Early season success is on the line for Supercross at St. Louis

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Early season success is on the line as the Monster Energy Supercross series heads east for their first trip to St. Louis and the Dome at America’s Center in two years. Surprise winners in both the 450 and 250 class looking to build on their momentum. Meanwhile, two of the riders who took the 2019 points’ battle to the bitter end need a strong showing to overcome their deficit.

Last year Justin Barcia entered Week 2 of the Supercross season with the points’ lead and finished sixth at Glendale. If he wants to stay in contention for the 2020 title, he is going to have to ride well this week and threaten for a podium or his season may start to unravel once more.

Finishing sixth and seventh last week Ken Roczen and Eli Tomac cannot afford to give up points in back to back weeks. They need to challenge for the podium as well.

The 2019 champion Cooper Webb and the remarkable rookie Adam Cianciarulo also look to sustain momentum. Unfortunately, there are only three steps to the podium.

Cianciarulo has had an impressive two races leading up to St. Louis. He shocked the field with his Monster Energy Cup win at Las Vegas during the offseason and came up just a few minutes short of winning his first official 450 race last week. That would have made him only the third rider in history to win his first attempt. He finished second

Third-place Webb had his best Anaheim 1 race of his career.

Adam Enticknap did not line up for last week’s LCQ and will miss Round 2 with a wrist injury. He is expected to return for Week 3 as the series returns to Anaheim. Max Anstie remains out with an ankle injury.

In 250s, Austin Forkner has something to prove. He threw away his chance to win the opener by jumping wide right into the Tuff Blox and lost two positions to penalty after cutting the track. He will not be too pleased by the fact that an early altercation with Justin Cooper saw that rider recover for the victory.

Michael Mosiman is expecting a magical year and he got off to a strong start with his fourth-place finish, but he knows he needs to ride better in order to challenge the 250 West superstars.

Schedule:

Qualifying: 2:00 pm on NBC Sports Gold
Race: 8:00 on NBCSN, or stream live by clicking here

Last Week:

Justin Barcia beat Adam Cianciarulo and Cooper Webb in the 450 class.
Justin Cooper beat Dylan Ferrandis and Christian Craig in the 250 class.

Last St. Louis race (March, 2018):

Eli Tomac beat Jason Anderson and Marvin Musquin in the 450 class.
Zach Osborne beat Jeremy Martin and Jordan Smith in the 250 class.

Points Leaders

450s:
Justin Barcia (26)
Adam Cianciarulo (23)
Cooper Webb (21)
Blake Baggett (19)
Jason Anderson (18)

250 West:
Justin Cooper (26)
Dylan Ferrandis (23)
Christian Craig (21)
Michael Mosiman (19)
Austin Forkner (18)

Wins

450

(1) Justin Barcia (Anaheim 1)

250 West

(1) Justin Cooper (Anaheim 1)

Top-5s

450

(1) Justin Barcia
(1) Adam Cianciarulo
(1) Cooper Webb
(1) Blake Baggett
(1) Jason Anderson

250 West

(1) Justin Cooper
(1) Dylan Ferrandis
(1) Christian Craig
(1) Michael Mosiman
(1) Austin Forkner

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Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.