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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Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”