Supercross: Eli Tomac looks to pad points lead in Atlanta

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As the Monster Energy Supercross season heads into Round 9 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia, the halfway points battle is shaping up as a two-rider affair with Eli Tomac holding a seven-point lead over Ken Roczen. (Watch on NBCSN or stream live.)

Cooper Webb and Justin Barcia sit 26 and 27 points out, respectively, with a real chance at catching the leaders, but only if they begin standing on the podium regularly in the final nine rounds.  At 42 points in arrears, Jason Anderson needs to make up nearly five points per race, which could be difficult with how Tomac is performing.

After getting off to a slow start in 2020 with a seventh in Anaheim 1 and a fourth in St Louis, Tomac won Anaheim 2. He has stood on the podium in all but one round since then. Tomac’s win in Tampa two weeks ago and his victory in Arlington last week give him more momentum than anyone in the field.

Roczen is slowly losing ground. His only bad effort since the season opener was a sixth in San Diego, but that bobble allowed Tomac to get close. Roczen lost the red plate at Tampa with a third-place finish and saw a few more points slip in Arlington.

MORE: Justin Barcia set to attack the final nine rounds

MORE: Adam Cianciarulo, Cooper Webb crash in Arlington

Meanwhile, two of the riders who were keeping Tomac and Roczen in sight had terrible outings in Arlington. Cooper Webb and Adam Cianciarulo had hard offs in the dragon’s back section of the track. Webb will race this week despite his soreness; Cianciarulo is recovering from a broken collarbone.

Zach Osborne sustained a broken rib, sprained wrist and bruised lungs in a practice crash this week. The timing of his return to the bike is unknown at this time, but he will certainly miss Atlanta.

Broc Tickle broke his hand in an incident last week in Dallas. He just climbed back on a bike and is off once more.

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Two winners in two rounds of the 250 East division sees a tie at the top of the standings. With 49 points apiece, Shane McElrath and Chase Sexton will both have red plates affixed to their bikes this week. Only one will be so adorned next week.

Jimmy Decotis crashed in Arlington and was unable to ride. He is expected to be on his bike this week despite nursing a fractured pelvis.

After getting battered and bruised during the offseason, Pierce Brown will make his 250 East debut this week.

Jace Owens will miss Atlanta with an illness.

Schedule:

Qualifying: 11 a.m. on NBC Sports Gold
Race: 5:00 p.m. on NBC Sports Gold and NBCSN

Last Week:

Eli Tomac beat Ken Roczen and Jason Anderson in the 450 class.
Chase Sexton beat Shane McElrath RJ Hampshire in the 250 class.

Last Atlanta race (March, 2019):

Cooper Webb beat Blake Baggett and Marvin Musquin in the 450 class.
Adam Cianciarulo beat Dylan Ferrandis and Austin Forkner in the 250 class.

Points Leaders

450s:
Eli Tomac (181)
Ken Roczen (174)
Cooper Webb (155)
Justin Barcia (154)
Jason Anderson (139)

250 West:
Dylan Ferrandis (135)
Justin Cooper (128)
Austin Forkner (122)
Brandon Hartranft (110)
Alex Martin (98)

250 East:
Shane McElrath (49)
Chase Sexton (49)
Jeremy Martin (40)
Garrett Marchbanks (38)
Jordon Smith (37)

Wins

450

(4) Eli Tomac (Anaheim 2, Oakland, Tampa, and Dallase)
(2) Ken Roczen (St. Louis and Glendale)
(1) Justin Barcia (Anaheim 1)
(1) Cooper Webb (San Diego)

250 West

(3) Dylan Ferrandis (Anaheim 2, Oakland, and San Diego)
(2) Austin Forkner (St. Louis and Glendale)
(1) Justin Cooper (Anaheim 1)

250 East

(1) Shane McElrath (Tampa)
(1) Chase Sexton (Dallas)

Top-5s

450

(7) Eli Tomac
(6) Cooper Webb
(6) Jason Anderson
(6) Ken Roczen
(6) Justin Barcia
(3) Adam Cianciarulo
(3) Zach Osborne
(2) Blake Baggett
(1) Justin Hill

250 West

(5) Dylan Ferrandis
(5) Austin Forkner
(5) Justin Cooper
(4) Michael Mosiman
(4) Brandon Hartranft
(3) Alex Martin
(1) Christian Craig
(1) Jett Lawrence
(1) Jacob Hayes
(1) Luke Clout

250 East

(2) Shane McElrath
(2) Chase Sexton
(2) Jeremy Martin
(2) Garrett Marchbanks
(1) Jordon Smith
(1) RJ Hampshire

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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.