Ken Roczen wins Atlanta Supercross, Tomac and Webb battle back


There is a reason riders don’t count the points until the race is over. Ken Roczen earned the most with his flag-to-flag win in Round 9 of the 2020 season at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. And with his third win of the season, Roczen leaves Georgia with the red plate.

“Every time I win, I get happier and happier,” Roczen said on NBCSN after the race. “Each win gets more fun and more addicting.”

In the last three races, Roczen has finished third, second, and first.

With the win, he is tied with Eli Tomac atop the standings with 200 points. Tomac finished fourth in the race, which is a minor miracle in its own right.

While Roczen grabbed the holeshot, Tomac got a bad start. In heavy traffic, Tomac and Justin ‘Bam Bam’ Barcia banged into one another, throwing both off their rhythms.

Earlier this week, Barcia told his plan for the race was to attack. And that is just what he did. Refusing to give ground when the two banged bars, Barcia came out the victor in that battle and then attacked the course.

“I made a good clean pass on (Tomac), and then he pounded into me,” Barcia said. “Got me pretty good. I was not happy with that racing. But I put that aside. What a great race; charged through the pack.”

Barcia finished second and put himself right back in the points battle. It is his first podium since he finished second at St. Louis in Week 2.

Barcia is third in the standings, 23 points behind the leaders.

Tomac got mired in traffic, and when he tried to make an aggressive pass on Blake Baggett, both riders went down hard. Tomac fell to 14th and lost more than 20 seconds. He was also in jeopardy of losing the red plate. In typical Tomac fashion, he charged through the field and finished fourth. At the checkers, one could have thrown a blanket over third through fifth.

Reflecting on the contact with Barcia that contributed to his slow start, Tomac said: “It was just battling. If I get bumped, I’m going to bump back. That’s just the way it is. Mine might have been a little bit more of a hit, but really I’m just giving it back.”

Battling back was the theme of the night.

Last week Cooper Webb crashed hard in the dragon’s back. Riding hurt is not new for Supercross stars, but it was impressive that Webb was in the Atlanta race after suffering a severe hematoma to his back.

“That was probably the hardest race I’ve ever had,” Webb said afterward. “I just put my head down and did the best I could. I got a few gifts from the guys up front, but man, it was painful.”

Webb took the final spot on the podium in third.

Martin Davalos was set to earn his first podium until he was caught by the determined and hard-charging Webb and Tomac. They caught him on the final lap and blazed past, but Davalos scored his first career top-five.

The 250 East season started with intensity.

Hard riding by RJ Hampshire created some hard feelings in the first two races, but the storyline that developed after Tampa and Dallas was how evenly matched last year’s champion Chase Sexton is with Shane McElrath.

They entered the race with red plates affixed to both of their bikes as co-leaders in the standings. But at Atlanta, Hampshire made certain everyone remembers he is in the battle. He entered the race eight points out of first and grabbed the holeshot.

The three title contenders got a great start. Hampshire was best among them, but he could not get away from Sexton.

Halfway through the race, Sexton had a decision to make. A small bobble by Hampshire allowed him to pounce – and he was only the least bit reluctant to make some contact as he came through.

“It was really hard to pass out there,” Sexton said on NBCSN after the race. “The track was pretty much one line. … RJ was riding good. He wasn’t really making mistakes. … I decided I just have to make this pass, saw him case that triple a little bit and I just dove to the inside. I didn’t want to hit him, but he committed to the corner and I was there.”

Hampshire was gracious about the contact during the pass for the lead, acknowledging that aggression is part of the sport.

His focus was on the run, however; not any incidental contact.

“Each week we’re going to continue to get better,” Hampshire said. “That was a good glimpse. We got the holeshot. I felt good; got a good flow.”

McElrath lost five points to Sexton but held onto second in the points. He stood on the podium, but he was not happy with the result.

“It was a rough Main altogether,” McElrath said. “I actually locked bikes with RJ going into the first corner and it bent my clutch a bit. I struggled to find a flow that time.”

Jordon Smith finished fourth.

Rookie Jo Shimoda impressed the field with his first top-five finish in his career. His previous best was a pair of 10ths at Tampa and Dallas last week.


Heat 1: Ken Roczen lost ground to Tomac during the past two weeks. He needed to establish his position as a contender and did so with his sixth heat win of the season. “The heat race really sets the tone for the night,” Roczen said from the top of the podium. “We’ve been hammering those out.”… Jason Anderson settled into second early. He finished two seconds behind Roczen and 1.6 seconds ahead of Justin Brayton. … Third-place Brayton was happy to get out of this heat without eating some dirt. Last week he crashed multiple times in the Triple Crown. … Justin Barcia told NBC this week that he needed to improve his starts. He came out of the gates strong and was riding fourth at the end of the first lap. … Aaron Plessinger rounded out the top five. … The final transfer position came down to a heated battle by Tyler Bowers and Kyle Cunningham. Bowers finished ninth, sending Cunningham to the LCQ. | Heat 1 Results

Heat 2: After Roczen handily won the first heat, Eli Tomac had to respond. He did with an 8.8-second win over Justin Hill. … Cooper Webb rides hurt after landing hard on his back last week at Arlington. He took his bruised body past Martin Davalos as time ran off the clock to finish third. … Davalos held on to finish fourth with Dean Wilson rounding out the top five. … Chad Reed finished eighth and will make his 257th start in the 450 class. … Kyle Chisholm finished ninth and took the final transfer spot. | Heat 2 Results

LCQ: James Weeks scooted out to an early lead and never gave it up in route to his first LCQ victory. … HEP Suzuki teammate Kyle Cunningham and Adam Enticknap join Ryan Breece in the Main. Cunningham finished second. … Enticknap qualified for his second Main of the season. He finished 21st at Tampa. Earlier this season, he told NBC of his desire to pave the way for the Other 19 who don’t always qualify for the big show. … Daniel Herrlein took the final transfer by one second over Jared Lesher. | LCQ Results


Heat 1: Jeremy Martin earned the hole shot as a battle developed behind him for second. He ran a relaxed race and finished comfortably ahead of Shane McElrath for his first heat win of 2020. … Returning from a broken back, Pierce Brown impressed the field. He ran in second for the majority of the race. McElrath passed him with a little more than a minute remaining. … Enzo Lopes and Jo Shimoda rounded out the top five. … Curren Thurman took the last transfer spot in ninth. | Heat 1 Results

Heat 2: It was a grudge match between Chase Sexton and RJ Hampshire after a an aggressive pass last week at Arlington put Sexton on the ground. This time, Sexton held the advantage. He made an aggressive but clean pass on Hampshire halfway through the event. It is Sexton’s second heat win of the season. … Hampshire grabbed the hole shot. After getting passed by Sexton he was under fire from Jordon Smith. They swapped positions multiple times with Smith ultimately taking second. … Hampshire finished third, with Nick Gaines in fourth and Garrett Marchbanks rounding out the top five. … Jalek Swoll grabbed the final transfer position in ninth. | Heat 2 Results

LCQ: Eighteen-year-old Grant Harlan ran an easy pace to win the LCQ over Lance Kobusch. … Cedric Soubeyras finished third. … It was a little more dramatic for Jimmy Decotis. He started in sixth after bending his handlebar in his heat. It took half of the race to catch and pass Jeremy Hand for the final transfer position into the Main. | LCQ Results

Click here for 450 Main Results | Season Points
Click here for 250 Main Results | Season Points

Next race: March 7, Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Fla.

Season passes can be purchased at NBC Sports Gold.

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With throaty roar, NASCAR Next Gen Camaro is taking Le Mans by storm on global stage

Le Mans 24 Hour Race - Car Parade
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

LE MANS, France — The V8 engine of the NASCAR Chevrolet Camaro has a distinct growl that cannot go unnoticed even among the most elite sports cars in the world at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

When the Hendrick Motorsports crew fired up the car inside Garage 56, NASCAR chairman Jim France broke into a huge grin and gave a thumbs up.

“The only guy who didn’t cover his ears,” laughed seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson.

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France has been waiting since 1962 – the year his father, NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., brought him to his first 24 Hours of Le Mans – to hear the roar of a stock car at the most prestigious endurance race in the world.

A path finally opened when NASCAR developed its Next Gen car, which debuted last year. France worked out a deal to enter a car in a specialized “Innovative Car” class designed to showcase technology and development. The effort would be part of NASCAR’s 75th celebration and it comes as Le Mans marks its 100th.

Once he had the approval, France persuaded Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear – NASCAR’s winningest team, manufacturer and tire supplier – to build a car capable of running the twice-around-the-clock race.

The race doesn’t start until Saturday, but NASCAR’s arrival has already been wildly embraced and France could not be more thrilled.

“Dad’s vision, to be able to follow it, it took awhile to follow it up, and my goal was to outdo what he accomplished,” France told The Associated Press. “I just hope we don’t fall on our ass.”

The car is in a class of its own and not racing anyone else in the 62-car field. But the lineup of 2010 Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller, 2009 Formula One champion Jenson Button and Johnson has been fast enough; Rockenfeller put down a qualifying lap that was faster than every car in the GTE AM class by a full three seconds.

The Hendrick Motorsports crew won its class in the pit stop competition and finished fifth overall as the only team using a manual jack against teams exclusively using air jacks. Rick Hendrick said he could not be prouder of the showing his organization has made even before race day.

“When we said we’re gonna do it, I said, ‘Look, we can’t do this half-assed. I want to be as sharp as anybody out there,” Hendrick told AP. “I don’t want to be any less than any other team here. And just to see the reaction from the crowd, people are so excited about this car. My granddaughter has been sending me all these TikTok things that fans are making about NASCAR being at Le Mans.”

This isn’t NASCAR’s first attempt to run Le Mans. The late France Sr. brokered a deal in 1976, as America celebrated its bicentennial, to bring two cars to compete in the Grand International class and NASCAR selected the teams. Herschel McGriff and his son, Doug, drove a Wedge-powered, Olympia Beer-sponsored Dodge Charger, and Junie Donlavey piloted a Ford Torino shared by Richard Brooks and Dick Hutcherson.

Neither car came close to finishing the race. McGriff, now 95 and inducted into NASCAR’s Hall of Fame in January, is in Le Mans as France’s guest, clad head-to-toe in the noticeable Garage 56 uniforms.

“I threw a lot of hints that I would like to come. And I’ve been treated as royalty,” McGriff said. “This is unbelievable to me. I recognize nothing but I’m anxious to see everything. I’ve been watching and seeing pictures and I can certainly see the fans love their NASCAR.”

The goal is to finish the full race Sunday and, just maybe, beat cars from other classes. Should they pull off the feat, the driver trio wants its own podium celebration.

“I think people will talk about this car for a long, long time,” said Rockenfeller, who along with sports car driver Jordan Taylor did much of the development alongside crew chief Chad Knaus and Greg Ives, a former crew chief who stepped into a projects role at Hendrick this year.

“When we started with the Cup car, we felt already there was so much potential,” Rockenfeller said. “And then we tweaked it. And we go faster, and faster, at Le Mans on the SIM. But you never know until you hit the real track, and to be actually faster than the SIM. Everybody in the paddock, all the drivers, they come up and they are, ‘Wow, this is so cool,’ and they were impressed by the pit stops. We’ve overachieved, almost, and now of course the goal is to run for 24 hours.”

The car completed a full 24-hour test at Sebring, Florida, earlier this year, Knaus said, and is capable of finishing the race. Button believes NASCAR will leave a lasting impression no matter what happens.

“If you haven’t seen this car live yet, it’s an absolute beast,” Button said. “When you see and hear it go by, it just puts a massive smile on your face.”

For Hendrick, the effort is the first in his newfound embrace of racing outside NASCAR, the stock car series founded long ago in the American South. Aside from the Le Mans project, he will own the Indy car that Kyle Larson drives for Arrow McLaren in next year’s Indianapolis 500 and it will be sponsored by his automotive company.

“If you’d have told me I’d be racing at Le Mans and Indianapolis within the same year, I’d never have believed you,” Hendrick told AP. “But we’re doing both and we’re going to do it right.”

Le Mans 24 Hour Race - Car Parade
Fans gather around the NASCAR Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 that is the Garage 56 entry for the 100th 24 Hours of Le Mans at the Circuit de la Sarthe (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).

General Motors is celebrating the achievement with a 2024 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Garage 56 Edition and only 56 will be available to collectors later this year.

“Even though Chevrolet has been racing since its inception in 1911, we’ve never done anything quite like Garage 56,” said GM President Mark Reuss. “A NASCAR stock car running at Le Mans is something fans doubted they would see again.”

The race hasn’t even started yet, but Hendrick has enjoyed it so much that he doesn’t want the project to end.

“It’s like a shame to go through all this and do all this, and then Sunday it’s done,” Hendrick said. “It’s just really special to be here.”