahal to try out the sculpting process that was invented by a doctor who found it with swelling in kid’s cheeks. The “Sculpture” process uses a laser that kills the fatty cells.

“It takes a long time, I think,” Rahal said. “It’s going to take multiple I think to get there.”

Watch Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey on NBC at 3 p.m.

A race driver needs to be thin, yet very strong to have the physical strength and stamina to compete at a high level in the race car. When it comes to the NTT IndyCar Series, it’s even more important because of the size of the cars and tight cockpit.

Additionally, the extra weight can impact the performance of the race car. The lighter the driver, the less weight inside of the car. In INDYCAR, drivers are weighed and for the lighter drivers, lead weight is added to the car to meet a requirement.

But in Rahal’s case, the lead weight ballast has to be reduced and that sometimes throws off the center of gravity in the car.

“The facts are it’s not going to work if you don’t work out, too, and eat well,” Rahal said. “It doesn’t do anything. But earlier this year, man, I had given up drinking completely for three, four months. I was working out every day, twice a day on most occasions. I went to a nutritionist, doing everything. I literally was not losing an ounce. It was the most frustrating period of time for me.

“I am the biggest guy here. Is it ever going to be equal for me? No matter what these guys talk about with driver ballast, it’s a whole different thing, where my center of gravity is.”

That is what led the 30-year-old driver from Ohio to study the “Sculpting” procedure. He realizes he is never going to have the metabolism of some of the thinner drivers, but he needs to maintain a weight that minimizes his disadvantage.

“It is a challenge,” he admitted. “Ricky Taylor and Helio Castroneves (on Penske Team Acura in IMSA) weigh 60 pounds less than me or something. There is no ballast there. That’s a big swing, a lot of weight to be carrying around.

“We have to try anything we can. If you’re going to be serious, try to find the performance advantage and the edge, you’ve got to look outside of the box.

“It is something new for me. But the fight I guess against being an ultra-skinny guy.

“I fly home with most of these guys after races, I see most of these guys a lot of times, they’re sitting there eating In-N-Out Burger, whatever else. Literally I cannot do it. If I do it, it immediately reflects for me. These guys you see them the next weekend, they’re like this big.

“It’s like, (crap), it’s not my build.”

Because of Rahal’s height and size, he chose to step away from the endurance races for Team Penske in IMSA at the end of last season. He was replaced at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring by fellow IndyCar driver Alexander Rossi.

Rahal complained that the steering wheel actually hit his legs inside of the Acura, making it difficult for him to drive on the challenging road courses. Since that time, Acura Team Penske has moved the steering column up by a few inches, and it no longer impacts a driver the size of Rahal.

For the IMSA season-ending Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta on Oct. 12, Rahal will be back in the Team Penske Acura.

“Back in the (Team Penske) shop three weeks ago, I could actually turn the steering wheel, which I was shocked about,” Rahal said. “My head touched the roof, whatever, I’m used to that. Physically being able to steer, which I now should be able to do better.

“So I’m excited about it. It’s another great opportunity obviously with Penske. But more importantly for me is Acura, Honda. It’s a great thing to be back in.

“But that wasn’t a weight thing. It’s purely size. They just don’t build cars for guys my size. I used to talk to J.W. (Justin Wilson) about that. It’s the facts of life. Even the GT cars. You would think a GT car would be big. I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a GT car, I was comfortable in either. They’re built for small guys. That’s the way it goes.”

Rahal is taller than his father, Bobby, who is also his IndyCar team owner along with David Letterman and Michael Lanigan.

“I blame my dad,” Rahal said. “I do. You can tell him I said that. I told him, ‘It’s a genetic thing. I got good genes in some ways.’

“I told my wife this the other day, I’m very excited for someday when my career ends just to have a ‘Dad Bod,’ be able to let go for a minute, see how things turn out, because this is getting a little bit exhausting.

“We’re going to stay committed through the winter. I try my hardest every year, but I never tried harder this year to be thin. I weigh about the same as last year, but it took so much effort to get there, I just have to think outside the box.”