Given the dominance that he displayed at the Milwaukee Mile one week ago, Sebastien Bourdais could be forgiven for being disappointed with a ninth place finish at the Iowa Corn 300 on Saturday.
However, after starting the race from the very back of the grid, the KV Racing driver managed to pick his way through the field to secure his eighth top ten finish of the season.
Bourdais was resigned to P24 for the start after spinning on his first flying lap during qualifying earlier on Saturday, causing light damage to the rear of his car.
Unable to post a time, the KV Racing team opted for a radical strategy that saw the Frenchman pit twice early on during the caution periods.
Bourdais managed to pick his way through the order, and even led off-sequence after the first round of pit stops, but his pace faded towards the end to leave him ninth at the flag.
“We did everything we could hope for,” Bourdais said. “I had a massive vibration on the second-to-last stint, so we came in on the early side of the window. I ran really hard laps on that set of tires to try and make up some ground, and we did getting up to sixth, but that last yellow really hurt us.
“Unfortunately, it gave some guys the opportunity to get a new set of tires and we couldn’t because we had used up so many tires early in the race.
“Then the restart was such a mess. We got bottled up by guys that were a lap down who were fighting like they were trying to win the race. That allowed all the guys that were at the back of the pack on new tires to come through.”
Although the result marked something of a comedown following his victory in Milwaukee, Bourdais acknowledged that the race in Iowa had to be considered a success in light of his starting position.
“You have to feel good about going from 24th to ninth and the fact that over the last two races we have really improved the car and our performance on ovals,” Bourdais said.
“To get up to sixth and end up ninth, that is always tough. But with the debacle of qualifying, I guess we have to be pretty happy with tonight’s result.”
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.