The plan for Max Vohland is back on track in Supercross


The original plan was for Max Vohland to turn pro during the outdoor season of 2021, but when a ride opened up with the Red Bull KTM team to run Monster Energy 250 Supercross that year, the opportunity was too good to pass up. Plans can be stubborn and have a way of making themselves sometimes, however.

When Vohland signed the contract and began preparation to run the supercross season, he told reporters that Red Bull said he was their top choice to sit atop their 250 East bike, but they also gave Vohland a choice.

If Vohland was not comfortable with the plan, the Lucas Oil Motocross ride would still be open.

On the highly technical courses inside arenas, rookies can get hurt. There is not a lot of room for error.

Vohland opted to run supercross and the first three races progressed as they should. In the opening three races at Houston, Vohland finished ninth in Round 1, eighth in Round 2, and sixth in Round 3. His first top-five was in reach until a crash in qualification in Indianapolis dislocated his hip and forced him to miss the remainder of the supercross season.

“I had like three or four months on the 250 (entering the season),” Vohland told NBC Sports. “I definitely had a lot of the track down, but in the whoops, I was under prepared. I ended up crashing the whoops, so preparation could’ve definitely been better. I think we still prepared the best we could for the situation I was put through.”

Max Vohland plan
Max Vohland started the 2021 Supercross season with a three-race streak of top-10s at Houston and was closing in on his first top-five. (Feld Entertainment)

Back to the original plan: Vohland qualified for 12 MX features and finished ninth in the points. He earned his first holeshot in the opener at Fox Raceway, but it took three races to reach the top 10. He was ninth overall at RedBud MX Park in Buchanan, Mich. during the 4th of July weekend after finishing with 10-11 in the two motos. He hovered in that range for a while, finishing 11th overall at Southwick and Spring Creek in his next two starts and then earning a 10th overall (9-12) in Washougal, Wash.

His highly anticipated top-five came the following week at Unadilla in New Berlin, NY.

“A lot of this sport is mental for sure,” Vohland said. “This sport is highly mental, when have enough strength to do it. I feel better technically than other guys.

“I can see what (the other riders are) doing, and I can see why they’re doing what they’re doing. But there’s only a handful of riders that I see and think ‘that’s what I would do’, or ‘that is what I’m doing’. I’ll be doing something and see someone in front of me wanting to do it. I feel like I have a different gateway of seeing things to be able to make my decisions – different line choices.”

In the final MX race of 2021, Vohland narrowly missed scoring his first professional podium. Finishing 5-4 in the motos, he was fourth overall, but the experience allows him to enter the 2022 SX season with confidence.

“When you put that helmet on everything just switches off and the only thing you know is how to ride the bike,” Vohland said. “For me that’s the only switch that’s on. Everything goes away and the only thing you can focus on is riding.

“I think it’s a lot of knowing the feel of it, especially when you make a mistake and something steps out on you. It’s not a technique thing. It’s knowing how to fix it without having to think about it. That’s a lot of what I’ve learned in supercross this year. It’s not a lot of technique. We’ve been working on technique, but really it’s just knowing the feel of it and being able to do it without thinking.”

The reason Vohland does not worry about technique, it because that was ingrained from childhood. The son of Tallon Vohland, Max was literally born to ride.

“I feel that’s one of my stronger points,” Vohland said. “I feel that I’m more of a technical rider.

“Always dissecting the track, always watching and seeing how it’s developing. We’ve been working a lot on whoops since those deteriorate so much in the Main event. A lot of time they turn into jumping whoops, so we’re always watching that and getting ready to cover all of our bases. I feel like that’s one of my strong points, to always know when it’s the right time to pull back and the time to go.

“It’s very difficult to be picture perfect especially on a supercross track. It’s so easy to make mistakes. A lot of that comes from the preparation in the off season, the better prepared you are the faster you can recover. It’s definitely not easy but it’s not impossible either.”

Staying healthy will be critical for Vohland supercross season. If he picks up where he left off in motocross, he has an opportunity to make a run for the championship in what will essentially be his rookie supercross season.

Even if he starts 2022 like he did 2021, he has an opportunity to finish high in the points. But for a rookie contender with a lot of external pressure on his shoulders that is not the most important thing.

“(I want to) prove it to myself,” Vohland said. “I always think like I can do better, in the back of my head, I know there’s always room for improvement. It’s always, ‘he’s good but he could be better’. Also (I want to prove it) to my dad. He’s raced all his life and now owns the company. He taught me everything, so I think I owe a lot to him. I need to prove a lot to myself because I know I can be there (at a high level), but I need to do it to prove it.”

IndyCar champion Will Power completes ‘Victory Lap’ at ceremony in Indianapolis

Will Power Victory Lap
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment

INDIANAPOLIS – Will Power went on his “Victory Lap” last week to celebrate his second career championship as the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series champion.

It began with several media interviews in Monterey, California, the day after he won the championship with a third-place finish in the Sept. 11 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey.

From there, it was off to Los Angeles for more interviews and personal appearances that included a VIP Tour at the Petersen Automotive Museum, several appearances on SiriusXM and lunch at The Ivy, where the Team Penske IndyCar Series driver was treated to Wagyu Beef.

“It was one of the best steaks I’ve ever had in my life,” Power told

From L.A. back to Power’s North Carolina home, near Team Penske’s home base of Mooresville, there was one stop left on Sept. 17 — the Victory Lap Celebration at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, an invitation-only banquet where Power and his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet crew at Team Penske were honored for the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series championship.

They didn’t even have to check into a hotel and spend another night on the road. Power and his team left on a Team Penske plane from the Statesville, N.C., airport at 4 p.m. ET Saturday to fly to Indianapolis. On arrival an hour later, a limo bus took the team to IMS.

Power led the 2022 season with five NTT P1 Awards for pole, earning the NTT P1 Award as the best qualifier of the season for the fifth time in his career. Power also made history with his 68th career pole, breaking the all-time mark held by the legendary Mario Andretti.

Power and Scott Dixon also became just two of only five drivers to complete every lap of every race in IndyCar Series history.

“What a year,” Power said as he was awarded his personal Astor Cup trophy (the second in his collection after the 2014 championship. “What a phenomenal year coming off one of my worst seasons personally. We came back with a vengeance.

“I want to thank Roger and Kathy Penske for everything they have done for me over the years. I wouldn’t be standing here and have the numbers I have without what Roger has done for me. I’m given a car every week that is capable of winning the pole, races, championships, and Indianapolis 500s. I’m so grateful for that.

“Also, to Greg Penske, you are there every week now at every event and I know we will be in good hands moving forward with the Penske Family.”

There are many on Power’s team and at home, that helped support Power throughout his career. None is bigger than Power’s wife, Liz, who told Power before the season that he would win the championship and break Andretti’s record.

“I must thank my wife. I’m so lucky to have a wife with that crystal ball that can tell me what is going to happen,” Power said. “I can’t think you enough, babe. I love you so much and you have been a big support to me my whole career. We’ve been together 17 years, and I’ve been in the series 17 years. She has been such a huge support to me. The mother of our child and she is a fantastic mother.

“She can’t tell the future. She just had faith in me.”

Liz Power’s premonition came true and that allowed Power and his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet team to celebrate Penske’s 17th IndyCar championship and 42nd title in the racing team’s history.

“The 12 crew this year, I’ve never had such a great group of guys,” Power said. “Trevor Lacasse (chief mechanic) is such a calm guy, but he does such a meticulous job on the preparation of the car. He is very, very good at keeping the whole crew happy. It feels as if there is no pressure on us. That’s a huge part in getting the most out of people. It was our first year together with you as a crew chief. What a great year to start our relationship.

“Dave Faustino (Power’s longtime engineer), we’ve worked together for 15 years. He’s almost like a wife to me, a partner … apart from sleeping together. We have a very good working relationship. Sorry Dave, I’m an awkward person and you are not.

“The things we have been through in our years together, it’s crazy that we continually improve and get better. We are standing on the podium after winning the championship and we are talking about the car, the race, and the tires. We weren’t talking about the championship.

“We never stop. The other boys were laughing at us, but I’m already thinking about next year.

“Ron Ruzewski (Team Penske IndyCar Managing Director and strategist) on the radio, always calm. He has actually made me a calm person. I rarely get upset on the radio anymore.”

Power also recognized the fans who helped boost attendance at many venues on the schedule this season as NBC Sports enjoyed its largest IndyCar audience yet.

“This series is growing,” Power said. “With open wheel racing now so popular because of Formula One, it’s really our time to push and put money behind it and go now and take IndyCar to another level because we have the best racing product in the world.

“I have to thank my teammates and (Team Penske president) Tim Cindric. I can’t tell you how hard we push each other. We are ultracompetitive and love each other and push each other hard, so thank you.”

Power won the championship by 16 points over hard-charging teammate Josef Newgarden, who finished second in the standings for the third year in a row.

“Overall, I’m filled with a lot of pride for our team and what we were able to do this year,” Newgarden said in his banquet address. “Any year that you step in the championship, you can easily see the challenges it presents everybody.

“It’s a very difficult challenge for the teams and drivers. To be a part of it, make it through it and for us at Team Penske, to topple it, is a very big deal. We’re all competitive.

“The tough thing about being in a championship fight, especially with teammates is we all want to be the best. That’s how it should be. We are competitive people and want to be the best. But it’s a team sport.

“Will, tremendous season, great, great job. I think the world of everybody on our team. It’s a big group. I’m so happy for all of you on the 12-car crew. There is so much we can take into next year.”

Six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon was unable to attend the banquet because of the Goodwood Festival in England but sent congratulations to Power via a video message.

“I really want to congratulate Will Power,” Dixon said. “You drove a tremendous season this year. Even with some of the lows that you had, some of the mistakes with qualifying, you bounced back tremendously. I know how tough these championships are and to see you do it in the style that you did it in the last race of the season, massive congratulations.”

Power’s championship formula included one victory, nine podiums and 12 top-five finishes. Teammate Josef Newgarden was second in the championship with five wins but only six podiums.

Cindric saluted Power’s season in accepting the championship team owner award.

“Will, you took it to another level this year,” Cindric said. “You are the complete package. You completed every lap, had nine podiums, finished out of the top 10 just four times, broke Mario Andretti’s record, and you did it all without cussing at the officials on national TV.

“One complaint I do has is while most of us think you might be from another planet, you never told us your wife was a fortune teller.”

Cindric also honored the seasons of Penske drivers Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin, who won three times in his second full season (“You are one of only two full-time IndyCar drivers that has driven for us in the past 23 years that hasn’t won an Indy 500 or an IndyCar championship. Your time is coming.”).

Kyle Moyer was named team manager of the year (his fifth time and Penske’s sixth). Pennzoil presented Lacasse with the chief mechanic of the year for the first time, the sixth time for Team Penske. The No. 12 crew also won the Firestone Pit Performance Award for the most pit stop performance award points in 2022.

Power, Newgarden and McLaughlin delivered nine of Chevrolet’s series-leading 11 victories this season, helping Chevy win the Manufacturer Award for the seventh time since it returned to the series in 2012 and the first time since 2017. Jim Danahy, U.S. vice president, Competition Motorsports Engineering for Chevrolet, accepted the award on behalf of his team.

Christian Lundgaard was honored as the 2022 NTT IndyCar rookie of the year. Lundgaard, from Denmark, scored one podium, two top-five finishes and seven top-10s in the No. 30 Honda fielded by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. He edged David Malukas of Dale Coyne Racing with HMD by 18 points in the standings for first-year series drivers.

Christian Lundgaard (Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

“It’s been a tough season and looking at how it panned out, we struggled so much at the beginning of the season and how we were able to turn it around means so much to me and the team,” Lundgaard said. “It’s the one thing that you only get one shot at. I’m happy to have it.

“Being the first Dane at the Indy 500 certainly helps. Competing here for me is quite important and also special. To win this award and to be here in future years means so much to me. I have a chance to compete for wins and championships.

“This team gave me this opportunity at this track one year ago. We came back and got redemption. We got our first podium here. This year was 40 years ago that Bobby Rahal won the same award. It’s pretty special to keep it among the team.”

Sweden’s Linus Lundqvist was honored as Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion after a dominant season for HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing. Lundqvist won a series-high five races in the No. 26 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing entry and clinched the Lights championship with a race to spare, ending with a 92-point advantage over Sting Ray Robb. HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing owners Henry and Daiva Malukas accepted the team championship.

“I’m very proud of that,” Lundqvist said. “It’s cool to see. We are starting to look to the future, and this might not be doing too bad. It’s been great. As most of you can guess with Henry and Daiva Malukas (team owners), it’s been an incredible journey. So much fun that we’ve had. To be on the grid this year was so much of a struggle for us. I didn’t even know I would be doing this until January.

“To be able to pull out the season that we had, I cannot thank this team enough. We will celebrate this for a long time. I’m so happy and proud about that.”

Outgoing IndyCar Director of Medical Affairs Dr. Geoffrey Billows also was honored as he is leaving that role while battling cancer.

“When I think of Dr. Billows, I think of two words,” IndyCar president Jay Frye said. “One is selfless and the other is tough. He’s gone through a lot these last couple of years, and he didn’t want anybody to know. He’s an amazing man, and we are very grateful for what you have done.”

Dr. Geoffrey Billows with IndyCar president Jay Frye (Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

Billows was presented with a framed checkered flag signed by all drivers in the series as well as other IndyCar officials and dignitaries.

“I was not expecting this at all,” Billows said. “This means so much for me to be part of this family for the past 30 years. I’ve been presented with opportunities I never thought I would ever have. I can’t tell you how much I love all of you guys and care for all of you guys.

“Thank you so much. I want to also thank my wife, Tammy, who has been a pillar of strength as I continue on this journey with cancer for the past two years as well. You will still see me as a consultant because I love this too much to quit altogether.”

When the evening concluded, Team Penske boarded a bus to the airport for the short return flight to Statesville. They were home by midnight.

Power’s Victory Lap was complete.

“The best thing about this is I get to sleep in my own bed tonight,” Power said.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500