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Eli Tomac, Ken Roczen get off to a slow start in Supercross

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When Justin Barcia won the Monster Energy Supercross season-opener last week at Angel Stadium, the kickoff races for 2019 and 2020 began eerily similarly: with the same surprise winner two years in a row. The riders lined up behind him were not as familiar in 2020. Now, two of the sports’ biggest names, will be looking to overcome a deficit next week at the Dome at America’s Center in St Louis in Week 2.

Ken Roczen finished sixth at Anaheim 1; Eli Tomac was seventh.

For most of 2019 the Supercross title was a three-man battle between the eventual champion Cooper Webb, Tomac, and Roczen. In 2019 all three riders finished among the top five at Anaheim 1 with Roczen second, Tomac third, and Webb fifth.

Entering last week’s race, the least experience rider among the championship troika had the biggest obstacle to overcome. Webb battled the flu and could barely talk in pre-race ceremonies, but he rasped his way through an interview at the end of the night while standing on the podium.

Roczen and Tomac headed for the pits.

Roczen suffered his worst Supercross season-opener since he joined the series full time in 2014. That year he won Anaheim 1. He won again in 2015 and 2017 and until last week, he had not finished outside the top five in a race since 2014.

In 2019, Roczen was the runner up to Barcia.

Tomac was on his back wheel last year – standing on the bottom rung of the podium in third. That was unfamiliar territory for Tomac, however. Since 2014 he has been inside the top five twice in six races and never better than third until 2019.

Roczen’s uneven season last year suggests that his sixth-place finish – his worst ever in Anaheim 1 – might be difficult to overcome. He podiumed in Week 2 at Glendale, finished fourth and fifth at Anaheim 2 and Oakland respectively before finishing on the podium three more times in successive weeks. Then, he was off the podium in four straight races.

Roczen was never able to firmly establish momentum and he was eliminated from contention before the finale.

On the other hand, Tomac is accustomed to coming from deep in the points. He finished 21st at Anaheim 1 in 2014, 20th in 2015, and 22nd in 2018. After his modest start in 2014 he finished 13th in the standings. But he was much more successful after struggling in the other two seasons. Tomac climbed to second at the end of 2015. He was third in 2018.

Like Roczen, Tomac struggled to find consistency in 2019. He was not able to stand on the podium in back-to-back races until April. Once he finally did, he rattled off consecutive wins at Nashville and on his hometown track of Denver. He podiumed in New Jersey in the penultimate race and won the season-ender in Las Vegas. It was too little too late, however, and Webb’s consistently strong runs carried the season.

Webb won after starting with a modest deficit to Tomac and Roczen. This year Webb has a modest advantage. Roczen spotted the 2019 champion four points in the opener. Tomac gave up five points. And in an intense 17-race championship, that could make a big difference at the end.

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Charlie Kimball joins A.J. Foyt Racing; Tony Kanaan expected back

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A.J. Foyt has hired Charlie Kimball to drive its No. 4 Chevrolet in the 2020 NTT IndyCar season.

Kimball will return to a full-time schedule after seven races last season with Carlin Racing. This will mark his 10th consecutive season of driving in IndyCar. In 141 starts, he has one victory (in 2013 at Mid-Ohio).

“I would not have survived — and I’m not sure my marriage would have survived — another year on a partial schedule,” Kimball said Wednesday during a conference call with reporters. “Because it was really tough on me last year watching in races when I wasn’t in the car. The consistency allows me to stay in the rhythm.”

A.J. Foyt Racing fielded cars last year for Matheus Leist in the No. 4 and Tony Kanaan in the No. 14. Team president Larry Foyt told reporters that the No. 14 car’s 2020 schedule was “a work in progress and hopefully have some news on that in the next few weeks.”

Asked if Kanaan, who has driven for Foyt since 2018, still will be with the team, Foyt said, “I’m sure he will. We’ve been working together and getting everything buttoned up.”

Here’s the full release from A.J. Foyt Racing:

Veteran IndyCar driver Charlie Kimball joins AJ Foyt Racing as the full-time driver of the No. 4 Chevrolet with backing from his long-time sponsor Novo Nordisk. The 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season marks Kimball’s 10th consecutive season in IndyCar and his 12th season of partnership with the global healthcare company.

Kimball, who ran a partial season of seven races in 2019, returns as a full-time driver in the 17-race NTT IndyCar Series this year. The No. 4 car will carry a Novo Nordisk branded livery in the following races: Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, GMR Grand Prix (Indianapolis), Texas Indy 600 (Ft. Worth), Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway (Madison, Ill.) and the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey. Novo Nordisk will be an associate marketing partner in the remaining 11 races.

“I’m excited and honored to join AJ Foyt Racing and be a part of a team that has such deep roots in history at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar,” said Kimball, who lives in Indianapolis. “Continuing the partnership with Novo Nordisk is also special since they have been an integral part of my career since I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. I’m more motivated than ever to work with the team to succeed at every IndyCar race in 2020. Thank you to AJ Foyt Racing, Novo Nordisk and our other partners for this opportunity.”

Team President Larry Foyt expects the partnership with Novo Nordisk and the addition of Charlie Kimball, an IndyCar Series race winner at Mid-Ohio (2013) and a pole winner at Texas Motor Speedway (2017), to invigorate his No. 4 Texas-based team this season.

“Charlie brings a great deal of experience and skill to the team,” Foyt said. “He is motivated to show what he can do behind the wheel, and his recent experience of helping develop cars will be beneficial as we work to get the 4 car moving up the grid. Novo Nordisk has been a long-time supporter of Charlie and IndyCar. We want to welcome them to AJ Foyt Racing and we look forward to joining them in their effort to increase the awareness of diabetes.”

Kimball has posted six podium (top-3) finishes, and an additional eight top-5s. He has finished in the top-10 (6th through 10th) 41 times and has led 163 laps in 141 races.

“We are proud to continue our long-term partnership with Charlie Kimball and look forward to an exciting 2020 IndyCar season with the legendary AJ Foyt Racing,” said Brian Hilberdink, Senior Vice President, Commercial Diabetes at Novo Nordisk. “For more than a decade, we’ve utilized our involvement in IndyCar to share Charlie’s inspiring journey living with diabetes through the Race with Insulin initiative. Charlie is one of the most active ambassadors in the diabetes community and his passion and commitment to making a difference in the lives of those who are living with diabetes is unwavering. We look forward to continuing this tradition with AJ Foyt Racing, Charlie and the diabetes community throughout the IndyCar season.”

Foyt expects to make further announcements regarding new primary sponsors for the team in the near future.