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Ken Roczen, Dylan Ferrandis win at Unadilla

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Ken Roczen scored his third overall victory of the 2019 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross season at Unadilla, NY, while deep in the field the championship battle intensified.

Eli Tomac scored the hole shot in Moto 1, but it did not take long for Roczen to get around the points leader. Once in the lead, he scooted out to a comfortable lead and was not challenged for the remainder of the race. Roczen built an advantage of nearly 20 seconds during that moto and finished more than 15 seconds ahead of Marvin Musquin.

Roczen scored his first moto win in six weeks. He did not have to wait as long for his next moto victory and scored a perfect finish of 1-1.

“Honestly I haven’t done anything in the last two weeks,” Roczen told NBC Sports Gold after the race. “Obviously I want the season to be done so I can give my body a rest.”

Roczen has been struggling with fatigue all season and practiced only twice during the previous two weeks.

Tomac enter the weekend with a considerable lead of 50 points. With that, he had a full race weekend advantage over the field. But he squandered it in the first moto.

When caught by Roczen, Tomac did not put up much of a fight. He was not particularly scrappy when challenged by Musquin – nor when he succumbed to Zach Osborne and Justin Barcia a little bit later. On the final lap, Tomac was passed by teammate Joey Savatgy and fell to seventh. That matches his worst moto finish of the season.

Tomac rebounded with a third in Moto 2 that was enough for fourth overall. This is only the second time this season that he has not stood on the overall podium.

“My body was better (in the second moto),” Tomac said. “The first moto, I struggled with my body and I got really tight. I was kind of just along for the ride. I guess it’s a good thing we had those 50 points coming into here.”

Musquin was poised to win Moto 2 and the overall until the middle of the race. He lead early until a stuck throttle sent him momentarily off course and allowed Roczen to sweep past. Musquin settled into second and with a 2-2 scored 44 points to trim 10 off Tomac’s lead.

With a 4-4, Osborne’s consistency was enough to give him third overall.

“I felt really good today,” Osborne said. “This track was exceptionally gnarly. It’s always pretty gnarly, but today was hardest I’ve ever ridden it.”

Behind Tomac, Jason Anderson (5-5) rounded out the top five.

In Moto 1, Cooper Webb took a hard landing as he tried to avoid a slower rider. Injuring his knee, he was not around for the second race because he was on his way to the hospital for an MRI.

450 Moto 1 Results
450 Moto 2 Results
450 Overall Results
Points Standings

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Dylan Ferrandis earned his fourth overall victory, but he failed to make up any points on the championship leader.

“Today the track was difficult,” Ferrandis said. “Was firm, a really nice motocross track but it was rough with ruts. One of the most difficult dry tracks I’ve ever ridden. The setup was not perfect in the first moto and we improved a little bit in the second one and I think that was a big help.

“I took the holeshot. That was also a big help.”

In order to have a shot at the championship, Ferrandis needed to be perfect in the final three rounds and watch Adam Cianciarulo have a little trouble.

Ferrandis did his part. Finishing second in Moto 1 and winning the second race for his seventh moto win of the season, he was as close to perfection as can reasonably be expected. It was Ferrandis second straight win at Unadilla. He now needs to make up 28 points in the final two rounds to win the title.

Where Ferrandis came up short is where he had no control.

Cianciarulo served notice immediately that he will not make things easy on Ferrandis. Also winning his seventh moto of the season with the first race victory, he then finished second in Moto 2. In the second race, he matched Ferrandis lap for lap. In fact, the best lap time for both riders was identical to the thousandth of a second.

“There were a lot of ‘moments’ – in every moto, I think you guys know by now, but I just tried my best,” Cianciarulo said after the conclusion of Moto 1. “It was super important. I knew Dylan was going to be behind me and I wanted to get around Justin. He made a mistake. I almost did the same thing in the same spot. The track is pretty treacherous.”

In Moto 1, Justin Cooper took the early lead, but was passed by Cianciarulo and Ferrandis with 19 minutes remaining when he went down in the rollers.

Chase Sexton took the final step on the podium with a 3-3 finish.

Justin Cooper (4-4) and Colt Nichols (5-6) rounded out the top five.

250 Moto 1 Results
250 Moto 2 Results
250 Overall Results
Points Standings

Moto Wins

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

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

Next race: Budds Creek Motocross Park, Mechanicsville, MD, August 17

Season passes can be purchased at NBC Sports Gold.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter

Newgarden, Rossi ready for a red-white-and-blue INDYCAR finale

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MONTEREY, California – In an international series that personifies diversity from all over the globe, the two main combatants in the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series championship are from the United States.

Josef Newgarden of Tennessee takes a 41-point lead over Alexander Rossi of Northern California into Sunday’s double-points season finale at WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca. This year’s Indianapolis 500 winner, Simon Pagenaud of France, is just 42 points out of the lead.

It’s been quite a while since the two drivers entering the final race of the season were both Americans. Four of the top 10 drivers in the series are from the United States. Last year, five of the top 10 were from the USA.

All but one race in the 17-race NTT IndyCar Series schedule is contested in the United States.

Patriotism still matters in IndyCar.

“I think so,” said Andretti Autosport driver Rossi, who is the last American driver to win the Indianapolis 500 in 2016. “I know I’ve read a lot of things from other drivers saying, ‘It doesn’t matter, it’s not important, no one cares.’

“I can’t really get onboard with that.

“I think me as an American, growing up, being a fan of the Olympics and everything, like you cheer for Americans, right? That’s what you do as a patriotic person. Canadians cheer for James. We see the Swedish contingent that comes to the races for Marcus Ericsson and Felix Rosenqvist.

Getty Images“I think Americans will cheer for Americans. I would love to see an American to win the championship. I think it’s important for the young kids watching hoping to be IndyCar drivers one day, that they see someone who grew up in Tennessee or California or wherever. It’s like, there’s a lot of relate-ability to that for a young kid with aspirations of being a racecar driver.”

Since Sam Hornish, Jr. won the final of his three IndyCar Series championships in 2006, just two American drivers have won the title – Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2012 and Newgarden in 2017. During that span, Scott Dixon of New Zealand won four of his five NTT IndyCar Series championships and Dario Franchitti of Scotland won all four of his IndyCar titles.

The last time two Americans had a chance to win the championship in the final race of the season came in 2001 when Hornish won the championship over Colorado’s Buddy Lazier. Connecticut’s Scott Sharp was third and Arizona’s Billy Boat was fourth in the final standings that year.

That was a much different time and place for IndyCar. At that time, many of the top drivers were in CART while the old Indy Racing League featured a predominantly American lineup. Once unification brought the two sides together in 2008, the championships have been fought on American soil, but international drivers were victorious.

The last time two American drivers finished 1-2 in CART was 1996 when Jimmy Vasser of California defeated Pennsylvania’s Michael Andretti for the crown. In 1992, Bobby Rahal of Illinois defeated Andretti and Al Unser, Jr. of New Mexico for the CART title.

Prior to that, the IndyCar “National Championship” was dominated by drivers from the United States.

 

While Rossi openly choose to wrap himself in the American flag, it’s not as important to Newgarden.

“For me, it’s never been something I put a lot of emphasis on,” said the Team Penske driver. “I’m proud to have grown up in such a wonderful country as the United States, but what I’ve always loved about the IndyCar Series is that they bring the best of the best from around the world. That’s always been important to me.

“It means more I think when you have the best from all over the place coming to compete at the Indianapolis 500, during the whole championship. You really feel like you have that in the IndyCar Series. You get the best drivers from around the world.

“To pair with that, I think we need strong Americans running, as well. So for sure, having guys like Alex and Graham Rahal, some young guys coming up like Colton Herta, myself, it’s really great to have young American competition representing as well and running so strongly.

“What I’ve always loved is the great mix of talent from around the world. To me that’s just so important. If it was all Americans running in the championship, I don’t think it would mean as much. I like that we have that great diversity and that great mix from around the world.”

Although these two drivers are both from the USA, they are fierce rivals. They have mutual respect for each other, but they sure aren’t considered close friends.

“Josef and I honestly aren’t that close,” Rossi admitted. “He never lived in Indy when I moved here, or he was just moving. I actually never really hung out with Josef.

“We obviously have a lot of respect for each other. We raced together for a short period of time in Europe. We have a lot of mutual friends.

“Josef and I don’t talk or socialize really. So, it doesn’t have any impact.”

Newgarden agrees that these two men choose to embrace the rivalry.

“I think it’s just really business,” Newgarden said. “He lives in Indianapolis. I live in Nashville. I don’t see him too often outside of the racetrack. We go and we compete. He’s a great competitor. He’s definitely a tremendous talent, has done a great job in his career.

“It’s been a good, competitive relationship I would say.”

With the return of American drivers capable of winning races, championships and Indianapolis 500s, it has sparked a rejuvenation in IndyCar racing. With drivers from all over the world fighting it out for glory, this series that was born and bred in the United States can take pride in featuring some of the best racing in the world as the series continues to grow in popularity.

“I think we just need to continue a focus on our product,” Rossi said. “I think we have the best race product on the planet in terms of entertainment, the variance of winners that we have throughout a season, how many guys are capable, teams are capable of winning races.

“But that’s an ever-moving target. I think IndyCar has done a good job of placing the priority on that. I just think we need to continue doing that and everything will be moving in the right direction.”