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Garrett Marchbanks reflects on his Daytona Supercross win

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Last week before the rash of postponements and cancelations affected every facet of motorsports, NBC Sports caught up with Garrett Marchbanks to discuss his dramatic first victory in the Daytona Supercross race.

In racing, the thing that matters most is the last thing a racer does.

Win the last race before a break and he can stand tall for a couple of weeks. Win that last race of the season and he has bragging rights for the entire offseason.

“I just need to put my head down and ride every race like it was my last one,” Marchbanks told NBC Sports last week before the Covid-19 outbreak put the 2020 Supercross season on pause.

As it tuned out, his words were prophetic.

In his second professional season, Marchbanks had one podium finish in 13 races before Daytona. He wasn’t exactly on a lot of radar screens, but only one person has to believe in a rider’s ability to win – the rider himself.

“Before the heat race I felt good, and when I feel good it’s going to be a good night,” Marchbanks said. “I wasn’t really nervous that night, which was crazy because I’m usually a pretty nervous person on certain nights. I haven’t felt like that since I was an amateur rider two years ago.”

Despite having only one podium, Marchbanks has been getting close.

In the 250 East opener at Tampa, he finished fourth, only his third career top five. He added another the next week in the Triple Crown race in Arlington, Texas. The following week, he was seventh in Atlanta.

Before Daytona, Garrett Marchbanks tested his Supercross bike outdoors and in sand. Feld Entertainment Inc.

Most riders get their start on outdoor tracks. Marchbanks was no exception. And that familiarity proved to be important.

With its long straights, the course at Daytona is a hybrid. It is a transitional race that allows riders to bridge the gap between their amateur days and their profession.

“The week going into Daytona we ran some outdoors, some sand tracks on my SX bike, and I was feeling really good,” Marchbanks said. “We went into the day, I was around seventh my first practice. My first qualification, I qualified fifth. In the second qualification, I felt really good. My time wasn’t there with the top two guys, but personally I felt really comfortable.

“When I lined up on the gate for that heat race, something just clicked. When I was behind (Jeremy) Martin it was just natural to me. I got to the lead and after that I didn’t want to be that midpack guy anymore. I wanted to win really bad. Then, getting the holeshot in the Main event was awesome. Leading every lap. It was the best feeling ever.”

Notably, Marchbanks’ first podium came in another transitional race. Last year he finished second to Adam Cianciarulo on a sloppy, heavy track. A downpour leveled the playing field among the riders and gave Marchbanks an early taste of success in his fifth 250 start.

“Last year as a rookie I wasn’t very experienced with Supercross,” Marchbanks said. “I’ve always been a good outdoor rider, so the mud definitely was on my side. This year I have a way more experience in Supercross. Daytona was a little more outdoorsy track of course, but there were some difficult sections. My outdoor riding played into it.”

At the time of the coronavirus hold, Marchbanks is fourth in the standings, a point behind RJ Hampshire and nine points behind second-ranked Shane McElrath.

Marchbanks was 10th last year in the 250 West division as a rookie. Jalek Swoll currently holds that position, 37 points in arrears, so Marchbanks is headed toward a career high. No matter what, he has earned that elusive first win, and he has a while to relish it.

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April 9 in Motorsports History: Al Unser Jr. gets sixth Long Beach win

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The list of winners in the Grand Prix of Long Beach is a ‘who’s who’ of open-wheel racing.

Mario Andretti won at the famed street course four times. His son Michael won there twice.

Paul Tracy is also a four-time winner at the beach. Alex Zanardi, Juan Pablo Montoya, Sebastien Bourdais, and Alexander Rossi also have won at the famed course multiple times.

But there is only one “King of the Beach”: Al Unser Jr.

The winningest driver in the race’s history, Unser won at Long Beach four consecutive times from 1988-91. He won again in 1994 and entered the 1995 edition as the race’s defending champion and the defending CART champion as well.

Starting fourth, Unser made slight contact with Gil de Ferran when he passed the Brazilian on Lap 3. He then continued to move up to the front, taking the race lead from Teo Fabi on Lap 30.

Once he had the lead, Unser ran away from the field, winning by more than 23 seconds over Scott Pruett.

Unser’s victory was such a familiar scene that after the race, CART news manager John Procida began the winner’s news conference with the following statement: “Well, we have a very familiar face on the top rung of the podium. As we listed on the prerace press release, this seems to be the Al Unser Invitational.”

Indeed it was. Unser’s victory was his sixth at Long Beach, and the 28th of his career. overall. While it would be his last win there, Unser continued to race at Long Beach through 1998 before missing 1999 with a broken leg and moving to the Indy Racing Leauge in 2000.

In 2009, Unser was inducted into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame, which honors significant contributors to the race and California motorsports community.

“It truly is just an honor to be mentioned with the names and the legends that have already been put into the sidewalk,” Unser said during the induction ceremony. “To have Brian (Redman, the inaugural winner of the race) and Parnelli (Jones) is really an honor and just to be in their company is very, very special.”

Also on this date:

1971: Jacques Villeneuve was born in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Canada. The second-generation driver was one of the best in open-wheel racing during the 1990s, winning the Indianapolis 500 and CART championship in ’95 and becoming a Formula One champion two years later.

1989: Rick Mears dominated CART’s Checker Autoworks 200 at Phoenix International Raceway, leading every lap from the pole and lapping the field.

2011: Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas won the Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park, their sixth consecutive victory in Grand Am competition. Their lengthy win streak, which started on Aug. 7, 2010 at Watkins Glen, prompted Grand Am to offer a $25,000 bounty for any Daytona Prototype team that could beat the dominant duo. The Action Express trio of Joao Barbosa, J.C. France, and Terry Borcheller finally unseated Pruett and Rojas in the series’ next round at Virginia International Raceway.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994