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Rossi settles for P3 in Texas after intense battle with Pagenaud

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While Scott Dixon was running away in the final laps of the DXC Technology 600 on his way to victory, Alexander Rossi and Simon Pagenaud waged a thrilling duel for second.

Rossi, who started eighth, was on the charge from the outset – he jumped up to fifth in the opening handful of laps – and was in contention for the win late in race, running third behind Pagenaud and Dixon on a restart with 34 laps remaining.

He tried passing Pagenaud on the outside entering Turn 1 on a number of occasions, even getting a nose ahead at times on corner entry, but Pagenaud held him at bay every single time.

It left Rossi to settle for P3, his fifth podium of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season.

FORT WORTH, TX – JUNE 09: Simon Pagenaud, driver of the #22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet, and Alexander Rossi, driver of the #27 NAPA Auto Parts Honda, race during the Verizon IndyCar Series DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway on June 9, 2018 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Rossi explained afterward that he was keen to not take unnecessary chances, especially in the wake of his error at the end of Race 2 from the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Rossi even had a scary moment as well, braking loose in Turn 1 at one point while trying to pass Pagenaud. As a result, Rossi was sure to keep himself in check and not do anything overzealous.

“I tried I think on the penultimate restart to go high on Simon in lane two on Turn 1. That was pretty bad, almost catastrophic. After that, I realized lane two wasn’t really going to be an option for us,” Rossi explained.

Still, Rossi never felt that Pagenaud did anything dirty that put them in danger. Rather, he admitted that Pagenaud did a fine job of simply defending his position.

“Despite the runs I had, Simon was doing a good job covering the line into one,” Rossi revealed. “After last weekend, there was really no point in taking unnecessary risks. But the NAPA car was good enough to fight Scott (Dixon) probably. I don’t know if we had enough to beat him. But I think we were really good on tire life, ultimate pace.”

Rossi now sits second in the championship standings, 23 points behind new leader Scott Dixon

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Cooper Webb leaps from obscurity to Supercross lead

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Cooper Webb could not even locate the radar tower before the 2019 season began – let alone expect to see his number dead center in the radar screen.

His ascent to 450 competition came with little fanfare. Finishing 13th in Supercross in 2017 and then eighth in Motocross, Webb did not turn many heads as a rookie. Last year was more of the same.

Through Round 7 at Arlington, Webb failed to record a single top five. That elusive result would come the following week at Tampa with a fourth-place finish. Two weeks later, he stood on the podium at Daytona for the only the second time in his Supercross 450s career. But at season’s end, Webb was only ninth in the standings in both Supercross and Motocross.

No one expected much from him when Anaheim rolled around this year.

Webb started the season much the same as he ended 2018. A fifth-place finish in Anaheim I in muddy and equalizing conditions was followed by a modest 10th at Glendale, but the rider from North Carolina believed in himself.

In professional racing, nothing is more difficult than winning the first race. Webb’s first taste of victory came in Heat 1 of the Triple Crown at Anaheim II. Everyone remained skeptical – it was only one heat race after all. The skepticism turned to interest when he won Heat 2. Then Webb finished third in Heat 3 to take the overall victory. It was his first win in the 450 class.

That was all it took to unleash his potential. Webb won the following week in Oakland and then again two weeks later in Minneapolis.

The Supercross riders left Minnesota and headed straight down Interstate 35 to Arlington with four of them separated by two points. All eyes were focused on Ken Roczen, Eli Tomac, Marvin Musquin – and, oh yeah Webb who sat in second.

Someone was likely to stumble in Arlington and the odds on favorite to do so was Webb. That seemed to be confirmed once the feature started. While the three more experienced riders led by Tomac scooted away from the field, Webb was mired outside the top five for the first six lap.

It was Tomac who tripped and fell, however. Webb passed the stricken rider and surged to fifth on Lap 7. He was in fourth by Lap 10 and third on Lap 16.  As Webb and teammate Musquin battled for the second, they slowly reeled in the leader Roczen. Once Webb broke free on the conflict with the runner-up position firmly his, he could see the red plate on Roczen’s Honda like a cape being waved in front of a bull.

Webb charged through the final six laps getting closer and closer until he edged Roczen for the closest finish in Supercross history. It was Webb’s fourth victory of the season, coming only four weeks after he scored his first career win.

Relive the final laps in the video posted above.

As incredible as Webb’s rise to the points lead is, it has been done before.

Last year Jason Anderson seemingly came out of nowhere to lead the standings after Round 2. Anderson held the advantage for the remainder of the year, while Webb has been part of a game of hot potato in which no one seems to want to don the red plate for more than a week.

The pressure continues to mount. Webb now has a two-point advantage over Roczen, who is the only rider to sweep the top five this season.

Webb’s advantage over third is a mere four points, while Musquin has a current five-race streak of podium finishes to his credit.

Tomac’s trouble in Texas serves as a cautionary tale that a single loss of focus can be devastating and Webb still lacks the seat time of his three principal rivals, but last week’s incredible come-from-behind victory is showing that Webb is riding above experience level.

Follow the complete Supercross and Motocross seasons on NBC Sports, Gold.