Brad Keselowski wins 600 to extend Jimmie Johnson’s losing streak

CONCORD, N.C. — Brad Keselowski extended Jimmie Johnson’s losing streak to 102 races, holding off the seven-time NASCAR champion in overtime early Monday in the Coca-Cola 600.

Keselowski started in the back of the field, worked his way to the front at Charlotte Motor Speedway and gambled in not pitting when caution stopped Chase Elliott from winning with two laps remaining.

Elliott pitted and Keselowski led a train of eight cars that stayed on the track. He lined up in front of Alex Bowman on the inside line with Johnson — retiring from Cup racing at the end of the season — on the bottom ahead of Keselowski teammate Ryan Blaney.

Keselowski got the push to get into clean air and denied Johnson a victory. Keselowski celebrated as he usually does by waving a giant American flag out his window during his victory burnouts.

“I feel like I have thrown this race away a handful of times and I thought we were going to lose it today,” Keselowski said. “I have lost it the way Chase lost it and it really stinks. And today we finally won it that way.”

It is the first win for Keselowski this season, his first Coca-Cola 600 victory and the first win at this event for Ford since 2002.

Johnson had to settle for second in a Chevrolet, while Elliott, who had the victory snatched away just two laps from the finish, rallied to third for Hendrick to take two podium positions.

Elliott had a comfortable lead and was coasting to the win when Hendrick Motorsports teammate William Byron spun with a tire problem.

“That’s got to be a joke,” Elliott said over his radio.

Elliott was wrecked by Kyle Busch last week trying to race for the win at Darlington Raceway on Wednesday night.

The Sunday before Memorial Day is a supposed to be a smorgasbord of motorsports that begins with Formula One at the Monaco Grand Prix, then IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500, followed by NASCAR and its longest race on the calendar.

The coronavirus pandemic has wiped out the first part of F1′s schedule and, like IndyCar, it is still waiting to start its season. Roger Penske, the new owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, has moved the Indy 500. It marks the first time since 1946 the 500 is not being run on Memorial Day weekend.

NASCAR was able to go forward for its third Cup event in seven days under a health plan approved by state officials that allowed the sport to resume after a 10-week hiatus. NASCAR ran three events in South Carolina, and the Coca-Cola 600 kicks off four consecutive days of racing at Charlotte.

A rain delay of nearly 90 minutes during the first stage of the race pushed the finish into Monday, but it still ended up just fine for Penske, the owner of Keselowski’s car.

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NHRA Winternationals: Brittany Force turns in best Top Fuel performance

  • Race fans hair blows as they are Baptized by Nitro while they stand and watch the third round of nitro qualifying between a pair of 11,000hp Top Fuel dragsters at the 60th NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Saturday Feb. 8, 2020. Eliminations are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Sunday. Eliminations for Sunday have been moved up to 10 a.m. Sunday due to weather. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Funny Car drivers Matt Hagan (left) and Jack Beckman head down track during the final round of pro qualifying at the 60th NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Saturday Feb. 8, 2020. Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) each captured the top qualifying position in their respective categories. Eliminations for Sunday have been moved up to 10 a.m. Sunday due to weather. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

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  • Pro Stock driver Jeg Coughlin (near lane) head down track against Erica Enders during the third round of pro qualifying at the 60th NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Saturday Feb. 8, 2020. Eliminations are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Sunday. Eliminations for Sunday have been moved up to 10 a.m. Sunday due to weather. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Top Fuel driver Justin Ashley explodes his engine during the final round of pro qualifying at the 60th NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Saturday Feb. 8, 2020. Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) each captured the top qualifying position in their respective categories. Eliminations for Sunday have been moved up to 10 a.m. Sunday due to weather. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Top Fuel driver Justin Ashley explodes his engine during the final round of pro qualifying at the 60th NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Saturday Feb. 8, 2020. Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) each captured the top qualifying position in their respective categories. Eliminations for Sunday have been moved up to 10 a.m. Sunday due to weather. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Top Fuel driver Justin Ashley explodes his engine during the final round of pro qualifying at the 60th NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Saturday Feb. 8, 2020. Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) each captured the top qualifying position in their respective categories. Eliminations for Sunday have been moved up to 10 a.m. Sunday due to weather. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Top Fuel driver Justin Ashley explodes his engine during the final round of pro qualifying at the 60th NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Saturday Feb. 8, 2020. Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) each captured the top qualifying position in their respective categories. Eliminations for Sunday have been moved up to 10 a.m. Sunday due to weather. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Top Fuel driver Justin Ashley explodes his engine during the final round of pro qualifying at the 60th NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Saturday Feb. 8, 2020. Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) each captured the top qualifying position in their respective categories. Eliminations for Sunday have been moved up to 10 a.m. Sunday due to weather. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Pro Stock driver Jeg Coughlin steers his hot rod toward the scales prior to the third round of pro qualifying at the 60th NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Saturday Feb. 8, 2020. Eliminations are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Sunday. Eliminations for Sunday have been moved up to 10 a.m. Sunday due to weather. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Top Fuel driver Shawn Langdon shows his disappointment after his dragster broke on the starting line during the third round of pro qualifying at the 60th NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Saturday Feb. 8, 2020. Eliminations are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Sunday. Eliminations for Sunday have been moved up to 10 a.m. Sunday due to weather. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Backup girl Alice Bode runs towards the starting line while wearing a Kobe Bryant jersey as she helps guide her husband, Funny Car driver Bob Bode, following his burnout during the third round of pro qualifying at the 60th NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Saturday Feb. 8, 2020. Eliminations are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Sunday. Eliminations for Sunday have been moved up to 10 a.m. Sunday due to weather. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • The team of Top Fuel driver Shawn Langdon surround his dragster after breaking on the starting line during the third round of pro qualifying at the 60th NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Saturday Feb. 8, 2020. Eliminations are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Sunday. Eliminations for Sunday have been moved up to 10 a.m. Sunday due to weather. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Top Fuel driver Shawn Langdon shows his disappointment after his dragster broke on the starting line during the third round of pro qualifying at the 60th NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Saturday Feb. 8, 2020. Eliminations are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Sunday. Eliminations for Sunday have been moved up to 10 a.m. Sunday due to weather. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Top Fuel driver Doug Kalitta does his burnout during the third round of pro qualifying at the 60th NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Saturday Feb. 8, 2020. Eliminations are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Sunday. Eliminations for Sunday have been moved up to 10 a.m. Sunday due to weather. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • A Top Fuel Harley rider heads down track during qualifying at the 60th NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Saturday Feb. 8, 2020. Eliminations are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Sunday. Eliminations for Sunday have been moved up to 10 a.m. Sunday due to weather. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Funny Car driver Matt Hagan heads through the shutdown area after taking the top qualifying position during the final round of pro qualifying at the 60th NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Saturday Feb. 8, 2020. Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) each captured the top qualifying position in their respective categories. Eliminations for Sunday have been moved up to 10 a.m. Sunday due to weather. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Top Fuel driver Leah Pruett sits in her dragster during the third round of pro qualifying at the 60th NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Saturday Feb. 8, 2020. Eliminations are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Sunday. Eliminations for Sunday have been moved up to 10 a.m. Sunday due to weather. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Funny Car drivers Ron Capps (near lane) and J.R. Todd head down track during the third round of pro qualifying at the 60th NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Saturday Feb. 8, 2020. Eliminations are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Sunday. Eliminations for Sunday have been moved up to 10 a.m. Sunday due to weather. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Funny Car drivers Tim Wilkerson (left) and Alexis DeJoria head down track during the final round of pro qualifying at the 60th NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Saturday Feb. 8, 2020. Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) each captured the top qualifying position in their respective categories. Eliminations for Sunday have been moved up to 10 a.m. Sunday due to weather. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Funny Car driver John Force heads through the shutdown area during the final round of pro qualifying at the 60th NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Saturday Feb. 8, 2020. Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) each captured the top qualifying position in their respective categories. Eliminations for Sunday have been moved up to 10 a.m. Sunday due to weather. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Top Fuel driver Brittany Force takes the top qualifying during the final round of pro qualifying at the 60th NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Saturday Feb. 8, 2020. Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) each captured the top qualifying position in their respective categories. Eliminations for Sunday have been moved up to 10 a.m. Sunday due to weather. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Pro Stock driver Jeg Coughlin (near lane) head down track against Erica Enders during the third round of pro qualifying at the 60th NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Saturday Feb. 8, 2020. Eliminations are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Sunday. Eliminations for Sunday have been moved up to 10 a.m. Sunday due to weather. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Top Fuel driver Leah Pruett helps push her dragster off the scales following the final round of pro qualifying at the 60th NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Saturday Feb. 8, 2020. Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) each captured the top qualifying position in their respective categories. Eliminations for Sunday have been moved up to 10 a.m. Sunday due to weather. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Funny Car driver Matt Hagan does his burnout during the third round of pro qualifying at the 60th NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Saturday Feb. 8, 2020. Eliminations are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Sunday. Eliminations for Sunday have been moved up to 10 a.m. Sunday due to weather. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Race fans watch the third round of pro qualifying at the 60th NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Saturday Feb. 8, 2020. Eliminations are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Sunday. Eliminations for Sunday have been moved up to 10 a.m. Sunday due to weather. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Top Fuel driver Brittany Force (right) races to the top qualifying as she races against Leah Pruett during the final round of pro qualifying at the 60th NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Saturday Feb. 8, 2020. Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) each captured the top qualifying position in their respective categories. Eliminations for Sunday have been moved up to 10 a.m. Sunday due to weather. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Top Fuel driver Brittany Force (right) races to the top qualifying as she races against Leah Pruett during the final round of pro qualifying at the 60th NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Saturday Feb. 8, 2020. Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) each captured the top qualifying position in their respective categories. Eliminations for Sunday have been moved up to 10 a.m. Sunday due to weather. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Funny Car drivers Tim Wilkerson (left) and Alexis DeJoria head down track during the final round of pro qualifying at the 60th NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Saturday Feb. 8, 2020. Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) each captured the top qualifying position in their respective categories. Eliminations for Sunday have been moved up to 10 a.m. Sunday due to weather. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Race fans hair blows as they are Baptized by Nitro while they stand and watch the third round of nitro qualifying between a pair of 11,000hp Top Fuel dragsters at the 60th NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Saturday Feb. 8, 2020. Eliminations are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Sunday. Eliminations for Sunday have been moved up to 10 a.m. Sunday due to weather. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Backup girl Alice Bode waves to fans wearing a Kobe Bryant jersey prior to backing up her husbands Funny Car during the third round of pro qualifying at the 60th NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Saturday Feb. 8, 2020. Eliminations are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Sunday. Eliminations for Sunday have been moved up to 10 a.m. Sunday due to weather. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Pro Stock driver Jeg Coughlin heads through the shutdown area during the final round of pro qualifying at the 60th NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Saturday Feb. 8, 2020. Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) each captured the top qualifying position in their respective categories. Eliminations for Sunday have been moved up to 10 a.m. Sunday due to weather. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Race fans hair blows as they are Baptized by Nitro while they stand and watch the third round of nitro qualifying between a pair of 11,000hp Top Fuel dragsters at the 60th NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Saturday Feb. 8, 2020. Eliminations are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Sunday. Eliminations for Sunday have been moved up to 10 a.m. Sunday due to weather. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Funny Car drivers John Force (near lane) and Matt Hagan head down track during the third round of pro qualifying at the 60th NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Saturday Feb. 8, 2020. Eliminations are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Sunday. Eliminations for Sunday have been moved up to 10 a.m. Sunday due to weather. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Funny Car driver John Force heads through the shutdown area during the final round of pro qualifying at the 60th NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Saturday Feb. 8, 2020. Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) each captured the top qualifying position in their respective categories. Eliminations for Sunday have been moved up to 10 a.m. Sunday due to weather. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Funny Car drivers Robert Hight (left) and Tommy Johnson Jr. head down track during the final round of pro qualifying at the 60th NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Saturday Feb. 8, 2020. Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) each captured the top qualifying position in their respective categories. Eliminations for Sunday have been moved up to 10 a.m. Sunday due to weather. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Top Fuel driver Brittany Force (right) races to the top qualifying as she races against Leah Pruett during the final round of pro qualifying at the 60th NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Saturday Feb. 8, 2020. Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) each captured the top qualifying position in their respective categories. Eliminations for Sunday have been moved up to 10 a.m. Sunday due to weather. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Funny Car drivers Matt Hagan (left) and Jack Beckman head down track during the final round of pro qualifying at the 60th NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Saturday Feb. 8, 2020. Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) each captured the top qualifying position in their respective categories. Eliminations for Sunday have been moved up to 10 a.m. Sunday due to weather. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Top Fuel driver Brittany Force (right) races to the top qualifying as she races against Leah Pruett during the final round of pro qualifying at the 60th NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Saturday Feb. 8, 2020. Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) each captured the top qualifying position in their respective categories. Eliminations for Sunday have been moved up to 10 a.m. Sunday due to weather. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

  • Funny Car drivers Matt Hagan (left) and Jack Beckman head down track during the final round of pro qualifying at the 60th NHRA Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona Saturday Feb. 8, 2020. Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car) and Jeg Coughlin (Pro Stock) each captured the top qualifying position in their respective categories. Eliminations for Sunday have been moved up to 10 a.m. Sunday due to weather. (Photo by Will Lester, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

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POMONA >> Of John Force’s four daughters, three followed him into the sport but now only one continues to compete. That is 32-year-old Brittany Force, who along with most of the rest of the Force clan calls Yorba Linda home.

And Brittany likely, for the foreseeable future, will continue making the Force name one of the biggest in drag racing, only with a little different spin.

John Force, who turns 71 on May 4, has done it all in the Funny Car class. Brittany is doing it in Top Fuel.

Brittany heads into today’s eliminator finals at the 60th Winternationals at the Auto Club Raceway in Pomona as the top seed in Top Fuel, after turning in the fastest time during Saturday’s second day of pro qualifying — 3.667 seconds with a top speed of 334.32 mph.

She earned a first-round bye since there are only 13 dragsters in the Top Fuel field, rather than the usual 16.

Seeded second in Top Fuel is John Force Racing teammate Austin Prock, followed by Leah Pruett, a native of Redlands, and Mira Loma’s Shawn Langdon, who was the top seed after the first two rounds of qualifying on Friday.

The pro finals today will begin at 10 a.m., an hour earlier than originally scheduled as NHRA officials hope to get out in front of the predicted rain.

In Funny Car, Matt Hagan earned the top seed in Saturday’s last pro qualifier, clocking 3.841 seconds with a speed of 328.86 seconds as the sun settled in the west. He nipped No. 2 seed “Fast Jack” Beckman of Norco, whose time was 3.856.

Robert Hight of the John Force Racing team, the defending Winternationals champion as well as the defending national champion, ended up in the No. 3 spot, while John Force moved up from the No. 11 spot after Friday to No 5. Alexis DeJoria went from No. 9 to No. 11.

In Pro Stock, five-time national champion Jeg Coughlin kicked off the day by announcing this season was his last on the NHRA circuit — then he went out and claimed the division’s No. 1 qualifying position.

Brittany Force isn’t any Jane Come Lately in drag racing. This is her eighth year on the pro circuit. She was the Top Fuel national champion in 2017, clinching that title while also winning the 2017 NHRA Finals at Pomona.

She started the 2019 season with a new crew, headed by David Grubic and Mac Savage, and finished third in the standings while setting NHRA national records for both time (3.623 seconds at Reading, Pa.), and speed (338.99 mph in Las Vegas).

And it already appears 2020 could continue to elevate her stature while also letting drag racing fans know “the Force will be with you always!”

Brittany chuckled when asked about that cliche Saturday.

“I’ve been reading and hearing that for years,” she said. “Funny thing is, I didn’t see ‘Star Wars’ until two years ago, so I never knew what people were talking about.”

About continuing the family tradition, she said, “No one will ever do what my father has done. I mean, 16 national championships, more than 150 wins. That’s impossible.”

John Force ended a 17-year drought last year by winning at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. That gave him career win No. 151.

As for Hagan, he’s been racing for 13 years. And, he says, he is still learning.

Of the run that elevated him into the No. 1 qualifying spot, he said, “I was a little mad at myself on that run. I was probably steering a bit much. You’ve got to let the car float. I could have put the car into the concrete.”

But that didn’t happen.

And now there is a possibility that Hagan could square off against John Force in the third of the four eliminator rounds. What if Force gets past Hagan and wins the Funny Car title and daughter Brittany follows form and wins in Top Fuel?

Now there would be a father-daughter story that would be hard to top.

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Eli Tomac takes Supercross event at Angel Stadium in Anaheim

  • Zach Osborne, #16, rides in the 450SX Heat 2 of the AMA Supercross at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on Saturday, January 18, 2020.(Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Zach Osborne, #16, far right, goes around the first turn as he rides in the 450SX Heat 2 of the AMA Supercross at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on Saturday, January 18, 2020.(Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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  • Zach Osborne, #16, rides in the 450SX Heat 2 of the AMA Supercross at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on Saturday, January 18, 2020.(Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Zach Osborne, #16, rides in the 450SX Heat 2 of the AMA Supercross at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on Saturday, January 18, 2020.(Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Riders get some air off a jump during a heat of the AMA Supercross at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on Saturday, January 18, 2020.(Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Zach Osborne, #16, rides in the 450SX Heat 2 of the AMA Supercross at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on Saturday, January 18, 2020.(Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Fans stand for the national anthem at the AMA Supercross at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on Saturday, January 18, 2020.(Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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ANAHEIM – By now, Zach Osborne was supposed to be an elite Supercross champion, a shining star in the series competing for a victory every weekend.

At 11 years old, he landed his first factory ride and quickly became the guy to beat during his decorated amateur career. His potential seemed limitless.

Life, though, rarely follows the script.

And once he turned pro he was essentially a huge bust, failing to live up to all of the hype and headlines. Soon after, he found himself driving a dump truck for his dad in Virginia, wondering if this was now going to be his life.

“I just wasn’t prepared physically or mentally for the next step of becoming a pro. It was more a thing of not being mature enough,” he said. “I had to grow up and realize that this is what I wanted to do as a job. Take the bull by the horns and find my footing.”

And Osborne is finally beginning to live up to the promise he showed as an amateur.

While he was no match for Eli Tomac, who cruised to a 1.97-second victory over Ken Roczen in the main event, Osborne turned in his best performance so far this season on Saturday night at Angel Stadium, placing fourth.

Osborne got a great start and was in third by the end of the first lap, but his Husqvarna teammate Jason Anderson and Cooper Webb passed him on the next lap, dropping Osborne to fifth.

Osborne ran as low as sixth in the 20-minute race, but he never fell more than 3.5 seconds behind third place.

Half way through the race, Osborne closed in on Anderson and for the next two laps, they raced wheel to wheel until Osborne passed his Husqvarna factory teammate for fifth with seven minutes to go.

Osborne then began to run down Adam Cianciarulo, and two minutes later, he jumped inside of Cianciarulo in a 90-degree right hander to move into fourth.

It was Osborne’s second top-five finish in as many races as he came in fifth last weekend in St. Louis. He’s now in a three-way tie for seventh in the rider standings, just seven points behind Webb, the reigning Supercross champion who finished third on Saturday.

Osborne said he has never been more confident and has never been in a better place in his career.

“I have a good team around me and a good bike,” Osborne said. “The dream and goal was to be back here. It has been a long road. I am thankful for it. There were always times when you doubt it, but it is nice when it pays off.”

With his dirt-bike racing future hanging in the balance, Osborne tried to resurrect his career taking a two-race deal to ride in Europe in 2008. He ended up finding more success than he could have imagined, staying with the same team for the next four seasons.

His dream of riding in a Supercross race in America was now there for the taking.

“I appreciate things more now. I try to appreciate it every day,” he said. “I know what the other side of the coin looks like. The struggle is what made me.”

When he was in Anaheim during the season opener earlier this month, he was still trying to fight his way through a bad case of the flu, and finished 14th in the field of 22 riders.

Coming into the season, Osborne said his only goal was to earn a breakthrough victory, and last week in St. Louis he showed that he definitely has the speed to make that happen, speeding out of the starting gate to grab the early lead. He also got a chance to show off his trademark, hard-nosed style as he knocked Cianciarulo into the barriers lining the track during a battle for third.

“I want to get that a win and be in the thick of things,” Osborne said. “The main thing is getting healthy again. I just need to continue the fight while I get my health back.”

Osborne said he’s at about 90 percent now, still needing to regain some of the strength and endurance he lost while he took time off to recover from the flu.

Osborne has a tight training routine that he tries to stick to religiously during the season. Before the St. Louis race, he rode one time at the test track, just like the week before. Normally, in those 14 days he said he would have been on his Husqvarna nine times

“We have been slowly grinding back onto the program, trying to find some fitness and speed,” he said. “The last 10 percent will come I the next couple weeks. I am sure of it.”

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Racing legend Dan Gurney, who lived in Newport Beach, dies at age 86

NEWPORT BEACH — Dan Gurney, the first driver with victories in each of the Formula One, IndyCar and NASCAR Cup series, died Sunday from complications of pneumonia. He was 86.

His wife, Evi, announced his death in a statement distributed by All American Racers Inc.

FILE - This May 31, 1969 file photo shows Grand Prix racer Dan Gurney. Gurney, the first driver to win in Formula One, IndyCar and NASCAR, died Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018 from complications of pneumonia. He was 86. His wife, Evi, announced his death in a statement distributed by All American Racers, Inc. (AP Photo)
FILE – This May 31, 1969 file photo shows Grand Prix racer Dan Gurney. Gurney, the first driver to win in Formula One, IndyCar and NASCAR, died Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018 from complications of pneumonia. He was 86. His wife, Evi, announced his death in a statement distributed by All American Racers, Inc. (AP Photo)

“With one last smile on his handsome face, Dan drove off into the unknown just before noon today,” said the statement signed by Evi Gurney, the Gurney family and AAR teammates.

FILE - This July 27, 2007 file photo shows legendary race car driver Dan Gurney smiling while signing autographs during an appearance at the Concours d'Elegance historic automobile show in Newport, R.I. Gurney, the first driver to win in Formula One, IndyCar and NASCAR, died Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018 from complications of pneumonia. He was 86. His wife, Evi, announced his death in a statement distributed by All American Racers, Inc. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, file)
FILE – This July 27, 2007 file photo shows legendary race car driver Dan Gurney smiling while signing autographs during an appearance at the Concours d’Elegance historic automobile show in Newport, R.I. Gurney, the first driver to win in Formula One, IndyCar and NASCAR, died Sunday, Jan. 14, 2018 from complications of pneumonia. He was 86. His wife, Evi, announced his death in a statement distributed by All American Racers, Inc. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, file)

“In deepest sorrow, with gratitude in our hearts for the love and joy you have given us during your time on this earth, we say, ‘Godspeed.”

Gurney began racing in 1955 and won in nearly every racing series he attempted. He drove for Ferrari, BRM, Porsche and Brabham in Formula One, then formed his own team. He won the Belgian Grand Prix in 1967 in his own car, the first and only time an American won an F1 race in a car of his own design.

Gurney teamed with AJ Foyt that year to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Ford GT40, and he’s often credited with starting the tradition of spraying the champagne from the podium at that race.

Gurney retired from driving in 1970 with 51 victories.

“When we talk about legendary American drivers, owners and car constructors on an international stage, Dan Gurney is one of the all-time greats,” Indianapolis Motor Speedway President J. Douglas Boles said in a statement. “His skill in all three areas helped him make an indelible mark and serve as a huge influence in this sport. Dan was a giant in the racing world, in every sense.”

Mario Andretti and Juan Pablo Montoya are the only other drivers to win in each of the IndyCar, Formula One and NASCAR Cup series. Andretti hailed Gurney in a post on Twitter.

“I was first inspired by him when I was in midgets dreaming of being like him. I was last inspired by him yesterday. Yes, I mean forever,” Andretti wrote. “He understood me better than anyone else, which is why he wrote the foreword for my book in 2001.”

Funeral arrangements are to be private but the family asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Hoag Hospital Foundation in Newport Beach, where Evi and Dan Gurney lived.

A biography on the All American Racers website said Evi and Dan Gurney have two sons. Dan Gurney had four children from his first marriage and had eight grandchildren.

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