Cooper Webb is back with first 2020 win at San Diego

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Two weeks ago pundits were ready to write off the 2019 Monster Energy Supercross champion Cooper Webb. Then he passed Ken Roczen for second in the final corner at Oakland last week. He improved by one more spot in San Diego at PETCO Park in San Diego, Calif. to win his first race of the 2020 season Saturday night.

More rewarding still, he did it by passing Adam Cianciarulo – a rival that has plagued him since their amateur days.

“Sometimes I need to get pissed off and that’s what happened,” Webb said on NBCSN after the race. “I was mad as a hornet and came to the gate and just had that confidence.

“I got to the lead early and then Adam made a good, aggressive move to the inside. I just kind of let him go. I knew the track was going to be hard to pass. I knew it was going to be a long Main. I tried to make a pass earlier, but we played a little cat and mouse.”

Cianciarulo led 18 of 20 minutes. He fended off numerous challenges, but Webb had two advantages. He has more experience in the 450 class and he was able to study Cianciarulo for most of the race.

Cianciarulo could hear what was happening behind him, but could not quite visualize where Webb was making up ground. It was only after Webb made the pass that AC realized he was beating him in the whoops by jumping them 3-4-4.

“I’m really proud of myself because I made significant steps forward between the heat race and the main event,” Cianciarulo said afterward. “I felt super good up front. Cooper and I got a little spike of the heartrate in the beginning going back and forth. I knew it was going to be a long Main, but I felt I adapted well.”

That adaptation gave Cianciarulo his second podium of the season. He finished second in the opener at Anaheim.

Blake Baggett felt he left a little on the table, but it wasn’t much. He crossed under the checkers third for his first podium of the season. His previous best came in A1 with a fourth.

Meanwhile, Roczen and Tomac started outside the top five. Entering the race one-two in the points, it was expected that they would challenge for the win, but a bad start for both shifted the battle to deep in the field. For most of the race they sliced through traffic together, but at the end Tomac was able to position a rider between himself and Roczen and cut the points’ lead to one.

Tomac finished fourth; Roczen was sixth.

Justin Barcia slotted into fifth.

Jason Anderson scored his first poor finish of the season in 14th. That ended a perfect record of top-five finishes.

Ken Roczen finished just outside the top five at San Diego and held onto the points lead. Feld Entertainment Inc.

Riding under the cloud of probation for an incident earlier in the year with Christian Craig, Dylan Ferrandis cannot afford to be overly aggressive.

And if one does not believe that makes a difference, rewind the DVR to the middle of the 250 Main at San Diego. On a faster bike, Ferrandis made a determined charge on Austin Forkner for several laps. He peeked inside and dropped back when it appeared the only way to pass would involve contact.

But with one minute remaining on the clock, Ferrandis could not afford to be patient any longer. He took Forkner’s line away, pushed his competitor high in a corner and scooted away . How much faster was Ferrandis? With one minute remaining plus a lap, Ferrandis built a more than six second lead.

“I couldn’t find any place to pass Austin,” Ferrandis said from the top step of the podium. “I tried many times and for sure I didn’t want to be too aggressive because of what happened before. I got a good start and … he put me high in the corner and got by him. First lap, he already tried to take me out. I tried to be patient. … I was ahead of him when I passed him so I think there’s no problem.

“I tried to ride clean and I hope (AMA Supercross) will understand that.”

Ferrandis’ pass defined the edge of aggression, but seemed more intense because Forkner refused to give ground and had to take evasive action off course. Late in the 450 class, Tomac made a nearly identical pass on Roczen, but the more experienced rider checked up a fraction of a second and fell in behind Tomac.

For the second straight week, Forkner finished second to Ferrandis.

“I’ve just got to be a little bit better,” Ferrandis said on NBCSN. “I’m riding good, it’s just (a little difference). It was deja vu from last weekend.”

Justin Cooper maintained his second position in the points with his third-place finish.

Michael Mosiman finished fourth with Brandon Hartranft rounding out the top five.

450s

Heat 1: Sporting a new red mohawk, Ken Roczen scored an aggressive hole shot that caused Cooper Webb, Zach Osborne and Eli Tomac to bang bars. … Osborne survived to finish second. Webb was not as fortunate and went down later on the opening lap after getting pegged by a clot of dirt. … Tomac was mired in traffic with his bad start, but in his usual fashion, he climbed to third at the checkers. … Webb overcame his fall to finish sixth. … Chad Reed grabbed the final transfer spot in ninth. | Heat 1 Results

Heat 2: Adam Cianciarulo got the holeshot. In the short heat, he held on to the end. … Justin Brayton and Blake Baggett chased the rookie, but could not close the gap. … On the final lap, Jason Anderson flashed past Baggett, but earlier on that trip around the track the two made contact, strippping half the spokes off Anderson’s bike. He limped it home fourth. … Ryan Breece took the last transfer spot over Benny Bloss, who was just returning from concussion protocol; Bloss had a transfer position halfway through the race before he crashed. | Heat 2 Results

LCQ: After crashing in his Heat and failing to automatically advance to the Main, Benny Bloss made his comeback from concussion protocol complete with an LCQ win. … Kyle Chisholm finished 2.5 seconds back. … Jason Clermont almost lost his bike in the whoops, but stayed on top of the seat and finished third. … Alex Ray took the last transfer position. | LCQ Results

250s

Heat 1: It took a lap for Austin Forkner to find the lead, but he never lost it, passing Cameron McAdoo early in the heat. … Forkner built a 6.6 second lead by the checkers as he whipped his bike over the finish line. “Once I got out front, I was just breaking away,” Forkner told NBCSN. “That’s what I want to do for the race.” … Derek Drake grabbed the last spot on the podium. … Fourth in the points, Brandon Hartranft had a bit of drama. McAdoo pushed him off line in the first corner and nearly lost the transfer position; he finished seventh. … Killian Auberson finished ninth in the last transfer position. … Ludovic Macler was the first rider on the outside looking in. | Heat 1 Results

Heat 2: It was teammate against teammate in the first turn. Justin Cooper thought he had the hole shot only to have it stolen by Dylan Ferrandis – who held the lead to the checkers. … Michael Mosiman got around Cooper on the final lap to finish 3.5 seconds back. … Cooper held on to finish third. … Bryson Gardner just received his pro license and celebrated with an automatic berth into the Main via a ninth-place finish; he would go on to finish 19th in the Main. … Gardner was elevated to that position when Robbie Wageman fell from ninth on the final lap.  | Heat 2 Results

LCQ: Martin Castelo took the lead midway through the race and held on for the win. … But it was the battle for the final transfer that stole the show. … Cheyenne Harmon, Ludovic Macler and Lorenzo Camporese swapped positions over the final lap and advanced to the Main. … Robbie Wageman made a strong run in the final set of turns, but came up inches shy. | LCQ Results

Click here for 450 Main Results | Season Points
Click here for 250 Main Results | Season Points

Next race: February 15, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.

Season passes can be purchased at NBC Sports Gold.

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Jack Miller wins the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix as Fabio Quartararo stops his downward points’ slide

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Jack Miller ran away with the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi as Fabio Quartararo stopped his downward slide in the championship when a last-lap accident from his closest rival in the standings caused Francesco Bagnaia to score zero points.

Starting seventh, Miller quickly made his way forward. He was second at the end of two laps. One lap later, he grabbed the lead from Jorge Martin. Once in the lead, Miller posted three consecutive fastest laps and was never seriously challenged. It was Australian native Miller’s first race win of the season and his sixth podium finish.

The proximity to his home turf was not lost.

“I can ride a motorcycle sometimes,” Miller said in NBC Sports’ post-race coverage. “I felt amazing all weekend since I rolled out on the first practice. It feels so awesome to be racing on this side of the world.

“What an amazing day. It’s awesome; we have the home Grand Prix coming up shortly. Wedding coming up in a couple of weeks. I’m over the moon; can’t thank everyone enough.”

Miller beat Brad Binder to the line by 3.4 seconds with third-place Jorge Martin finishing about one second behind.

But the center of the storm was located just inside the top 10 as both Quartararo and Bagnaia started deep in the field.

Quartararo was on the outside of row three in ninth with Bagnaia one row behind in 12th. Neither rider moved up significantly, but the championship continued to be of primary importance as Bagnaia put in a patented late-race charge to settle onto Quartararo’s back tire, which would have allowed the championship leader to gain only a single point.

On the final lap, Bagnaia charged just a little too hard and crashed under heavy braking, throwing away the seven points he would have earned for a ninth-place finish.

The day was even more dramatic for the rider who entered the MotoGP Japanese Grand Prix third in the standings. On the sighting lap, Aleix Espargaro had an alarm sound, so he peeled off into the pits, dropped his primary bike and jumped aboard the backup. Starting from pit lane, he trailed the field and was never able to climb into the points. An undisclosed electronic problem was the culprit.

For Quartararo, gaining eight points on the competition was more than a moral victory. This was a track on which he expected to run moderately, and he did, but the problems for his rivals gives him renewed focus with four rounds remaining.

Next week, the series heads to Thailand and then Miller’s home track of Phillip Island in Australia. They will close out the Pacific Rim portion of the schedule before heading to Spain for the finale in early November.

It would appear team orders are not in play among the Ducati riders. Last week’s winner Enea Bastianini made an aggressive early move on Bagnaia for position before the championship contender wrestled the spot back.

In his second race back following arm surgery, Marc Marquez won the pole. His last pole was more than 1,000 days ago on this same track in 2019, the last time the series competed at Motegi. Marquez slipped to fifth in the middle stages of the race, before regaining a position to finish just off the podium.

In Moto2 competition, Ai Ogura beat Augusto Fernandez to close the gap in that championship to two points. Fernandez holds the scant lead. Alonso Lopez rounded out the podium.

Both American riders, Cameron Beaubier and Joe Roberts finished just outside the top 10 in 11th and 12th respectively.