Sage Karam, who makes his second TUDOR United SportsCar Championship start with Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, was half the price of admission on his own in his first outing in the No. 02 Big Machine Records/Comfort Revolution Ford EcoBoost Riley.
In one lap after a restart, he made it from third to first. He passed Wayne Taylor Racing’s Corvette DP on the outside of Turn 1, then past Sebastien Bourdais at Turn 10 for the lead in Bourdais’ No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP.
“First lap, cold tires, I’ve always loved them since i was little,” Karam told MotorSportsTalk after his stint. “I wanted to prove a point and show these guys what I could do. I know it’s a 12-hour race, but I made some good passes.
“Leading here is an honor in itself. And it gave us some points there at the 4-hour mark (for Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup). There’s so many cars, you have to be on your A-game. You’re passing so many people… so many things can happen, everything has to go right. We have two great teammates to put it into victory circle.”
Later on, Karam battled Justin Wilson in a battle of young star versus wily, sage veteran. No pun intended.
“I knew Justin was in the car, and he’d take it to me,” Karam said. “I don’t think I cleaned the front tires well enough and he got around me. I found something in the track with my driving. Caught back up and timed it pretty good. Then we made it stick. Still a long ways to go.”
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.