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

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?