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Josef Newgarden voices support for hometown of Nashville after tornado

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Nashville native Josef Newgarden always has kept close ties with his hometown. In fact, the 29-year-old Tennessean moved back to his home state last year to be closer with his family.

The defending NTT IndyCar Series champion woke up Tuesday morning in Florida (where he was testing at Sebring International Raceway) to the news that his hometown was struck by a deadly tornado.

“It was 5 a.m., and there were all these texts asking me if I was good,” Newgarden told the NFL Network in a Wednesday morning interview. “Fortunately, we are all fine. Everyone in my family is great. Not everyone was so lucky, as everyone saw.

“The big thing was my sister. She lives in East Nashville, where it hit really hard and she missed it by just a little bit. I feel for the city, my heart breaks for a lot of my friends there. We have to rebuild. That city has done it before with the floods and we will have to do it with a tornado. I need to get back home. I have been gone for the last 48 hours, I need to get back home and see what I can do.”

Newgarden also took to social media to voice his support of his fellow Nashvillians.

Additionally, fellow Tennessean and three-time NASCAR champion Darrell Waltrip, who resides in nearby Franklin, Tennessee, also tweeted that he and his family were unaffected by the tornado.

Charlotte Motor Speedway vice president and general manager Greg Walter also woke up Tuesday to a message from his daughter, a Nashville resident who was impacted but thankfully survived the storm.

Tuesday’s tornado death toll currently is at 24 (with dozens still missing), which would tie it with a Feb. 5, 2008 tornado as the second deadliest in Tennessee history, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center.

Supercross points leader Eli Tomac finds silver linings in interruption

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Though his Monster Energy AMA Supercross championship charge was put on hold, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic had a silver lining for Eli Tomac.

Off the road while the season was postponed for nearly three months, the points leader was able to be present as his girlfriend, Jessica, gave birth to their daughter, Lev, on April 26

“A huge blessing for us there,” Tomac told host Mike Tirico during a “Lunch Talk Live” interview (click on the video above) in which he also joked about becoming a pro at busting off diaper changes. “That was one good blessing for us as we had our daughter on a Sunday, that would have been on a travel day coming back from the race in Las Vegas.

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“That was probably the only positive out of all this mess was being able to be there for the birth.”

But there also could be more good fortune for Tomac as the series resumes Sunday at Salt Lake City, Utah (3-4 p.m. ET on NBCSN, 4-6 p.m. on NBC).

The final seven events will be held over 22 days in Rice-Eccles Stadium, which sits at just over 4,000 feet.

The elevation could favor Tomac, who was born and lives in Colorado and is accustomed to riding and training at altitude, which is a departure for many Supercross riders (many of whom hail from California and Florida).

COVID-19 TESTING REQUIRED: Supercross outlines protocols for last seven races

“That’s going to be the test for us,” said the Kawasaki rider, who five of the first 10 races this season. “We’re at elevation in Salt Lake, so when you’re on a motorcycle, you have a little bit of a loss of power. That’s just what happens when you come up in elevation. And a lot of guys train at sea level, and we’re at 4,000 to 5,000 feet, so cardio-wise, we’ll be pushed to the limit.

“Most of our races are Saturday nights and back to back weeks, but this go around it’s Sunday and Wednesday, so recovery is going to be key.”

Supercross will race Sunday and Wednesday for the next three weeks, capping the season with the June 21 finale, which also will be shown on NBCSN from 3-4:30 p.m. ET and NBC from 4:30-6 p.m. ET.

Tomac, who holds a three-point lead over Ken Roczen (who also recently visited “Lunch Talk Live”), told Tirico he had been riding for 90 minutes Thursday morning on a track outside Salt Lake City.

“Most of us we can rely on our past riding pretty well,” Tomac said. “The question is if you can go the distance. That’s what a lot of guys have to train on is going the distance. We go 20 minutes plus a lap. That’s what you’ve got to keep sharp is your general muscles. Within two to three days, your brain starts warming up more if you take a few weeks off the motorcycle.”

Here is the schedule and TV information for the rest of the season:

  • Sunday, May 31 (3-4 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4-6 p.m. ET, NBC);
  • Wednesday, June 3 ( 10:00 pm – 1:00 am ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 7 (5-8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 10 (7–10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 14 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Wednesday, June 17 (7-10 p.m. ET, NBCSN);
  • Sunday, June 21 (3-4:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN; 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. ET, NBC).
Eli Tomac rides his No. 3 Kawasaki in the Feb. 29 race at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia (Charles Mitchell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images).