Even Cooper Webb himself admits Triple Crown races are not his specialty in Monster Energy AMA Supercross. Early-race sprint speed, needed to win shorter races, is usually not his best asset, and he excels more in longer races as the track deteriorates and race craft and line choice become key. Yet somehow his assets delivered in the Triple Crown this time, as a wild night in Arlington, Texas, saw tons of riders make mistakes and open the door for Webb to grab the victory. That’s wild, because for Webb a win never even seemed to be in play in the first place, especially after a mediocre fifth in the first race.
“Yeah that was a tough one for sure, but there’s three of them, and I think I learned that at the first one [Anaheim 2]. You have to put yourself in position,” Webb said in the post-race press conference. “And honestly we went the wrong direction with the bike in the first one, we went back and regrouped, and I think we made some good changes for the next two. There were mistakes at the front that definitely helped me, but overall I’m stoked to get the win.”
The mistakes were nuts. You couldn’t have scripted it better for Webb. He took second behind Jason Anderson in race two, but found himself behind all of the contenders in race three. Somehow, some way, they all crashed. Chase Sexton crashed while chasing Eli Tomac. Then Tomac crashed while leading. Justin Barcia bounced off the track, and Anderson nearly did the same. Webb stayed error free and then Sexton, back in the lead after Tomac crashed, got blocked by a lapped rider. Webb inherited all the spots, and his 5-2-1 scores ended up as an unlikely win.
“It was tough,” he said. “I knew going in I had to beat Eli and Chase, and Eli had to get third for me to get the win. I felt like I had pace on Jason, but the track was tough to pass on tonight. I’d get to my spots, and he’s [Anderson] a smart guy and wasn’t making it easy. Then he made that mistake in the whoops and that allowed me to close and make the pass. But I knew I had to get Chase and to get the win and the overall. I felt like I had a great pace going and felt comfortable, but obviously the lappers messed him up and that gave me my chance there. But, there was a lot going on. Eli went down, Bam [Justin Barcia] went down…like I said there was a lot going on.”
This was Cooper Webb’s crafty way to win at its highest level. Often, Webb wins at mid-season lead to more. But Arlington was such an unpredictable affair that he doesn’t know if he can take confidence out of it.
“I’m not sure,” he said when asked if this is a race that can open the flood gates to more wins. “Tonight obviously is tough because it’s the Triple Crown format and it’s a lot different feeling for me than winning a main event. It almost doesn’t feel real, yeah in a sense it’s really good to get those points, but obviously a lot of mistakes [from others] and I just stayed clear and stayed the course. Overall, I’m really happy to get another win on the season, that’s great, and Dallas is usually a good one for me. To come here and do well is super cool. We’ll see where that carries us the rest of the season. I’m feeling confident and I know where I need to be better and what to work on. We’re all riding well and it’s definitely a dog fight at the moment.”
That all said, Webb actually was happy with his speed at this one, at least compared to last week at Oakland, where Tomac and Sexton pulled him early.
“I feel like I was a little better this weekend, the first one I just had a bad start and like I said, we missed the mark [on the bike] with comfort,” he said. “The second one I felt like I was riding good and I led some laps, but Jason was ripping. He was riding really good and I tried to pace him. I honestly felt really good. I felt, throughout the day, the speed wasn’t a real big factor. It’s something I still need to continue to work on and continue to be better at but I felt strong. For me, Triple Crown is not necessarily [my strong point], I didn’t even get on the podium at A2. So I was honestly happy just to be in the mix, I think that’s important to me. These are more speed, sprint based races, and then endurance comes in later. But you can really set the tone within the first ten laps. I was pretty happy with that, though.”
Here’s another thing the contenders have learned: the track might be more basic on nights when the Supercross Futures program joins the action. For Webb, that meant digging even further into his well of late-race tricks to find an edge.
“It [the track] was definitely fairly basic, for sure. I think we’ve seen with the Futures stuff [SX Futures amateur race] you get pretty basic stuff. The track definitely broke down a lot, but I think the tough thing was the grip. [The dirt] It looks good but the grip is just not there. The whoops were really not that tough, but they really broke down and got really shiny. I was skimming them, and then I jumped them one lap by mistake and realized that it was pretty fast. I found a consistent, fast line. Like Eli said, the dragon’s back changed entirely. It’s just reading those conditions and figuring out what’s going to be good, late. I think it was very, very tough to pass for sure and we were all basically doing the same thing all night.”
Arlington - 450SXFebruary 25, 2023
|1||Cooper Webb||Newport, NC United States||5 - 2 - 1||KTM 450 SX-F|
|2||Chase Sexton||La Moille, IL United States||3 - 3 - 2||Honda CRF450R|
|3||Eli Tomac||Cortez, CO United States||1 - 4 - 6||Yamaha YZ450F|
|4||Jason Anderson||Edgewood, NM United States||8 - 1 - 3||Kawasaki KX450SR|
|5||Ken Roczen||Mattstedt Germany||2 - 6 - 4||Suzuki RM-Z450|
With the field stacked so closely, and the points standing to match, every inch matters. It makes the risk/reward calculations hard to master.
“That’s the age-old question,” says Webb. “It’s tough with all of us being so close. We’re going fast, so you have that little bit of risk, but you also don’t want to make mistakes. It’s still early, but you’re definitely starting to see a pattern. We’ll just keep fighting and go for race wins. I think it’s still pretty early to get wrapped up in it [points] but you definitely don’t want to make big mistakes."
“It’s crazy,” he adds. “When you’re in the moment, you have to think about where the points are and the guys you have to beat, but then you have to think about all the other guys that are out there, too. But that’s supercross. For the fans, it’s great. It’s real close between us three and I think we all have our own perks.”
Next up is Daytona, where Webb has logged good rides but has never won. Hardly anyone can say they have a Daytona win these days, though, because Tomac has hogged up the vast majority of the victories, with six in the last seven years at the track. Webb remembers the 2022 edition well, as he tried to hold back another furious Tomac charge, only to get caught with a lapped rider while leading late.
“Yeah it’s [Daytona] always a great one, and I live in Florida now so it’s like a home race to me,” says Webb. “But I have to race the guy on my left [Eli Tomac] there so it’s never easy. Looking forward to it. It’s always a nasty, brutal one, and I hope to get some redemption there, no doubt.”