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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Fernando Alonso will decide this summer whether to pursue F1 again

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Fernando Alonso said he will determine by this summer if he would consider a return to Formula One next season.

After announcing Tuesday that he will return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May with Arrow McLaren Racing SP, Alonso said “right now the Indy 500 will take all of my concentration” but left the door open for F1 in 2021.

“In my case, probably during the summer period, I’ll make a decision on 2021 if Formula One is still appealing to me,” Alonso told IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview (watch the video above). “The 2021 rules (in F1) are definitely a step forward, and hopefully things can be more mixed and not only three teams capable of winning races. So all this factors into play. I may consider that possibility.”

Alonso won consecutive Formula One championships in 2005-06 with Renault. He has 32 victories in an F1 career that started in 2001 and also includes stints at Ferrari and McLaren.

His last victory on the circuit was May 12, 2013 in Barcelona. He is winless in his most recent 110 starts, including the past 77 races with McLaren in 2015-18.

The Guardian recently reported that McLaren CEO Zak Brown said Alonso wouldn’t be returning to F1 with the team.

Alonso also told Diffey that returning to F1 from a two-season absence wouldn’t necessarily be linked to McLaren’s performance.

“I think they did well last year, and hopefully they make another step forward and close to the top three because they deserve it and are a fantastic team,” he said.

Though he is optimistic about more parity, Alonso said six-time champion Lewis Hamilton should be a favorite for the 2020 title based on preseason testing in which Mercedes turned heads with a new steering system.

“It seemed Mercedes is still quite competitive,” Alonso said. “They show enormous potential on the development side and on the progress from one year to next. Formula One is impossible to predict because many things happen in season.

“At the starting point, (Mercedes) are the favorites. When you have Lewis in the car and Mercedes with the potential they have, they have to be No. 1 probably.”