Cooper Webb, Marvin Musquin kindle rivalry in Houston Supercross

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Cooper Webb’s remarkable run for the championship began in January with his first career win in the Triple Crown format of Anaheim II. That night, he won the first two Mains and safely managed his final feature to finish third. Round 13 of the Supercross season was much the same. Web finished 2-1-3 to sore the overall win.

“It was a tough night,” Webb said on NBCSN after winning the overall. “You always forget in the Triple Crowns how many laps you end up doing, so for me it was great to go out and get a win.”

It was the sixth win of the season for the rider who entered 2019 without a single 450 victory to his credit.

The evening was not without controversy as Webb manhandled teammate Marvin Musquin (5-3-1) in the first Main and put the Frenchman in a hole that his Main 3 win could not overcome. Off his rhythm, Musquin struggled with mistakes in the first two Mains before finally getting it right in the final feature.

Musquin was not happy with the way he was treated by his teammate. And even though Webb was able to increase his points lead by three, the rivalry is heating up. With four rounds remaining, if Musquin is able to continue to keep the pressure on, this will turn out to be a pivotal race because he knows where the battle lines have been drawn.

“Triple Crown is always super aggressive racing,” Musquin said reflecting on the contact in Main 1. “It’s only 12 minutes, so you’ve got to go for it. I was really aggressive. I made a clean pass on Cooper and I was pretty happy. Obviously I didn’t like the pass he made. He got really aggressive and was riding the bike super hard on multiple turns and he finally got me and pushed me off the track.

“It was pretty sketchy. … I guess that’s the way it is. I will have to do that if I have the opportunity or if I need to to make a pass.”

Musquin finished second in the overall standings.

Dean Wilson (3-2-5) stood on the podium twice during the night to finish third overall.

It was not a points win, but Ken Roczen (1-21-8) scored got the checkers first for the first time in two years with his Main 1 victory. His previous best finish in the Triple Crown format this year was a second in Main 1 at Anaheim II. As has been the case so often this year, however, a strong run was followed by disappointment.

Roczen crashed hard in Main 2 and smashed his toe. He was unable to return to the second feature with a 21st-place finish, but gutted out the third Main and finished eighth in it. His disappointing Main 2 contributed to his overall finish of 10th.

In fifth, Cole Seeley scored his first top-five of the season.

Color commentary was provided by Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who made the flight over from Fort Worth where NASCAR is prepared to race Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.

Complete Results
Points Standings

In 250s, Dylan Ferrandis made the most of his opportunity. As his principal rival in the 250 West championship stumbled, Ferrandis rode at the front of the pack throughout the three Mains to score the overall win. Ferrandis finished 2-1-2 in the Mains to beat second-place RJ Hampshire (3-2-4) by four points.

“I just did not give up but there was no risk to take for nothing, (so) I was just doing my race,” Ferrandis said on NBCSN after the conclusion of the third Main.

With the overall win, Ferrandis closes the gap to five points to Adam Cianciarulo (1-10-3), who finished fourth overall.

“Two wins in a row. I’m so happy. It’s a different feeling from last week because it was the first one. Now I’m really looking for the championship because it is the only thing that can give me full satisfaction.”

Cianciarulo took the blame for his modest performance.

“As much as I’d love to tell you … I had this guy crash in front of me – this guy cross jump in front of me, it really comes down to my fault because I didn’t get the start in the second Main. I put myself in a bad position,” Cianciarulo said after the race.

After winning the opening Main, the remainder of Cianciarulo’s night was marked by mistakes, but more importantly courage and ability. After going down twice in the second Main and falling to 19th, he mounted a charge that brought him to 10th at the checkers. In Main 2, he fell again and dropped to 13th early in the race. Cianciarulo made up another 10 positions and stood on the podium. With a 1-10-3, he finished fourth overall to minimize the damage.

“We have two races to make it happen and I couldn’t be more confident in myself,” Cianciarulo concluded.

Colt Nichols (5-4-1) won Main 3 and finished third overall.

Complete Results
Points Standings

450 Main 1: After grabbing the hole shot, Ken Roczen’s quest for his first win in two years got underway with the Main 1 victory. He stretched his advantage to 8.562 seconds over Cooper Webb and the rest of the field. … Dean Wilson rounded out the podium. … The drama came in the middle stage of the race when Webb body slammed his teammate Marvin Musquin off course after the wall jump as they battle for third. Musquin climbed through the field and was battling Wilson for third with a minute remaining, but was knocked off course and fell to fifth at the checkers. … Eli Tomac’s title hopes thinned with a sixth-place finish. – Complete Results

450 Main 2: Cooper Webb scored his fourth Triple Crown Main win. He won two Mains in Anaheim II and one at Detroit. … Dean Wilson finished 3.121 seconds behind in second. … Marvin Musquin had a bad start and was forced to overcome sixth-place on Lap 1. With time off the clock, Musquin cross-rutted and went down in the sand as he battled for every position possible. He fell one spot to third. … Justin Barcia went down with three minutes remaining. … Ken Roczen stepped off the bike in Turn 1 and smashed his toe. After winning the first Main, he was forced to retire from the second. – Complete Results

450 Main 3: Marvin Musquin wrestled the lead from holeshot winner Joey Savatgy in Turn 2 of Lap 1 and held his advantage till the end. … Main 3 was a battle of championship contenders as Eli Tomac finished second with Cooper Webb rounding out the podium. … With a smashed toe, Ken Roczen was able to finish only eighth. … Savatgy fell to ninth. – Complete Results

250 Main 1: Adam Cianciarulo grabbed the lead on Lap 1 and never looked back. He ran away with a nine-second advantage. … Dylan Ferrandis was eighth at the end of Lap 1. He steadily picked off the riders in front of him and passed for second as the white flag waved. … RJ Hampshire rounded out the top three. … Cameron McAdoo got the holeshot, but failed to navigate the first turn; he faded to ninth at the end. … James Decotis had a solid second-place run going until the four-minute remaining mark. At that point, he lost his rhythm and dropped to sixth. – Complete Results

250 Main 2: Last week’s winner at Seattle, Dylan Ferrandis snatched the lead from Chris Blose on Lap 2 and held on to win. … RJ Hampshire stayed within striking distance for much of the race, but finished 4.740 seconds behind. … Garrett Marchbanks rounded out the podium. … The championship battle came down to making the best of a bad situation. Adam Cianciarulo got pushed off line on the opening lap and fell to ninth. Mired in the field, his problems compounded when he crashed a second time on the blind side of the bridge. He was run into as he tried to remount. A clutch problem sent him to the mechanics area briefly. He rejoined the race 19th. Cianciarulo battled back to 10th at the checkers… Blose fell all the way to 19th at the end. – Complete Results

250 Main 3: Colt Nichols rode to an easy win over Dylan Ferrandis. … Adam Cianciarulo had another bad start and went down on Lap 1 in the whoops when he got tangled up with Michael Mosiman. He dropped to 13th. Cianciarulo put his head down and refused to panic, picking his way back to the bottom step of the podium. – Complete Results

Points Leaders

Cooper Webb (288) (6 wins)
Marvin Musquin (271) (2 wins)
Eli Tomac (262) (3 wins)
Ken Roczen (252)
Blake Baggett (215) (1 win)

250SX West
Adam Cianciarulo (182 points) (4 wins)
Dylan Ferrandis (177) (2 wins)
Colt Nichols (142) (1 win)
RJ Hampshire (126)
Shane McElrath (123) (1 win)

250SX East
Austin Forkner (151 points) (5 wins)
Chase Sexton (125)
Justin Cooper (123)
Alex Martin (92)
Martin Davalos (89)

Top 5s

Marvin Musquin: 10
Cooper Webb: 10
Ken Roczen: 9
Eli Tomac: 9
Blake Baggett: 7
Joey Savatgy: 3
Dean Wilson: 3
Chad Reed: 2
Justin Barcia: 2
Jason Anderson: 1
Justin Bogle: 1
Justin Brayton: 1
Aaron Plessinger: 1
Cole Seeley: 1

250SX West
Adam Cianciarulo: 8
Dylan Ferrandis: 6
Shane McElrath: 5
Colt Nichols: 5
RJ Hampshire: 4
James Decotis: 4
Jacob Hayes: 1
Garrett Marchbanks: 1
Jess Pettis: 1
Michael Mosiman: 1
Chris Blose: 1

250SX East
Austin Forkner: 6
Justin Cooper: 6
Chase Sexton: 6
Jordon Smith: 3
Martin Davalos: 3
Alex Martin: 2
Mitchell Oldenburg: 2

Next race: April 6, Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tenn.

Season passes can be purchased at NBC Sports Gold.

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Graham Rahal’s ‘Weighty Issue’

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MONTEREY, California – Graham Rahal admits that he can’t wait until the day he doesn’t have to worry about his weight. Being a 6-foot-2, big-boned individual can have its advantages, but not when it comes to fitting into an IndyCar.

That is why the son of 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner and three-time CART IndyCar champion Bobby Rahal has begun a body shaping therapy known as “Sculpting” that uses lasers to trim away body fat.

“Honestly, it is no secret, I’m not shy about this, that I’ve struggled with my weight,” the 201-pound Rahal told a group of reporters during INDYCAR’s Open Test at Laguna Seca on Thursday. “I can guarantee you that from a strength perspective and a stamina perspective, there’s very few guys out here that can keep up with me. I’m just not a super skinny build. It’s never been my thing.

“I’ve tried. We’ve kind of looked around. There was some mutual interest from them to look into trying this, see if it works. I’ll be honest. I was always very skeptical of the stuff. Where I’m at, I’ve done one treatment. I can’t even tell you today if it’s something that really works or not.”

That led Rahal to try out the sculpting process that was invented by a doctor who found it with swelling in kid’s cheeks. The “Sculpture” process uses a laser that kills the fatty cells.

“It takes a long time, I think,” Rahal said. “It’s going to take multiple I think to get there.”

Watch Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey on NBC at 3 p.m.

A race driver needs to be thin, yet very strong to have the physical strength and stamina to compete at a high level in the race car. When it comes to the NTT IndyCar Series, it’s even more important because of the size of the cars and tight cockpit.

Additionally, the extra weight can impact the performance of the race car. The lighter the driver, the less weight inside of the car. In INDYCAR, drivers are weighed and for the lighter drivers, lead weight is added to the car to meet a requirement.

But in Rahal’s case, the lead weight ballast has to be reduced and that sometimes throws off the center of gravity in the car.

“The facts are it’s not going to work if you don’t work out, too, and eat well,” Rahal said. “It doesn’t do anything. But earlier this year, man, I had given up drinking completely for three, four months. I was working out every day, twice a day on most occasions. I went to a nutritionist, doing everything. I literally was not losing an ounce. It was the most frustrating period of time for me.

“I am the biggest guy here. Is it ever going to be equal for me? No matter what these guys talk about with driver ballast, it’s a whole different thing, where my center of gravity is.”

That is what led the 30-year-old driver from Ohio to study the “Sculpting” procedure. He realizes he is never going to have the metabolism of some of the thinner drivers, but he needs to maintain a weight that minimizes his disadvantage.

“It is a challenge,” he admitted. “Ricky Taylor and Helio Castroneves (on Penske Team Acura in IMSA) weigh 60 pounds less than me or something. There is no ballast there. That’s a big swing, a lot of weight to be carrying around.

“We have to try anything we can. If you’re going to be serious, try to find the performance advantage and the edge, you’ve got to look outside of the box.

“It is something new for me. But the fight I guess against being an ultra-skinny guy.

“I fly home with most of these guys after races, I see most of these guys a lot of times, they’re sitting there eating In-N-Out Burger, whatever else. Literally I cannot do it. If I do it, it immediately reflects for me. These guys you see them the next weekend, they’re like this big.

“It’s like, (crap), it’s not my build.”

Because of Rahal’s height and size, he chose to step away from the endurance races for Team Penske in IMSA at the end of last season. He was replaced at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring by fellow IndyCar driver Alexander Rossi.

Rahal complained that the steering wheel actually hit his legs inside of the Acura, making it difficult for him to drive on the challenging road courses. Since that time, Acura Team Penske has moved the steering column up by a few inches, and it no longer impacts a driver the size of Rahal.

For the IMSA season-ending Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta on Oct. 12, Rahal will be back in the Team Penske Acura.

“Back in the (Team Penske) shop three weeks ago, I could actually turn the steering wheel, which I was shocked about,” Rahal said. “My head touched the roof, whatever, I’m used to that. Physically being able to steer, which I now should be able to do better.

“So I’m excited about it. It’s another great opportunity obviously with Penske. But more importantly for me is Acura, Honda. It’s a great thing to be back in.

“But that wasn’t a weight thing. It’s purely size. They just don’t build cars for guys my size. I used to talk to J.W. (Justin Wilson) about that. It’s the facts of life. Even the GT cars. You would think a GT car would be big. I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a GT car, I was comfortable in either. They’re built for small guys. That’s the way it goes.”

Rahal is taller than his father, Bobby, who is also his IndyCar team owner along with David Letterman and Michael Lanigan.

“I blame my dad,” Rahal said. “I do. You can tell him I said that. I told him, ‘It’s a genetic thing. I got good genes in some ways.’

“I told my wife this the other day, I’m very excited for someday when my career ends just to have a ‘Dad Bod,’ be able to let go for a minute, see how things turn out, because this is getting a little bit exhausting.

“We’re going to stay committed through the winter. I try my hardest every year, but I never tried harder this year to be thin. I weigh about the same as last year, but it took so much effort to get there, I just have to think outside the box.”