SALT LAKE CITY — Cooper Webb couldn’t have raced much better since Monster Energy AMA Supercross resumed its season 2½ weeks ago.
Unfortunately for the Morehead City native and defending 450SX champion, season points leader Eli Tomac has also raced extremely well.
Both riders have reached the podium in each of the five races with Webb earning two wins and three second-place finishes and Tomac taking two wins, a second and two thirds.
Webb’s average finish has been 1.6 in those five races while Tomac’s has been 2.0.
Tomac, who has won seven races this season, held a 29-point lead over Webb when the 22-day, seven-race Utah series began and now leads by 25.
“At this point, just try to do what I can on the bike and keep getting great starts, which I think has helped,” Webb told Racer X Online. “… I’ve been happy just knowing that I gave it my all these last seven (races) and really kind of turned it into something. So far, I think it’s been good just to be able to run with Eli. The beginning of this season I think he definitely had a bit of the upper hand. So that’s been cool.”
Webb’s fantastic racing at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, which has helped him produce a career-best seven consecutive podium finishes, has enabled him to move into a fight for second. He trailed Ken Roczen by 26 points when the season resumed but has since pulled to within one point.
With two rounds to go, Tomac has a 24-point lead over Roczen and a 25-point lead over Webb, which means Tomac could wrap up the title with a win - or by earning two points on Roczen and one on Webb - in tonight’s penultimate round.
The 16th-round race will air from 7 to 10 p.m. on the NBC Sports Network. The 17th round race will air from 3 to 4 p.m. Sunday on the NBC Sports Network and from 4:30 to 6 p.m. on NBC.
Wednesdays continued to be good to Webb last week.
He grabbed his second straight Wednesday win June 10, his 10th career 450SX class win in four years, and his third victory of the season, after a tight battle that lasted for most of the race.
The triumph that saw him lead all 26 laps moved Webb to second in the season points standings.
“Every win is awesome,” Webb said. “I almost got the holeshot and led every lap, which is the first time I've been able to do that this year, which is awesome. Man, it was cool.”
Second place went to Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Zach Osborne, matching his personal-best finish and netting him the first four-in-a-row-top-five finishes of his career.
Tomac recovered from a bad start to thread his way through a dozen other riders to grab the final podium position.
Roczen grabbed the main event holeshot, but Webb snuck around and into the lead in the second corner.
Webb and Roczen both had something to prove and points to gain on series leader Tomac, who was buried back in 15th place. Tomac began picking off riders, but not at a desperate pace, which allowed the pack to thin through the opening laps as Webb and Roczen broke free.
Webb was able to anticipate Roczen’s passing lines and keep his KTM ahead of the Honda until Roczen made his big push 6½ minutes into the 20-minute plus one lap race.
Roczen briefly got his bike ahead of Webb’s front wheel twice inside the span of 24 seconds. Webb managed to battle back past each time and hold the lead.
Roczen stayed on Webb’s rear fender for a few more laps but fell off the pace at about the midpoint, and shortly after, surrendered the position to Zach Osborne. Meanwhile, Tomac never stopped his steady drive forward and put his Kawasaki into third just as the race clock zeroed out. Roczen finished the race in fifth, which allowed Webb to take second from him in the championship standings.
“Kenny was riding really well at the beginning,” Webb said. “I made a few mistakes and we battled there for a second, but I regained focus and I was able to ride my laps and ended up getting a decent lead, which is nice. I feel like the first three (rounds) we’ve been battling down to the last lap, so it was cool to be able to enjoy that one a little bit more – not so stressful.”
With another emotional win in Monster Energy AMA Supercross, Team Honda HRC’s Roczen railed into the lead early in the main event and took the 450SX class win in round 15 on Sunday.
Red Bull KTM’s Webb, the winner of the previous round, took second, losing the second-place spot in the championship points to Roczen. Current points leader Tomac of the Monster Energy Kawasaki team turned a first corner near crash into a podium position.
After Roczen’s announcement earlier in the week that he’d been diagnosed with shingles and compounding it with respiratory issues he’s struggled with this season, most weren’t expecting a strong ride from the German rider over the entire 20-minute plus one lap main event.
When the gate dropped, Tomac reached the first corner ahead of the pack, but Webb had the inside line and gave Tomac a strong bump. Webb crossed the holeshot line first with Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Jason Anderson right on his wheel and Roczen right behind. In the second corner, Roczen cut under Anderson and took the line, forcing a mistake that had Anderson jumping into the tuff blox and down hard.
Early on, it seemed to be a race in which Webb would sprint away while Tomac marched his way into the runner-up position and then hunt him, but Roczen hounded Webb for three minutes and then was able to slingshot around a technical inside rut to grab the lead.
From there, the Honda rider was never contested, clicking off his first laps led in any of the Utah rounds and nabbing a surprise win. It was his fourth win of the season and 15th of his career.
On the podium, even with the quiet stadium without fans that makes this season-ending racing possible, Roczen showed the emotion of a win that puts him back into second position in the championship points standings.
Tomac reached third place just over six minutes into the race but could never make up the seven-second gap to Roczen or the three-second gap to Webb. With about four minutes left on the race clock, he eased back to hold onto a podium finish, the 65th of his career.