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Countdown to The Ironman: It’s Tomac’s to take

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There are not very many off weeks in the Lucas Oil Motocross and Supercross seasons, but with three events remaining the riders get a chance this weekend to decompress and work around the shop.

Eli Tomac will be looking at his record at the end of the 2018 season while Marvin Musquin can only hope that Tomac has more trouble in the final six motos of this season than he has had for the entire year.

Here is how the points break down. Tomac holds an advantage of 50 points over Musquin in second and 57 over Ken Roczen.

Tomac’s magic number is fourth. If he finishes that well in the next six motos, Musquin cannot catch him because he needs to make up 8.3 points per race. Roczen must gain 9.5 points per race.

This assumes two things: that either Musquin or Roczen is perfect and Tomac consistently finishes off the podium with at least one terrible moto per event.

In the final six motos of the 2018 season, Roczen struggled in one event. Finishing seventh overall at Unadilla with a 7-7, he scored only 28 points. He rebounded the following week at Budds Creek to win Moto 1 and swept the podium in the last three motos of the season – but that was a far cry from perfection.

With only one overall podium in the last five weeks of this season, Roczen does not have the momentum on his side to launch the type of attack needed. For now, barring a miracle Roczen can be disregarded.

In the final six motos of 2018 Musquin also had only one win. He took the overall at Unadilla with a 2-1, which was followed by two more top-three finishes in the next two races. Musquin was not perfect, but he scored a worst finish of fourth in those last six races.

Of course Musquin does not need to be perfect in the final three events if Tomac stumbles. But therein lies the problem. Tomac refuses to stumble.

In the final six motos of 2018 Tomac stood on the podium five times with two victories. The only time he failed to finish that well was in the final moto of the season when he finished ninth.

Tomac has gotten off to some spectacularly slow starts in many of the first nine rounds, but he has been able to rebound immediately.

For Musquin to have a shot at Tomac, he needs a season’s worth of bad luck in the final three rounds. Actually make that more than a season’s worth of bad luck. In 18 motos run this year, Tomac has finished worse than fourth only three times. He was fifth in Moto 1 of Thunder Valley and seventh in Moto 1 of WW Ranch. In both of those rounds, he came back to win Moto 2.

At Spring Creek two weeks ago, Tomac showed his only sign of weakness with a 2-5 and overall finish of third. Part of the reason for Tomac finishing modestly in that round was because he had Musquin behind him on both motos with a 3-7 and overall of fourth.

April 5 in Motorsports History: Alex Zanardi’s amazing Long Beach rally

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Alex Zanardi entered the Long Beach Grand Prix on April 5, 1998 as the race’s defending champion and the series’ defending champion.

But the Italian didn’t seem a serious contender for much of the 105-lap event. Zanardi started 11th position and lost a lap early when he was involved in a multicar spin in the hairpin.

Alex Zanardi celebrates after winning the 1998 Grand Prix of Long Beach. Photo: Getty Images

But the race was still young, and despite emerging from the incident in 18th place, Zanardi slowly progressed through the field while battling radio problems that made communication difficult with his team.

With five laps remaining, Zanardi passed Dario Franchitti on the backstretch for second place and then focused in on leader Bryan Herta.

With two laps remaining, Zanardi made his move, making a daring pass on the inside of Herta in the Queen’s Hairpin (which no longer exists as the track layout was changed the following year).

The move was reminiscent of Zanardi’s famous last-lap move on the inside of Laguna Seca’s famed Corkscrew in 1996, which deprived Herta of his first CART victory.

Franchitti passed Herta as well, and Zanardi went on to clinch his first victory of the season.

“On a day when everything went wrong, we came back and won,” Zanardi said following the race. “I can’t explain it. It wasn’t until I saw Bryan ahead of me that I ever thought I had a shot at winning. It was amazing. I have no words to describe it.”

Following Long Beach, Zanadri won six more times in 1998 en route to his second and final CART championship.

Also on this date:

1992: Bobby Rahal led from start to finish to win the Valvoline 200 at Phoenix International Raceway. The win was the first of four victories for Rahal during his championship season.

2009: Ryan Briscoe won the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first of three victories for the Aussie in 2009. The race was also the first IndyCar Series on Versus, which was rebranded as NBC Sports Network in 2012.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994