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

The Thermal Club wants an IndyCar race, and series executives liked its initial impact at test


THERMAL, Calif. – Many teams in the NTT IndyCar Series questioned the relevancy of having a two-day preseason test at The Thermal Club.

The team owners, drivers and engineers believed the 17-turn, 3.067-mile race course that winds and twists its way through a gated private community (about 45 minutes southeast of Palm Springs) had no relevance to any track on the 17-race schedule.

To the leaders of IndyCar, however, there was plenty of relevance to hosting its “Spring Training” at a sort of motorsports country club that caters to extremely wealthy residents who also are automotive enthusiasts.

“Both with our stakeholders and the media that covers IndyCar, we wanted them to know that we are going to do things differently,” Penske Entertainment CEO Mark Miles told NBC Sports from the private VIP viewing area that overlooks the long straights and twisting turns of the course. “This is going to be a year when we expect our growth to go to a whole new level.

“What better way to send that message than to be at a place we have never been that is exceptional?

“The quality of this place; the facilities are off the charts. The customer service, the welcoming feeling you get from the staff here. The track itself is fast. The drivers are having a great time on it.

FRIDAY SPEEDSThird session l Fourth session l Combined

‘AN AMAZING PLACE’: IndyCar and its big plans for Thermal

“It really sent a message to our other promoters and our drivers and team owners that something is up. We want fans around the country and the sports industry to know that something is going on with IndyCar this year.”

The Thermal Club is a concept driven by Tim Rogers, who made his fortune by supplying gasoline to 7-Eleven stores in 36 states. He wanted to create a private community that mixed multimillion-dollar homes and luxury villas with a high-speed race course.

The two-day IndyCar “Spring Training” was the most ambitious motorsports project yet for The Thermal Club.

Rogers wants it to be the first step in a long-term goal for the community.

“Our endgame is we want to host an IndyCar Series race at The Thermal Club one day,” Rogers told NBC Sports as IndyCar hit the track again Friday morning. “This was a good trial to see how the facility can handle it and if the facility works for them.”

Felix Rosenqvist makes laps in the No. 6 Arrow McLaren Dallara-Chevrolet during the first day of NTT IndyCar Series testing (Andy Abeyta/The Desert Sun / USA TODAY Sports Images).

The two-day test was closed to the general public. It was open only to credentialed news media, members of the Thermal Club and a limited number of their guests.

With the spectacular backdrop of the Coachella Valley that is rimmed with snow-capped mountains, The Thermal Club could provide a great setting for an NBC telecast of an IndyCar Series race (and possibly line up a big sponsor for a return on its investment with a larger than normal audience during a ripe time such as the first weekend of February).

NASCAR is using that same model Sunday at the Los Angeles Coliseum by hosting the Busch Light Clash. The National Football League’s AFC and NFC Championship games were last weekend and next Sunday is the Super Bowl.

“That could work, but we have room where we could separate the public and the private members area, too,” Rogers said. “We could accommodate 4,000 or so of the general public.

“This would be a premium event for a premium crowd.”

Rogers’ dream of The Thermal Club began 11 years ago. He will talk to IndyCar about a return for Spring Training next year with hopes of getting a date on the schedule for 2025.

“Whatever fits,” Rogers said.

Miles and Penske Entertainment, the owners of IndyCar, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the Indianapolis 500, realize Rogers has an ambitious dream of getting a race on the schedule.

Miles, however, isn’t ready to indicate that a race at Thermal is part of IndyCar’s future (though drivers seem open to the concept).

“Tim and everybody at The Thermal Club have done a phenomenal job of being hosts here for this test,” Miles said. “Everybody is very happy we are here, and I expect we will find a way to continue to be here. Whether that means a race and when is really a bridge we aren’t ready to cross yet.

“We really like opening the championship season each year in St. Petersburg, Florida. We’ll have to see. But it’s a great way to start the season in this way, and right now, we are happy to be here.”

Indycar Series Test - Day 1
Defending IndyCar champion Will Power takes laps at The Thermal Club during the first day of the track’s first test (Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images).

On track, it was a successful two-day test session with 27 car/driver combinations that will compete in IndyCar in 2023. It’s the largest field for IndyCar since the 1990s. There were a few spins here and there but no major incidents across 2,560 laps.

Kyle Kirkwood led the final session Friday while getting acquainted with his new No. 27 team at Andretti Autosport. Kirkwood has replaced Alexander Rossi at Andretti, whom Kirkwood drove for in Indy Lights.

His time of 1 minute, 38.827 seconds (111.721 mph) around the 3.067-mile road course was the fastest of the fourth and final session. But the fastest speed over two days was defending Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson of Chip Ganassi Racing in the Friday morning session (1:38.4228, 112.182 mph in the No. 8 Honda).

Callum Ilott of Juncos Hollinger Racing was second in the final session at 1:38.8404 (111.707 mph) in the No. 77 Chevrolet. Rookie Marcus Armstrong of New Zealand was third at 1:38.8049 (111.707 mph) in the No. 11 Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing. Alex Palou of Chip Ganassi Racing was fourth at 1:38.8718 (111.672 mph) in the No. 10. Defending NTT IndyCar Series champion Will Power of Team Penske rounded out the top five at 1:38.9341 (111.602 mph) in the No. 12 Chevrolet.

Ericsson was the fastest in combined times followed by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Christian Lundgaard at 1:38.5682 in the No. 45 Honda, Kirkwood, Ilott and Armstrong. Positions 3-5 speeds were from the final practice session on Friday.

Indycar Series Test - Day 1
With members’ houses in the background, Romain Grosjean navigates the turns of The Thermal Club in his No. 28 Dallara-Honda (Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images).

Drivers didn’t know what to expect before hitting the track. After the two-day test was over, NBC Sports asked several drivers what they learned from The Thermal Club.

“I think it’s a first-class facility, no doubt,” two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden of Team Penske said. “I think the entire facility here at Thermal really rolled out the red carpet for us. They did a tremendous job.

“It was a fairly flawless test, I would say, for two days. I think the great thing about this was we had a two-day test, which was fantastic. You got to have this warmup; this preseason build. That was the biggest positive for me, is that we were here, we were running cars. It was a great facility to do it at.

IndyCar Thermal Club test
Josef Newgarden said his No. 2 team (which has a new lead engineer) used The Thermal Club test as an opportunity for building cohesion (Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images).
Indycar Series Test - Day 2
Josef Newgarden (Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images).

“I think the track was a lot more fun than we anticipated. It was challenging, definitely technical. I don’t know how relevant it is. For us, it wasn’t really relevant to anywhere we’re going, but that’s OK.”

But even though the track has no sector particularly similar to any road or street course on the schedule, there still were benefits.

“In a lot of ways, it is relevant,” Newgarden said. “For us it was relevant for building the team up, trying to work in a competitive environment, be competitive together. That’s everything. So regardless of is the setup going to apply to a certain track or another, (it) doesn’t really matter.

“For us, it was applying the principles of how we’re going to work together. From that standpoint, it was very productive for everybody. Raceability-wise, it’s hard to say. It was chewing tires up. Big drop-off from run one to two. I think from a race standpoint, that would be quite positive. You’d have big tire deg here.

“You’d have to do more work on runoff areas if we wanted to race here, but it’s possible. I don’t think it would take much effort to do the things to run an actual race.”

Indycar Series Test - Day 1
Will Power (Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images)

Kirkwood found speed in his Andretti Autosport machine, but he used the test to create a smooth working relationship with his new crew.

“I wouldn’t say that we found something here that is going to translate to anywhere, right?” the 2021 Indy Lights champion said. “This is a very unique track, although it was a lot of fun to drive, and it kind of surprised me in the amount of grip that it actually produced.

“It was quite a bit faster than what we expected.”

Many of the NTT IndyCar Series teams will test later this month at Sebring, Florida, as they prepare for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg to kick off the season March 5.

“It’s a very nice facility, a nice area, it’s pretty cool to have two days of testing here with a lot of high-profile people,” two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Will Power of Team Penske told NBC Sports. “It’s a very technical, tough track.

“It’s pretty good.”

Indycar Series Test - Day 2
IndyCar drivers turns laps on the second day of testing at The Thermal Club, which is nestled in the Coachella Valley that is ringed by mountains in Southern California (Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images).

The Thermal Club received rave reviews, welcomed IndyCar and provided exposure to the movers and shakers of the business community that own the luxury villas and homes in this ultra-rich community.

Could it be a venue of the future for a series that sells lifestyle as much as on-track competition?

“This is a fantastic facility and the circuit is a fast circuit,” team owner Bobby Rahal told NBC Sports. “It’s pretty exciting to watch the cars run around here. I think it would be attractive to people.

“I’ll leave that up to Mark Miles and (IndyCar President) Jay Frye and everybody else whether we have a race here, but why not?

“It’s a great place.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500