Unadilla takes center stage; Eli Tomac, Adam Cianciarulo merely players

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And then there were three. The Lucas Oil Pro Motocross season is drawing to a close, and while the championships are not mathematically wrapped up, Eli Tomac and Adam Cianciarulo are clear favorites in both the 450 and 250 divisions.

This week, that doesn’t matter at all. The riders take a back seat to the track, which has hosted marquee events since before the creation of the series itself. Dating back to 1969, it is the only track that was part of the inaugural 1972 season. Gary Jones won that July.

Unadilla is described as a European-styled track and it has hosted international events for more than 50 years. As a result, 12 foreign born riders have won across all of the divisions. And that brings us back to the points battles.

A pair of Frenchmen Marvin Musquin and Dylan Ferrandis are chasing down Tomac in the 450 class and Cianciarulo in 250s. Notably, both of those riders are the defending winners in class with Musquin’s 2-1 last year beating Tomac’s 1-2 on a tie breaker. Ferrandis swept the motos to score maximum points – edging Aaron Plessinger both times.

For Musquin, this has always been a special place. He earned his first victory in the United States there in 250s in 2012 and is now in a position to become only the second rider in history to win three in a row. Ricky Carmichael threepeated in 2000-2002 and again in 2004-2006 after taking one year off to give Kevin Windham a chance to ascend the podium

Do not look for rider deep in the field to challenge the title contenders this week, however; only one racer has scored his first win. Adding to the international flare, South Africa’s Greg Albertyn won in 1996.

On the heels of this week’s news that Cianciarulo will join Tomac in the 450 class in 2020, those two riders are poised to give Kawasaki a manufacturer sweep. If that happens, it will be the first time since KTM performed the feat in 2012 with Ryan Dungey and Musquin.

In the 250 class, Ferrandis will have to buck the odds if he wants to repeat. In the past 10 seasons there have been nine different winners. The good news is that it was another Frenchman, Christophe Pourcel (2009 and 2014) with the two wins.

MORE: Eli Tomac versus Marvin Musquin at Washougal
MORE: It’s Tomac’s to take

Schedule:

Qualifiers: 9:15 a.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold
Race: Live, 12 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold, Moto 2 at 2 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold, (250 Moto 2, re-air at 3 p.m. on NBC; 450 Moto 2 5 p.m. on NBCSN).

July 27 – 2019; Washougal

450: Eli Tomac (1-1) won over Ken Roczen (2-3) and Marvin Musquin (5-2)
250: Dylan Ferrandis (1-1) won over Adam Cianciarulo (3-2) and Justin Cooper (2-4)

August 11 – 2018; Unadilla 

450: Marvin Musquin (2-1) won over Eli Tomac (1-2) and Phil Nicoletti (3-5)
250: Dylan Ferrandis (1-1) won over Aaron Plessinger (2-2) and Mitchell Harrison (4-4)

Overall Wins

450:
[4] Eli Tomac (Pala, High Point, RedBud, Washougal)
[2] Ken Roczen (Hangtown, Thunder Valley)
[2] Marvin Musquin (WW Ranch, Southwick)
[1] Cooper Webb (Spring Creek)

250:
[6] Adam Cianciarulo (Hangtown, Pala, Thunder Valley, High Point, Southwick, Spring Creek)
[2] Dylan Ferrandis (RedBud, Washougal)
[1] Justin Cooper (WW Ranch)

Moto Wins

450:
[8] Eli Tomac (Hangtown II, Pala I & II, Thunder Valley II, WW Ranch I, RedBud I, Washougal I & II)
[3] Ken Roczen (Hangtown I, Thunder Valley I, High Point II)
[3] Marvin Musquin (WW Ranch I, Southwick I, RedBud II)
[2] Cooper Webb (Spring Creek I & II)
[1] Blake Baggett (High Point I)
[1] Zach Osborne (Southwick II)

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

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter

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