At the 13th round of Monster Energy AMA Supercross yesterday, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac took the win, his seventh of the 2020 championship. But it wasn’t easy as muddy conditions and a never-say-quit Cooper Webb pushed Tomac until the checkered flag waived. The two passed one another several times as they navigated the sloppy course and tons of lapped traffic. Behind that, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Jason Anderson passed his teammate Zach Osborne to take over third but the Webb-Tomac duo out front was already too far ahead and pushing such a fast pace Anderson was stuck racing alone most of the race. Incredibly, Anderson was the only rider Tomac and Webb didn’t lap!.
All three riders spoke about it in a post-race press conference, held via a Zoom conference call, hosted by NBCSports’ Daniel Blair.
Daniel Blair: Jason, since we’ve been in Utah you’ve been riding really well. Your speed is getting there. You’ve been fighting but just had a hard time with the starts. Today seemed a lot better. The heat race was good. The main event was good. Was that just the key for you, getting up in that front pace? It seemed to pay off in that main event.
Jason Anderson: Yeah. I think last weekend I got up in the front pace and those guys kind of got away from me. This weekend I was able to get up a little bit further back than I was the last round. I was able to get by Zach [Osborne] and then next thing you know, I was in no man’s land. Those two seemed to have a pretty good battle up front. Kind of got waxed by them. I think as the races keep going I feel like I’m progressing and getting better and working on my weak points, which from the first round my starts were horrible. Being able to get up there and be in the battle and see it has been nice. Just going to try and keep getting better and see how it goes.
Cooper and Eli, first off guys, that was awesome to watch. Cooper, I’ll start with you. The back and forth, where you had your strengths, where your weaknesses were. The fight was impressive to watch. From your perspective, how did everything go?
Cooper Webb: Overall it was an incredible race, like you said. We were laying it all out there. I think I was first to the first turn and then Zach snuck inside of me. I was behind him for about a lap. When I cleared him it was me and Eli. I don’t know how long I was able to lead, but I knew he was all over me. I was doing that line right in the whoops. It felt good, but after he passed me I saw it was definitely not the preferred line. It was a barn burner. He led and then I led. I think I ended up leading twice. He led twice. The lappers were insane. From my end, I know I left it all out there. I felt like we were just both wanting to purely win. I thought I uncorked a pretty cool rhythm, but I just was able to watch the highlights and saw that he did that three, three, three. I just feel like that was a race for the ages for sure. It’s unfortunate to lose by a second, but at the same time it's cool to be able to go wire to wire like that with the red plate holder. Obviously he has seven wins now, so he’s been on it this year. It’s cool to be able to run with him. We laid it all out there for sure.
That triple the last two laps, when you dove in there on the inside it looked like maybe it was a pass attempt and then you kind of pulled back but then just seated it. Did you know that was available, or was that just an instinctual decision made right then and there?
It was funny, the suspension guy joked about it before the main event, and I was like, “You’re delusional.” There’s no way. I just tried it. But we got to a point with two laps to go where I was like “eff it lets go for it!” Barely made it. It seemed to be pretty fast there. It was mainly because the lappers kind of forced me there a few times. That’s where I kind of got the idea from. It was a good line, but I guess it wasn’t enough. I was expecting to case it for sure.
Eli, great ride. Very entertaining for everybody. Take us through your race and how it laid out for you.
Eli Tomac: I’ve got to start with saying that was a freaking sweet race. It’s easy to say for me because I won, but it was really fun. On the line I was a little bit nervous about my gate. I was pretty far inside. I was third on the inside there. Kind of played the safe card, but got a really good jump. Got good traction there. Slid around with those guys on the inside. Coop was in front of me. We just got going. We both had really good flow today on the track. It was a cool condition because we were still able to get those jump combos and really get around the track but it was at the same time it was a little bit sketchy enough to where some guys were kind of floundering around. Really fun racing conditions. Like I said, went back and forth with each other twice there. It was just a really good race.
Cooper, you’ve made your legacy with some last lap, last corner passes. I know lappers affected you and both Eli that entire race. It seems like Tyler Bowers took away that inside there at the end going into the whoops, Eli had to go outside on that last corner. Do you think if Bowers wasn’t there that you could have made a play on that last corner?
Webb: I’m not sure. It’s hard to say. We ran into so many lappers that there was probably 20 times for me and 20 times for him that we could have blamed a lapper. It was just the way it was tonight. I had kind of been going to that second line. It did affect the whoops speed, but I think at that point unless I would have just absolutely crushed the whoops I think he had just a little bit on me. I don’t know if I would have maybe been able to make it happen. Obviously like I said, the lappers were crazy all night, so it was tough. I was hoping for that last-lap magic, but it didn’t work out tonight.
That pace you were running, you were basically lapping up to the podium. Can you explain lapping up that far?
Webb: I don’t know. I didn’t know at the time. It just felt like we had passed a lot of people. At one point I saw Kenny [Roczen] again and I was not sure what was going on. I just think it was one of those things where from lap one I wanted to win so bad, and obviously Eli did too. We were in the mode and just flowing. It came down to kind of lines switching and being able to… I just felt like I pushed as hard as I could. It wasn’t really, I didn’t think, a 100 percent mud race because like you said we were doing all the obstacles. It was tough conditions. You had to be smart. I think we were just obviously riding smart but riding that fine edge where it’s easy to make a mistake. I don’t know what it was. I think we were just both wanting to win.
Eli, with the rain stopping right before the 450 main, did the track get better as you guys went through or did it just keep getting more chewed up?
Tomac: Overall the traction was getting a little bit better, but at the same time the main line was getting more chewed up. Turn two, that rut started getting pretty squirrelly. We’d come out and go double and then that would start that triple-triple rhythm section. That one got pretty bad where it was kind of like a big hook up the ramp, so you had to be careful there. Surprisingly, we were getting through the whoops. I think that’s where me and Cooper were really a lot faster tonight was the whoops. We were passing lappers and those guys were kind of rolling through there. I think that’s where we were making big time on everyone.
Cooper and Eli, how much are you thinking about these lines as the race goes and how much is instinct where you just see an opening and give it a shot?
Webb: I think honestly tonight was one of those races where it was hard to make passes, but if you were the guy behind you could kind of see where the person was slow and where they weren’t. Lines that were good in the beginning weren’t so good in the end. Like he was saying, the main lines got so chewed out so you had to go the other option, and that other option is either tighter or wider. Obviously I think with the lappers it just forced us to take all kinds of different lines. It was more instinct. Maybe if you were behind you could kind of try something and it would work. At least that’s what happened for me a few times. I was able to make a little bit of time. When you’re in the lead it’s tough to try certain things and move them around with the lappers and stuff, but I’d say more instinct.
Tomac: The one rhythm that I felt like was instinct was that second lane with the double and the triple-triple-triple. I kind of knew it was there, but at the same time you just didn’t know how it was going to form up. The way those transitions were getting was kind of nasty and square on the bottom. That was the one spot I felt like you could change up or miss.
Eli, are you thinking about that stuff, or are you literally just going for it and hoping it’s going to work out?
Really it’s a little bit of both. It’s a fine line of thinking too much and having a good flow and doing what you’re supposed to do. To be honest, I was bad in that second rhythm section, the second straightaway at the beginning of the race. I was missing the first triple. You’d go double and start the triple. Cooper was getting it right away and I missed it three or four laps. Then I finally got it going. Whether it was instinct or not, that was a line that I had to adapt to for sure.
Eli, during the podium after everything was over I just kept hearing you say over and over how much fun that race was. How is a head-to-head battle against a really close competitor more fun than a blowout win?
Well, the win is sweet. It’s easy to be happy. A lot of times in these mains you’re either getting passed once by the guy who wins, or vice versa where you make the pass and you kind of start running way. The way we did it, I was scrapping to the end. The second-to-last turn I was dabbing and freaking pinning it and hanging off the back. It was just a good race that way. As a competitor, it just felt like everything was right.
Eli and Coper, it was the strangest thing when the hot lap Ken Roczen went out and Justin Hill went out and you guys sat there. What was the reasoning behind that? Were you double-thinking it? Like, should I have went because Roczen went?
Webb: I don’t know why they went out, to be honest. I thought that was pretty dumb. We knew it was going to be wet. The start was important. You were going to go get your bike muddy and heavy and tire dirty for the start. So I thought it wasn’t very smart but everyone does things their way.
Tomac: Same thing. You want to keep your bike light. It was still heavy enough to where that dirt is going to stick to your bike. With these grates too, I was nervous about getting the tire slick for the start.
Jason, how’s the health been at elevation? Obviously, today was a good day for you.
Anderson: It honestly hasn’t been too much of an issue. I went home to New Mexico for long enough to take it easy and work my way into acclimating. I think here is a little lower than even where I was at home, or even where the Denver Supercross is. So I feel good. I think just no matter if we’re at sea level or whatever, we’re racing so close together we’re kind of more focused on recovery in-between the races than trying to ride or anything right now. We have two days now until our next race, so I think we’re going to try and recover as much as possible and kind of take it easy. I feel good. I just feel like I’ve been getting a little bit of arm pump which is kind of weird for me. I’ve been able to work through it. No excuses. We’ll go into these last four rounds.
Cooper, it seemed like even though you were in that battle for victory there with Eli you remained pretty clean out there. How was that?
Webb: It was good. Obviously last year I was able to finally be able to battle with Eli and then this year too. We’re both aggressive-natured and want to go for it, but I feel like we’ve always been pretty respectful with everything. Tonight was same. Obviously I want to get after this championship and stuff but it’s still a ways out. For me I just was wanting to race hard and try to win. That was my main goal. It’s cool for us to be able to battle like that, and especially with him having the red plate and stuff like that. You don’t want to just clean someone out like I saw Bam Bam [Justin Barcia] and him in the heat race or whatever. It was good racing.
Eli, was there a point late in the race when you were like, “I need to back it down a little bit just in case?” Worst case scenario something happens and then it screws up the championship. Is there a point where you need to back it down, or are you just, I’m going to beat this guy because he’s trying to beat me and I’ve just got to go for it?
Tomac: I was just in the zone to where I’m like, “At this point there’s no slowing down.” I didn’t feel like I was over the edge. We both race each other hard, aggressive, but I wasn’t in the position where I’m like, “I’m getting squirrelly, I’m getting sketchy here. I need to back it down.” I felt in control that whole main that way.
Cooper, before the COVID-19 break and earlier in the year you kind of struggled with the whoops. We haven’t seen that problem at all. Three days ago they were obviously jumpers, but today they were just straight up big skimmers. You were skimming them the whole time. What have you found or what have you done to adjust?
Webb: I think like you said after these first few, that’s where I was getting my ass kicked. We were able to really work with the team and get what I felt like I needed to get through the whoops. Also I feel like one of my really good qualities is my turning, so I didn’t want to take away from that too much, either. I’ve got to give it up to the team. They tried some stuff that’s been untraditional of them, so that’s been cool. Obviously, I’ve still got to be better in them. Tonight I felt like I was competitive. Like Eli said, the track was a lot about whoops. I felt like it was maybe more my line at the beginning that held me back. Once I kind of caught up, that main line was actually pretty good. I felt like I didn’t hinder my whoop speed at all today, so I was pretty happy with that.
How mind-blown were both of you guys on how many people you were lapping? You lapped Kenny twice. Were guys like, what the heck is going on here?
Webb: All I know is it just felt like we were passing multiple guys every lap. I didn’t really think about that too much at the time. Afterwards when I was kind of gaining my thoughts it was like, wow. We lapped a lot of people. I knew Zach was up there on the start and we lapped him late. So I was like, I know he’s pretty far up. It just seemed like we had a bunch of guys. It was definitely a crazy feeling. Normally we maybe get to 12th or something like that, so it was pretty cool to push that hard and get that far forward.
Eli, explain this to fans because we all talk about this, we all bench race about this. You’ve won championships. You’ve lost championships. Even Chase Sexton went in there with ten points on McElrath and that has evaporated. You saw Roczen’s night. You could not have predicted that. Do you have a plan when things go according to what you think is going to happen with your competitors? If not, in the same vein, if you ride differently to protect a win, protect a position?
Tomac: It’s so hard to say. Like you said, I’ve had it both ways. I’ve had it to where I’ve blown it and I’ve had championships where I’ve been able to sail her on in with no problem. Today, the rain is always the big question. The good thing is these guys could have taken a huge chunk of points out of me, but today it went the other way. That’s just the way it goes. You just try to be the best you can and that’s it.
In your experience riding over your years, when you laid back, is that when bad things happen? When you try to be protective?
For sure. Your first time through it is by far the worst. Experience is so big that way, just being mentally sound. That just happens as you develop as a human. When you’re 19 years old you’re thinking a lot different thoughts when you’re 25.
Jason, you and Zach have had some good battles. Sometimes it’s like one week he gets the better of you, and one week you get the better of him. I know you guys always have some good banter in the truck. What’s that been like battling your teammate and 50/50 on the results lately?
Anderson: It’s good. The first round we battled. Second round he got the holeshot so he was up front and ended up third. I think he maybe needed a little bit more leg like I’ve got through the whoops to help him out [today]. The banter is good. Me and him, we keep it really light. Good vibes here. Between me, Zach, and Dean [Wilson] I feel like we’re stepping our game up quite a bit, qualifying and everything. I come off the track, put in a good lap, next thing you know, Dean knocks me off the last lap or something like that. We’re doing good over here. We’re all just trying to get better.
Jason, obviously in the media a lot has been made our of your parting ways with Aldon Baker, for your reasons. Have you noticed a difference, personally?
Basically I do the same stuff. I ride my road bike, go to the gym, and ride my dirt bike. So nothing’s changed except I don’t go to his track anymore. That’s about it.
For any of the 450 guys, you’re three races in. It’s been a week of racing now. Has this been as difficult as you guys thought it would be?
Anderson: I guess if you’re a little bit behind you would want your week to be able to get better, but honestly it’s kind of nice knocking them all out and getting them all done. We’re three rounds in [to this restart] and we’ve only been racing for a week. I think it’s nice but also it could be a double-edged sword. As far as how tough it is, we are focused on recovery, but it’s so close that it’s easy to keep your head in the game. Sometimes if you have a whole six days between races you can kind of get distracted or drive yourself a little crazy especially if you’re in the championship or whatever it is. It’s all of our first time [in this kind of schedule], so seeing how it plays out I think some people might like it and some people might not. And you throw the elevation in there with it too. It’s pretty wild. I’m enjoying it so far. It’s a nice place. At least we’re in Salt Lake. It’s beautiful here. We could be in way worse places.
Tomac: All I got to say is it’s nice not getting on an airplane Sunday morning. That’s been sweet.
Webb: It’s been a lot different. For me I’ve really enjoy it. My favorite part of the sport is racing. Honestly, less practice, less risk during the week. You just kind of have to bring it on race day every time. Recovery is definitely more vital, especially at elevation and stuff. That’s been a little better because you’re not so worried about riding during the week or training during the week and trying to maintain. I feel like we did a good training block before it and now it’s just all about racing. It’s been cool. It’s the most money I’ve made in a week, so I’m pretty happy about that.
If you prefer to watch the press conference, watch the archive below: