Five Minutes That May Have Sealed A Season

Cooper Webb Retakes Momentum in the Final Laps of the Atlanta Supercross

SALT LAKE CITY (April 23, 2021) – Momentum is critical in all sports, but maybe more so in racing. Momentum has been exchanged, taken, handed back, and stolen again throughout the exciting and unpredictable 2021 Monster Energy Supercross season, and a momentum swing resulting from two key moments last Saturday night may turn out to be the determiner of the championship.

The season has been unlike any other, with multiple triple-headers, first-ever SuperTuesday races, an event group quarantine bubble, restricted-attendance, and pod-seated fans. For Supercross riders who navigate deteriorating tracks on bikes that change chassis geometry as both ends compress and rebound through 12 inches of suspension travel, adaptation is second nature. The top racers are at the top because they can find a way to adapt to the changes and continue to succeed.

An interesting pattern emerged along the way through this season. The first residency, a three-round stay in Houston, produced three separate winners in the 450SX Class. But after that, each venue produced a single winner, Honda’s Ken Roczen won three-straight in Indianapolis, KTM’s Cooper Webb aced both Orlando rounds, Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac took the stand-alone Daytona win, and Webb returned to the top spot at all three Arlington races.

Then we got to Atlanta. The uncharacteristically long track stretched across the infield from NASCAR Turn 4 to NASCAR Turn 1. With five rounds remaining, three at the Atlanta venue, the pattern changed, and the winner board again jumbled. Tomac won round 13 then Roczen grabbed the win at round 14. More significantly, Webb managed only a sixth place finish at round 14, allowing Roczen to pull within 13 points of the title going into the final throwdown in Georgia.

Deep into the Main Event of round 15 it looked like the series momentum had swung decidedly in Roczen’s favor. The Honda rider pulled out a 12 second lead – massive in the tight racing of Supercross – while Webb clung to second place and was under attack. He looked more likely to drop back than take any time out of the distance to Roczen. 

Then with less than five minutes on the race clock of the 20-minute plus one lap race, Roczen made a small mistake in the long whoop section and went down. He was lucky, it seemed; he gracefully stepped off the bike, instantly re-mounted, and got going again. He still had more than a five second cushion on the pack. But all was not well.

Roczen had bent his handlebars. Slightly, but enough for the damage to throw off the bike’s handling and hinder the racer’s precise input needed to ride at top speed.

Then Webb got a late-race boost of speed. He separated himself from his pursuers and dramatically chipped at the distance buffering him from Roczen.

With fewer than two laps to go, Webb blasted up the inside line in a tricky sand section, cut under Roczen in a sweeping bowl turn, then tucked back to the inside to close off any opportunity for retaliation.

The pass resulted in a six point swing, and likely more significant, a momentum shift back to Cooper Webb. He needs to finish fifth or better at both of the two remaining rounds to reclaim the title he won in 2019. It will all be decided over the next two Saturdays, April 24th and May 1st, at the final venue of the season, Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City.

Tickets are available in a restricted-capacity, pod-style seating format and the events have shaped up to be two rounds that no race fan wants to miss. Those not near enough to attend will catch the racing live on Peacock and NBCSN. There are 52 points available if any rider can win the final two rounds. With a little luck and a dose of momentum, that’s not such a tall order.

450SX Class Results, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Round 15

  1. Cooper Webb, Newport N.C., KTM
  2. Ken Roczen, Clermont, Fla., Honda
  3. Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Kawasaki
  4. Aaron Plessinger, Hamilton, Ohio, Yamaha
  5. Justin Barcia, Greenville, Fla., GASGAS
  6. Malcolm Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Yamaha
  7. Dylan Ferrandis, Lake Elsinore, Calif., Yamaha
  8. Dean Wilson, Murrieta, Calif., Husqvarna
  9. Marvin Musquin, Corona, Calif., KTM
  10. Chase Sexton, Clermont, Fla., Honda

450SX Class Championship Standings after 15 of 17 Rounds

  1. Cooper Webb, Newport N.C., KTM (339)
  2. Ken Roczen, Clermont, Fla., Honda (323)
  3. Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Kawasaki (299)
  4. Justin Barcia, Greenville, Fla., GASGAS (264)
  5. Aaron Plessinger, Hamilton, Ohio, Yamaha (234)
  6. Jason Anderson, Rio Rancho, N.Mex., Husqvarna (223)
  7. Malcolm Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Yamaha (209)
  8. Dylan Ferrandis, Lake Elsinore, Calif., Yamaha (199)
  9. Marvin Musquin, Corona, Calif., KTM (182)
  10. Joey Savatgy, Clermont, Fla., KTM (177)

Cover photo by Feld Entertainment, Inc.

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