INDYCAR Championship contenders seeing fortunes rise and drop

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MADISON, Illinois – Josef Newgarden’s stock is rising in the battle for the NTT IndyCar Series championship, Alexander Rossi’s fortunes have dipped while Simon Pagenaud and Scott Dixon are setting up to make a charge over the final three races of the season.

Rossi appeared to have the momentum entering last Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway. He was just 16 points out of the lead entering the race, but that momentum hit a major obstacle when he was involved in the massive crash in Turn 2 at the start of the race.

Instead of challenging for victory, Rossi finished 18th. Newgarden quietly finished fifth and that increased his lead in the championship to 35 points entering Saturday night’s Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.

Watch Saturday night’s race on NBCSN beginning at 8 p.m. Eastern Time.

http://stream.nbcsports.com/indycar/indycar-series

Rossi knew his chase for the championship took a pretty big hit last week at Pocono.

“It’s not good,” Rossi said last Sunday. “We’ll just go for wins from this point on.”

It wasn’t good news for Rossi on Friday, either. Newgarden easily won the pole with a two-lap average of 186.508 miles per hour in the No. 2 Chevrolet. Rossi qualified 11thwith a two-lap average of 184.070 mph in the No. 27 NAPA Honda.

“It’s never easy, for sure,” Rossi told NBC Sports.com after his qualification attempt. “The track isn’t particularly challenging, we missed it today. I don’t know why. We’ll have to try and figure it out.

“Last year, we had a car that was really quick. It was a different experience than we have had this weekend. Right now, the No. 27 NAPA Honda is not where it needs to be. Two-groove racing isn’t going to happen here Saturday night.”

Rossi’s team is going to “Kitchen Sink” the car, meaning the changes are going to be really big.

“All bets are off at this point,” Rossi said. “We’ll take some big risks and try to get it down with some pretty aggressive strategy. We’ll know Saturday night around 10 p.m. if it pays off.”

Pagenaud, who is 40 points back, will start fourth with a two-lap average of 185.143 mph in the No. 22 Chevrolet for Team Penske.

“The first lap was very difficult,” Pagenaud said. “The car was very active in turn three then turn four. It came alive on the second lap, so it was time to be very aggressive on the second lap. I am very happy with the performance. The 22 team did a tremendous job. Team Penske and Chevy as usual gave me a very fast car.”

He is attempting to win the Indianapolis 500 and the NTT IndyCar Series championship in the same season.

“Personally, I’m pretty excited that we gained points on Josef for a few races now,” Pagenaud said. “It’s a championship, the best may win over the year. Obviously, he’s my teammate. I can only think of good things for him. But I also want to win, so does Scott, so does Rossi.

“I want to win. We all want to win.

“It’s good to be in it. I think there’s three races to go, all the chances in the world for our team. We’re going to keep pushing. That’s what we’ve been doing. Just keep pushing, doing what we do, try to win races. That’s going to be the name of the game till the end. I love it.”

Dixon qualified eighth in the No. 9 PNC Bank Honda with a two-lap average of 184.293 miles per hour. He is 52 points out of the lead and very much in contention for the championship with three races remaining.

“We struggled with getting our car up to speed, drivability was really weird, it was hard to keep the throttle up,” Dixon said of his qualification effort. “I think the tire pressures were far too low.

“I think there are lots of strategies to get to the front. We’re starting eighth, which is not too bad, but not great.”

Is Dixon going to be a “Bull on a charge” in Saturday night’s race to close in on Newgarden’s championship lead?

“We’ll have to be, we’re going to have to go after it,” Dixon said. “You have to do that, but you have to do it cautiously, too.

“I think honestly until you’re out of it, you’re never really out of it. I don’t know what the points gap was going in ’15 for us, behind Juan Pablo Montoya, but I think it was in the 60s(actually, 42).It’s definitely achievable from the point deficit right now.

“There’s still a long way to go. I think the next two will be pretty interesting. St. Louis is going to be a lot of fun. Then Portland will be interesting. For a lot of us, too, it was interesting to get back to Laguna for a while. Some teams struggled more than they thought they would. Laguna will be a pretty interesting race with double points.”

For now, Newgarden appears to have the advantage, but he isn’t ready to relax. If anything, the anxiety is about to increase.

“If I finish 15th and Rossi finishes third, you do that a couple races in a row, we’re pretty much like neck-and-neck going into Laguna,” Newgarden told NBC Sports.com. “At Laguna, you could have a 60-point lead going in there and you still have to have a pretty good day. You can’t walk the thing. Probably have to finish 11th or 10th, which is still hard. It’s not easy to show up and finish in that spot.

“To me it’s still wide open, mainly because of double points. I don’t love it because it’s tough that it puts that much emphasis on a season finale. We all know the score going into the season. We know how the game works. I think you got to play to how the championship is laid out.

Unless you have a 100-point lead, you’re not going to be comfy going into the finale.

“Plus, Laguna is an oddball. We don’t know what that’s going to bring. We could be terrible there. If we are scrapping to finish 10th, we have a 40, 50-point lead, that’s not enough. It’s funny this points discussion. It is super close, in my opinion, still, amongst everybody.”

Supercross: Tomac, Roczen square off in Arlington; Webb gives chase

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The Monster Energy Supercross championship battle remains tight after Eli Tomac took the lead from Ken Roczen just last week at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. Now the series heads to Arlington, Texas, and the AT&T Stadium for Round 8. (Watch on NBCSN or stream live.)

Tomac’s third win of the 2020 season and Roczen’s third-place finish at Tampa gives Tomac a four-point advantage in what is essentially a wide-open title fight with three races on tap in Arlington.

And while it is still much too early to call this a two-man battle, Cooper Webb is 11 points back with Justin Barcia 20 points out and Adam Cianciarulo 27 points in arrears – and all three cannot afford to lose any ground this week.

Tomac has the momentum. He allowed the field to get a jump after finishing seventh at Anaheim in the season opener, but finished fourth or better in the remaining events.

Roczen also got off to a slow start in Anaheim 1 with a sixth-place finish. He seemed to have a firm grasp on the red plate with four consecutive podium finishes until he slipped to sixth for a second time at San Diego.

Webb is coming into his own with three consecutive podiums in the last three events. If not for a 12th at St. Louis, he would be in immediate contention for the red plate.

This week is the second Triple Crown race of the season and Roczen hopes he has the same success as he did at Glendale. He won all three Mains that weekend and easily walked away with the overall victory. Tomac finished 2-2-3 for second overall. It is going to be imperative that a rider takes the early lead.

Blake Baggett qualified for last week’s Main, but chose to sit it out after experiencing sever muscle spasms. He will ride in Arlington.

Henry Miller will return to riding at Arlington after breaking a scapula in Australia.

Subscribe to the Supercross Pass for complete qualification and race coverage of the 2020 season.

For the third time in his career, Shane McElrath started the season with a victory. He won the season-opener in 2017 and 2018 in the West division at Anaheim, but failed to lock down a 250 title. His seventh career win moved him to 25th on the chart, however, with Travis Pastrana, Trey Canard, and a host of others.

Chase Sexton got his title hunt off to a strong start last week as well. He finished second to earn his 10th podium in 19 starts, but he will be hungry for a win. Despite the fact that he won last year’s 250 West championship, he has only one race victory to his credit.

Last week, Jeremy Martin looked like he had not been off his bike for more than a year. Returning from a 2018 injury, Martin snagged a podium finish in his first race back.

Schedule:

Qualifying: 1 p.m. on NBC Sports Gold
Race: 8:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Gold and NBCSN

Last Week:

Eli Tomac beat Cooper Webb and Ken Roczen in the 450 class.
Shane McElrath beat Chase Sexton and Jeremy Martin in the 250 class.

Last Dallas race (February, 2019):

Cooper Webb beat Ken Roczen and Marvin Musquin in the 450 class.
Austin Forkner beat Justin Cooper and Chase Sexton in the 250 class.

Points Leaders

450s:
Eli Tomac (155)
Ken Roczen (151)
Cooper Webb (144)
Justin Barcia (135)
Adam Cianciarulo (128)

250 West:
Dylan Ferrandis (135)
Justin Cooper (128)
Austin Forkner (122)
Brandon Hartranft (110)
Alex Martin (98)

250 East:
Shane McElrath (26)
Chase Sexton (23)
Jeremy Martin (21)
Garrett Marchbanks (19)
Jordon Smith (18)

Wins

450

(3) Eli Tomac (Anaheim 2, Oakland and Tampa)
(2) Ken Roczen (St. Louis and Glendale)
(1) Justin Barcia (Anaheim 1)
(1) Cooper Webb (San Diego)

250 West

(3) Dylan Ferrandis (Anaheim 2, Oakland, and San Diego)
(2) Austin Forkner (St. Louis and Glendale)
(1) Justin Cooper (Anaheim 1)

250 East

(1) Shane McElrath (Tampa)

Top-5s

450

(6) Eli Tomac
(6) Cooper Webb
(5) Jason Anderson
(5) Ken Roczen
(5) Justin Barcia
(3) Adam Cianciarulo
(2) Zach Osborne
(2) Blake Baggett
(1) Justin Hill

250 West

(5) Dylan Ferrandis
(5) Austin Forkner
(5) Justin Cooper
(4) Michael Mosiman
(4) Brandon Hartranft
(3) Alex Martin
(1) Christian Craig
(1) Jett Lawrence
(1) Jacob Hayes
(1) Luke Clout

250 East

(1) Shane McElrath
(1) Chase Sexton
(1) Jeremy Martin
(1) Garrett Marchbanks
(1) Jordon Smith

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