Three champions were crowned at the 17th and final round of the 2021 Monster Energy AMA Supercross at Rice-Eccles Stadium, leaving us with plenty to talk about. As such, we fired some questions off to long-time pro racer Jason Thomas to see what he had to say about the weekend and the season.
How big of a stamp on this championship was winning the finale for Cooper Webb?
It was a serious statement win. There was really no reason to take risk or push the limit as far as championship aspirations go. He could have cruised to a safe, easy finish and wrapped up his second title in three years. Instead, he decided he would show everyone exactly why he is the 2021 Monster Energy Supercross Champion. His ability to overcome the mental stress and anxiety is impressive. Most riders would find it very hard to focus on the task at hand with so much at stake. True to form, though, Webb is seemingly impervious to the emotion and external influences that almost every other rider on earth would find distracting. I will not doubt Cooper Webb moving forward.
What did you think of Ken Roczen's early race craft and then his late race fade back?
I really don’t know what to think about Kenny’s late race issues in the final few rounds. He seemed to be suffering from lapses in concentration or physical fatigue or both. I have more questions than answers on this one.
How do you reflect on Colt Nichols career to this point and the path he had to take to become a champion?
Colt has flown under the radar for most of his career. His breakout ride at Anaheim 2019 changed expectations for his future but it wasn’t until this season that he really found the consistency that it takes to be a champion. He will enter 2022 as a mature 250 veteran and will be much more difficult to beat from the experience gained this season.
Thoughts on Hunter Lawrence's move in the first turn of the heat race making contact with Justin Cooper?
It was definitely on the aggressive side! If you’re Hunter, you’re well aware of how unlikely your championship aspirations are. The only way to dramatically increase those odds are to put Justin Cooper into a very difficult situation. I can’t say I condone the move but I certainly understand the motivation to create havoc. When it seems there’s only one window to the title, desperate moves have a way of becoming more logical.
Even though the track was short, it seemed to race well with all of the 180s. What did you think of the design for the finale?
I wasn’t a huge fan. It was on the simple side and lacked a bit of originality. The downside of having those amazing Atlanta layouts is that we now know what is possible. Both of the SLC layouts were prototypical supercross layouts and while that isn’t a bad thing, they just felt kinda blah to me. The elite riders jumped the rhythm sections within 2-3 laps and it quickly became about who got a good start and who didn’t.
Justin Cooper cruised home to ninth for the 250SX West title, but was seen looking back and down at his bike a few times. How hard is it for him to stay focused on just racing in that situation?
I was watching him during the main event and I chuckled to myself because it’s exactly how I would have gone about it. With so much money at stake (500k range for title bonuses), not to mention the legacy of winning a title, I would be incredibly risk averse throughout that main event. Colt Nichols and Cooper Webb proved that it can be done a different way, but I believe Justin Cooper’s chances of trouble were far lower. He could have likely ridden 100 laps at that pace without real risk. When risk is the only thing between you and a championship, that ninth was a perfect ride for my money.
Give us your biggest surprises from each class in 2021.
In the 250 class, Nate Thrasher came out of nowhere. In the opening rounds, he was lurking just inside the top ten at times but certainly not showing any podium potential. Whatever clicked when we arrived in Georgia was a total surprise for me. To win the LCQ and main event twice within seven days is simply incredible. I was iffy on where this was going to go for Thrasher but I think he solidified Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing’s decision to hire him away from the Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull KTM team last year. I could see him being a legitimate threat this summer when things go his way. He might have a tough time dealing with the consistency of the championship favorites but I think you’ll see him have a few strong days that end with champagne, too.
In the 450 class, I think we got what we expected in many cases. I did expect Eli Tomac to be better, though. He seemed to lack that speed edge that he has been able to wield for several years now. I was surprised he wasn’t able to dominate more main events. It felt that he could win if everything went perfectly but if there was any adversity to overcome, he couldn’t find a way past it. This summer will be telling as far as what we may see from here on out. Regardless, his legacy has been cemented, but I thought he would be better this year.
Reflecting on this supercross season, what do you most look forward to for the 2022 season?
I am most looking forward to more normalcy in the series. I am looking forward to full stadiums, masks being optional, fan/rider engagement, dealer open houses, and a return to southern California. Everyone at Feld Entertainment should be applauded for making two seasons happen amidst a pandemic but I would be lying if I didn’t miss the way it used to be. I know it’s only a matter of time but I sincerely hope that time is January 2022, and the place is Angel Stadium.