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

Provisional Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew ready for IndyCar ride

Road to Indy
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Provisional Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew has done nothing but dominate the 2019 season, winning seven of the 16 races run so far and finishing on the podium in all but two of those events.

Now all the 22-year-old Floridian needs to do to formally clinch the 2019 title is simply start the final two races of the season, both of which will be held this weekend at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

For Askew, his maiden Indy Lights season will likely be one he’ll never forget. 

“It’s been a dream come true,” Askew told NBC Sports. “Being with the championship-winning team from last year, we had a really good shot at winning it again for Andretti Autosport. It’s very rare that we show up to a track and struggle to find speed. 

“That’s a fantastic feeling, especially as a driver. That gave me a lot of confidence and hopes of holding the million dollar check at the end of the year. That was the goal going into it.”

This weekend, Askew will accomplish said goal. The championship will not only bring him a sense of pride, but also the opportunity of a lifetime. 

As an award for being crowned the Indy Lights champion, Askew will be awarded a scholarship that guarantees him entry into a minimum of three NTT IndyCar Series events next year – including the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500. 

Time will only tell which team Askew will race for in IndyCar next season, and whether or not Askew’s rookie campaign will be a full-time or part-time affair, but Askew’s performance during the last few seasons in the Road to Indy system has certainly drawn attention of IndyCar’s top team owners.

In August, Askew had the chance to drive an Indy car for the first time in his career during a test session at Portland International Raceway, driving the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda usually piloted by Scott Dixon.

“It was an opportunity with Chip Ganassi Racing that I was very fortunate to have,” Askew said. “I think with my experience in the past couple of years with Cape Motorsports and this year with Andretti Autosport, going into that test was very helpful.

“Going into the test, it was more of trying to treat it as just another day at the racetrack, when it really wasn’t. It was a fantastic opportunity for me – a great experience – and I hope I can take that into my rookie season next year in IndyCar.” 

The final two races of the 2019 Indy Lights season will take place this weekend on Saturday, September 21 at 6 p.m. ET and Sunday, September 22 at 12:05 p.m. ET. Both races will air live on NBC Sports Gold.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter