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Justin Cooper on the other face of aggression in Supercross

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Aggression has two faces: one focuses outward at the competition; the other faces inward.

When Justin Cooper looks in the mirror this weekend before suiting up for Round 6 of the Monster Energy Supercross season at San Diego (on NBCSN 10 p.m. ET), he will see the second face.

Following the 250 race at Anaheim 2, the series hit Dylan Ferrandis with a 12-month suspension for running into Christian Craig.

Supercross docked Austin Forkner two positions for cutting the track in the season opener. That penalty cost him the final rung of the podium and relegated him to fifth.

Meanwhile, Cooper stood on the top step in Anaheim 1 and smiled down at the competition.

“Everyone has the first-race jitters, and I was able to get through it pretty much mistake-free and came home with the win there and just carried the momentum through the season so far,” Cooper told NBC Sports.

Cooper left A1 and headed to St. Louis. He finished second there and again at A2. He won one of the three mains in the Glendale Triple Crown and earned his fourth podium in five races last week at Oakland.

Redefining the Terms

Racing often seems to be about conflicting agendas. A decision must be made about whether a rider will go for broke on every lap of every race, or if he should opt for consistency.

In five races so far, Cooper is showing it doesn’t always have to be an either/or proposition.

“(Aggression) can cost you sometimes,” Cooper said. “Like we saw Dylan go down with Christian. It doesn’t always work out.

“There is a certain limit to the aggression you want to carry with you. What’s important is riding the bike aggressively, maybe not against other people. Hit your marks and charge every lap, and that always puts you in a good position.”

Currently second in points, Cooper is in a good position.

But he lost the lead due in no small part to momentarily forgetting which face to show at Glendale. Aggression cost him when he became entangled with another rider in Race 1. Trying to make up for that mistake, he overrode his limit in Race 2 and crashed in consecutive races. By Race 3, he found his equilibrium again. Still, his early mistakes cost him a strong finish in the overall, and Cooper left Arizona ninth.

“I’m more of a podium guy than all-out sending it for the win,” Cooper said. “But that’s also a weakness for me too because I feel like I do leave something on the table sometime. You’ve really got to trust your ability on the bike and give it all you’ve got when it’s race weekend.”

MORE: Austin Forkner makes a statement

While his overall finish at Glendale cost points, winning Race 3 may prove critical to his potential to win the championship.

“It brought some belief back in myself,” Cooper said. “I was kind of doubting myself after the first two (races) and it’s always good to remind yourself that you still have it.

“You’ve got to believe you can win. … I expect to be on the podium every round. That would be ideal and it would put me in a great position to go after this championship. Definitely want to get another win or two, but more importantly it’s going to come down to consistency and making sure I don’t have any bad nights.”

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Max Verstappen shows speed in Austria; Lewis Hamilton lacking pace

Leonhard Foeger/Pool via Getty Images
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SPIELBERG, Austria — Red Bull driver Max Verstappen posted the fastest time Friday, and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton lacked pace in the second practice session for the Styrian Grand Prix.

Verstappen was 0.043 seconds quicker than Valtteri Bottas – Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes – and 0.217 ahead of Racing Point driver Sergio Perez.

“The car already feels better than last week, the balance is a lot nicer and we have made a good step,” said Verstappen, who did not finish last Sunday’s season-opening Austrian GP after starting from second.

“It is too early to say how we are looking against Mercedes, but we are quite happy. We have tried a few different directions to understand the car a bit more and we are heading the right way.”

Hamilton was only sixth fastest, about 0.7 seconds slower than Verstappen. Hamilton spent a chunk of time in the garage while his team worked on his car.

“It was quite far off, so there’s a lot of work to do in the background to figure it out,” he said. “Others out there are quick and Valtteri’s obviously got good pace.”

Despite adding a new front wing to its car, struggling Ferrari had a dismal afternoon.

Charles Leclerc was only ninth quickest and 1 second slower than Verstappen, while teammate Sebastian Vettel lagged about 2 seconds behind Verstappen in 16th.

Daniel Ricciardo lost control of his Renault car early into the second session, swerving left off the track and thudding backward into a protective tire wall. He climbed out unharmed, other than a slight limp, but the left rear tire was mangled and the car was lifted off the track by a crane.

Alexander Albon spun twice, the Red Bull driver’s second spin taking him right off the track and into gravel.

Earlier, Perez was fastest in the first practice ahead of Verstappen and Bottas, with Hamilton fourth quickest and Vettel only 10th in sunny conditions.

That session was briefly interrupted when Nicholas Latifi’s Williams car pulled over to the side with a gearbox issue.

The incident brought out yellow flags, forcing drivers to slow down. But McLaren driver Lando Norris overtook Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri and got a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

Norris, 20, finished third at the Austrian GP last weekend, becoming the youngest British driver in F1 history to get on the podium and third youngest in F1.

The upcoming race is changing names from last week but is at the same track. It is surrounded by the Styrian mountains.

A third and final practice will be held on Saturday morning before qualifying in the afternoon, with heavy rain and storms in the forecast.

If third practice and qualifying are washed out, drivers take their grid positions from where they placed in second practice.

“It would definitely suck if we didn’t get to qualify,” said Hamilton, who started fifth and finished fourth last weekend. “It would make it challenging.”

However, qualifying also could be moved to Sunday morning.

“I don’t expect to be on pole position with this (practice) lap,” Verstappen said.