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.

Season passes can be purchased at NBC Sports Gold.

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‘His Mona Lisa’: Roger Penske adds his golden touch to iconic Indy

AP Photo/Jenna Fryer
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INDIANAPOLIS — The purists can relax: Roger Penske did not remove troughs from the men’s bathrooms at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

He replaced them, of course, with the shiniest, sleekest basins on the urinal market, thus preserving one of the speedway’s treasured if unusual features while still insisting every inch of the facility be brought up to Penske code. It’s been six months since Penske completed his purchase of the 111-year-old national landmark, a fixer-upper that he already has lavished with some $15 million worth of improvements.

“It’s like you just bought a Ferrari,” said Penske, “but it was rained on.”

Penske gave The Associated Press a two-hour tour of the speedway this week, showing off with dizzying detail the new landscaping, paved lots, planted trees, picnic tables, widened pedestrian paths, hand dryers in every bathroom, improved sight lines, pressure-washed buildings, freshly painted signs and LED monitors everywhere.

There is not a lone pièce de résistance; Penske is equally proud of every change, including a 104-by-20-foot video board on the Pagoda, a lift in the winner’s circle to raise the winning car and, of course. those old-school troughs.

Two days before the speedway opened for a historic NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader race weekend, the 83-year-old Penske was pushing a car onto the lift as he quadruple-checked its functionality. He went through another dry run of the lift, ensuring it lined up perfectly for postrace celebrations and alerting an employee to some manufacturer stickers he wanted removed lest the public seem anything short of Penske perfect.

“This is his life’s work,” said Chip Ganassi, a longtime rival car owner. “The way he talks about the place, the energy in his voice over every element. This is his Mona Lisa.”

A car drives past the 16th Street entrance to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which has been refurbished by Roger Penske over the past six months (AP Photo/Darron Cummings).

Penske, for the record, is a billionaire transportation titan with a record 18 Indianapolis 500 victories.

He has powerhouse teams in both NASCAR and IndyCar, but the latter is now even more of a beloved project. When Tony George approached him last September to inform him the Hulman family was looking to sell the famous speedway, Penske pounced on the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The deal was finalized in six weeks and he got the keys – he literally has a set of keys that opens doors inside the speedway – the first week of January. He quickly was climbing through the grandstands in a freezing Indiana rain as he personally inspected his sprawling new property, one of the most famous sports venues in history.

Penske is meticulous and every element of his operations reflects an immaculate and organized culture. When “The Captain” talks about sprucing up the speedway, he often references Augusta National, home of the Masters and a gold standard among golf tournaments in terms of resources, presentation and hospitality.

It is Penske’s expectation that fans will view Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the same level of admiration, awe and respect that Augusta receives.

“It’s my job. I’m not looking for a gold star or a blue ribbon, I just want to be sure the guests, the fans that come, ultimately when they can come, will have the experience that I hope they will,” Penske said. “I want to take Indianapolis Motor Speedway to the next level.”

He envisions three IndyCar races a season, a return of Formula One, a crown jewel sports car race and an improved NASCAR weekend that potentially could see the Cup Series shift to the road course and away from the 2.5-mile oval.


The updated rear facade of the Pagoda at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (AP Photo/Darron Cummings).

The platform above the new Pagoda video board is wide enough to fit 18 Indy cars – or a musical act for a concert in the plaza. The monitor itself could be used for a movie night, and Penske said eventually IndyCar races in other cities will be aired on the screen for watch parties.

He knows off the top of his head that 25,000 linear square feet of fencing – almost two laps around the oval – has been erected on the grounds. Penske said 4,000 cans of paint and counting have been used and can point out areas that have been updated. He marvels at the 400,000 square feet of asphalt that has been paved, particularly in lots once notorious for being muddy messes.

He can spot the new trees on the property and notes that 3 acres of sod were put down. Penske marveled at the immaculate grounds of the Brickyard Crossing golf course on the property, so he put the groundskeeper in charge of the entire place.

They temporarily closed the Crossing so energy could be focused on the rest of the grounds in time for this weekend’s race. Ganassi said as he flew into Indy, the green grass was what most struck him from his aerial view.

The place looks brand new and yet the work won’t stop any time soon.

Penske hopes to host 175,000 fans – half of capacity – for the rescheduled Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23, and he wants them to be wowed. There will be no fans this weekend, and even race teams are highly restricted on where they can go.

Mark Miles, the day-to-day head of the speedway, recalled that Penske executive Tim Cindric said “the place looks 25 years younger,” which Miles said is an understatement.

“It’s not just fresher and younger. There are areas that are just better,” Miles said. “The scale of the improvements, the comprehensiveness of the improvements, is remarkable. But the one thing that is really going to blow people away is the new big board on the back of the Pagoda. The mayor’s office downtown can hear the audio system on that. We’re looking forward to being able to show these things off.”

A new sign at Indianapolis Motor Speedway greets visitors as they enter the north entrance (AP Photo/Darron Cummings).