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Championship battle could tighten at Budds Creek

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Just when it seemed inevitable that Eli Tomac would not only win the 2019 championship, but that he would do so before the final race, the two-time defending champion rode to one of his worst finishes of the year last week in the Unadilla MX Nationals. He has another opportunity to gain enough points this week to allow him to rest completely easy in the finale as the series heads into its penultimate venue at Budds Creek.

Finishing seventh in Moto 1, Tomac matched his worst performance of the season from WW Ranch this June while his principal rival for the championship finished second. Marvin Musquin briefly saw a window of opportunity open with that runner-up finish, but when he looked over his shoulder in Moto 2, Tomac was threatening once again to climb through. In Moto 2, Musquin finished second; Tomac was third.

That has been Tomac’s trademark all season. He never has two bad races in an event and with eight moto wins, he has controlled the pace of the championship.

Tomac will enter Budds Creek with a 40-point advantage over Musquin and given the strength of the Frenchman during the past six weeks, it seems unlikely that he will gain the 10 markers over his rival needed to be crowned champion. Still, the title is Tomac’s for the taking – unless he finishes poorly in both motos this week.

Tomac is the defending winner of last year’s race on this track.

If Tomac can win this week, he will become only the fifth rider to win more than one premier class race on this track, joining superstars Ricky Carmichael (with eight wins), Ryan Dungey (four), Jeremy McGrath and Chad Reed (two each).

The winner of this race has gone on to take the title more than two-thirds of the time (68%). Kawasaki riders have five total victories at Budds Creek and each time they have gone on to win the championship.

First time winners have showcased the 250 class for the past three seasons. Zach Osborne won in 2016, Adam Cianciarulo in 2017 and RJ Hampshire last year. And while Budds Creek has been predictive of who will win the championship in the 450 class, the last time that occurred in this division was in 2012 when Blake Baggett performed the feat.

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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, (Moto 2, re-airs at 3 p.m. on NBC).

August 10 – 2019; Unadilla

450: Ken Roczen (1-1) won over Marvin Musquin (2-2) and Zach Osborne (4-4)
250: Dylan Ferrandis (2-1) won over Adam Cianciarulo (1-2) and Chase Sexton (3-3)

August 18 – 2018; Budds Creek 

450: Eli Tomac (3-1) won over Ken Roczen (1-3) and Marvin Musquin (2-4)
250: RJ Hampshire (2-1) won over Chase Sexton (7-2) and Aaron Plessinger (1-11)

Overall Wins

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

250:
[6] Adam Cianciarulo (Hangtown, Pala, Thunder Valley, High Point, Southwick, Spring Creek)
[3] Dylan Ferrandis (RedBud, Washougal, Unadilla)
[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)
[5] Ken Roczen (Hangtown I, Thunder Valley I, High Point II, Unadilla I & 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:
[7] Adam Cianciarulo (Hangtown II, Pala II, Thunder Valley II, High Point II, Southwick I, Spring Creek II, Unadilla II)
[7] Dylan Ferrandis (WW Ranch II, Southwick II, RedBud I & II, Washougal I & II, Unadilla I)
[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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Donny Schatz edges Kyle Larson for Outlaws victory at Lake Ozark

Trent Gower/World of Outlaws
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Donny Schatz made a last-lap pass on Kyle Larson, snatching a World of Outlaws victory Saturday night at Lake Ozark Speedway.

Larson started on the pole, led 30 of 35 laps and was in control until a caution set up a two-lap shootout to the finish before a limited crowd in Eldon, Missouri.

Schatz and Larson traded the lead twice over the final two laps, but the 10-time champion emerged with his first victory since the NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series returned in mid-May from a two-month layoff because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

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“Man, I don’t know what to say, but Kyle’s a damn good racer,” Schatz, who led five laps, told DirtVision after his 296th Outlaws win. “I kind of had to go where he didn’t. We got that green-white-checkered, and I decided I was going to send it. He decided the same thing.

Donny Schatz celebrates at Lake Ozark Speedway after his second Outlaws Sprint Car victory of the season (Trent Gower).

“I’m glad to get the win. It feels like it’s been forever. I’ve been out here 24 years, and every night is a learning experience still.”

Larson finished second in his fifth start since he began racing with the Outlaws after being suspended from NASCAR.

“Obviously, it would have been nice to get the win,” Larson said on DirtVision. “I figured Donny would rip the middle. The restarts before, he’d almost clear me in (turns) 3 and 4. I should have known to protect and block his momentum. I felt I exited 2 OK. We don’t have spotters or rearview mirrors so you can’t see how close he is or really hear it when the pace is so slow.

“I just didn’t do a good enough job to run a smarter final couple of laps.”

Brad Sweet, Larson’s brother in law, finished third, with Shane Stewart and David Gravel rounding out the top five.

Larson rebounded from a 10th in Friday’s feature at Lake Ozark Speedway, continuing his streak of top-10 finishes in all five of his starts since the Outlaws’ return.

“We got our car a lot better from last night, so that was a plus,” said Larson, who finished second and first in back-to-back nights last week at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at Pevely, Missouri. “These guys are really tough. To be on the podium with Donny and Brad, they’ve won lots of big races and championships, it’s nice. I just didn’t do what I needed to do that last restart.”

Larson nearly had a flawless night Saturday, turning a 11.426-second lap to capture his second pole position this season and won the pole dash to start first in the feature.

Larson, who was fired by Chip Ganassi Racing from his NASCAR Cup Series ride last month for using a racial slur in an iRacing event, said last week that he plans to run several more NOS Energy Sprint Car Series races this year.

Larson remains indefinitely suspended by NASCAR but was approved to race by the Outlaws after completing sensitivity training.