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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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.”