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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Santino Ferrucci will drive No. 14 for AJ Foyt Racing full time in 2023 IndyCar season

Santino Ferrucci AJ Foyt
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Santino Ferrucci will return to full-time racing in the NTT IndyCar Series next season, joining AJ Foyt Racing.

Ferrucci had made eight IndyCar starts with three teams since his last full-time season in 2020 while also racing part time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year.

He will drive the storied No. 14 Dallara-Chevrolet for four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt’s team, which will field the car from its Waller, Texas headquarters.

“It’s incredibly exciting to be back in the INDYCAR Series full time,” Ferrucci said in a team release. “Being a part-time driver over the last two years has been hard for me, personally. I’m a race car driver, and I want to compete. Working with different teams has been exciting, and I’m proud that no matter which car I’ve raced, I’ve always shown speed and consistency. I couldn’t be more excited to join AJ Foyt Racing in the 14 Chevy. I can’t wait to make the best of it.”

Ferrucci, 24, had finished a career-best fourth in IndyCar four times, including the 104th Indy 500 in 2020. He was the 2019 Indy 500 rookie of the year with a sixth.

In nine Xfinity starts since 2021, Ferrucci has a career-best finish of 13th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I am thrilled to welcome Santino to the team,” Larry Foyt said in a release. “He’s shown a knack for getting toward the front of the field, and I think he is a racer who moves forward on race day. A.J. sees the fire in him and has enjoyed their meetings together. I think Santino’s experience will help his rookie teammate as well, so he is a great addition to our roster.”

Ferrucci will be teamed at AJ Foyt Racing with Benjamin Pedersen, who finished fifth in the 2022 Indy Lights standings. The team has yet to specify the number for Pedersen’s entry, which will be fielded out of its Indianapolis race shop.

Foyt’s two full-time drivers last season were Dalton Kellett and Kyle Kirkwood, who is moving to Andretti Autosport.