Cooper Webb’s new mindset resulted in 2019 Supercross championship

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Cooper Webb’s remarkable 2019 season saw him rise from what seemed to be impending irrelevance in the Supercross 450 class to his first championship.

The difference between two years of struggle and his meteoric ascent was resetting his mindset, not once but twice.

“I was with Yamaha the last two years and really had an abundance of injuries and really couldn’t stay healthy and this year I switched teams to the Red Bull KTM team and I think the bike just really fit me really well,” Webb said on Thursday’s edition of NASCAR America. “For me it was just a reset and I think it really motivated me to get back where I was in the 250 days.”

Webb’s rapid progression through the Supercross ranks was interrupted in 2017 and 2018. After winning the 2015 and 2016 250 West championship plus the 2016 250 Motocross championship, he suffered through multiple injuries that could have left him on the sidelines. With factory support from KTM, it was time to prove himself.

“The last two years have been tough and there was a lot of talk – a lot of negativity being said by fans and riders that I would never be relevant again,” Webb continued.

Webb finished third in the first Anaheim race on a heavy, muddy track. He finished 10th in Round 2, but with expectations still raised by the move to his new team, he knew that was an aberration.

Photo: SupercrossLIVE

It didn’t take long to prove his critics wrong. Round 3 of the Supercross season saw him win the first two Mains in that week’s Triple Crown format. That single race became a microcosm of his season. Comfortable with two victories against the sport’s toughest competition under his belt, he rode both an aggressive and safe race. He would not put his bike at risk in the third Main, but still finished third for the overall win. It was his first career win in the 450 class.

“As soon as you win that first race – get on that podium – it’s that belief instantly is there again,” Webb said as he described his second mental reset of the season. “I think for me that was the biggest thing. I knew I had the opportunity and the ability to win this year, but as soon as I did it, it was just a whole new mindset and a whole new belief that, ‘hey you achieved it.’

“You just want to keep going and that feeling (of winning) becomes addicting.”

Webb won three of the next four races, stood on the second step of the podium at Detroit and then won again the following week in Atlanta. He would fail to stand on the podium only once more (a fourth at Seattle) on his way to the championship.

“Now that I’ve (won the championship), the sky’s the limit,” Webb said.

With his head in the clouds, Webb will test that limit next week in Rancho Cordova, California at Hangtown as the Motocross season begins.

For more, watch the video above.

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Ben Hanley relieved to make Indy 500 debut

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Qualifying for the Indy 500 is never an easy task, especially for a new driver and team, and with 36 cars vying for 33 starting positions last weekend, 34-year-old rookie Ben Hanley knew there was a chance he and his DragonSpeed team would not make the show.

“I wouldn’t say we were very confident, but we wanted to [make the field],” Hanley told NBC Sports. “The biggest thing we were trying to achieve was to not be on track on Sunday in the shootout because it only takes one mistake or one little issue and that’s it, you’re not in the race.”

But Hanley would not have to worry about being bumped from the field. He qualified 27th after making three attempts on Day 1, which was enough to lock the No. 81 team into the show. Not too shabby for a driver and team making only their third NTT IndyCar Series start.

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“That last run everything just came together,” Hanley said. “We trimmed out a little bit more and found a good balance of trim and grip over four [qualifying] laps and it was enough to get us through.

“It was a huge relief to get through in P27. A massive achievement for everybody involved.”

Indeed it was a massive achievement, as DragonSpeed is one of the smallest teams in the garage, with no corporate sponsors and a tiny team of around 20 personnel. Many of those were picked up by the team just a week before qualifying, when members of the team’s regular crew were denied entry into the United States due to visa issues after leaving a sports car race in Italy.

“It was all down to the team organizing some people who were in and around Indianapolis who weren’t needed for the race weekend,” Hanley said. “Obviously, I don’t think many people are going to refuse the chance to work on a car that’s trying to qualify for the 500.”

Though the team made its first Indy 500 on Day 1 of qualifying, the DragonSpeed team did not spend Saturday night out late celebrating. Instead, Hanley said the extra time was spent preparing for the race.

“We went straight on to race prep then for the car, so Sunday was a good day for the guys to take time to prep the car into the race spec and get everything sorted out in a nice, organized manner.”

Following the Indy 500, DragonSpeed will run two other races this season at Road America and Mid-Ohio. The team is hopeful that a good run at Indy will result in an opportunity to run a bigger schedule next season and attract sponsors.

Hanley stated that though he’s happy to have made the Indy 500 starting grid for the first time in his career, the magnitude of his feat hasn’t hit him yet.

“It hasn’t really soaked in yet,” he said. “I think it will soak in on Sunday when we roll out to the grid.

“It was such a huge relief to not be involved in Bump Day. Even just watching [Bump Day] it was intense, especially with the weather. I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to be involved in that.”

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