Jeff Kardas, ProMotocross.com

Motocross announces changes to 2020 schedule

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In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, MX Sports Pro Racing has altered its schedule. The 2020 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross season will begin on June 13 with the Florida Nationals from WW Ranch Motocross Park in Jacksonville, Florida, and will feature 11 of the original 12 rounds.

Most races will maintain their original dates, with three exceptions.

The Florida National at WW Ranch originally was scheduled for June 6 but will be delayed one week to June 13.

The Fox Raceway National at Pala, California, originally was scheduled to run May 23. It will become the season finale Sept. 9.

The Thunder Valley National in Lakewood, Colorado, moves from May 30 to July 11.

“It is our hope that in postponing the start of our season for this additional month, the extended period of time will not only allow for us to obtain a clearer picture of the state of the pandemic, but also provide ample opportunity for our series partners, teams, competitors, and fans to plan accordingly,” said Davey Coombs, President of MX Sports Pro Racing in a release. “The updated calendar would allow us to still successfully host a complete season of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross competition, in a quick and concise fashion will leave other parts of the calendar open for other racing activities.”

The season was scheduled to start with the Hangtown Classic at Placerville, California, but it was announced earlier this week that race would be canceled.

The Hangtown Classic is the only round to be dropped from the amended schedule.

“While the whole world is trying to cope with the ongoing global pandemic that is the COVID-19 coronavirus, we have diligently looked at the impending future of our own championship and the impact this will inevitably have on this annual summer tradition,” Coombs said “While the series has unfortunately already been affected by this pandemic with the cancellation of American motocross’ longest-running event, the Hangtown Motocross Classic, we have developed a condensed and redesigned schedule for the remainder of the championship that will now start a little less than three months from now.”

Schedule

June 13: Florida National, Jacksonville, Fla. (originally 6/6)
June 20: High Point National, Mount Morris, Penn.
June 27: Southwick (Mass.) National
July 4: RedBud National, Buchanan, Mich.
July 11: Thunder Valley National, Lakewood, Colo. (originally 5/30)
July 18: Spring Creek National, Millville, Minn.
July 25: Washougal (Wash.) National
Aug. 15: Unadilla National, New Berlin, N.Y.
Aug. 22: Budds Creek National, Mechanicsville, Md.
Aug. 29: Ironman National, Crawfordsville, Ind.
Sept. 5: Fox Raceway National, Palam Calif. (originally 5/23)

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