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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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

[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)

[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

[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)

[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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Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.