Rich Shepherd, ProMotocross

Enduring storylines mark the halfway point of the 2019 MX season

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Watersheds. Turning Points. Defining Moments. Whatever you want to call them, the first six rounds in the 12-round Lucas Oil Pro Motocross season has been filled with them.

Each race has been marked by an enduring storyline that foreshadowed the events to follow and subtly altered the course of the season.

From the very beginning, it was apparent this year would be special. After mounting a determined comeback not once, but twice in the past two seasons, Ken Roczen finally stepped onto the top rung of the podium in the opener. It was his first win since January 2017, after which he shattered bones in both arms and underwent extensive recovery.

Eli Tomac matched Roczen that week with a Moto win. The stage was set for these two riders to dominate the top of the order.

Also emerging from Round 1 was a storyline of recovery and rebounds as Jason Anderson returned to the track for the first time since Round 3 of the Supercross season. He looked like he had never left. Anderson stood on the bottom step of the podium and has quietly been part of the top-five hunt ever since.

Points after Hangtown: Roczen (47), Tomac (43), Anderson (38), Zach Osborne (36), Cooper Webb (35)
Enduring Storyline: Roczen’s return. | Race Recap

Jason Anderson returned to action in Hangtown with a third-place finish. Rich Shepherd, ProMotocross.com.

The preseason focus was on Tomac.

In the past two seasons, he got off to such a great start that the competition had little to do but chase him throughout 2017 and 2018. Of course, one of his main competitors was beset by injury and with the Hangtown win, Roczen threatened that dominance.

Tomac needed to establish his strength in Round 2 – and he did so with wins in both Motos at Pala Raceway.

Roczen podiumed in both events, but lost the red plate to Tomac.

Round 2 also was the first appearance of Marvin Musquin among the top five in points. Like Roczen and Tomac, he swept the podium at Pala and jumped to third in the standings.

Points after Pala: Tomac (93), Roczen (89), Musquin (74), Anderson (72), Osborne (70)
Enduring Storyline: Tomac’s first appearance as points leader. | Race Recap

Eli Tomac served notice this would be his championship to lose after winning in Round 2. Rich Shepherd, ProMotocross.com

Thunder Valley had another lead change. Roczen’s early season form continued to impress with a 1-2 in the first and second Motos and the overall victory.

This was also the week when Tomac began establishing a pattern he would prefer to avoid. A disastrous start to Moto 1 left him mired in the pack and he could manage to finish only fifth at the end of that race. His victory in Moto 2 was not enough to give him the overall win but more importantly, since points are accumulated in each race, Tomac went from being four points up to two points down.

Someone was greasing the seesaw.

Musquin was also showing inconsistency at this stage of the season with an 8-3 that landed him fifth in the overall and dropped him to fourth in the standings.

Points after Thunder Valley: Roczen (136), Tomac (134), Osborne (110), Musquin (107), Anderson (106)
Enduring Storyline: Tomac’s slow starts. | Race Recap

Eli Tomac and Ken Roczen battled handlebar-to-handlebar for the first four rounds of the season. Rich Shepherd, ProMotocross.com

High Point was the most inconsistent round to date. None of the riders ran particularly well in both Motos, although Tomac was able to podium in each. He got off to another slow start, battled back to third by sheer determination and then finished second in Moto 2 to take the overall win.

Blake Baggett became the first rider other than Tomac or Roczen to win a Moto. He took Moto 1 but then crashed in the second race and finished a disappointing 15th.

Roczen’s struggles came in Moto 1 with a sixth-place finish. He rebounded with a Moto 2 win, but lost a few points and the championship race was tied at the top. Third-place was also tied with Osborne and Anderson knotted up 32 points back.

Meanwhile, Musquin continued to lose ground in what may turn out to be his pivotal race if he cannot catch Tomac. He finished 4-7 in the Motos and landed sixth overall.

Points after High Point: Tomac (176), Roczen (176), Anderson (144), Osborne (144), Musquin (139)
Enduring Storyline: Chinks in Roczen and Tomac’s armor. | Race Recap

Blake Baggett became the first rider other than Tomac or Roczen to win a Moto in 4 at High Point. Rich Shepherd, ProMotocross.com

As soon as it looked like Musquin could be discounted, he bounced back to win in the deep sand of WW Ranch. Following in Baggett;’s footsteps, he became the second rider to win a Moto besides Tomac or Roczen and this time he backed it up with a third in Moto 2 and the overall victory.

Tomac fell behind in Moto 1 and could only ride up to seventh at the end of the race while Roczen appeared to have the points lead between the two sets. Tomac won Moto 2, however, and kept the red plate affixed to his bike.

Roczen’s second-place finish in Moto 1 was his last highlight to date. In the brutal heat, Roczen faded badly in Moto 2 and finished 10th, landing sixth on the overall rundown. He lost six points to Tomac and allowed Musquin to close onto his back tire.

Musquin may have waited too late to make his charge, but now he had the leaders in sight.

Points after WW Ranch: Tomac (215), Roczen (209), Musquin (184), Osborne (182), Anderson (182)
Enduring Storyline: Roczen fades. | Race Recaps

Marvin Musquin won the overall at WW Ranch with a Moto 1 win and had a third in race 2. Jeff Kardas, ProMotocross.com

Last week marked two milestones. Musquin became the first rider this season to score back-to-back overall victories at Southwick.

This was also the first time in 2019 that neither Tomac nor Roczen scored a Moto win with Musquin taking the first and Osborne victorious in Moto 2.

With Roczen fading in both Motos at Southwick, Tomac didn’t need to win to pad his lead, however. Roczen finished 12-10 and lost a ton of points to the leader, while Musquin’s 1-2 was only slightly better than Tomac’s 2-3 for the afternoon.

This may turn out to be the establishment race that Tomac needed in order to ride comfortably for the remainder of the season.

Musquin will need to press hard in the final six rounds (12 Motos), and often when a rider pushes too hard, they start making mistakes.

Points after Southwick: Tomac (257), Musquin (231), Roczen (229), Osborne (227), Anderson (212)
Enduring Storyline: Tomac has sole possession of first for two straight weeks. | Race Recap

The season hit the halfway mark at Southwick. Rich Shepherd, ProMotocross.com

Karam, Daly get IndyCar rides with Carlin for Iowa

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NEWTON, Iowa – Sage Karam returns for the second-straight race and Conor Daly is back for another race with Carlin Racing at this weekend’s Iowa 300 NTT IndyCar Series race at Iowa Speedway.

For Karam, it’s his third start of the 2019 season and his second straight with Carlin. In his five starts at Iowa Speedway dating back to 2010, Karam has never finished outside of the top three, recording four wins (USF2000 – 2010, Indy Pro 2000 – 2011 and 2012, Indy Lights – 2013) and scoring his first NTT IndyCar Series podium in 2015 with a third-place finish.

“I’m really excited to be back again this weekend with Carlin and SmartStop Self Storage for the Iowa 300. Iowa Speedway has always been a good track for me in the past, so I’m really looking forward to getting back to work there,” Karam said. “Coming off of a very productive weekend in Toronto, I’m looking forward to applying everything I’ve learned and continuing to work with the team to get the best results possible. A huge thank you to everyone at Carlin and SmartStop Self Storage for a great opportunity to race at one of my favorite tracks.”

Daly is back in a second Carlin entry. Earlier this year, the popular driver finished 11th for Carlin in the DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway on June 8. At Iowa, he will drive the team’s No. 23 Gallagher Chevrolet.

Daly finished 10th in the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge for Andretti Autosport.

Daly raced at Iowa in 2016 for Dale Coyne Racing (finishing 21st) and in 2017 for A.J. Foyt Racing (finishing 19th).

The combination gives Carlin two more drivers to gather additional feedback on the car. Max Chilton remains the team’s primary driver but announced recently that he will forego all oval races to concentrate on street and road courses.

That created opportunities for Karam and Daly.

“We were very impressed with Sage’s steady progression throughout the Toronto race weekend and his willingness to learn and adapt,” said Carlin Team Principal Trevor Carlin. “The fact that he hadn’t been on a street course since 2015 and was still able to come right out of the gate confident and constantly improving every session was extremely impressive.

“The SmartStop Self Storage Chevrolet looked great out on track and their group has been a pleasure to work with, so we couldn’t be more pleased to have them back this weekend in Iowa. Sage has done really well in Iowa in the past, so hopefully we can use his experience and our past success at Iowa Speedway to come away with a good result for the team and our partners at SmartStop Self Storage.”

The Iowa 300 at Iowa Speedway will take place on Saturday, July 20th at 7:15 pm ET and will be televised on NBCSN.