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Cooper Webb, Austin Forkner win Minneapolis Supercross

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Cooper Webb proved he is the real deal by winning his third race in the last four rounds of the 2019 Supercross season. Webb patiently chased Joey Savatgy for 15 laps and then pulled away from the field as the battle shifted to second place.

“Last weekend I made that mistake and crashed and didn’t get a great result,” Webb said on NBCSN after the race. “I was bummed to lose the red plate after just one race, but we’re getting close as you can see.”

Webb had ample reason to be psyched about his finish. He won his first career race just four weeks ago and has emerged as the hottest rider on the circuit. He is now part of one of the closest points battles in history with four riders sitting only two points apart.

After losing the lead on Lap 15, Savatgy was immediately under attack from Ken Roczen. It took Roczen another five laps to get up to the runner-up position. With his second-place finish, Roczen is the only rider to sweep the top five this year. His strong run in Minneapolis allowed him to snatch the red plate from Eli Tomac.

Marvin Musquin snapped his streak of three consecutive second-place finishes with a third at Minneapolis.

Rookie Savatgy posted the fastest time in qualification and was looking to score his best result of the year. He crossed under the checkers fourth, bettering his seventh at San Diego.

Justin Brayton rounded out the top five.

The points leader entering the race, Tomac had a horrible start. Mired outside the top 15 on Lap 1, it took 10 laps to simply crack the top 10. He slowly climbed the grid and finished just outside the top five in sixth. It was this first time his year that he failed to score a top five.

Tomac’s struggles made the points battle razor thin. Roczen hold a one-point advantage over Webb with Tomac and Musquin two points back in third and fourth.

Blake Baggett was running fourth late in the race before he landed on his front wheel with 2:30 remaining. He failed to finish four laps from the end and was credited with a 21st-place finish.

Complete Results
Points Standings

250s

Butterflies abounded in the first of nine round of the 250 East class. One rider who was not effected by the winged insect was Austin Forkner. He jumped out to an early lead and kept a 10 second advantage through most of the race. With such a huge lead to his credit, Forkner rode a safe last lap and beat the field to the checkers by six seconds.

Jordon Smith finished second after an eventful night. He had a rear tire go flat before the gate drop. “I had time for about one deep breath before we took off,” Smith said on NBCSN after the race. “And off we were.”

That may have thrown Smith off his rhythm because he laid his bike down midway through the race when he bogged in loose dirt while in the runner-up spot. Smith fell to fourth, but charged back.

Justin Cooper stood on the final step of the podium in third.

Chase Sexton finished fourth after an adventurous race. He mistimed a jump and went down on the same lap that saw the Smith crash.

Mitchell Oldenburg rounded out the top five.

Blake Wharton was another rider with issues. He ran off course and dropped. His bike was not as quick to hit the dirt and smashed into his head.

Complete Results
Points Standings

450 Heat 1: Cooper Webb took the lead on Lap 2 and beat Eli Tomac to the line. … Ken Roczen rounded out the top three and finished within a little more than two seconds behind the winner. … Aaron Plessinger was a distant fourth almost nine seconds behind.

450 Heat 2: Justin Brayton won his second heat of 2019 over Justin Barcia and fast qualifier Joey Savatgy. … Justin Bogle led two laps before missing a shift and allowing Brayton to take the lead with Marvin Musquin in tow. Bogle finished fourth. … A pair of mistakes for Musquin as time ran off the clock dropped him to fourth and then Musquin dropped his bike on the plus one lap; he fell all the way to eighth at the end, but advanced without needing to race through the LCQ.

450 Last Chance Qualifier: Cheyenne Harmon made his second feature of the season by beating a charging AJ Catanzaro by 1.5 seconds; Catanzaro advanced to the Main for the first time this year. Casey Brennan and Daniel Herrlein rounded out the transfer positions and will also race in their first 2019 feature.

250 Heat 1: Jordon Smith won the first East race of 2019 by more than three seconds over Alex Martin and Justin Cooper.

250 Heat 2: After setting fast time in qualification, Austin Forkner grabbed the holeshot and ran away from the field. He beat Mitchell Oldenburg by nearly 13 seconds. Blake Wharton rounded out the top three. … Chase Sexton jumped off course and lost a battle with the tough blocks on Lap 1. He moved up to 11th before he ran across the back wheel of Lorenzo Locurcio. Sexton moved up to eighth at the end; Locurcio remained in 10th.

250 Last Chance Qualifier: Joshua Osby got to the front early and remained there to win the LCQ. … That was good news because chaos erupted behind him: Samuel Redman had a big off while running in the final transfer spot, handing the lead to Joey Crown, who immediately flew off the track. On the same lap, Lane Shaw tried and failed to make an aggressive pass. He went down and was rolled over by several other riders. … Lorenzo Lucurcio survived in second with Chase Marquier and Wilson Fleming also advancing.

Points Leaders

450s
Ken Roczen (125)
Cooper Webb (124) (3 wins)
Eli Tomac (123) (1 win)
Marvin Musquin (123)
Dean Wilson (95)

250s West
Adam Cianciarulo (114 points) (3 wins)
Shane McElrath (106) (1)
Colt Nichols (104) (1)
Dylan Ferrandis (102)
RJ Hampshire (75)

250s East
Austin Forkner (26 points) (1 win)
Jordon Smith (23)
Justin Cooper (21)
Alex Martin (19)
Chase Sexton (18)

450 top 5s
Ken Roczen: 6
Eli Tomac: 5
Marvin Musquin: 5
Cooper Webb: 4
Dean Wilson: 2
Blake Baggett: 2
Jason Anderson: 1
Justin Barcia: 1
Justin Bogle: 1
Chad Reed: 1
Joey Savatgy: 1
Justin Brayton: 1

250 West top 5s
Adam Cianciarulo: 5
Shane McElrath: 5
Colt Nichols: 4
RJ Hampshire: 3
Dylan Ferrandis: 3
James Decotis: 2
Jacob Hayes: 1
Garrett Marchbanks: 1
Jess Pettis: 1

250 West top 5s
Austin Forkner: 1
Jordon Smith: 1
Justin Cooper: 1
Alex Martin: 1
Chase Sexton: 1

Next race: February 16, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas.

Season passes can be purchased at NBC Sports Gold.

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NHRA: Antron Brown takes major step toward team ownership

NHRA
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There will come a day that when three-time NHRA Top Fuel champion Antron Brown wants to talk to his boss, he’ll need to look no further than in the mirror.

The New Jersey native announced Tuesday that he has begun to lay the groundwork to own his Top Fuel team, eventually branching out from Don Schumacher Racing.

“It’s definitely exciting, but at the same time, it’s also nerve-wracking because the buck stops here right now,” Brown told NBC Sports. “Now the coolest part is you get to help and drive and motivate and push the team forward, to make decisions and leave a legacy behind for my family.”

Brown will continue racing for DSR this season while beginning the transition to eventual sole ownership of the new AB Motorsports in the future. Even when he officially leaves the DSR camp as a hired driver, Brown and his new team will retain a technical partnership with the Schumacher organization.

Moving toward team ownership is just a natural evolution for Brown, who previously ran his own Pro Stock Motorcycle team from 1998 until joining DSR in 2002. It’s also a move that potentially may lead other current drivers to start thinking about their own futures.

It’s no secret that many of the biggest names in drag racing – both drivers and owners – are getting up in years. John Force will soon turn 72, while Schumacher is 75. They’re among several others in the sport who are making contingency plans for their teams to continue to operate once they’re gone – and Brown wants to do his part to help the sport grow and flourish.

“When you’re able to have ownership, you’re looking at the talent coming up,” Brown said. “You’re able to reach down and see and give other people opportunities that you had. When I came to race for Don Schumacher at DSR, he’s given all these people at his place this opportunity to drive.

“But what happens when the Don Schumachers, the John Forces, the Connie Kalittas go? You lose all the owners of our series, so who’s next in line to take over that lineage or carry that torch? It’s a necessary means for the future for the upcoming people.

Antron Brown’s plans to become a team owner were embraced by his current team owner, Don Schumacher. (Getty Images)

“I’ve been in this sport for over 20 years. This is the next evolution of my chapter, the next page of my book. What am I going to do when I decide to hang the helmet up one day? I want to be there to bring that new crop of drivers and talent up and help mold them to be the best version of themselves to carry the sport forward and to share with them what was shared with me over all my years in the sport, from Kenny Bernstein, John Force, Big Daddy Don Garlits, Mark Oswald and Don “Snake” Prudhomme, all the people I looked up to.”

While Brown will start as a single-car team once he transitions to ownership, he hopes to eventually build AB Motorsports into at least a two-car operation, with his Top Fuel dragster and a Funny Car.

* * * * * * * * * * *

The path to eventual ownership began nearly a year ago when Brown and Schumacher discussed the future.

“Me and Don had a heart-to-heart talk,” Brown said. “When I told him what I wanted to do, Don said, ‘Antron, I know this is what you want to do. I’ll support you in this.’

“That’s a cool experience when you have a gentleman that has done everything in this sport, from over 350 national event wins, 17 world championships – and I’ve done three with him – and is in every motorsports hall of fame there is.

“What is he going to do next? He’s making the sport better by pushing people like myself to do what I’m doing now. No matter how long it takes, I know I have him on my backside, pushing me to get to that point.”

Like father, like son: Antron Brown and son Anson, who is following in his father’s drag racing footsteps. Photo: Antron Brown’s official Facebook page.

His family’s future also figured into Brown’s decision. His oldest son, Anson, soon turns 16 years old and is heavily involved in NHRA’s Jr. Dragster program, as are Brown’s other children. It’s likely his son some day will follow in his father’s footsteps.

But don’t think that the elder Brown, who turns 44 in March, is ready to hang up his firesuit just yet.

“I’ll stop driving when I feel I’m not capable to drive no more and I’m not having fun no more,” he said. “That’s nowhere in the near future. I know I’m going to drive for at least another 15 years.”

Heading into this season, Brown will retain current sponsorship from Mac Tools and Toyota, as well as associate sponsorship from Hangsterfer’s on his 11,000-horsepower dragster. Global Electronic Technology also has signed on as a new associate sponsor in a multiyear deal.

“It’s no secret this has been a goal of Antron’s for a while now, and I’m happy to be able to provide the tools and resources needed for him to be able to successfully branch out on his own,” Schumacher said in a team media release. “It’s important for me to see my team members grow.”

* * * * * * * * * * *

Brown burst upon the NHRA scene atop a Pro Stock Motorcycle in 1998, earning 16 wins over the next 10 seasons. He joined DSR in 2002 and made the switch to Top Fuel in 2008.

Since then, Brown – who now resides in suburban Indianapolis – has gone on to become one of the winningest drivers in Top Fuel history with 50 national event victories, as well as three championships between 2012 and 2015.

That performance recently earned him AutoWeek magazine’s Top Fuel Driver of the Decade.

Brown also announced Tuesday he is reuniting with former crew chief Brian Corradi, who returns to the team after spending the last two seasons as co-crew chief for 16-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force. Corradi will share crew chief duties for Brown with NHRA veteran Mark Oswald.

* * * * * * * * * * *

When he won his first title in 2012, Brown became the first African-American world champion in Top Fuel history. He hopes his move to ownership will continue to grow NHRA’s already significant focus on opportunities for minorities and females in the sport.

“I think it’s important across all spectrums, period,” Brown said. “I think a lot of fans see me, and they can relate to me because I am them. I came from a good, hard-working family in Chesterfield, New Jersey, which is right next door to Trenton.

“Everybody in my family from my great uncles to my grandpop made their own way, had their own businesses, from swimming pool to paving to septic tank businesses.

“One thing my grandpop said to me is the world is wide open. He said, ‘Son, you can have anything you want in this world, as long as you put the effort and put the work towards it.’ If people can resonate with my story from where I came from and where I’m heading, I hope it gives them this energy, this ray of hope that ‘if Antron Brown can do this, so can I.’

“That’s the only way for motorsports to grow. It’s for the young ones to get interested in it and I want them to know the opportunity is there. All they have to do is take it.”

* * * * * * * * * * *

Brown will be among more than 30 Top Fuel and Funny Car drivers who will take part in this weekend’s annual preseason “spring training” test at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, in preparation for the season-opening Lucas Oil Winternationals Feb. 6-9 in Pomona, California.

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