Supercross Preview: Pressure builds heading into Nashville Supercross

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Marvin Musquin is applying pressure and Cooper Webb is feeling it heading into Round 14 of the 2019 Supercross season.

When Webb took the red plate early in the season, the first question was whether he could maintain his composure until the end of the year. He answered that with victories and podiums every week, even in events where he struggled in timed qualification.

Even when Webb stumbled and finished off the podium with a fourth at Seattle, he failed to lose points because his closest championship rival, Musquin, was penalized for failing to roll safely through a crash site where medical attention was being administered.

Musquin’s back-to-back wins at Indianapolis and Seattle put pressure on Webb, however, which was noticeable by the aggressive way he treated his teammate at Houston. Webb won the day, but Musquin (2nd in points, -17) is determined that the war isn’t over.

Eli Tomac (3rd in points, -26) and Ken Roczen (4th in points, -36) are hoping the two KTM factory riders get so focused on one another that they make a mistake which turns this two-man battle into something more.

Now the series rolls into a new market for an inaugural race. Long straights and big jumps will play into Webb’s favor. If he gets off to a slow start, which he has on several occasions this season, he has ample space to make up ground.

After two weeks off, the 250 East riders will be back in action and the question on everyone’s mind in that division is whether anyone can beat Austin Forkner. With the exception of the first East/West Showdown in Atlanta, he’s won every race – and in that event, he was the top-finishing East rider.  A precedent has been set as Dylan Ferrandis has finally been able to cut into Adam Cianciarulo’s lead in the West.

MORE: The Supercross champion will have a tale of perfection to tell 

Schedule:

Qualifying: 1 p.m. on NBC Sports, Gold
Race: Live, 8 p.m. on NBC Sports, Gold and NBCSN

Last Week:

Cooper Webb swept the podium in three Mains last week at Houston to take his sixth win of the year over Marvin Musquin and Dean Wilson.
In 250s, Dylan Ferrandis made it back-to-back wins over RJ Hampshire and Colt Nichols.

Last Year:

This will be the inaugural race in Nashville.

Winners

450s:
[6] Cooper Webb (Anaheim II, Oakland, Minneapolis, Arlington, Atlanta, and Houston)
[3] Eli Tomac (San Diego, Detroit and Daytona)
[2] Marvin Musquin (Indianapolis and Seattle)
[1] Justin Barcia (Anaheim I)
[1] Blake Baggett (Glendale)

250 West:
[4] Adam Cianciarulo (Glendale, Oakland, San Diego and Atlanta)
[2] Dylan Ferrandis (Seattle and Houston)
[1] Colt Nichols (Anaheim I)
[1] Shane McElrath (Anaheim II)

250 East:
[5] Austin Forkner (Minneapolis, Arlington, Detroit, Daytona and Indianapolis)

Top-5s

450s:
Marvin Musquin (11)
Cooper Webb (11)
Ken Roczen (10)
Eli Tomac (10)
Blake Baggett (7)
Joey Savatgy (4)
Dean Wilson (3)
Chad Reed (2)
Justin Barcia (2)
Jason Anderson (1)
Justin Bogle (1)
Justin Brayton (1)
Aaron Plessinger (1)
Cole Seely (1)

250 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)

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

Points Leaders

450s:
Cooper Webb (288)
Marvin Musquin (271)
Eli Tomac (262)
Ken Roczen (252)
Blake Baggett (215)

250 West:
Adam Cianciarulo (182)
Dylan Ferrandis (177)
Colt Nichols (142)
RJ Hampshire (126)
Shane McElrath (123)

250 East:
Austin Forkner (151)
Chase Sexton (125)
Justin Cooper (123)
Alex Martin (92)
Martin Davalos (89)

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3-time NHRA champ Larry Dixon gives back to save lives on the streets

Photo courtesy Larry Dixon Racing
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Three-time NHRA Top Fuel champ Larry Dixon is a man on a new mission: to save lives on the streets and highways as perhaps the fastest driving instructor in the world.

Because he’s not currently hurtling down a dragstrip at 330 mph on the NHRA national tour, Dixon is at a point where it was time for him to give back and help youngsters the way so many individuals helped him in his own life and career.

Much like when he became the protege of mentor Don “Snake” Prudhomme – first as a crew member and then as Prudhomme’s hand-picked choice to replace him when he retired as a driver – Dixon is now imparting some of his vast knowledge behind the wheel upon thousands of impressionable teens and young adults around the country.

Dixon recently signed on as an instructor with fellow former Top Fuel champ Doug Herbert’s nationally renowned B.R.A.K.E.S. (Be Responsible and Keep Everyone Safe) driver safety training program. Since Herbert formed the free, non-profit program in 2008 to honor the memory of sons Jon and James, who were both killed in a tragic car crash, B.R.A.K.E.S. has trained over 35,000 students across the U.S. and five countries to be better and safer drivers.

MORE: Drag racer Doug Herbert turns son’s deaths into program that has helped over 35,000 teens

After putting two of his own teen children through Herbert’s program (with a third child to go through the program soon), Dixon was so impressed with the training that his kids received that he told his old buddy he wanted to become involved with B.R.A.K.E.S.

“I’ve known Doug since we were in high school,” Dixon told NBC Sports. “We both worked at a chain of speed shops in Southern California, Doug at one in Orange County and me at one in the San Fernando Valley in Van Nuys. We came up together racing Alcohol cars and Top Fuel cars kind of along the same lines. That’s how long I’ve known Doug.

Photo: Larry Dixon Racing

“I ran my son through the course a couple years ago when it came through Indianapolis (where Dixon and his family now live), and then my daughter signed up for a class a couple months ago, and that kind of got the talk going because I’m not on the (NHRA national event) tour now and I’ve got more time and the conversation just snowballed and here I am.

“I obviously believe in the deal if I ran my own kids through the system. The program is very methodical but still personal. When you put the kids in the car, you’ve got one instructor and three students, so they’re getting taught one-on-one almost.”

Even though he’s been driving for nearly 40 years, Dixon, 52, readily admits with a chuckle, “I’ve even learned things from the program already, which shows you’re never too old to learn.”

In a more serious vein, Dixon said from his perspective as both an instructor and a parent of two of the program’s graduates is how parents are so vital to the program’s impact.

“It’s mandatory that when you’re running a student through the program that at least one parent or guardian is also there, so the message you’re teaching the teens, you have to rely on the parent to not only be on the same page as what we’re teaching, but to also drive that message home for the rest of their lives.”

Dixon isn’t teaching students to drive 330 mph or to become aspiring drag racers. On the contrary. Dixon is right at home giving instructions on how students can avoid incidents or accidents on streets and highways at speeds typically between 30 and 50 mph.

“It’s more impactful as far as your legacy,” Dixon said of his motivation to teach. “Obviously, I’ve won a lot of races, but what I have to show for those wins are trophies but they’re in the basement, and if you don’t dust them, they get dusty.

“What I’m doing with B.R.A.K.E.S., you’re making a difference for people hopefully for the rest of their lives, and that’s bigger. I remember when I first got my own racing license. The first day I had my license, I was a race car driver but I wasn’t a great race car driver right away, I just had a license. It took a lot of years and a lot of runs and laps down the racetrack to be able to be good.

“It’s the same thing with a driver’s license. You go through the driver’s education course and such and they hand you your license, but that doesn’t make you a great driver. It takes a lot of road time to be able to get that experience. And the great thing about this course is you’re trying to ramp up that experience and put the teens in situations ahead of time so that when they’re in the real world, they’ll know how to react to them.

Larry Dixon is interviewed recently during his debut as a driving instructor for B.R.A.K.E.S. Photo courtesy B.R.A.K.E.S.

“These cars nowadays have so many safety features on them, but they don’t get taught. When you go through a basic driver’s education course, they don’t teach you that you can slam on the brakes and if you have an ABS (anti-lock) brake system, let alone how to use it, so that’s part of what we’re running the kids through. It lets them speed up and then slam on the brakes and feeling what ABS does and that a car isn’t going to spin out or flip over like you might see in a ‘Fast and Furious’ movie. Most people don’t know what you can do with a car and how great cars will take care of you as long as they use the tools you’re supplied with.”

Dixon has already taught three different classes in the last month, with five more sessions scheduled primarily in the Midwest in the coming months. You can immediately hear the passion and self-satisfaction he’s getting from being a teacher.

“I really do enjoy it,” Dixon said. “You get to see the difference you can make in someone’s lives. When you get them on a skid course and they’re learning how to get out of a spin or slide, they’re having fun but also learning a valuable lesson.

“After they’ve taken the course, they have a bounce in their step and know and understand cars better and have a good time doing it. That’s what Doug has done, out of his tragedy, he’s really making a difference in other people’s lives. We’re not trying to turn the kids into Mario Andretti or anything like that … just to be better and safer drivers.”

Follow @JerryBonkowski