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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Graham Rahal’s ‘Weighty Issue’

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MONTEREY, California – Graham Rahal admits that he can’t wait until the day he doesn’t have to worry about his weight. Being a 6-foot-2, big-boned individual can have its advantages, but not when it comes to fitting into an IndyCar.

That is why the son of 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner and three-time CART IndyCar champion Bobby Rahal has begun a body shaping therapy known as “Sculpting” that uses lasers to trim away body fat.

“Honestly, it is no secret, I’m not shy about this, that I’ve struggled with my weight,” the 201-pound Rahal told a group of reporters during INDYCAR’s Open Test at Laguna Seca on Thursday. “I can guarantee you that from a strength perspective and a stamina perspective, there’s very few guys out here that can keep up with me. I’m just not a super skinny build. It’s never been my thing.

“I’ve tried. We’ve kind of looked around. There was some mutual interest from them to look into trying this, see if it works. I’ll be honest. I was always very skeptical of the stuff. Where I’m at, I’ve done one treatment. I can’t even tell you today if it’s something that really works or not.”

That led Rahal to try out the sculpting process that was invented by a doctor who found it with swelling in kid’s cheeks. The “Sculpture” process uses a laser that kills the fatty cells.

“It takes a long time, I think,” Rahal said. “It’s going to take multiple I think to get there.”

Watch Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey on NBC at 3 p.m.

A race driver needs to be thin, yet very strong to have the physical strength and stamina to compete at a high level in the race car. When it comes to the NTT IndyCar Series, it’s even more important because of the size of the cars and tight cockpit.

Additionally, the extra weight can impact the performance of the race car. The lighter the driver, the less weight inside of the car. In INDYCAR, drivers are weighed and for the lighter drivers, lead weight is added to the car to meet a requirement.

But in Rahal’s case, the lead weight ballast has to be reduced and that sometimes throws off the center of gravity in the car.

“The facts are it’s not going to work if you don’t work out, too, and eat well,” Rahal said. “It doesn’t do anything. But earlier this year, man, I had given up drinking completely for three, four months. I was working out every day, twice a day on most occasions. I went to a nutritionist, doing everything. I literally was not losing an ounce. It was the most frustrating period of time for me.

“I am the biggest guy here. Is it ever going to be equal for me? No matter what these guys talk about with driver ballast, it’s a whole different thing, where my center of gravity is.”

That is what led the 30-year-old driver from Ohio to study the “Sculpting” procedure. He realizes he is never going to have the metabolism of some of the thinner drivers, but he needs to maintain a weight that minimizes his disadvantage.

“It is a challenge,” he admitted. “Ricky Taylor and Helio Castroneves (on Penske Team Acura in IMSA) weigh 60 pounds less than me or something. There is no ballast there. That’s a big swing, a lot of weight to be carrying around.

“We have to try anything we can. If you’re going to be serious, try to find the performance advantage and the edge, you’ve got to look outside of the box.

“It is something new for me. But the fight I guess against being an ultra-skinny guy.

“I fly home with most of these guys after races, I see most of these guys a lot of times, they’re sitting there eating In-N-Out Burger, whatever else. Literally I cannot do it. If I do it, it immediately reflects for me. These guys you see them the next weekend, they’re like this big.

“It’s like, (crap), it’s not my build.”

Because of Rahal’s height and size, he chose to step away from the endurance races for Team Penske in IMSA at the end of last season. He was replaced at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring by fellow IndyCar driver Alexander Rossi.

Rahal complained that the steering wheel actually hit his legs inside of the Acura, making it difficult for him to drive on the challenging road courses. Since that time, Acura Team Penske has moved the steering column up by a few inches, and it no longer impacts a driver the size of Rahal.

For the IMSA season-ending Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta on Oct. 12, Rahal will be back in the Team Penske Acura.

“Back in the (Team Penske) shop three weeks ago, I could actually turn the steering wheel, which I was shocked about,” Rahal said. “My head touched the roof, whatever, I’m used to that. Physically being able to steer, which I now should be able to do better.

“So I’m excited about it. It’s another great opportunity obviously with Penske. But more importantly for me is Acura, Honda. It’s a great thing to be back in.

“But that wasn’t a weight thing. It’s purely size. They just don’t build cars for guys my size. I used to talk to J.W. (Justin Wilson) about that. It’s the facts of life. Even the GT cars. You would think a GT car would be big. I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a GT car, I was comfortable in either. They’re built for small guys. That’s the way it goes.”

Rahal is taller than his father, Bobby, who is also his IndyCar team owner along with David Letterman and Michael Lanigan.

“I blame my dad,” Rahal said. “I do. You can tell him I said that. I told him, ‘It’s a genetic thing. I got good genes in some ways.’

“I told my wife this the other day, I’m very excited for someday when my career ends just to have a ‘Dad Bod,’ be able to let go for a minute, see how things turn out, because this is getting a little bit exhausting.

“We’re going to stay committed through the winter. I try my hardest every year, but I never tried harder this year to be thin. I weigh about the same as last year, but it took so much effort to get there, I just have to think outside the box.”