Supercross: Eli Tomac, Ken Roczen tied entering Daytona

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The 2020 Supercross season heated up last week in Atlanta and should get only tighter as the series heads to a hybrid track this week at Daytona International Speedway at 7:30 p.m. ET. (Watch on NBCSN or stream live.) The long track stretches the length of Daytona’s tri-oval, acts as much like a Motocross course as Supercross and allows for a variety of riding styles.

Eli Tomac headed into Round 8 last week with what appeared to be a comfortable lead. Only seven points separated Tomac from Ken Roczen, but Tomac caught and had pulled away from his rival in the last few weeks.

The story is different heading into Daytona. A bad start at Atlanta mired Tomac in traffic. A crash with Blake Baggett one-third of the way through the race dropped him to 14th. And a feud with Justin Barcia (click on this link for video), who sits third in the points and is in striking distance at 23 points, tightened up the battle.

Roczen won Atlanta; Tomac climbed to fourth at the checkers, and the two riders will both affix red plates to their bikes this week with a share of the points lead. Both riders have 200 points.

MORE: Eli Tomac, Justin Barcia feud on camera at Atlanta

MORE: Justin Barcia set to attack the final nine rounds

Tomac made headlines last week in a way he’d prefer not.

Confronted at the base of the podium by Barcia, the two engaged in verbal fisticuffs. Barcia accused Tomac of riding dirty after a series of passes for eighth-place left Barcia with bloody knuckles. Tomac responded that Barcia has never made a clean pass in his life.

Once they were done chirping, Barcia ascended to the podium. Tomac headed to the pits.

Cooper Webb’s gutsy ride got lost in the drama. Riding with severe bruising from an accident at Dallas one week earlier, Webb battled back from adversity and finished third in a tight three-way battle that included Tomac and Martin Davalos.

Fifth in the points, Jason Anderson finished 11th.

Kyle Cunningham suffered a separation in his left shoulder and will be out for the foreseeable future.

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The 250 class has been just as tight.

Chase Sexton and Shane McElrath came into Atlanta tied for the lead. Sexton’s victory over RJ Hampshire and McElrath gives him sole possession of the red plate, but the points are tight.

Sexton hold a five-point advantage on McElrath. Hampshire is nine more behind.

Joey Crown crashed on press day in Atlanta. He broke his collarbone and will not return for a couple of weeks.

Jace Owens will return at Daytona after sustaining an injury to his arm and a bout with the flu.

Schedule:

Qualifying: 12:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Gold
Race: 7:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Gold and NBCSN

Last Week:

Ken Roczen beat Justin Barcia and Cooper Webb in the 450 class (Eli Tomac finished fourth).
Chase Sexton beat RJ Hampshire and Shane McElrath in the 250 class.

Last Atlanta race (March, 2019):

Eli Tomac beat Cooper Webb and Marvin Musquin in the 450 class.
Austin Forkner beat Chase Sexton and Justin Cooper in the 250 class.

Points Leaders

450s:
Eli Tomac (200)
Ken Roczen (200)
Justin Barcia (177)
Cooper Webb (176)
Jason Anderson (151)

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

250 East:
Chase Sexton (75)
Shane McElrath (70)
RJ Hampshire (61)
Garrett Marchbanks (53)
Jordon Smith (47)

Wins

450

(4) Eli Tomac (Anaheim 2, Oakland, Tampa, and Dallase)
(3) Ken Roczen (St. Louis, Glendale, and Atlanta)
(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

(2) Chase Sexton (Dallas and Atlanta)
(1) Shane McElrath (Tampa)

Top-5s

450

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

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

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

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Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

Hunter Jett Lawrence fans
Align Media
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ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”