Supercross: Eli Tomac, Chase Sexton win Arlington Triple Crown

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Eli Tomac and Ken Roczen battled handlebar-to-handlebar in what may be a preview for the remainder of the 2020 season in the 450 class of Monster Energy Supercross. Meanwhile, Chase Sexton and Shane McElrath did precisely the same thing in 250s in the second Triple Crown race of the year.

Tomac got off to a slow start. Riding well outside the top 10 on the first lap of Main 1, he worked hard to get to fifth at the checkers. He had a much better start in the second race in route to victory. In the third Main of the Triple Crown format, he split the difference and started fifth, setting up one of the most dramatic finishes of the year.

“Jason (Anderson) was in second there and the way the points were falling I was like, ‘Gosh dangit, I’m going to be third overall right now,’ ” Tomac said on NBCSN after the race. “My main focus was just going forward.”

Tomac rode down Roczen and then set his sights on the 2018 champion Jason Anderson. Neither rider would give up their positions easily and Tomac was forced to pass each of them multiple times. In the end, his 5-1-1 was enough for the overall win. It is his fourth win of the season and the second consecutive on the heels of his Tampa victory.

Roczen got off to a great start. After sweeping the Mains at Glendale in the first Triple Crown of the year, he won the first race at Dallas to go four-for-four. Roczen finished 1-7-2 for second overall. He sits second in the points, seven behind Tomac.

“I physically didn’t feel all that great,” Roczen said afterward. “I’m glad that in the last race I was able to put up a good fight. Me and Eli were going back and forth there for a while, but I made a mistake and he went back by.”

Anderson had a shot at the overall win, for his first victory since his championship season. He entered the third Main with a one point advantage, took the lead halfway through the race from Zach Osborne, but couldn’t hold Tomac at bay. With time running off the clock, he jumped wide and crashed. Finishing with 3-2-5, he was scored third overall.

“I haven’t been out front in a long time,” Anderson said. “It’s probably been since 2018. Riding out front: I feel good, but at the same time I’m a little bit hesitant there. I just need to keep doing it race after race and give myself the opportunity (to win the championship).”

Justin Barcia (4-5-4) and Osborne (7-4-3) rounded out the top five.

The championship was impacted by a pair of injuries.

Cooper Webb finished second in the first race and was running second in Main 2 when he buried his front wheel in the Dragons’ Back and was catapulted over the handlebars. He landed hard on the concrete. Webb was transported to a local hospital and failed to start Main 3. He finished 12th overall.

The news was worse for Adam Cianciarulo. He also crashed on the Dragon’s Back in practice and broke his left collarbone. Cianciarulo will be out of contention for at least a few weeks.

Overall Results | Points

The Arlington Triple Crown was a preview of what to expect for the remainder of the 250 East championship.

In the third Main of the night, Shane McElrath grabbed the hole shot and rode to a comfortable lead – beating Chase Sexton to the checkers. McElrath won the battle, but Sexton won the war.

With a 2-1-2, Sexton edged McElrath by one point. McElrath scored a 3-2-1 and on the cool down lap, the two title contenders took a moment to bump fists before heading to the podium.

“It’s always great getting a win, but I didn’t want the same thing to happen as happened last year,” Sexton said on NBCSN after the race. “I had to stop (McElrath) and put myself out there to show him I’m here to play and I think I did that tonight.”

McElrath’s win last week and Sexton’s victory at Dallas means the two riders will both head to Atlanta next week with a red plate firmly affixed to the front of their bikes.

“I tried a little too hard in the first two,” McElrath said after the race. “I had some silly mistakes and bad starts.”

Meanwhile, RJ Hampshire delivered a message to the competition. He will do what it takes to grab every position on the track. In route to winning the first Main, Hampshire cleaned out the leader Sexton. In the third Main, Hampshire rode into the side of Jordon Smith as they challenged for third. If not for a bad start in the second Main, Hampshire would have challenged for the overall win.

His aggression paid off with a third-place finish overall with a 1-6-3.

Jeremy Martin finished 5-3-4 for a fourth overall with Garrett Marchbanks (6-4-5) finishing fifth.

Overall Results | Points

450s

Main 1: Ken Roczen wants to be the 2020 champion and what better way is there to establish that than by beating the last two champions. … Roczen picked up where he left off in the last Triple Crown event; he swept all three Mains in Glendale and now has four straight. … Webb followed him across the line about three seconds back. … Jason Anderson  was another second and a half behind. … Justin Barcia finished fourth. … Eli Tomac got off to another miserable start. He crossed the finish line 13th on Lap 1 and was forced to come from the back. He climbed to ninth with 6:43 to go, was sixth with 3:20 remaining and climbed into the top five with 2:45 to go. … Justin Brayton and Martin Davalos had top-five positions in hand before they crashed. Brayton finished 15th; Davalos 11th. | Results

Main 2: Eli Tomac got a much better start in the second Main. He took the lead on Lap 1 and never looked back. … Jason Anderson grabbed second halfway through the race and kept Tomac in sight, but finished 3.3 seconds behind. He had the overall lead at the time by 1 point. … Justin Hill scored an emotional podium in third. … Zach Osborne and Justin Barcia rounded out the top five. … After a bad start when he pulled the wheel up slightly and fell to 10th, Ken Roczen recovered to finish seventh. … The story of the race was a tragedy; riding fourth when time ran off the clock, Cooper Webb landed on his front wheel on the Dragon’s Back. He was catapulted off his bike and landed hard on his back on the cement. | Results

Main 3: After getting a bad start in the first Main and a great start in the second, Eli Tomac split the difference in Main 3. He started around fifth but had the best riders in front of him. Tomac sliced through the pack and survived seesaw battles with Ken Roczen for third and then Jason Anderson for the lead. … Roczen slipped into second when Anderson went down with one lap remaining. … Zach Osborne got the holeshot before fading to third. … Justin Barcia rounded out the top five. … With two laps remaining Anderson went down the whoops; he finished fifth. | Results

250s

Main 1: The first Main was a slugfest. Chase Sexton stalked RJ Hampshire and caught him with 5:12 remaining. Sexton got around Hampshire clean, but one lap later Hampshire cleaned Sexton out. … Sexton fell a few positions, but charged back to second. … The battle shifted to Shane McElrath, who punted Jordon Smith off course with two minutes remaining. … McElrath finished fourth with Smith holding on for fourth. … Jeremy Martin rounded out the top five.  | Results

Main 2: Chase Sexton decided it was best to not allow any rider to get close to him in the second Main. He shot out to a huge start and built a more than 10 second lead with two minutes remaining on the clock. … Shane McElrath stayed out of drama in the second Main as well. He passed Joey Crown midway through the event and held onto second. … Jeremy Martin took the last spot on the podium with Garrett Marchbanks finishing fourth. … The rookie Crown had a great showing. As high as second in the opening laps, he faded at the checkers, but still had a solid fifth-place showing. … The winner of the first Main had a bad start. RJ Hampshire was 15th on Lap 1. He charged through the field and nipped Joshua Hill at the line for sixth to keep his hopes for an overall win alive. | Results

Main 3: Shane McElrath grabbed the lead early and held on to the checkers, slowly extending his lead over Chase Sexton in second. … Once gain RJ Hampshire provided the drama. After dumping Sexton in the first Main as the two battled for the lead, he rode into the side of Jordon Smith halfway through this race and stole third. … Jeremy Martin and Garrett Marchbanks rounded out the top five. | Results

Next race: February 29, Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta.

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New schedule has Josef Newgarden seeing double (points) again in 2020

Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images
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Two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden of Team Penske believes the latest revised schedule for 2020 will change his approach to the season.

The new schedule has the defending IndyCar champion looking at ways to double the possibilities for a second consecutive championship.

“When I look at the whole schedule they released now, I look at it as double-points as a whole in all of them,” Newgarden told NBCSports.com Monday. “Iowa is double points on a short oval. There are double points at the Indy GP because there are two races and a road course. Then double points at Laguna, which is a different road course than IMS. And there is double points in the Indianapolis 500.”

IndyCar announced to team owners two weeks ago that the season finale (once scheduled for Laguna Seca and now at St. Petersburg) will no longer be a double-points event. But Monday’s schedule revision essentially adds three double points-style races to the Indy 500’s double-points format, Newgarden said.

“Those are four events where you have to be quite strong,” Newgarden said. “They are all very different from each other. Each one is critical to get right. Iowa has a chance to be the most difficult. From a physical standpoint, it’s already a physical track for one race. To double it up on one weekend will be quite the toll for the drivers.

“It will be a very big test physically to see who will get that weekend right. You can bag a lot of points because of it.”

Just 12 days after the first schedule revision, IndyCar officials announced another revised schedule Monday because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The new schedule features doubleheader weekends at Iowa Speedway in July and Laguna Seca in September. There is an additional race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course Oct. 3.

That race will be known as the IndyCar Harvest Grand Prix. It will be the second time in Indianapolis Motor Speedway history that an IndyCar race is held in the fall. The only other time was the Harvest Auto Racing Classic, a series of three races won by Johnny Aitken on Sept. 9, 1916.

The Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix scheduled for May 30-31 will be dropped from the 2020 schedule. Michigan has a “Stay at Home” order that won’t be lifted in time to start construction of the Belle Isle street course.

Penske Entertainment CEO Mark Miles said the Detroit event will return in 2021.

The IMS road course essentially will have a doubleheader spaced out by nearly three months. The first race will be the GMR IndyCar Grand Prix on July 4, and the second will be Oct. 3 in the Harvest Grand Prix.

The extra doubleheaders combined with the loss of Detroit gives IndyCar a 15-race schedule for 2020. It started out as a 17-race campaign, but April’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, the Acura Grand Prix of Indianapolis and the AutoNation IndyCar Classic at Circuit of The Americas (COTA) have been canceled. The season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is being revived as the season finale on a TBA weekend in October.

Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Newgarden also is excited about the chance to run at Indianapolis for three major races in one season. Of course, that all depends on how soon IndyCar can return to action because of the global pandemic.

“I’m continually excited about the thought of getting back to the race track,” Newgarden said. “We would love to be there now, but we can’t. With the current situation, everyone is trying to do the best they can to pitch in and do their part so we can get back to the track as quickly as possible.

“I’m excited to get back to racing at some point in the future. To see that is planned to start at Texas is still great. IndyCar has done a great job staying active and fluid with the ever-changing dynamics and current situation.

“We have three opportunities at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. There are a lot of chances to get it right at the Mecca of our sport.

“I have a lot of trust and faith in IndyCar and Roger, and they are doing their best to stay on top of the situation.”

The one downer to the revised schedule is the loss of the Detroit doubleheader, a very important weekend to Team Penske because Roger Penske also owns the Detroit race. It’s a chance to showcase the series in front of as “Motor City” crowd, which is also the home to the Penske Corp.

“It’s a shame that we miss any event this year,” Newgarden said. “As a racer, you look forward to each one of them. If any of them drop off, it’s a tough pill. Detroit is more so because it is such an important race for us at Team Penske. It’s in our backyard for Penske Corp. Also, our relationship with Chevrolet, how much they put I that event and try to get it right for everybody involved. It’s tough to not have a go at that this year.

“I think of the volunteers. The Detroit weekend is so well run and executed with such a positive momentum behind it for the last eight years that I’ve gone there. I’ve always enjoyed that weekend off the back of the Indy 500.

“It’s a shame we will miss that this year, but I look forward to getting back there in 2021 and getting it started again.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500