Marvin Musquin wins Supercross Round 16, Cooper Webb closes in on championship


Marvin Musquin took the lead after Ken Roczen fell near the midway point of the Monster Energy Supercross Round 16 and won his first 450 race in two years The Red Bull KTM rider finished ahead of teammate Cooper Webb, who closed in on his first title, and Malcolm Stewart in a career-best performance.

Musquin missed the entire 2020 Supercross season with a knee injury but was able to return for nine dates of the Motocross calendar last year.  His best finish in the outdoor season was a runner-up finish at the WW Ranch in Jacksonville, Fla, but Musquin seemed to quickly knock the rust off in the opening Supercross round this season with a podium finish in Houston 1. Two more podiums followed, including a second-place finish in Orlando 2, but the win eluded Musquin.

“Life is good to me, Musquin told NBC Sports’ Will Christien after the race. “Back in 2018 I won the Heat, won the Main. I was fighting for the championship. This year it’s a different story. I got a big injury on my knee and I missed the whole season last year. So my goal was to come back.

“I had a couple of good races, but unfortunately I had a bad concussion a couple of weeks ago, and that took out of me a lot. The results haven’t been great. I can’t believe it right now. I’m standing on the top of the podium. My goal was to get better and better.”

With the victory, Musquin became a factor in the playoff picture, denying points leader Webb an eighth victory that would have clinched the title on a night when rival championship contender Ken Roczen fell while leading the second consecutive race.

Webb got off to a slow start as Roczen rocketed out to an early lead. At the midway point, Webb began to slowly pick off riders. With a 16-point advantage entering Salt Lake City, he was riding to minimize the points loss until Roczen’s accident galvanized his effort.

With seven minutes remaining on the clock and with heavy pressure from Musquin, Roczen over-rotated on a corner and laid his bike down. Last week in Atlanta 3, Roczen had a huge advantage of more than 12 seconds when he put his bike on the ground and eventually finished second, handing the win to Webb.

Roczen’s mistake allowed both Musquin and Webb to get past. With the new leader in sight, Webb closed the gap and was on Musquin’s back wheel at the finish line.

“Second place is never fun, but congrats to Marv; it’s been a long road back for him,” Webb said. “I was pumped for him to go one and two. I didn’t get a great start tonight, which hindered me a little bit. Made some good moves. Was struggling a little bit. … Finally found a good line and felt pretty good. made a good charge there at the end and Marv picked it up at the end.”

POINTS, RESULTS: All the postrace statistics from Round 16 in Supercross

Roczen remounted but lost his momentum and struggled to a sixth-place finish — leaving a 22-point gap between himself and Webb. To win the championship next week, Webb will need to finish only 18th or better regardless of Roczen’s result.

“Everything was going after our plan,” Roczen said. “We executed on the start. Made the right decision to go on the very inside there. I was feeling pretty good early on and then we got into some lappers, and I had to double through this entire rhythm lane, and that cost me a lot of time. The whoops were really tricky. I needed a little more safety. If I could have gotten my bike to settle a little better there it would have gotten me a better over all flow around the track.

“I changed my line up toward the end of the race and I was a little bit better. I came out of that turn and it just happened so quick. I just pushed the front over the bumps and that was the end of that. Lost opportunity the last couple of rounds.

“But what do you want me to do? I try to do my best out there.”

Stewart earned his first career 450 podium finish, pressuring Webb midway through the race in traffic.

“That was such a crazy race,” Stewart said. “Utah fans, you had me all hyped up. This is so awesome to be up here in front and get the weight off my shoulders. It’s a dream come true and I will never forget this moment.”

Dylan Ferrandis finished fourth, which is his best finish since Round 2 in Houston when he scored a runner-up finish. This was also his third top-five in his rookie 450 SX season.

Chase Sexton finished fifth to score his fifth top-five since returning to the lineup at Daytona International Speedway on March 6.

Jason Anderson in sixth, Aaron Plessinger in eighth and Dean Wilson in ninth also scored top-10s.

After crashing early in the race, Eli Tomac was relegated to 10th. He left the stadium 50 points behind Webb and has been mathematically eliminated from contention.

The championship battle was also the top story in the 250 East division as Colt Nichols walked away from the race with a 23-point advantage over second-place.

The second-place rider at the end of the event was not the one expected to be in that position, however.

Christian Craig crashed hard in practice and injured his ankle. He limped heavily off course after the incident and attempted to compete in his heat, but the ankle would not respond. Nichols’ teammate Craig retired from the race and was unable to score any points, which places him 29 markers behind the leader and eliminates him from contention.

Jo Shimoda rose to take his place as Nichols’ principal rival. He led all 19 laps of the race and was only challenged in the closing laps by Jett Lawrence, becoming the first Japanese winner in Supercross.

“Just imagine coming from Japan with only part of your family and one day racing Supercross,” Shimoda reflected from the podium. “And now to compete for winning. That is incredible for me. I just rode my best all day and this is where we ended up.”

Shimoda is the sixth 250 rider to score an inaugural career win this season.

Lawrence closed the gap at the end of the race but came up 1.15 seconds short of winning his third race of the season. Lawrence was victorious at Houston 1 and Orlando 1.

Jett Lawrence congratulated Jo Shimoda after his 250 victory (NBC Sports).

“I’m super-pumped for Jo, he’s a good buddy of mine – so congrats to him,” Lawrence told Christien after the race. “Also, ‘damn you Jo, because I needed those points on you.’ But no, good job to him.

“But as I said I needed those points to at least try and get to third (in the standings), but he rode really good tonight. I just made a few silly mistakes I shouldn’t have made, so I’m a bit bummed about that.”

With the injury to his teammate Craig, Nichols had an opportunity to capitalize and lock up the title.

“The last few laps were a little frustrating honestly,” Nichols said. “The one guy I didn’t need to win (won), but hat’s off to Jo. He rode really well today. And the same to Jett. It was unfortunate what happened to Christian earlier today. I hate to see guys go out like that. I’ve had my fair share of injuries and it’s no fun.

“I needed to get off to a better start and I didn’t. Had to work my way through the pack and there’s a lot on the line here.”

Michael Mosiman finished fourth with Thomas Do rounding out the top five.

ROUND 1, HOUSTON: Justin Barcia wins opener for third consecutive time

ROUND 2, HOUSTON: Eli Tomac rebounds, wins after Round 1 disappointment

ROUND 3, HOUSTON: Cooper Webb wins, Ken Roczen denied revenge

ROUND 4, INDIANAPOLIS: Ken Roczen makes it four winners in four races

ROUND 5, INDIANAPOLIS: Ken Roczen goes back to back for first time since 2017 injury

ROUND 6, INDIANAPOLIS: Ken Roczen is perfect in Indy for third straight win

ROUND 7, ORLANDO: Cooper Webb trims Ken Roczen lead

ROUND 8, ORLANDO: Cooper Webb sweeps Orlando to put pressure on Ken Roczen

ROUND 9, DAYTONA: Eli Tomac ties Ricky Carmichael at Daytona; Ken Roczen, Copper Webb war 

ROUND 10, ARLINGTON: Cooper Webb takes the points lead with five straight top-two finishes

ROUND 11, ARLINGTON: Cooper Webb wins first two races of Arlington residency

ROUND 12, ARLINGTON: Cooper Webb becomes championship favorite with Arlington sweep

ROUND 13, ATLANTA: The infield course at Atlanta gives Eli Tomac a late-season chance

ROUND 14, ATLANTA: A clutch win for Ken Roczen and a gutsy performance for Cameron McAdoo

ROUND 15, ATLANTA: Cooper Webb responds to pressure with Atlanta win

Ford unveils a new Mustang for 2024 Le Mans in motorsports ‘lifestyle brand’ retooling

Ford Mustang Le Mans
Ford Performance

LE MANS, France — Ford has planned a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its iconic Mustang muscle car next year under a massive rebranding of Ford Performance aimed at bringing the automotive manufacturer “into the racing business.”

The Friday unveil of the new Mustang Dark Horse-based race car follows Ford’s announcement in February (and a ballyhooed test at Sebring in March) that it will return to Formula One in 2026 in partnership with reigning world champion Red Bull.

The Mustang will enter the GT3 category next year with at least two cars in both IMSA and the World Endurance Championship, and is hopeful to earn an invitation to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The IMSA entries will be a factory Ford Performance program run by Multimatic, and a customer program in WEC with Proton Competition.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, also an amateur sports car racer, told The Associated Press the Mustang will be available to compete in various GT3 series across the globe to customer teams. But more important, Farley said, is the overall rebranding of Ford Performance – done by renowned motorsports designer Troy Lee – that is aimed at making Ford a lifestyle brand with a sporting mindset.

“It’s kind of like the company finding its own, and rediscovering its icons, and doubling down on them,” Farley told the AP. “And then this motorsports activity is getting serious about connecting enthusiast customers with those rediscovered icons. It’s a big switch for the company – this is really about building strong, iconic vehicles with enthusiasts at the center of our marketing.”

Ford last competed in sports car racing in 2019 as part of a three-year program with Chip Ganassi Racing. The team scored the class win at Le Mans in 2016 in a targeted performance aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ford snapping Ferrari’s six-year winning streak.

Ford on Friday displayed a Mustang with a Lee-designed livery that showcased the cleaner, simplified look that will soon be featured on all its racing vehicles. The traditional blue oval with Ford Performance in white lettering underneath will now be branded simply FP.

The new mark will be used across car liveries, merchandise and apparel, display assets, parts and accessories and in advertising.

Farley cited Porsche as an automaker that has successfully figured out how to sell cars to consumers and race cars in various series around the world while creating a culture of brand enthusiasts. He believes Ford’s new direction will help the company sell street cars, race cars, boost interest in driving schools, and create a merchandise line that convinces consumers that a stalwart of American automakers is a hip, cool brand.

“We’re going to build a global motorsports business off road and on road,” Farley told the AP, adding that the design of the Mustang is “unapologetically American.”

He lauded the work of Lee, who is considered the top helmet designer among race car drivers.

“We’re in the first inning of a nine inning game, and going to Le Mans is really important,” Farley said. “But for customer cars, getting the graphics right, designing race cars that win at all different levels, and then designing a racing brand for Ford Performance that gets rebranded and elevated is super important.”

He said he’s kept a close eye on how Porsche and Aston Martin have built their motorsports businesses and said Ford will be better.

“We’re going in the exact same direction. We just want to be better than them, that’s all,” Farley said. “Second is the first loser.”

Farley, an avid amateur racer himself, did not travel to Le Mans for the announcement. The race that begins Saturday features an entry from NASCAR, and Ford is the reigning Cup Series champion with Joey Logano and Team Penske.

The NASCAR “Garage 56” entry is a collaboration between Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and is being widely celebrated throughout the industry. Farley did feel left out of the party in France – a sentiment NASCAR tried to avoid by inviting many of its partners to attend the race so that it wouldn’t seem like a Chevrolet-only celebration.

“They’re going right and I’m going left – that NASCAR thing is a one-year deal, right? It’s Garage 56 and they can have their NASCAR party, but that’s a one-year party,” Farley said. “We won Le Mans outright four times, we won in the GT class, and we’re coming back with Mustang and it’s not a one-year deal.

“So they can get all excited about Garage 56. I almost see that as a marketing exercise for NASCAR, but for me, that’s a science project,” Farley continued. “I don’t live in a world of science projects. I live in the world of building a vital company that everyone is excited about. To do that, we’re not going to do a Garage 56 – I’ve got to beat Porsche and Aston Martin and Ferrari year after year after year.”

Ford’s announcement comes on the heels of General Motors changing its GT3 strategy next season and ending its factory Corvette program. GM, which unlike Ford competes in the IMSA Grand Touring Prototype division (with its Cadillac brand), will shift fully to a customer model for Corvettes in 2024 (with some factory support in the IMSA GTD Pro category).