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Marvin Musquin’s momentum is peaking at the right time of year

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Arguably the rider with the most momentum heading into the final five rounds of the Luca Oil Pro Motocross championship, Marvin Musquin has won two of the last three races, has a three-race streak of podium finishes and is eyeing points leader Eli Tomac.

After winning back-to-back overalls at WW Ranch and Southwick – in heavy sand and in the most brutal weather conditions faced all year in either Supercross or Motocross – Musquin crashed on Lap 1 of Moto 1 last week at RedBud.

What he did next, defines his season.

It took two track workers to lift the bike from Musquin’s prone body. He restarted the race dead last and then climbed to seventh at the end and minimize the points’ damage.

“Unfortunately that crash cost me a lot in that first moto,” Musquin said. “I rebounded really good in the second moto and finished first, but I lost some points in the championship. So we definitely have to look ahead and focus on ourselves and try to win as many motos and overalls as possible.”

RedBud was eerily familiar.

“It’s happened a couple of times this year where I ended up on the ground early and there’s no way to catch that top six or seven guys,” Musquin said. “There is a gap where you can come back to that spot, but then the gap is too big in front of me.”

Musquin is looking at a chasm that is just as wide in the points standings, although he managed to climb to second on the leaderboard.

“At the beginning of the championship, I was not really doing good,” Musquin said. “I was fighting with myself – with the bike – and at that point I was definitely not looking for the championship. I knew I was losing points. My goal was just to feel good. I just wanted good rhythms.”

Musquin finished sixth overall at Hangtown, was fifth at Thunder Valley and sixth at High Point.

Then something clicked in Jacksonville, Fla. in the inaugural visit to WW Ranch where he won his first Moto of the season in the first race – as well as the overall.

“I was really happy with the last few races,” Musquin said. “Obviously winning two in a row and this weekend (at RedBud) I got third. But the last three races, I won a Moto each weekend, and that’s really important. I makes me happy.”

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Sitting fifth in the standings, 37 points behind Tomac after the first four weeks, Musquin had little choice except to go back to basics.

“We went back to some suspension setups that I liked from last year – at this same time of year,” Musquin said. “We race so much Supercross and don’t have much time to get prepared for outdoors. We tried some new setups and new suspensions and obviously practice and going to the races is different. I was not riding really good and feeling awesome, so we went back to stuff I knew before and started to feel more comfortable.

“We are not messing around with anything on the bike I can just focus on the riding and the training.”

More importantly, these portion of the schedule features tracks on which Musquin has already had success. Mental strength and attitude play a key role in riding well. There is also that marriage of track and rider style that makes each individual round unique.

“These are tracks that I like – more demanding and technical – tracks like High Point and Southwick that are really tough,” Musquin said. “You have to have a really good technique and I was applying my technique good and it worked really well.”

And while he did not plan to get off to a slow start, Musquin will not turn down the momentum that has finally arrived.

“Whenever the flow can come, it’s good,” he said. “It was the same as last year. I won at RedBud. I won Southwick and I was good at High Point so it was the same time of the season. I never really planned that. I try my best everytime, but it’s hard on the body after a long Supercross season.”

Tomac has not gone away. Like Musquin, he has struggled only rarely in one of the two motos each week – but never in both. Southwick marked his worst overall finish of third, but even then he podiumed in both mots with a second in Moto 1 and a third in Moto 2. As a result, Musquin has managed to shave only three points off Tomac’s total.

It will be difficult to make up 34 points in the final five rounds. But with 10 motos remaining, Musquin still has his fate in his own hands. Mathematically, he would need to win out if Tomac finished second in every moto, but neither of those two scenarios are likely to occur. If Musquin can finish ahead of Tomac in each race, his odds of winning the championship are good.

“Now I’m starting to look at the championship and making up points,” Tomac said. “Before (the last three weeks) I just wanted to be happy on the bike and happy with the riding and myself. We will have to be very strong if we want to win.

“At RedBud when I passed for the lead and was able to handle those guys, I definitely knew Tomac was somewhere in fourth or third and then I kept a eye on him because he’s got a good lead and you never know if he’s going to ride harder and make up time. It’s important to keep an eye on him because he’s won championships already.”

Last year Musquin was hot at the right time as well. After winning back-to-back at Southwick and RedBud, he swept the podium in the final five rounds. He had only one more overall win – at Unadilla in August – and was not able to catch Tomac for the championship lead.

“I really love Unadilla,” Musquin said. “I won there last year and the year before, so it’s always great to go back to where you had good results before.”

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?