Jeff Kardas, ProMotocross

WW Ranch Preview: A new track may reward fresh faces

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The Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship returns to Florida for the first time since 1997 when Ricky Carmichael won in the 125 class with Jeff Emig triumphant in 250s. This time, the riders will navigate an inaugural trip around the WW Ranch Motocross Park in Jacksonville, Fla.

This week will test the endurance of the riders as they move south from Pennsylvania to the hot and muggy coast of Northern Florida.

Since it is on the coast, elevation changes have been added artificially and the relatively flatness of the circuit will make this track unique from the four that preceded it. The course will vary from the others in its makeup as well, and the sandy track should reward a different set of riders.

Last week witnessed the emergence of the field. And now that the series rounds the one-third mark fresh faces may emerge at the front of the pack.

Last week was the first time that a rider other than Eli Tomac or Ken Roczen won a Moto in the 450 class or that Adam Cianciarulo or Justin Cooper won in 250s. Blake Baggett’s Moto 1 victory was followed by a disappointing 15th in the second race, but Hunter Lawrence finished third in the 250 Moto 2 to earn his first podium in the series.

The field has their work cut out for them. In the 450 class, Tomac and Roczen hold a 32-point advantage over Zach Osborne and Jason Anderson, who are tied for third. Cianciarulo has a 26-point lead over Justin Cooper, who has managed to keep the leader in sight despite Cianciarulo’s sweep of the first four rounds.

Anderson will be a rider to keep a close eye on after scoring his second podium of the season last week at High Point. He is just now getting back into the groove after suffering an injury early in the Supercross season.

Justin Hill continues to sit on the sideline after undergoing surgery to repair a ligament in his shoulder. No announcement has been made about his return, but he is expected to be back for the final rounds of the season. Kyle Chisholm filled in at High Point and finished 21st overall (23-20). Chisholm is on the entry list again this week riding the No. 11.

In 250s, Killian Auberson rode this week after sustaining a concussion at Thunder Valley, but he will miss the Florida National.

MORE: Eli Tomac, Ken Rcozen’s two-man battle provides surprises

Schedule:

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

June 15 – 2019 High Point Raceway

450: Eli Tomac (3-2) won over Ken Roczen (6-1) and Jason Anderson (2-5).
250: Adam Cianciarulo (2-1) won over Hunter Lawrence (1-3) and Chase Sexton (4-2).

March 2 – 1997 Gatorback Cycle Park

250: Jeff Emig (1-1) won over Jeremy McGrath (2-2) and Damon Bradshaw (5-3)
125: Ricky Carmichael won over Steven Lamson and Kevin Windham.

Overall Wins

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

250:
[4] Adam Cianciarulo (Hangtown, Pala, Thunder Valley, High Point)

Moto Wins

450:
[4] Eli Tomac (Hangtown II, Pala I & II, Thunder Valley II)
[3] Ken Roczen (Hangtown I, Thunder Valley I, High Point II)
[1] Blake Baggett (High Point I)

250:
[4] Adam Cianciarulo (Hangtown II, Pala II, Thunder Valley II, High Point II)
[3] Justin Cooper (Hangtown I, Pala I, Thunder Valley I)
[1] Hunter Lawrence (High Point I)

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Graham Rahal’s “Weighty Issue”

INDYCAR Photo by Chris Owens
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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 laser 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.

“I’ve done one treatment,” Rahal said. “It takes a long time, I think. 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 and that can determine. In INDYCAR, drivers are weighed and for the lighter weight 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, so on…”

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, (bleep), 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 October 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.”