Las Vegas Supercross Preview: Cooper Webb wants to win in style

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Last week’s race at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey was a microcosm of the 2019 450 Supercross season. Cooper Webb struggle early, but had strength and luck on his side once points were on the line.

Webb was only fifth fastest in combined qualification, but when it came time to race he picked up the pace. He finished second in his heat. He lacked dominance in the first few laps of the Main, allowing first Eli Tomac and then Zach Osborne around him. But he stayed close enough to both riders to force them to ride just a little harder than they wanted.

Webb watched as the riders around him made mistakes and easily rolled past them to score his seventh win of the season.

The 2019 season began with a winless Webb. It didn’t take long for him to establish himself as a favorite with a victory in the Triple Crown Anaheim II race. He’d go on to win three more times in the next four rounds. Since his win at Minneapolis in Round 6, he’s failed to stand on the podium only one time and that was a fourth at Seattle.

Now all Webb needs to do in Las Vegas is finished 20th or better to claim his first championship.

Tomac has one shot to win the championship – and it’s a longshot.

Tomac must win while Webb finishes 21st or worse. A second-place finish – even if Webb crashes in prelims and fails to advance to the Main – would result in a tie that would be broken by the most wins. Webb’s seven victories this season is guaranteed to be the most. Tomac enters Vegas with five wins.

Everyone else was mathematically eliminated from competition last week.

Webb’s incredible season overshadows his competition, but notably five riders have scored top-fives in more than half the events this year. Webb’s 14 leads the pack, followed by 13 for Tomac and Marvin Musquin, 10 for Ken Roczen and nine for Blake Baggett.

The difference in the championship has come down to consistency. While Webb has been on his current 11-race, top-five streak Tomac finished outside that mark three times in a span of four races from Minneapolis through Atlanta. Musquin finished sixth at Detroit and Nashville. Meanwhile, Roczen has only one top-five in the last seven Rounds of the season.

Zach Osborne got around Cooper Webb for the lead at New Jersey, but rode too hard into a corner a few laps later. SupercrossLIVE

MORE: Austin Forkner out for the season

Schedule:

Qualifying: 4 p.m. on NBC Sports, Gold
Race: Live, 10 p.m. on NBC Sports, Gold and USA Network

Last Week:

Cooper Webb scored his seventh win of the season over Zach Osborne and Eli Tomac.

Last Year:

Eli Tomac ended the season with a win over Marvin Musquin and Blake Baggett

Winners

[7] Cooper Webb (Anaheim II, Oakland, Minneapolis, Arlington, Atlanta, Houston, and New Jersey)
[5] Eli Tomac (San Diego, Detroit, Daytona, Nashville and Denver)
[2] Marvin Musquin (Indianapolis and Seattle)
[1] Justin Barcia (Anaheim I)
[1] Blake Baggett (Glendale)

Top-5s

Cooper Webb (14)
Marvin Musquin (13)
Eli Tomac (13)
Ken Roczen (10)
Blake Baggett (9)
Joey Savatgy (5)
Dean Wilson (4)
Chad Reed (2)
Justin Barcia (2)
Justin Bogle (2)
Jason Anderson (1)
Justin Brayton (1)
Aaron Plessinger (1)
Cole Seely (1)
Zach Osborne (2)

Points Leaders

Cooper Webb (358)
Eli Tomac (335)
Marvin Musquin (327)
Ken Roczen (300)
Blake Baggett (274)

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Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”