Photo courtesy of IMSA

IMSA reveals 2019 schedule

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Courtesy: IMSA Wire Service

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (Aug. 3, 2018) – The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship has long been admired for the world-class road racing facilities and events on its schedule each year, and in 2019, the series will continue building equity in the same 12 events as it had in 2018.

“As we head to the conclusion of the 2018 season, our promoter partners have enjoyed record, or near-record attendance for WeatherTech Championship events, and our 2019 schedule will enable those same promoters to build on that momentum,” said IMSA President Scott Atherton. “IMSA has been fortunate for the past several years to have a schedule that includes the very best road courses and road racing events in North America, and we are thrilled to confirm our return to these same venues in 2019. We have often said that one of the most valuable elements of the merger is the event schedule that resulted – and our 2019 schedule is another reflection of that.”

The Daytona Prototype international (DPi) and LMP2 classes will compete in 10 races, while the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class will have an 11-race season. In a new development for 2019, the GT Daytona (GTD) class will have 10 events that count toward the WeatherTech Championship, with a new seven-race IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup also announced for GTD.

Eight of the 12 events on the schedule will include all four classes, including the four Michelin Endurance Cup events: the 57th Rolex 24 At Daytona – which kicks off the season on Jan. 24-27, the 67th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on March 13-16, the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen on the weekend of June 28-30 and the Motul Petit Le Mans season finale at Road Atlanta on Oct. 9-12.

The four additional events with all four classes all will be two hours and 40 minutes in length at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on May 3-5, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on July 5-7, Road America on Aug. 2-4 and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on Sept. 13-15.

A pair of three-class, 100-minute sprint races again are planned in 2019 as well. The BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach featuring the DPi, LMP2 and GTLM classes is scheduled for April 12-13; while the DPi, LMP2 and GTD classes are slated once again for the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix Presented by Lear Corporation on May 31-June 1. The Detroit round is subject to final approval from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to continue hosting the event on Belle Isle.

For the third consecutive year, there also will be a pair of GT-only races in 2019, both two hours and 40 minutes in length. The GTLM and GTD machines will do battle at Lime Rock Park on July 19-20, and once again at VIRginia International Raceway on Aug. 23-25. Ten of the 12 events will be on the same weekend as they were in 2018. The races at VIRginia International Raceway and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca each will run one weekend later in 2019. The three-day Roar Before the Rolex 24 At Daytona test again will open the year for WeatherTech Championship competitors on Jan. 4-6. It will be the year’s only IMSA-sanctioned test. The 2019 season kicks off a six-year U.S. television partnership with NBC Sports, which will televise every race through its networks: NBC, NBCSN and CNBC. Live streaming of each race also will be available on the NBC Sports App. The complete television schedule will be unveiled in the future.

The full schedule is below.

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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.