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Cooper Webb, Jason Anderson face turning point in Anaheim

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Round 3 of the Supercross season kicks off with qualification on NBCSports Gold at 4:00 PM eastern at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif. and it could be a turning point for the two most recent champions Cooper Webb and Jason Anderson. Time is running out: The past four championships have gone to riders who won during the first three rounds.

The past two seasons have also gone to surprise winners. While Anderson had strong points finishes in two of his previous three seasons in 450 competition, he wasn’t on many radar screens entering 2018. Anderson finished third in the standings in 2016 and fourth in 2017, but most eyes were trained on Ken Roczen and Eli Tomac at the time.

That is until Anderson swept the podium in the first three races with a win in Round 2 at Houston.

Last year, Anderson’s bid to repeat as champion got off to a slow start with a 14th-place finish in Anaheim 1 and it came to an abrupt halt with a practice crash following a disappointing ninth-place finish in Anaheim 2. The highlight of 2019 was a second-place finish at Glendale.

Anderson has performed well in the first two rounds of 2020 with a fifth-place finish at Anaheim 1 and a third-place podium at St. Louis.

Both riders have earned podium finishes in their first two races, but neither has dominated.

MORE: Eli Tomac, Ken Roczen off to a slow start

Webb battled flu-like symptoms in the season opener before putting in one of the gutsiest performances of the year so far. He finished third in Anaheim 1. Round 2 was not nearly as kind. Webb struggled throughout the race and managed only a 12th-place finish at the Dome at America’s Center.

Anaheim 2 proved to be the turning point of his season last year. Webb started 2019 year with a fifth in Anaheim 1 and a 10th at Glendale. With an average finish of 7.5 that is identical to his 2020 performance, Webb came back to Anaheim in Round 3 and scored his first career win.

Ryan Dungey won the three previous championships. In his last two he also won during the first three rounds. Dungey’s first win of the 2017 season came in Round 3 at Anaheim 2. In 2016, Dungey won Rounds 2 & 3 at San Diego 1 and Anaheim 2. He would also win Round 4 at Oakland.

In 2015, Dungey had to wait for his first win until Round 5 when the series returned to Anaheim for a third time that year. He stood on the podium in the three races immediately preceding, however.

If the pattern holds and the 2020 champion wins in the first three rounds, Justin Barcia and Ken Roczen have the inside line.

Barcia won Anaheim 1 in a surprising development, but he proved that was not a fluke with his second-place finish last week. Barcia would not make much noise for the remainder of the season, however, and with only a handful of 450SX wins to his credit, he would certainly keep the surprise champions streak alive as well.

Roczen has emotion and momentum on his side after breaking a three-year winless streak at St. Louis. He finished sixth at Anaheim 1.

Season passes can be purchased at NBC Sports Gold.

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F1 aggressive on COVID-19 testing, social distancing enforcement

F1 COVID-19 testing
Mario Renzi - Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images
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With big hugs and wide smiles, McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown exuberantly celebrated the first podium finish of Lando Norris’ Formula One career. His exuberance earned a warning from Formula One and FIA officials during the era of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and subsequent F1 testing.

“Obviously I got excited with Lando on the podium and embraced him after the race,” Brown said with a laugh during a news conference Friday. “You get caught up in the emotion and excitement of the event, but it was suggested maybe I don’t do that again if we get a podium anytime soon.”

MASK WARNING: NASCAR tells teams to avoid ‘complacency’

Now in its second race weekend of 2020, F1 has taken an aggressive approach to maintain a paddock free of COVID-19. Before teams hit the track last week for the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix, F1 and FIA officials said more than 4,000 tests were conducted over a week with no positive tests.

In order to enter the track, any F1 personnel (which includes drivers and team members) must have a negative COVID-19 test. Private testing was used ahead of those traveling to Austria. After entering the track, personnel are tested every five days with private medical teams at events along with extra screening.

The results of F1 COVID-19 testing also will be made public every seven days. More than 8,000 tests were conducted through Saturday.

It’s a much different tack from NASCAR and IndyCar, neither of which is conducting COVID-19 testing (and with NASCAR recently distributing that warned teams of “complacency with protocols).

Though Brown, who also oversees Arrow McLaren SP Motorsports in IndyCar, demurred when asked whether the U.S.-based series should be taking a cue, he praised F1 COVID-19 testing for being a best-in-class example.

“I don’t know exactly what every other racing series is doing, so it would be difficult for me to say they’re doing it right or wrong,” Brown said from Austria. “All I can really do is speak to what Formula One is doing, and they’re doing an unbelievable job with 5,000 tests, and people flying in from different parts of the world. The minute that someone — and there’s not been many instances – has taken a mask off, you’re getting a letter or a phone call saying put your mask back on.

“I think all sports should be looking at all sports and seeing who’s doing what and what are our best practices, but I’ve got nothing but great things to say about how the FIA and Formula One and the countries they’re racing in are executing because it feels extremely safe here.”

Brown said it’s unlikely the European-based circuit will do F1 COVID-19 testing at races in the United States, Brazil, Mexico and Canada because the events likely will be scrubbed. Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, was scheduled to play host to F1 on the Oct. 23-25 race weekend but just canceled its MotoGP race.

“We’d very much like to race at all those circuits,” Brown said. “Unfortunately, my opinion is it’s probably unlikely we’ll race at any of those venues this year. That’s obviously due to the COVID situation. … Let’s see what happens, but certainly it seems like the spikes in Texas are pretty severe and Brazil and Mexico and Canada a little less so. But if we miss them this year, we certainly look forward to going back to those venues next year.”