The 16th round of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship took place last night as the third and final Wednesday night supercross race has now come and gone.
In the 450SX main event, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Zach Osborne got out front and put down lap after lap, as he was followed by his training partner Red Bull KTM’s Cooper Webb as Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac charged from a horrific start outside of the top 15. Osborne led for the first 22 laps of the main event until Webb, who had Tomac now on his tail in third, decided to go for a move for the lead. Webb executed a perfect block pass on Osborne in the 180-degree turn before the whoops and he managed to hold off Tomac’s charge for the final seven laps of the race as he took his third Wednesday night checkered flag. Webb came through just 2.214 seconds ahead of Tomac (second) as Osborne held on to third.
Following the race, Webb, Tomac, Osborne spoke with the media in a Zoom press conference call hosted by NBC Sports’ Daniel Blair.
Daniel Blair: Cooper, take me through the middle part of that race? It looked like you were being pretty patient. You had a solid push, but it didn’t look like you were all in. Then all of a sudden something kind of flipped. Was that because you knew Eli was coming, or were you just kind of gauging the race and Zach in front of you and knowing that it was the time to go? It definitely looked like something switched and you definitely flipped it up last five to seven minutes.
Cooper Webb: Eli was making moves and he got around Jason [Anderson]. Kenny [Roczen] was kind of all over me at the beginning. I felt like our pace was strong enough to not be freight trained, I guess. Then about halfway I saw Eli made the pass on Ken and he was behind me. I just knew it was time to go. I felt like Zach was riding well, but we needed to go a little faster. So I kind of got to a point where I needed to get around him. I was able to. Obviously Eli got around him too and I knew I had to finish strong. So I felt like it was a sweet race for me obviously to get another win. I think another thing too was I switched my line through the whoops about halfway and that seemed to give me a little bit better momentum through the whoops. That seemed to help. It was definitely a tough race. I saw on my pit board Eli did like a 42.9 and I was like, “It’s time to get going.”
Eli, I want to know what you were thinking in the first turn. I know you wanted to win tonight. You wanted to end this thing tonight. I just want to know what your thoughts were first turn and maybe those first two laps. Was the game plan to survive or were you still just, I’m going for the win? I want to make it happen?
Eli Tomac: The first turn, it was just a joke. I was way out the back. I was probably the last guy on the inside. Went defensive and that did not work in that first turn. Mookie went up the inside. I think [Justin] Barcia was even there on the inside. Then just really had to pick my way through the pack. That first lap is a little bit chaotic. I made a good move around the second and third turn there and then went to work. I felt like I could make easier passes this week, compared to the previous track but couldn’t get to the front. Satisfied on that second.
Zach, you’ve mentioned before how being on the podium is awesome, but you’re also frustrated because you’re close. That win is sitting right there. Based on what you know now just being this close, what’s that final piece? What’s the final piece missing to get over the hump and get that win?
Zach Osborne: I was just like five laps short tonight. Tightened up there a little bit at the end. Kind of just let it go. Maybe the mental side of things got to me a little bit and kind of buckled under the pressure, but it is what it is. I’m kind of in unchartered waters for myself. I feel good about my third, but it would have been really good to hold onto that last two minutes and take a win. There’s still one more on Sunday. I feel really good about my whole package right now. I’m happy with where I’m at, so we’ll give it another go.
Cooper, the whoops and the jumps and the turn after the whoops were very similar to what they were the last race, and that’s actually where Ken passed you. Then you were struggling a bit in that section early. Was that a section you had been thinking about all since Sunday and even during the race? Somehow you went from a weakness to a strength there with about ten minutes to go.
Webb: Yeah. That was something that even all day today the flat turn was something that I struggled with. I don’t know what it was. Like I said, I switched lines in the whoops. I felt pretty good in the whoops at the beginning, but I kind of caught on to Zach’s line and when I started doing that, that’s where I felt like my whoops speed was a lot better and then it opened up that turn. It kind of all came together a lot there. So I think the last race, that’s where I was really slow and obviously lost the lead. So I felt like I improved there. It was good to be able to make that adjustment during the race. I was pumped.
Eli was catching you and you said you saw that. Was that just for the race win or was there a little something extra because you knew you had to finish in front of him to keep the title alive? Was there even a little extra motivation there?
Oh, for sure. We were all riding really strong. I think Eli was just really ripping some good lap times and he kind of caught up to the pack. I know kind of how the Honda sounds and I know how the Kawi sounds. So I saw he got behind me and I was like, “Alright, it’s game on. It’s time to go.” I felt like I fixed a few things and kind of got my lap time down a little bit. For sure, obviously he’s got a nice points lead but I wanted to try to at least make it to Sunday and just see if there’s any hope. Overall it was a good night. To be able to at least take it to Sunday, that was the motivation there. Also me and Kenny are really tight with the second in the series, so I wanted to get as many points on him too. Obviously there’s always motivation.
Cooper, when you made the pass on Zach for the lead, that was about as sketchy and on the edge as you could do it. Did you just know like, hey, I have to do this right now and put the throttle all the way to the stop before you hit the whoops? Or was there a little bit of a mistake when you made that pass?
The lap before I had gotten closer. It was a little “send it” for sure. I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it happen. I just kind of clipped that off [jump landing] and went a lot deeper than what I was trying to. I felt like I had picked up on that line in the whoops and I was a little faster actually there at the later part of the race. I think it was more like, I got to get going if I want a chance at winning, and obviously holding off Eli too.
Zach, knowing that Cooper is your training partner, do you have a higher level of trust in that situation and you know he can run it in a little bit closer? Or did it completely catch you off guard and that’s why you gave up another position to Eli?
Osborne: No. Obviously I trust him. I trust pretty much everybody on the track, actually. But the reason I gave up another position to Eli was because when he came up the berm I had to go even higher in the berm and it was just in the fluff up on the tuff blocks. So I pushed the front and barely saved it. Then that crushed all my speed into the whoops. So Eli went straight by. As far as trust goes, there’s not many people out there that are going to just saw your legs off. I know that he wasn’t going to blast me or anything, but he’s really good at that being not really quite close enough to make it happen, but running it in there and making it happen. That was a little bit of a mistake on my part.
Eli, the last race you kind of complained about the start there and said that was unacceptable. Tonight was maybe even a little bit on the worse side. The next race, we’ve obviously got a pretty good points lead for you, but what are you looking at for a start next time around?
Tomac: I don’t know. At this point I might as well just let everyone go and then roll. Just try to be a little bit better. I’m trying to protect that inside but it hasn’t been working the past two rounds. That was it. Just got to be a little bit better. There’s a lot of good guys on the line.
Zach, entering the Salt Lake City rounds you were 14th in the points and now you’re climbing up there around towards sixth position. Does that mean anything to you at this stage of the year?
Osborne: Not so much the end position but just to gain the momentum that I have and turn around what was a dismal season and a massive injury and come back and get some results feels really good. It wasn’t like I came here and I was like, I can get sixth in the points or whatever. I came here just to get results and right the ship, if you will, before we start this outdoor season and kind of overcome my injury and the dismal start. It’s cool to be climbing in the points and to be up to seventh in the premier class in the world, in my opinion. That’s all good and fine, but the main goal right now is results. After leading probably 45 laps since we’ve been here, I want to win one.
Zach, you’ve definitely taken the road less traveled to get here. A child prodigy, kicked back, had to go to Europe to get a ride, came back. You’re now 30. Factory ride. You’re at the tippy-top of the sport battling with the best in the world. If someone told you in 2009 this was where you’d be in 2020, what would you say? Or was this always the plan?
Sign me up. Really, it’s more than I could have ever dreamed of or envisioned. I had to set some new goals recently in the past year because I had kind of met all the things that I thought I could do in the sport or places I could go. So for me, this is bucket list stuff. I want to win. That’s the next thing.
What would you say the biggest catalyst has been to getting you here from where you were? Joining this team and Baker’s Factory, or something else along the way?
Just hard work, being in the right place at the right time. My recent success in the past four or five years is finding a group of guys that I’m super comfortable with and obviously a good training program and a good bike and stuff. Really I’m a comfort guy and the team that I’m on now really make me feel comfortable and just kind of rally around me when I need that. So for me that’s probably the biggest thing is having a group of guys that I’m just super comfortable with and that know when the gate falls I’m going to be there. They don’t really put a whole lot of weight on anything else.
Eli, when this gate dropped you didn’t know that was going to be an instant classic from where you started and where you ended up. Considering the championship battle and the points consideration, at any point during that race did you decide to back it down? What was your determining factor to push all the way through to the end? At what point in the race did you say, I can win this thing?
Tomac: When it was Zach, Cooper and Kenny, once I caught that group I’m like, “Man, I’m right in this.” To be honest, I thought it was going to turn into last Sunday when the two broke away and I was kind of out of it, but I was able to get there. I tried to push to the front, but at the same time I was kind of in conservative mode there. That was it. I was happy with second at that point.
What about that line in the whoops and that following corner? Was there anything following Coop that you wish you would have done differently, or was that part of your conservative strategy?
After the race I probably should have been going on the inside rut. I was one of the fastest in the whoops. I was chatting with my dad about that too. We were driving back and I’m like, “Dang it, I should have been hitting that inside line.” I should have been checking up more on that triple because I was going too fast through the air and then I was flying outside. So it was kind of a wash there. That would have helped stick a little bit closer.
Zach, you’d be like the most improved in the second part of the season. You had a great race and a podium here in Salt Lake City, even though you didn’t win. You had some words with Coop at the podium. Did we miss something during the race? Is everything okay? Was that something before or after the race, or during the race?
Osborne: No, everything is good. I don’t think we had words. We were just talking about the race.
Then the race itself, when you did get passed going into the whoops that next section, was there any point during that you decided that you wanted to push? You didn’t want to get into the championship battle and possibly force the issue?
Whenever Coop passed me I almost went down and that kind of blew any shot that I had at getting back to Eli or to Coop. So there was not really any of that going through my mind. I just want to win a race. I’m not too worried about anyone else’s situation. I’m just trying to do my best.
Zach, we’ve seen all three of you guys between you, Dean, and Jason all step up in Salt Lake City. Obviously, those guys won the heats tonight and you weren’t too pumped on your heat race performance. You talked about being a comfort guy. Was that just in the main event you knew it was crunch time and you were able to go out? Or was it just putting more laps down, you were more comfortable out there? What was able to help you turn it around?
I was nervous going into the main because the heat was terrible. I just rode like crap. I was just really uncomfortable. We made a couple clicker changes on the fork and went with a different front tire that I had been running previously. We made some changes for the mud during the day. It just changed a lot from the second practice to the heat race. It was like a completely different track and something I wasn’t really ready for. They [the team] were kind of like, “What was that?” They know when to get onto me and when to hold back. So today was one of those days where I had to do it on my own and just really kind of turn it around after the heat race. Like I said, I was super nervous. I felt like I should have won the heat for sure. Then I pulled the holeshot and led 20 laps or whatever and nearly won the thing, so it was a good turnaround for me.
Was there anything that when you were talking with Dean and Jason that they were just hitting their marks, or anything specific that changed with them, or again just kind of a comfort thing?
More just a comfort thing. We’re all so different as far as riding style goes. I’m so short and they’re taller guys. They make things look really easy and I make things look really hard. There’s always one guy that’s the butt of the joke in the truck and that was me today because the heat race was so bad. I was looking to turn it around for the main.
Coop, you set your fast lap near the end of the race and you lowered your times as it went on and of course rode a tremendous race. You said you realized it was time to get going, and I get it, but specifically breaking it down. What is it about those late races where you just find this stuff? You reach down. You seem to be in incredible shape. Do you find lines? Is it a mental thing where you’re like, okay, now it’s my time? You seem to have a lot of confidence late in the race. What is it about that?
Webb: I’m not sure. We looked at laps from all day and my best time of the day all day was lap 25. So I’m not sure. I found speed whenever I need it. I think it’s more for me just knowing that the main events are so long that you can’t keep it pinned the first ten laps. I think that’s where I maybe to a fault sometimes kind of settle in to the pace ahead of me the first ten or fifteen, and then just sometimes you have to just funnel into that. You don’t want to get into cat and mouse. It just depends how every race is. I really trust my fitness and I feel like I can really dig deep when I need to. That’s something that I feel like I’ve always been pretty good at. So we’ll work on getting some of those earlier laps speed. I think there’s nothing crazy to it. I think that’s just how I’ve kind of always been, even in the 250 days. Just kind of always try to lay it out there at the end.
Eli, what went through your mind after the first turn? Were you worried about the outcome of the race?
Tomac: The most nerve-racking is the first lap, so when you’re buried so many things can happen out of your own power. That’s what’s sketchy about starting in the back. There was a hang-up in turn two, and then turn three was pretty tight. Then I got close to [Benny] Bloss on the finish line bowl turn. It’s a situation I don’t want to put myself in, but I was able to make passes quicker this weekend compared to that Sunday.
Eli, a lot of the people that I talk to around the sport like to tell me that this year you’ve kind of conquered your demons. You’ve kind of shaken your demons the past five years. You’re one race away now. Got a pretty big lead going in. What’s changed this year for you?
Just consistency in general. I’ve always had these weird probably two races or even three races when I look back to 2017 or whichever year, it’s been somewhat close. So consistency. That’s really it. Just feeling more level-headed. Less up-and-down emotion this year. I felt like I’ve just been kind of on that same level the whole time.
The follow up to that is whenever you had the gate drop and you go into the first turn trying to protect the inside but end up coming out last, did you think to yourself, here we go again, coming into this race?
No, not at all. In previous years I’ve struggled with having just everything in general dialed in right away. Those other years where I was off to a really slow start for those first four or five races, and then we’d get the motorcycle dialed in to work in all conditions. This year we were just ready to go from the get-go. So that’s been good for me is I know I can make it the distance. Previous years I wasn’t even able to make it the 20 minutes. I’d blow myself up or something like that or have a crash or whatever it would be. Being ready from round one.
Eli, the question we always ask when there’s one more race to try to win the title is will you take the chance of riding this week? Will you take less risk? Is it better that you only have to wait half as many days as you would under any other circumstances for the final race? And not riding in-between is probably not a big deal?
Yeah. I haven’t been riding in-between any of these races. That’s been my thing. So if anything it’s just what we’ve been doing.
Zach, did you have any words with Eli Tomac at the podium, not Cooper Webb.
Osborne: I bumped him when I went to turn into the podium on accident. He stopped short and I was trying to go by and then he said something. I don’t know what it was.
Coop, I know how much you love flat corners the first time around. What’d you think about it this time around? You had at least one race under your belt with flat corners.
Webb: It’s definitely been a lot of them this Salt Lake trip. I’ve been pretty happy. It’s something where I feel like in the past I’ve always struggled more on these hard-pack tracks, especially when I look at when we go to Phoenix and stuff like that. I feel like my hard-pack riding has been the best it ever has. So I’ve been happy with it, but always room to improve.
So are you a flat corner specialist yet?
No. I like some ruts, man. [Laughs]
Cooper, three wins on Wednesday. Four wins on the year. Are you petitioning Feld for Wednesdays in the future? Have you always been a guy that’s been great middle of the week, or is this something new?
It’s something new. Usually I have Wednesdays off. I’ve been getting great results. I’ve gotten first and second at all the races so far. I couldn't ask for much more. The team was asking me that too. I don’t know what the answer is. I think just after you get beat you’re always fired up to want to go out and win the next race, and that’s just kind of how it’s worked out. So far Wednesdays have been really good.
If you prefer to watch the press conference, watch the archive below: