There is an old saying in racing that goes, “that’s why they run the race.” Typically uttered after a dark horse wins and as a way to protect the ego of a prognosticator who got things horribly wrong, it’s a comfort that doesn’t often need to be employed because the favorites are usually that for a very good reason – they win more often than not.
This year, the phrase has been very popular. Nearly one-quarter of the way through the 2019 Supercross 450s schedule, none of the preseason favorites have found victory lane. Instead, all four races have been won by riders claiming their first, second or third career trophies.
Justin Barcia won the opening round of the 2019 season. It was his third career win, but may well have seemed like his first since he had not visited victory lane in six years previous.
The next two weekends went to riders scoring their first victories with Blake Baggett topping the podium at Glendale, Ariz. and Cooper Webb winning the Triple Crown in Anaheim II. Coming off a couple of mediocre seasons, no one truly expected Webb to back up that performance, but last week in Oakland, he became the first rider this season to win twice.
With those back-to-back wins, Webb took the points lead in Week 4 and is riding above his pay grade.
It is reminiscent of last year’s campaign by Jason Anderson. Not one of the preseason favorites, “El Hombre” took the points lead in Round 2 and held it to the end of the year. He went on to win four times during 2018 and would not be overlooked once this season began.
Anderson was considered a favorite to challenge for the championship, but he got off to a slow start with a modest run in Anaheim I that produced a 14th-place finish. In Week 2 he rebounded to second; the next week, he was mid-pack again with a ninth. Anderson’s bid to win back-to-back championships was quashed by a practice crash in the middle of last week.
Still, the dark horses face a steep, uphill battle in 2019. If Webb looks over his shoulder he will see three experienced riders within four points of his lead.
Webb took the lead from Ken Roczen last week, but holds only a two-point margin over a rider who has swept the top five in the first four races of the year. Like Barcia, Roczen is also suffering through a long winless steak and is incredibly hungry. Unfortunately, he is on a downward trajectory with results of second, third, fourth and fifth in successive weeks.
Third-place Eli Tomac also has a perfect record of top fives this year with a pair of third-place finishes and two fourths to his credit. He is three points out of the lead.
Marvin Musquin might well have the most momentum, however. He has back to back runner-up finishes in the past two weeks and sits four points behind Webb. Last week in San Diego, he chomped away at Webb’s lead in the second half of the feature and closed the gap to less than one second at the checkers.