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Battling illness, Cooper Webb wins New Jersey Supercross

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There are two ways to win in Supercross. You can either ride hard to the front and storm past the competition or you can ride a perfect race and watch those in front of you fall. Cooper Webb needed to finish only fifth in the last two races of the Supercross seasons. Now he needs to score only three points next week at Las Vegas after winning his seventh race of the season.

“I was just getting handed (the lead) left and right,” Webb told NBCSN after the race. “Guys were just making mistakes and it was all good.

“It was fun, battling Eli (Tomac) for a bit. Then I tightened up a little and he got a good flow, then crashed. And Zach (Osborne) was all over me.”

Making Webb’s win even more impressive is that he was battling an illness. Sitting astride his bike waiting to be interviewed, he coughed a couple of times to clear his throat.

“It’s crazy how life works,” Webb continued. “This morning I was puking in the bathroom, not knowing what I was going to do tonight. Stressing. And now we’re winning.”

Discretion would indeed turn out to be the better part of valor. After earning the hole shot, Webb heard Tomac coming up on him two laps into the Main and he pulled over to let the challenger go.

Once Tomac’s green livery was ahead of him, Webb decided not to make it easy and the two riders went handlebar-to-handlebar for several laps. Webb stayed on Tomac’s back tire through the next several laps until he almost put his bike down in the opening laps. That settled Webb down as he reflected on his points situation.

The same was not true of Tomac. He got crossed up on lap eight and crashed into the tough blocks. Webb rolled past; Tomac fell five seconds off the pace to fourth. Climbing back aboard his steed, he charged back into second and had Webb in his sights before he crashed a second time with two minutes and a lap remaining on the clock.

On his way to victory lane, Webb was also passed by Zach Osborne – who was looking for his first career 450 win. On Lap 17, the pressure got to Osborne and he blew a corner.

“Today I conquered some giants and I feel very blessed to standing here (on the podium) right now,” Osborne said after finishing second.

Tomac wound up with a third-place finish and needs a miracle to claim the championship next week.

Blake Baggett finished just off the podium in fourth.

Third in the championship, Marvin Musquin went down and was rolled over. He dropped to the last position on the track and it is a testament of courage that he managed to climb to fifth before the checkers waved.

Complete Results
Points Standings

In 250s, a points championship that began to turn on its head two weeks ago in Nashville officially inverted. Chase Sexton took the lead on Lap 7 while Austin Forkner was already in the hauler.

Forkner made a statement in the opening laps. Battling back from a knee injury, Forkner rode a cautious heat race in which he finished fourth and proved his mettle by simply advancing to the Main.

That wasn’t enough, however. On the opening lap, Forkner slid into his closest championship contender and moved Chase Sexton out of the preferred line. He set his sight on teammate Martin Davalos and had visions of winning the Main. He had every reason to think that would happen; after all no one has been able to beat him on the track all season long.

But in knocking his rival out of the way, he used his injured knee as a battering ram. One lap later, he landed hard exiting and re-injured his knee. Forkner immediately pulled up and headed to the mechanics area with a last place finish – out of the race and officially out of the points lead.

Sexton kept his composure after getting knocked out of the second position. He avoided the temptation to override and catch back up to Forkner – choosing instead to wait for the points leader to wear out his knee. Sexton held on to win by a margin of seven seconds over the field.

“It couldn’t happen at a better time,” Sexton told NBCSN after earning his fifth podium of the season. “The track is super gnarly so it’s probably the longest 15 minutes plus one lap of my life.

“I got off to a pretty good start – and honestly, Austin was trying to take me out. You can’t really race like that. I know it’s for a championship, but trying to saw the front end off is not cool.”

Sexton’s win gives him a nine-point advantage over second place.

Mitchell Oldenburg scored his first podium in two years and his third top-five of the season – completing a surge that began with back-to-back fourth-place finishes Daytona and Indianapolis plus a sixth at Nashville.

“It’s been a long two years for me with injuries and mentally,” Oldenburg said after the race. “I just didn’t know if this was for me anymore.”

This was the third podium of Oldenburg’s career.

Justin Cooper took the last spot on the podium to score his third consecutive third-place finish. The ride was good enough to elevate Cooper ahead of Forkner into second.

Forkner’s single point dropped to third in the standings – 22 out of first.

Martin Davalos and Brandon Hartranft rounded out the top five.

Complete Results
Points Standings

450 Heat 1: Championship contenders Ken Roczen and Eli Tomac faced off in Heat 1. After winning the last two Supercross races, Eli Tomac seemed to be in control of the race until he went down with one lap remaining before the clock ran out. … Justin Bogle zipped past and grabbed the lead. … Tomac overcame his fall to capture second. … Blake Bagget rounded out the top-three. … Roczen settled into fifth.

450 Heat 2: Championship contender Marvin Musquin grabbed the lead from Zach Osborne in the closing laps of Heat 2. He won and advanced to the Feature. … In a mirror of how he’s run much of the year, Cooper Webb overcame a bad start and finished second, passing Osborne on the final lap. … Osborne held on for third. … Joey Savatgy tried to go a jump too far in the final minutes of the heat. He hung up on a tough block and fell outside the transfer position. He settled into 10th at the checkers.

450 Last Chance Qualifier: Joey Savatgy overcame his fall in the heat to post a dominating win in in the LCQ. … Ryan Breece followed him across the line with Alex Ray and Theodore Pauli also advancing to the Main. … AJ Catanzaro crashed in the race and was walked off the course by a medical worker.

250 Heat 1: Mitchell Oldenburg jumped out to an early lead and held the advantage till the checkers. … He beat Martin Davalos and Jordan Bailey handily to advance to the Main. … Justin Thompson grabbed the last transfer spot in ninth.

250 Heat 2: With Austin Forkner injured, Chase Sexton needed to make the most of his opportunity this week. He won the heat by more than 17 seconds over Alex Martin. … Lorenzo Locurcio settled into third. … All eyes were on Forkner in the heat as he needed to run ninth or better to lock his place into the Feature. He did not show the strength he’s had all year, but settled into a comfortable fifth-place spot on the track, more than 20 seconds off the leader. On the final lap, he surged into fourth. 

250 Last Chance Qualifier: John Short got around Steven Clarke on the last lap when the leader punched the front wheel into a jump. … Jeremy Hand, Chase Marquier and Jace Owen also slipped past as Clarke dropped out of the final transfer spot to finish fifth.

Points Leaders

450SX
Cooper Webb (358) (7 wins)
Eli Tomac (335) (5 wins)
Marvin Musquin (327) (2 wins)
Ken Roczen (300)
Blake Baggett (274) (1 win)

250SX West
Adam Cianciarulo (208 points) (5 wins)
Dylan Ferrandis (200) (2 wins)
Colt Nichols (163) (1 win)
RJ Hampshire (145)
James Decotis (128)

250SX East
Chase Sexton (174) (1 win)
Justin Cooper (165)
Austin Forkner (152 points) (5 wins)
Martin Davalos (134) (1 win)
Mitchell Oldenburg (128)

Top 5s

450SX
Cooper Webb: 13
Marvin Musquin: 12
Eli Tomac: 12
Ken Roczen: 9
Blake Baggett: 9
Dean Wilson: 4
Joey Savatgy: 4
Chad Reed: 2
Justin Barcia: 2
Justin Bogle: 2
Zach Osborne: 2
Jason Anderson: 1
Justin Brayton: 1
Aaron Plessinger: 1
Cole Seeley: 1

250SX West
Adam Cianciarulo: 9
Dylan Ferrandis: 7
Shane McElrath: 5
Colt Nichols: 6
RJ Hampshire: 5
James Decotis: 4
Jacob Hayes: 1
Garrett Marchbanks: 1
Jess Pettis: 1
Michael Mosiman: 1
Chris Blose: 1
Michael Mosiman: 1

250SX East
Justin Cooper: 8
Chase Sexton: 8
Forkner: 6
Martin Davalos: 5
Jordon Smith: 3
Mitchell Oldenburg: 3
Alex Martin: 2
Brandon Hartranft: 2
Kyle Peters: 1

Next race: May 4, Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, Nev.

Season passes can be purchased at NBC Sports Gold.

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter

Newgarden, Rossi ready for a red-white-and-blue INDYCAR finale

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MONTEREY, California – In an international series that personifies diversity from all over the globe, the two main combatants in the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series championship are from the United States.

Josef Newgarden of Tennessee takes a 41-point lead over Alexander Rossi of Northern California into Sunday’s double-points season finale at WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca. This year’s Indianapolis 500 winner, Simon Pagenaud of France, is just 42 points out of the lead.

It’s been quite a while since the two drivers entering the final race of the season were both Americans. Four of the top 10 drivers in the series are from the United States. Last year, five of the top 10 were from the USA.

All but one race in the 17-race NTT IndyCar Series schedule is contested in the United States.

Patriotism still matters in IndyCar.

“I think so,” said Andretti Autosport driver Rossi, who is the last American driver to win the Indianapolis 500 in 2016. “I know I’ve read a lot of things from other drivers saying, ‘It doesn’t matter, it’s not important, no one cares.’

“I can’t really get onboard with that.

“I think me as an American, growing up, being a fan of the Olympics and everything, like you cheer for Americans, right? That’s what you do as a patriotic person. Canadians cheer for James. We see the Swedish contingent that comes to the races for Marcus Ericsson and Felix Rosenqvist.

Getty Images“I think Americans will cheer for Americans. I would love to see an American to win the championship. I think it’s important for the young kids watching hoping to be IndyCar drivers one day, that they see someone who grew up in Tennessee or California or wherever. It’s like, there’s a lot of relate-ability to that for a young kid with aspirations of being a racecar driver.”

Since Sam Hornish, Jr. won the final of his three IndyCar Series championships in 2006, just two American drivers have won the title – Ryan Hunter-Reay in 2012 and Newgarden in 2017. During that span, Scott Dixon of New Zealand won four of his five NTT IndyCar Series championships and Dario Franchitti of Scotland won all four of his IndyCar titles.

The last time two Americans had a chance to win the championship in the final race of the season came in 2001 when Hornish won the championship over Colorado’s Buddy Lazier. Connecticut’s Scott Sharp was third and Arizona’s Billy Boat was fourth in the final standings that year.

That was a much different time and place for IndyCar. At that time, many of the top drivers were in CART while the old Indy Racing League featured a predominantly American lineup. Once unification brought the two sides together in 2008, the championships have been fought on American soil, but international drivers were victorious.

The last time two American drivers finished 1-2 in CART was 1996 when Jimmy Vasser of California defeated Pennsylvania’s Michael Andretti for the crown. In 1992, Bobby Rahal of Illinois defeated Andretti and Al Unser, Jr. of New Mexico for the CART title.

Prior to that, the IndyCar “National Championship” was dominated by drivers from the United States.

 

While Rossi openly choose to wrap himself in the American flag, it’s not as important to Newgarden.

“For me, it’s never been something I put a lot of emphasis on,” said the Team Penske driver. “I’m proud to have grown up in such a wonderful country as the United States, but what I’ve always loved about the IndyCar Series is that they bring the best of the best from around the world. That’s always been important to me.

“It means more I think when you have the best from all over the place coming to compete at the Indianapolis 500, during the whole championship. You really feel like you have that in the IndyCar Series. You get the best drivers from around the world.

“To pair with that, I think we need strong Americans running, as well. So for sure, having guys like Alex and Graham Rahal, some young guys coming up like Colton Herta, myself, it’s really great to have young American competition representing as well and running so strongly.

“What I’ve always loved is the great mix of talent from around the world. To me that’s just so important. If it was all Americans running in the championship, I don’t think it would mean as much. I like that we have that great diversity and that great mix from around the world.”

Although these two drivers are both from the USA, they are fierce rivals. They have mutual respect for each other, but they sure aren’t considered close friends.

“Josef and I honestly aren’t that close,” Rossi admitted. “He never lived in Indy when I moved here, or he was just moving. I actually never really hung out with Josef.

“We obviously have a lot of respect for each other. We raced together for a short period of time in Europe. We have a lot of mutual friends.

“Josef and I don’t talk or socialize really. So, it doesn’t have any impact.”

Newgarden agrees that these two men choose to embrace the rivalry.

“I think it’s just really business,” Newgarden said. “He lives in Indianapolis. I live in Nashville. I don’t see him too often outside of the racetrack. We go and we compete. He’s a great competitor. He’s definitely a tremendous talent, has done a great job in his career.

“It’s been a good, competitive relationship I would say.”

With the return of American drivers capable of winning races, championships and Indianapolis 500s, it has sparked a rejuvenation in IndyCar racing. With drivers from all over the world fighting it out for glory, this series that was born and bred in the United States can take pride in featuring some of the best racing in the world as the series continues to grow in popularity.

“I think we just need to continue a focus on our product,” Rossi said. “I think we have the best race product on the planet in terms of entertainment, the variance of winners that we have throughout a season, how many guys are capable, teams are capable of winning races.

“But that’s an ever-moving target. I think IndyCar has done a good job of placing the priority on that. I just think we need to continue doing that and everything will be moving in the right direction.”