Aaron Plessinger collects the finish he was due in Daytona Supercross

Plessinger Daytona Supercross
Feld Entertainment, Inc.

In his third year on a 450 and after 35 senior division starts, Aaron Plessinger stood on the podium for the first time in Round 9 of the 2021 Supercross season at Daytona International Speedway.

With a contagious smile, Plessinger told NBCSN’s Will Christien, “Me and the team, we’ve been working hard. The last two years have been tough. To come up here and get up on this podium means a lot to me. I can’t thank them enough. … It’ll come easier now.”

His joy was tinged with palpable signs of relief.

Two years ago, Daytona exacted a heavy price from the rider. Plessinger was finding his rhythm in the 450 class after an impressive career in 250s. He had just scored a career-best finish of fifth at Atlanta the week prior – his first top-five in 450 Supercross action.

Plessinger Daytona Supercross
Aaron Plessinger celebrated his first career podium in Round 9 at Daytona (Feld Entertainment, Inc./Align Media).

And Plessinger was making a name for himself as a rider who likes difficult tracks. While he failed to crack the top five in the first eight races of 2019, he came close three times with sixth-place finishes in the opening round at Anaheim and again at San Diego – both were tough, muddy races.

Daytona was just a little too tough that day. Five laps into the race, Plessinger had a hard crash in a rhythm section and limped off the track. A shattered heel kept him off the bike for the remainder of the season.

“I’ve had a rough time here,” Plessinger said. “My first year, I had the flu. My second year here I shattered my heel. Last year was alright.

“I was definitely due one. I got it done tonight and couldn’t be more happy.”

Without a podium finish, Plessinger has not garnered a lot of attention in the first half of the 2021 Supercross season. It can be difficult to grab headlines with only one top-five. Plessinger finished fifth in the second race of the Indianapolis residency, tying that career-best first earned in his rookie season at Atlanta.

But Plessinger has been in the front half of the field almost every week.

In the first eight rounds this year, he scored six top-10s and an 11th. His only stumble came in Round 2 at Houston. Since then, he has averaged a finish of about eighth. But there has been an undercurrent running through the Star Racing Yamaha team: hard work and experimentation.

“You’re going to see this more often,” Plessinger said after Daytona in the postrace press conference. “We’ve been putting in the work. We’ve been testing. We’ve been trying things left and right.

“I’ve been kind of the guinea pig with it, which I appreciate. I love trying new things, especially if they work.”

While the 450 class was not overly kind before Daytona, Plessinger’s confidence is well-placed based on his 250 career. Just prior to moving up a class in 2019, he had a career season with four wins in the 2018 250 West division and half a dozen wins in Lucas Oil Motocross competition.

“I’m going to keep this going and hopefully click off some podiums in the next few weeks.”

Plessinger Daytona Supercross
Aaron Plessinger and Cooper Webb battle for the runner-up position in the final stages of Daytona (Feld Entertainment, Inc./Align Media).

X44 Racing win 2022 Extreme E championship as Abt Cupra score first race victory

2022 Extreme E Uruguay
Extreme E

Abt Cupra Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Klara Andersson scored their first win in the Extreme E Energy X Prix in the 2022 finale in Uruguay as Lewis Hamilton’s X44 Vida Carbon Racing drivers Sebastien Loeb and Cristina Gutierrez survived a chaotic finale to edge the 2021 champion Rosberg X Prix team of Johan Kristoffersson and Mikhaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky, by two points.

“There are so many emotions,” Andersson said in Extreme E’s coverage. “I’ve been waiting for this for so long. In my second race, first full weekend to be at the top of the podium: it’s big.”

Andersson was behind the wheel at the finish.

Rosberg Racing entered the event with a 17-point advantage over X44, but the standings were close enough that four teams remained in contention in Round 5.

“It’s a crucial weekend for us,” Loeb said in Extreme E’s coverage prior to the race. “We are not in the best position to win the championship, but the only thing we can do is try to win the race and score as many points as possible.”

The top two title contenders each crashed in qualification and were relegated to the Crazy Race, Extreme E’s version of the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ). For the moment, they had the steepest hill to climb, but then the other two championship contending teams, Chip Ganassi Racing and Acciona Sainz Racing failed to advance from their heats.

Only one team advances from the Crazy Race, so the X44 drivers were in a must-win situation to simply keep hope alive.

More: Extreme E 2023 schedule

Ahlin-Kottulinsky and Gutierrez ran wheel to wheel into the first turn at the start of the LCQ.

The Rosberg racer experienced crash damage in that turn that damaged her front steering, but managed to limp back to the pits at the end of her two-lap stint. The team attempted to fix the steering, but incurred a penalty for having too many mechanics in the pit area.

Meanwhile, Gutierrez took the early lead, but knew she would need to sit through a five-second penalty for an incident earlier in the weekend. The female half of the gender equal pair erased the penalty by entering the Switch Zone with a five-second lead before turning the car over to Loeb.

That was all the nine-time World Rally Championship titlist needed to give him the advantage needed to win the Crazy Race.

But the championship was not over yet. X44 Racing needed to finish third or better in the five-car finale to earn enough points for the title and after advancing from the LCQ, they were forced to take the worst grid position.

A chaotic start to the Finale saw Loeb run as high the lead and low as fourth after getting pushed off course during his first lap. And that is how he entered to Switch Zone.

On her first lap, Gutierrez slammed into Molly Taylor. With one lap remaining, X44 and Gutierrez were still in fourth and the title hope was quickly evaporating, but it was announced halfway through the lap that the third-running Andretti United team would suffer a penalty for a Switch Zone infraction. The seven-second deduction for Timmy Hansen braking too late in the zone made the difference in the title.

Coming off a disappointing Copper X Prix when Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour crossed under the checkers first, but were relegated to fifth by penalty, the McLaren pair scored their first podium of the season in second.