A tip of the cap to Jeff Gordon’s PR staff, who took the opportunity to capitalize on the driver’s missing the 2013 NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup with a juicy headline in Gordon’s Chicago advance release.
“Gordon Itching to Win at Chicago Again” was the not-so-subtle play-on-words employed by the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports PR team, making direct reference to the radio transmission issued from Michael Waltrip Racing to Clint Bowyer asking if “his arm itched,” just before Bowyer spun out at Richmond.
Gordon was in a position to make the Chase, in the 10th spot in the standings, prior to the Bowyer caution.
“We battled hard all race and all weekend long at Richmond, but we came up a few points short,” Gordon said in the release. “But the effort and never quit attitude is what I love about this race team. We’re going to continue with that attitude through each of the final 10 races.
“We haven’t had the year this team is capable of, and that’s where our focus will be. We’re going into these next 10 races trying to step it up, be more competitive and hopefully get a win or two.”
A win in the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet at Chicagoland would be his 88th of his illustrious career and also pay tribute to the 516 names who have donated to the “Ride with Jeff Gordon” promotion and have appeared on Gordon’s hood.
Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.
There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.
Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.
Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.
By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.
With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.
This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.
Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.
Two privateers have started the season on a high note.
Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.
The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.
Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.
In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.