In last year’s Grand Prix of Long Beach, it took less than five turns for Josef Newgarden to go from the thrill of leading the “lap of Newgarden’s life” according to NBCSN announcers, to the absolute worst feeling of seeing his and many other driver’s day end.
With 25 laps to go in the 2014 race, Newgarden exited pit lane, exiting in front of Andretti Autosport teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchliffe as they quickly bore down on the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing driver.
Hunter-Reay hounded the back of Newgarden’s Honda for a handful of turns before attempting to squeeze passed on the inside.
It didn’t work.
“I was on cold tires. I knew RHR was on hot and would probably get me,” Newgarden recalled afterward. “But so little room in (Turn) 4, you normally can’t make a pass there. I tried to give him a little room. Next thing I knew I was in the wall. That shouldn’t happen up front.”
The resulting crash involved, Newgarden, Hunter-Reay, Hinchcliffe, Takuma Sato and Tony Kanaan, the last two blindly turning the corner and running into the cars that sat helplessly on the track.
Newgarden finished 19th, followed by Hunter-Reay, Hinchcliffe and Sato.
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.