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)

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Justin Grant prevails over Kyle Larson in the Turkey Night Grand Prix

Grant Larson Turkey Night
USACRacing.com / DB3 Inc.
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On the heels of his Hangtown 100 victory, Justin Grant worked his way from 13th in the Turkey Night Grand Prix to beat three-time event winner Kyle Larson by 1.367 seconds. The 81st annual event was run at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway for the sixth time.

“My dad used to take me to Irwindale Speedway, and we’d watch Turkey Night there every year,” Grant said in a series press release. “This is one of the races I fell in love with. I didn’t think I’d ever get a chance to run in it, never thought I’d make a show and certainly never thought I’d be able to win one.”

With its genesis in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium, a quarter-mile dirt track in Los Angeles, the race is steeped in history with winners that include AJ Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Gary Bettenhausen and Johnnie Parsons. Tony Stewart won it in 2000. Kyle Larson won his first of three Turkey Night Grands Prix in 2012. Christopher Bell earned his first of three in 2014, so Grant’s enthusiasm was well deserved.

So was the skepticism that he would win. He failed to crack the top five in three previous attempts, although he came close last year with a sixth-place result. When he lined up for the feature 13th in the crowded 28-car field, winning seemed like a longshot.

Grant watched as serious challengers fell by the wayside. Mitchel Moles flipped on Lap 10 of the feature. Michael “Buddy” Kofoid took a tumble on Lap 68 and World of Outlaws Sprint car driver Carson Macedo flipped on Lap 79. Grant saw the carnage ahead of him and held a steady wheel as he passed Tanner Thorson for the lead with 15 laps remaining and stayed out of trouble for the remainder of the event.

“It’s a dream come true to win the Turkey Night Grand Prix,” Grant said.


Kyle Larson follows Justin Grant to the front on Turkey Night

The 2012, 2016 and 2019 winner, Larson was not scheduled to run the event. His wife Katelyn is expecting their third child shortly, but after a couple of glasses of wine with Thanksgiving dinner and while watching some replays of the event, Larson texted car owner Chad Boat to see if he had a spare car lying around. He did.

“We weren’t great but just hung around and it seemed like anybody who got to the lead crashed and collected some people,” Larson said. “We made some passes throughout; in the mid-portion, we weren’t very good but then we got better at the end.

“I just ran really, really hard there, and knew I was running out of time, so I had to go. I made some pretty crazy and dumb moves, but I got to second and was hoping we could get a caution to get racing with Justin there. He was sliding himself at both ends and thought that maybe we could get a run and just out-angle him into [Turn] 1 and get clear off [Turn] 2 if we got a caution, but it just didn’t work out.”

Larson padded one of the most impressive stats in the history of this race, however. In 10 starts, he’s won three times, finished second four times, was third once and fourth twice.

Bryant Wiedeman took the final spot on the podium.

As Grant and Larson began to pick their way through the field, Kofoid took the lead early from the outside of the front row and led the first 44 laps of the race before handing it over to Cannon McIntosh, who bicycled on Lap 71 before landing on all fours. While Macedo and Thorson tussled for the lead with McIntosh, Grant closed in.

Thorson finished 19th with McIntosh 20th. Macedo recovered from his incident to finish ninth. Kofoid’s hard tumble relegated him to 23rd.

Jake Andreotti in fourth and Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top five.

1. Justin Grant (started 13)
2. Kyle Larson (22)
3. Bryant Wiedeman (4)
4. Jake Andreotti (9)
5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1)
6. Logan Seavey (8)
7. Alex Bright (27)
8. Emerson Axsom (24)
9. Carson Macedo (7)
10. Jason McDougal (18)
11. Jake Swanson (16)
12. Chase Johnson (6)
13. Jacob Denney (26)
14. Ryan Timms (23)
15. Chance Crum (28)
16. Brenham Crouch (17)
17. Jonathan Beason (19)
18. Cade Lewis (14)
19. Tanner Thorson (11)
20. Cannon McIntosh (3)
21. Thomas Meseraull (15)
22. Tyler Courtney (21)
23. Buddy Kofoid (2)
24. Brody Fuson (5)
25. Mitchel Moles (20)
26. Daniel Whitley (10)
27. Kaylee Bryson (12)
28. Spencer Bayston (25)