RedBud Preview: Eli Tomac commands as MX heads into second half

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The Lucas Oil Pro Motocross season heads into its second half and a clear leader has only recently emerged. Eli Tomac looks to extend his advantage, while Marvin Musquin has more momentum than anyone in the field.

For the first four weeks of the season, Tomac and Ken Roczen swapped the lead and split the victories evenly between them. The past two weeks have gone to Musquin as now three riders have two wins apiece.

Tomac is finally showing the type of dominance that was expected of him at the start of the year, but he’s done so on the backs of other riders’ mistakes. Currently second in the points, Musquin gave up a lot of ground at Hangtown in the opener, then Thunder Valley and High Point in the first half of June.

After sweeping the podium in the first four weeks, Roczen has fallen precipitously in the last two rounds with a sixth overall at WW Ranch and last week’s ninth at The Wick.

Meanwhile, Tomac has held steady with a sweep of the overall podium in the first six weeks – but he has experienced trouble in individual Motos to a degree that says this championship is far from settled.

Track conditions will be one of the keys this week. Over the past several years, the surface has been reworked and many think it has become a course with sand-like tendencies. That could favor Musquin for a third consecutive week and if Tomac gets off to another slow start in Moto 1, it could allow second-place to close the gap.

Last week Zach Osborne won his first career Moto and came frustratingly close to the overall win. He will try to keep his momentum intact and could play the role of spoiler.

Dean Wilson will debut in the 2019 season this week after missing the final rounds of the Supercross season with a shoulder injury. His last start resulted in a 20th-place finish at Denver. Wilson’s last start at RedBud ended ninth in 2017.

In 250s, Joey Crown will make his debut at RedBud. He missed the first six rounds with a back injury (two compressed vertebrae).

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 p.m. ET on NBC (250 Moto 2, re-air at 7 on NBC).

June 29 – 2019; The Wick 338

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

July 7 – 2018; RedBud 

450: Marvin Musquin (2-1) won over Ken Roczen (1-3) and Justin Barcia (4-2)
250: Aaron Plessinger (1-1) won over Alex Martin (4-3) and Dylan Ferrandis (3-4)

Overall Wins

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

250:
[5] Adam Cianciarulo (Hangtown, Pala, Thunder Valley, High Point, Southwick)
[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)
[2] Marvin Musquin (WW Ranch I, Southwick I)
[1] Blake Baggett (High Point I)
[1] Zach Osborne (Southwick II)

250:
[5] Adam Cianciarulo (Hangtown II, Pala II, Thunder Valley II, High Point II, Southwick I)
[3] Justin Cooper (Hangtown I, Pala I, Thunder Valley I)
[2] Dylan Ferrandis (WW Ranch II, Southwick II)
[1] Hunter Lawrence (High Point I)
[1] Chase Sexton (WW Ranch I)

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New Chip Ganassi driver Marcus Armstrong will team with boyhood idol Scott Dixon

Marcus Armstrong Scott Dixon
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Marcus Armstrong was a Scott Dixon fan his entire life, and when he was 8, the aspiring young racer asked his fellow New Zealander to autograph a helmet visor that he hung on his bedroom wall.

Next year, Armstrong will be Dixon’s teammate.

Armstrong was named Friday as the fourth IndyCar driver in the Chip Ganassi Racing lineup and will pilot the No. 11 next season on road and street courses.

A driver for the five oval races on the 17-race schedule will be named later.

The No. 11 is essentially the No. 48 that seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson drove the last two seasons, with Chip Ganassi making the change to run four cars numbered in sequential order. Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson drives the No. 8, six-time champion Dixon drives the No. 9, and 2020 IndyCar champion Alex Palou drives the No. 10.

So just who is the second Kiwi in the Ganassi lineup?

A 22-year-old who spent the past three seasons in Formula One feeder series F2, a Ferrari development driver in 2021, and former roommate of Callum Illot and former teammate of Christian Lundgaard – both of whom just completed their rookie IndyCar seasons.

“I’ve always been attracted to the IndyCar championship because it’s one of those championships that’s been really well televised in New Zealand since I was young, mainly because of Scott and his success,” Armstrong told The Associated Press. “As time progressed, as I got closer to F1 and single-seaters, the attraction to IndyCar grew just because of how competitive the championship is – I like to challenge myself and the level of competition in IndyCar is remarkably high.”

Armstrong, from Christchurch, New Zealand, was set to travel from his current home in London to Indianapolis this weekend to meet his new team. He won’t need an introduction to Dixon, the 42-year-old considered the best IndyCar driver of his generation and Armstrong’s unequivocal childhood hero.

Last season, Dixon earned his 53rd career victory to pass Mario Andretti for second on the all-time list. Dixon has driven for Ganassi in all but 23 of his 345 career starts.

“For a long time I’ve been a Scott Dixon fan. I don’t want to make him cringe with our age difference,” Armstrong told the AP.

Despite the two-decade age difference, Armstrong never considered someday racing with Dixon a fantasy.

He convinced his father after winning five national karting championships to allow him to leave New Zealand for Italy at age 14, where he moved by himself to pursue a racing career. Armstrong said as soon as he’d received parental permission, he’d never look back.

Armstrong was in Formula 4 two years after his move to Italy and won that title in his first season. He won four races and four poles in F3 in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, then collected four wins and eight podiums in three seasons of F2.

“Maybe it’s a strength, or maybe it’s a weakness, but I always thought I was capable of doing great in the sport,” Armstrong told the AP. “I think you probably have to succeed in the sport, you need to believe in yourself. I always pictured myself being in IndyCar.

“As Scott’s teammate? I can’t specifically say I saw that. It’s an extraordinary chain of events.”

Armstrong becomes just the latest driver to leave Europe, where F1 is the pinnacle but has only 20 seats each year. Alexander Rossi began the trend in 2016 when the American left F1 and won the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie. He’s been followed by Ericsson, last season’s Indy 500 winner, Romain Grosjean, Illot, Lundgaard, and on Thursday three-time W Series champion and Williams F1 reserve driver Jamie Chadwick was announced as driver for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar’s second-tier development series.

Armstrong said he could have remained in F2 for a fourth season, but he’d been watching IndyCar for so long, and after conversations with Illot and Lundgaard, he decided to make the move to what he believes is the most balanced racing series in the world. He tested for Dale Coyne Racing at Sebring in October.

He doesn’t know if European racing is done for good, just that he wants to be in IndyCar right now.

“I don’t want to think too far into the future, I’m just grateful for this opportunity that is standing right in front of me,” Armstrong said. “I want to perform as well as I can in the near future and just consolidate myself in the fantastic chance that is IndyCar and just do my best.

“I’m not looking at F1 as a landing spot – I am looking at IndyCar, and that’s exactly why I am here.”