SALT LAKE CITY — You can call him Cooper “Wednesday” Webb at this point.
The Morehead City native captured the third straight Monster Energy AMA Supercross weekday race to give him a slim chance of repeating as the 450 class champion.
Not only did he grab his third Wednesday win in a row, but he also tallied his 11th career 450SX class triumph in four years, and his fourth victory of the season to pull to within 22 points of season points leader Eli Tomac.
“Another amazing Wednesday night race for me being able to get the win at (Salt Lake City 6),” Webb wrote on social media after the race. “Tight racing till the very end. Glad I could at least take the championship to Sunday.”
The final race of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross season will air today from 3-4 p.m. on the NBC Sports Network and switch to NBC from 4-6 p.m.
Webb will need a motorbike miracle to defend his 450SX title.
If he wins the race, Tomac will need to score a minimum of four points, which means he would need to finish at least 19th.
If Webb finishes second, Tomac needs to score just a single point to capture the first 450SX championship of his career. To score only one point, Tomac simply needs to qualify for the main event, as even last place (22nd) provides one point.
“He’s got a nice points lead, but I wanted to at least make it to Sunday and see if there’s any hope,” Webb said in the post-race press conference. “Overall it was a good night. To be able to at least take it to Sunday, there was motivation there. And, me and Kenny (Roczen) are really tight in the series too. There’s always motivation.”
Webb will need to finish well to even end the season as the runner-up as Roczen is only six points behind in third. Roczen sat in second prior to Webb’s Wednesday win.
Webb’s victory continued a streak of phenomenal riding since the season resumed following an 85-day break due to the coronavirus pandemic. In six races at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah, he took first in three Wednesday events and second in three Sunday events.
Including the two races before the long break, he has reached the podium in eight consecutive races. He’s stood on the podium in 13 of 16 races this season.
The seats were empty due to COVID-19 regulations on Wednesday, but Rice-Eccles Stadium was filled with tension and nerves as the 450SX class riders roared off the starting gate.
Entering the first turn, Tomac was last among the 22 racers. Zach Osborne emerged with the holeshot with Justin Brayton, second, Justin Hill, third, and Webb, fourth. Roczen was seventh.
With less than a single race’s points separating Tomac from both Roczen and Webb, it looked like a perfect opportunity for Webb and Roczen to gain points. For Tomac, a field of riders separated him from a race victory that would wrap up the title.
About three minutes into the race, Webb had reached second place with Roczen keeping pace and passes along with him. But the two were not clear of Tomac, who charged smartly through the pack, picking his passing sections and not pressing his luck.
In past seasons, the daunting task might have led to hasty decisions, but Tomac was rock solid. When he made the pass into fifth, Tomac was only 5.7 seconds out of the lead. After a short-lived battle with Jason Anderson, he took over fourth place.
Up front at the race midpoint, Webb felt the approach of Tomac and had yet to shake Roczen.
Tomac got around Roczen with just under eight minutes left on the race clock. Roczen battled back but kept the racing clean.
With less than four minutes and one lap remaining, Webb ducked under Osborne in a bowl turn. Osborne knifed his front tire and nearly went down, allowing Tomac an easy pass into second.
Webb and Tomac set off into a sea of lappers to see if Webb would force the title to be determined at the final round. Webb maintained a one second lead for most of the remaining laps, putting in a flawless defense until he grabbed the checkered flag.
“We were all really close in speed, not a lot separating,” Webb said. “I fixed the whoops about halfway – I think that’s what was holding me back – and I started hitting them really well. It was a tight race between us four and the whole race it seemed like a lot of pressure between us all because we weren’t making many mistakes. I’m sure it was a fun race for the fans to watch and it was a fun race to win, for sure.”