Massa honored with son on radio, special podium after P7 in Brazil

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Felipe Massa’s ultimate final Brazilian Grand Prix, run today for Williams Martini Racing, made up for with a result what last year’s emotion-laden send-off in the rain lacked.

After crashing out in the rain in 2016 and then walking down pit lane to cheers and applause from his home crowd in Sao Paulo, Massa more than made up for it on track this afternoon following a spirited fight to P7 – best of the rest today behind the top six finishers from Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull.

Massa’s race, after starting 10th, saw him escape the first lap carnage that took Esteban Ocon, Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne out of contention and move ahead of Fernando Alonso into fifth place, with Alonso sixth.

The two former Ferrari teammates sparred from there, Massa holding off Alonso for the bulk of the rest of the race despite Alonso’s Honda-powered McLaren appearing to have better balance and pace in the infield section.

However it was the Mercedes-powered Williams that held the advantage on the straights and Alonso was unable to make a pass of Massa for seventh. While seventh isn’t much to celebrate, it was Massa’s second-best result this year, after coming sixth in both Australia and Bahrain in March and April. The result gave Massa six points and also slots him back ahead of Lance Stroll for 10th in the driver’s championship.

Massa’s send-off this go-around lacked the pure spontaneous moment that 2016’s did, but it was still no less sweet.

To start off, son Felipinho offered a special message of thanks to his dad over the team radio as he crossed the line, which gave the usually prickly Formula 1 paddock “all the feels.”

“Daddy, I’m so proud of you, and wherever you go I will support you. By the way, I loved your start!” the younger Massa enthused over the radio (at 2:04 in the above clip).

That was followed up a thumbs up from Alonso as he entered parc ferme, an embrace of his Williams crew and teammates, and a salute to the home crowd.

“I’m happy for him. Zero mistakes. I tried to put pressure on him. Hopefully he has a great future in another category and a happy life,” Alonso told NBCSN post-race.

Then he got another special sign-off – a surprise trip to the podium after the top three had completed their interviews, with the most experienced F1 driver in history in countryman Rubens Barrichello.

“I’m really emotional today because of all of you guys,” the senior Massa said. “Thank you for everything we’ve done together. All the support.

“There was all the energy I felt today for making the best race I could. To be honest I’m so happy for my race, did the best with what the car could achieve. Even the people I didn’t work together with, I love you guys.”

Massa’s next racing move following the end of his F1 career after the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in two weeks is yet-to-be-determined. Speaking to NBCSN this weekend, he ruled out an IndyCar switch, but has still been linked to potential drives in the FIA Formula E Championship and FIA World Endurance Championship down the road.

As far as encores to end in Brazil though, this was a good one for a driver who once again had given it his all.

Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field

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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.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

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.

Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome during the inaugural season of 1974 on a 250, which was the premiere class at the time. Houston was one of three races held that year along with events at Daytona International Speedway and the Los Angeles Coliseum. All three venues return in 2023 with the first SuperMotocross championship finale returning to the famed LA Coliseum in September.

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.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

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.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

450s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

250s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

More SuperMotocross coverage

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Haiden Deegan makes Supercross debut in Houston, Justin Cooper to 450s
Talon Hawkins set to relieve injured Jalek Swoll in Houston
Jalek Swoll out for an indefinite period with broken arm
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Results and points from Anaheim 2