Rich Shepherd, ProMotocross

Southwick Preview: Shifting sands predict more shakeups

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The first four weeks of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross season was dominated by Eli Tomac and Ken Roczen.

In those opening rounds, if either rider bobbled in one of the Motos, they would immediately rebound and were the only winners as a result. As they seesawed through the opening rounds, they literally left the field in the dust and amassed a sizeable lead.

Professional sports are rarely that simple, however. Two weeks ago Blake Baggett became the first rider other than Tomac or Roczen to win a Moto. Last week, Marvin Musquin joined him and went a step beyond to win overall at WW Ranch in Jacksonville, Fla. With that run, Musquin jumped to third in the points and has the leaders in sight.

After Roczen’s struggles in Moto 2 at WW Ranch in which he finished 10th, Tomac was able to secure a little breathing room in the form of a six-point gap.

Still, this close of a battle is unprecedented territory for Tomac compared to the past two seasons. This week could be pivotal. If he can add a few more points over Roczen and the field, he could slowly begin to extend his advantage.

Now the series heads up the coast to Southwick, Mass. for the second straight race in sandy conditions.

Last week took a heavy toll on the riders – particularly the less conditioned and younger group from the 250 class. This week, the temperatures are forecast to be just as high even though the series is much further north. Back-to-back endurance races are going to further separate the field, making this another opportunity race that very well might showcase more new winners.

Shifting sand is not just a cliché. The track will undergo major changes throughout the day and the most experienced and flexible riders will ascend to the podium at the end of the round. It is going to be extremely important to get off to a steady start in Moto 1, but the second race is going to have increased importance and could feature a completely different track than the one the riders qualify on in the morning.

Fredrik Noren will climb aboard Justin Hill’s factory Suzuki after scoring a pair of top-10s in the first five rounds of the season.

MORE: Spreading the Motocross Wealth

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 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold (re-air at 7:30 on NBC).

June 22 – 2019 WW Ranch Motocross Park

450: Marvin Musquin (1-3) won over Eli Tomac (7-1) and Zach Osborne (5-2)
250: Justin Cooper (2-2) won over Dylan Ferrandis (4-1) and Adam Cianciarulo (5-3)

June 30 – 2018 The Wick

450: Marvin Musquin (2-1) won over Eli Tomac (1-2) and Justin Barcia (3-3)
250: Dylan Ferrandis (4-1) won over Alex Martin (2-4) and Shane McElrath (6-2)

Overall Wins

450:
[2] Ken Roczen (Hangtown, Thunder Valley)
[2] Eli Tomac (Pala, High Point)
[1] Marvin Musquin (WW Ranch)

250:
[4] Adam Cianciarulo (Hangtown, Pala, Thunder Valley, High Point)
[1] Justin Cooper (WW Ranch)

Moto Wins

450:
[5] Eli Tomac (Hangtown II, Pala I & II, Thunder Valley II, WW Ranch I)
[3] Ken Roczen (Hangtown I, Thunder Valley I, High Point II)
[1] Blake Baggett (High Point I)
[1] Marvin Musquin (WW Ranch 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)
[1] Chase Sexton (WW Ranch I)
[1] Dylan Ferrandis (WW Ranch II)

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Attention NASCAR teams: IMSA drivers available for Daytona!

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NASCAR will be making its debut on the Daytona International Speedway road course next month, and there’s a big fan who’d like to join the historic weekend.

This fan actually has impressive credentials, too — a few thousand laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile layout that annually plays host to the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

In 2014, the winning GTLM team in the sports car endurance classic included IMSA Porsche driver Nick Tandy, who rabidly has followed NASCAR for more than 30 years since growing up in England.

So why not try racing NASCAR? Especially because Tandy has the weekend of Aug. 14-16 free.

He’s not picky, either — offering up his services on Twitter (as well as those of Porsche teammate Earl Bamber) for an ARCA, Xfinity, trucks or Cup ride.

Tandy’s affinity for American stock-car racing runs deep.

His first trip to the World Center of Racing was as a fan attending the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, 2008. During Rolex testing in January, Tandy, 35, said he hadn’t missed a Cup race on TV in 15 years.

Among his favorite NASCAR drivers: the Earnhardts, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. When IMSA ran the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2014, Tandy stayed a few extra days at the Brickyard and bought Kyle Busch gear for himself and his children.

He briefly took the stage during a NASCAR weekend last October. After IMSA’s season finale at Road Atlanta, Tandy made a few demonstration laps and a burnout in his No. 911 Porsche before the Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

He also has some experience in stock cars, having raced Modified-type grass-roots series on England’s quarter-mile short tracks.

Couple that with a Daytona road course record that includes two consecutive podium class finishes (including last Saturday) and a sports car resume with 13 IMSA victories and an overall win in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans … and maybe a NASCAR team should take a look.

And Tandy isn’t the only IMSA driver who likely would be available.

Corvette driver Jordan Taylor, who won the 2017 Rolex 24 overall title with Jeff Gordon as a teammate (and the inspiration for his Rodney Sandstrom persona), also tweeted his availability for the weekend on the high banks.

Sports car veteran Andy Lally, a GTD driver with multiple class wins in the Rolex 24 as well as 38 Cup starts (he was the 2011 rookie of the season in NASCAR’s premier series), also hung out his shingle.

There also is AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth (who just won at Daytona last Saturday), the Englishman who teamed with Kyle Busch at the Rolex 24 in January and made an Xfinity start at Mid-Ohio last year with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Many sports car drivers (such as Taylor) already live in Florida, and many are hunkering down in the Sunshine State with IMSA returning to action at Daytona last week and Sebring International Raceway next week. Because of COVID-19-related travel concerns and restrictions, several IMSA stars who live outside the country are riding out the pandemic within a few hours of Daytona with nothing to do.

Why not a weekend at the World Center of Racing?

Over the years, scads of “road-course ringers” (including some Formula One veterans) have tried their hands in stock cars at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International.

How about considering the many sports car drivers who already have reached victory lane at Daytona by making a few right-hand turns, too?