Photo courtesy of IMSA

Seven-race IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup to debut for GT Daytona

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Courtesy: IMSA Wire Service

ELKHART LAKE, Wis.  – The 2019 IMSA season will see the debut of a new, seven-race competition called the “IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup” for GT Daytona (GTD) class competitors within most IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship sprint events two-hour, 40-minutes in length or shorter.

The IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup is a product of constructive feedback from a series of conversations with GTD stakeholders,” said IMSA President Scott Atherton. “Beginning next season, GTD competitors have the opportunity to compete for three different IMSA titles. The IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup offers GTD drivers and teams a relatively cost-effective option to compete at the top level of North American sports car racing. We are grateful to WeatherTech Founder and CEO David MacNeil for his enthusiastic support of this new program.”

The IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup will use the same points system and sporting regulations as the GTD class uses for the 10-race WeatherTech Championship GTD season but creates new opportunities for class competitors. Teams will have two-driver lineups every round, including a minimum of one Bronze- or Silver-rated driver paired with another Bronze or Silver or a maximum of one Gold or Platinum driver. Drivers, teams and manufacturers all will earn points based upon the overall finishing position of the car in the GTD class, all accumulating toward season-ending awards.

The first race for the IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup will be the two-hour, 40-minute round at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on May 5 and will conclude at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca – another two-hour, 40-minute race – on Sept. 15.

The 100-minute Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix will count toward the IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup for the GTD class, and not toward the overall, 10-race WeatherTech Championship season. That event, which is subject to final approval from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, is scheduled for Saturday, June 1.

Other rounds of the IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup include the two-hour, 40-minute races at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on July 7, Lime Rock Park on July 20, Road America on Aug. 4 and VIRginia International Raceway on Aug. 25.

“The new IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup for GTD competitors will add an exciting element to the class,” David MacNeil, founder and CEO of WeatherTech said. “Putting emphasis on the sprint rounds should attract new competitors to our brand of sports car racing. More cars on the track makes for more excitement for the fans and a better show for television.”

Winners of the WeatherTech Sprint Cup will be recognized alongside champions in the WeatherTech Championship and the Michelin Endurance Cup at the season-ending WeatherTech Night of Champions awards celebration in October.

All IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup races will be broadcast in the U.S. by NBC Sports, which kicks off a new six-year rights agreement with IMSA in 2019. The races also will be streamed live on the NBC Sports App and at NBC.com.

 

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.