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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Jack Miller wins the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo stops his downward points’ slide

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Jack Miller ran away with the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi as Fabio Quartararo stopped his downward slide in the championship when a last-lap accident from his closest rival in the standings caused Francesco Bagnaia to score zero points.

Starting seventh, Miller quickly made his way forward. He was second at the end of two laps. One lap later, he grabbed the lead from Jorge Martin. Once in the lead, Miller posted three consecutive fastest laps and was never seriously challenged. It was Australian native Miller’s first race win of the season and his sixth podium finish.

The proximity to his home turf was not lost.

“I can ride a motorcycle sometimes,” Miller said in NBC Sports’ post-race coverage. “I felt amazing all weekend since I rolled out on the first practice. It feels so awesome to be racing on this side of the world.

“What an amazing day. It’s awesome; we have the home Grand Prix coming up shortly. Wedding coming up in a couple of weeks. I’m over the moon; can’t thank everyone enough.”

Miller beat Brad Binder to the line by 3.4 seconds with third-place Jorge Martin finishing about one second behind.

But the center of the storm was located just inside the top 10 as both Quartararo and Bagnaia started deep in the field.

Quartararo was on the outside of row three in ninth with Bagnaia one row behind in 12th. Neither rider moved up significantly, but the championship continued to be of primary importance as Bagnaia put in a patented late-race charge to settle onto Quartararo’s back tire, which would have allowed the championship leader to gain only a single point.

On the final lap, Bagnaia charged just a little too hard and crashed under heavy braking, throwing away the seven points he would have earned for a ninth-place finish.

The day was even more dramatic for the rider who entered the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix third in the standings. On the sighting lap, Aleix Espargaro had an alarm sound, so he peeled off into the pits, dropped his primary bike and jumped aboard the backup. Starting from pit lane, he trailed the field and was never able to climb into the points. An undisclosed electronic problem was the culprit.

For Quartararo, gaining eight points on the competition was more than a moral victory. This was a track on which he expected to run moderately, and he did, but the problems for his rivals gives him renewed focus with four rounds remaining.

Next week, the series heads to Thailand and then Miller’s home track of Phillip Island in Australia. They will close out the Pacific Rim portion of the schedule before heading to Spain for the finale in early November.

It would appear team orders are not in play among the Ducati riders. Last week’s winner Enea Bastianini made an aggressive early move on Bagnaia for position before the championship contender wrestled the spot back.

In his second race back following arm surgery, Marc Marquez won the pole. His last pole was more than 1,000 days ago on this same track in 2019, the last time the series competed at Motegi. Marquez slipped to fifth in the middle stages of the race, before regaining a position to finish just off the podium.

In Moto2 competition, Ai Ogura beat Augusto Fernandez to close the gap in that championship to two points. Fernandez holds the scant lead. Alonso Lopez rounded out the podium.

Both American riders, Cameron Beaubier and Joe Roberts finished just outside the top 10 in 11th and 12th respectively.