Cooper Webb gives thanks (as always) for being on verge of another Supercross title


Cooper Webb never stumbles or slips while confidently and stridently seizing the moment whenever he is (again) at the center of the AMA Monster Energy Supercross Series.

That has happened often this year — though this isn’t a reference to his sublime riding (the KTM Red Bull star has shown to be remarkably resilient this season, particularly in the second half of races).

We’re talking, of course, about the presumptive 2021 450 champion’s remarkably smooth postrace podium interviews.

Webb, who carries a virtually insurmountable 22-point lead over Ken Roczen into Saturday night’s season finale in Salt Lake City, Utah, always wraps up by nailing every sponsor mention along with the shoutouts to his wife, Mariah, and mechanic, Carlos Rivera, without fail.

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Supercross Cooper Webb
Cooper Webb has seven Supercross victories this season and could win his second title in three years Saturday (Feld Entertainment Inc.).

“No, not really, I just always obviously want to give back to the people that have supported me, and continue to support me,” Webb told NBC Sports with a chuckle when asked if he ever practices his pitch-perfect delivery of gratitude. “I think the sponsors are always important, but those individualized positions with my mechanic, my wife, the team managers or whoever it may be, there’s just certain people that it takes an army to make this all happen.

“But you always have those really tight people in your inner circle that got your back through thick and thin, so it’s always nice to just thank them and make them feel special. And I try to give back to my sponsors, because I know how much it means to them and without them, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do. I try to let the fans know how the race was and be honest about how I felt and then give it up to the people that helped me.”

Webb has finished on the podium in 12 of 16 races and has seven victories –the most recent being a testament to the determination and grit that attracted him to KTM.

After a disappointing sixth in the April 13 race at Atlanta Motor Speedway (where Roczen had won to narrow the points gap), Webb made a nine-hour round trip with KTM director of motorsports Roger De Coster, mechanic Carlos Rivera and suspension technician Ryo Okuda to the rider’s home base near Orlando, Florida.

After testing for a full day, Webb and the team drove back Friday to Atlanta, and Webb won the following night to extend his lead again over Roczen.

“It was definitely a busy and eventful week, but I’ve got to give it up to my team for being that committed and focused and willing to take that extra step to ensure a good result,” Webb said. “And obviously it paid off mentally getting the win. It was pretty rewarding. Not everyone is willing to do that. I’ve been on teams where it’s kind of like, ‘Hey, sorry. You’ve got to figure it out.’ So it was super cool.”

Supercross Cooper Webb
Cooper Webb salutes the crowd after a second-place interview in Round 16.

It also was a good reminder of why Webb signed three years ago with KTM, which delivered a title in their first year together and a runner-up finish to Eli Tomac last year.

“They’re the best team in the pits,” Webb said. “I knew that coming in, their mentality of winning. Just being able to adapt and change stuff on the bike to the rider’s liking is huge in our sport. Comfort is super key. That was really the main reason I came here.

“I used to ride for Yamaha, and coming to this brand with guys like Roger De Coster, who is known as the man in our sport for not only his race results but winning championship after championship as a team manager. My mechanic, Carlos, is one of the most winning mechanics there is. Just a really good group of people that we all share that common goal, which is to go win and try to win a championship. They’re super awesome. We work super well together.”

Though De Coster (who was instrumental in the career of four-time champion Ryan Dungey) is the most famous member of the support team, Webb’s constant praise has helped the profile of Rivera (who also worked with Dungey).

Cooper Webb and mechanic Carlos Rivera survey the track before Supercross Round 16 at Salt Lake City, Utah (Feld Entertainment, Inc./Align Media).
Cooper Webb always thanks his wife, Mariah, in his podium interviews.

“Man, he’s just by far the smartest guy and pays the most attention to detail than anyone that I’ve ever worked with,” Webb said of his mechanic. “It’s honestly incredible. When I came here, I was really keen on working with him. It’s important in our sport to have that relationship with your mechanic. Not only he’s the last person touching your bike before you go out to risk your life essentially but also just that connection. He’s the last person that you talk to before you race.

“He’s the only one communicating with me with the pit board each lap. It’s very important to have that awesome relationship with the mechanic on a personal end but as well as the business end. He’s taught me just so much — with attitude, with bike setup, with technique, with starts. Whatever it may be, I owe a lot to him. I don’t think I would be quite where I’m at without him.

“I think for these guys, too, they bust their butts. (Riders) travel a lot, but they travel even more. Having to be here two to three days longer with building the bikes. They change every single part on these motorcycles every single weekend before I race again. It’s a lot of work. He has a family. He sacrifices a lot to be with me.”

Here are four more things to know about Webb before his likely coronation as a two-time Supercross 450 champion Saturday night in Salt Lake City (which also is the focus of a new Moto Spy Supercross Season 5 episode):

–He learned his trade in an unconventional place: Webb was raised in Morehead City, North Carolina, a surfing and fishing town on the North Carolina coast between Wilmington and the Outer Banks. Far from a motorcycle hotbed, Webb learned to race by making daily laps at the same track for a decade (until leaving for California on a professional motocross contract at 16). He got into Supercross because of his father, Bob, a former professional surfer who shapes surfboards for a living.

“He used to ride for fun and race back in the day,” Cooper said of Bob Webb. “When I was born, he’d gotten a motorcycle again to enjoy riding and racing. He was the one who got me into it. There’s actually quite a bit of professional racers from North Carolina. There is a racing presence there, but on the coast, it was definitely not very known, and not a lot of people did it.

“So I feel like I kind of put motorcycle racing and Supercross racing on the map for a lot of people back home. And I have so many fans back home who watch it and never knew what it was, but because I’m a hometown kid. They turn it on and support me, so it’s pretty cool.”

After his career has ended, Webb plans to return to North Carolina (he also lived in the Charlotte area from 2016-18 while riding for Joe Gibbs Racing). “North Carolina is home for me,” he said. “When I retire, I’ll definitely go back.”

Supercross Cooper Webb
Cooper Webb has risen from humble beginnings in Morehead City, North Carolina, to championship rider with KTM Red Bull (Feld Entertainment Inc./Align Media).

–He takes pride in being a Southern boy: After his Atlanta victory, Webb had a special dedication to fans in the South for supporting Supercross. That stems from having been a fan attending the annual Supercross event at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

“Obviously, this year was different being at the speedway, but just all day, seeing fans and the Southern hospitality that they have, and a lot of people from North Carolina that I saw,” Webb said. “As a North Carolinian, we’re very prideful of where we came from, and there’s not really a lot of professional racers from there, and especially very successful ones.

“I’m super prideful of it, and I try to make it known. It is super special to have those fans that are really embracing you and connect on that level of just being from the South. I can always relate to that, and it always feels special when I can have a good result on places more east or south.”

He also has NASCAR connections through his time in the Charlotte area. Before the Atlanta races, Webb and defending Cup Series champion Chase Elliott did an amusing Instagram video that Alan Gustafson, Elliott’s crew chief, helped arrange.

“I’ve met him before one time,” Webb said of Elliott. “I actually have a ton of friends still that live in North Carolina, and more in that Mooresville area, so they kind of connected with his crew chief, AG, who I’ve met before.

“I knew Chase, that’s his home speedway and stuff. So it was pretty cool. I know he follows Supercross a little bit, but I’m sure he probably can’t get out and ride too much, but yeah, it was pretty funny to hear his words of encouragement. Yeah, it’s cool to interact. He’s at the pinnacle of NASCAR, and so it was really cool to have him collab and us try to reach out to the fans and get something different going.”

–He celebrates getting under the skin of his rivals: NBC Sports analyst Ricky Carmichael recently said on the NASCAR America MotorMouths show that “Cooper Webb is a warrior, a fighter. He will wear you down. He plays games with you and just irritates you. He’s got every facet of the game figured out, and that’s what makes him so tough.

“It always seems like he races with a chip on his shoulder. If his bike isn’t working right, he doesn’t let that faze him.”

Webb’s reaction to that description?

“Absolutely,” he said. “I take a lot of pride in that for sure. I feel like I have really good race strategies, and I just feel I have a lot of confidence in myself. Whether practice doesn’t go well, or I have a bad heat race or gate pick, or whatever the consequences are, I just feel like every time I line up on the starting line for a main event, I have a chance to go win.

“I think that’s hard to do at our level. It’s such a physically demanding sport, but it’s more even mentally demanding sport. Yeah, I feel like that’s a fair statement (by Carmichael). I’m not always the fastest, I’m not always the flashiest, but I feel like no matter what, when I’m on that starting line that I have a shot to win a race and be on the podium, so that’s what I try to pride myself and remind myself.

“This year, I think I’ve gotten a lot better as a racer and racecraft but also with my speed and technique. I think it’s all experience, too. Every season you complete you learn more, and I’m only 25, so I’m kind of just hitting those golden years.”

–He believes this could have been his third consecutive title: A nasty tumble in the Arlington, Texas, round last year briefly left Webb without feeling in his lower extremities, but he still finished 12th in the triple-moto event and rebounded to win three of the final seven races after a two-month break for the pandemic.

Webb said “the crazy crash I had, in my opinion, kind of took me away from (the 202 Supercross) championship” and a back injury later sidelined him from the motocross season.

“That’s racing, and you have those adversities,” said Webb, who overcame a 16-point deficit to Roczen through six races this year. “I always feel super rewarded when I can fight back from adversity and not lose that faith not only in myself but just that things are going to work out. This one has been a very trying year. It’s been a great year to obviously claw my way back into the points lead, but then be able to take the red plate and lead. If I can execute and keep things going as planned and win another (title), it would mean the world.”

Supercross Cooper Webb
Cooper Webb catches some air during Supercross Round 16 in Salt Lake City (Feld Entertainment, Inc./Align Media).

IndyCar champion Will Power completes ‘Victory Lap’ at ceremony in Indianapolis

Will Power Victory Lap
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment

INDIANAPOLIS – Will Power went on his “Victory Lap” last week to celebrate his second career championship as the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series champion.

It began with several media interviews in Monterey, California, the day after he won the championship with a third-place finish in the Sept. 11 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey.

From there, it was off to Los Angeles for more interviews and personal appearances that included a VIP Tour at the Petersen Automotive Museum, several appearances on SiriusXM and lunch at The Ivy, where the Team Penske IndyCar Series driver was treated to Wagyu Beef.

“It was one of the best steaks I’ve ever had in my life,” Power told

From L.A. back to Power’s North Carolina home, near Team Penske’s home base of Mooresville, there was one stop left on Sept. 17 — the Victory Lap Celebration at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, an invitation-only banquet where Power and his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet crew at Team Penske were honored for the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series championship.

They didn’t even have to check into a hotel and spend another night on the road. Power and his team left on a Team Penske plane from the Statesville, N.C., airport at 4 p.m. ET Saturday to fly to Indianapolis. On arrival an hour later, a limo bus took the team to IMS.

Power led the 2022 season with five NTT P1 Awards for pole, earning the NTT P1 Award as the best qualifier of the season for the fifth time in his career. Power also made history with his 68th career pole, breaking the all-time mark held by the legendary Mario Andretti.

Power and Scott Dixon also became just two of only five drivers to complete every lap of every race in IndyCar Series history.

“What a year,” Power said as he was awarded his personal Astor Cup trophy (the second in his collection after the 2014 championship. “What a phenomenal year coming off one of my worst seasons personally. We came back with a vengeance.

“I want to thank Roger and Kathy Penske for everything they have done for me over the years. I wouldn’t be standing here and have the numbers I have without what Roger has done for me. I’m given a car every week that is capable of winning the pole, races, championships, and Indianapolis 500s. I’m so grateful for that.

“Also, to Greg Penske, you are there every week now at every event and I know we will be in good hands moving forward with the Penske Family.”

There are many on Power’s team and at home, that helped support Power throughout his career. None is bigger than Power’s wife, Liz, who told Power before the season that he would win the championship and break Andretti’s record.

“I must thank my wife. I’m so lucky to have a wife with that crystal ball that can tell me what is going to happen,” Power said. “I can’t think you enough, babe. I love you so much and you have been a big support to me my whole career. We’ve been together 17 years, and I’ve been in the series 17 years. She has been such a huge support to me. The mother of our child and she is a fantastic mother.

“She can’t tell the future. She just had faith in me.”

Liz Power’s premonition came true and that allowed Power and his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet team to celebrate Penske’s 17th IndyCar championship and 42nd title in the racing team’s history.

“The 12 crew this year, I’ve never had such a great group of guys,” Power said. “Trevor Lacasse (chief mechanic) is such a calm guy, but he does such a meticulous job on the preparation of the car. He is very, very good at keeping the whole crew happy. It feels as if there is no pressure on us. That’s a huge part in getting the most out of people. It was our first year together with you as a crew chief. What a great year to start our relationship.

“Dave Faustino (Power’s longtime engineer), we’ve worked together for 15 years. He’s almost like a wife to me, a partner … apart from sleeping together. We have a very good working relationship. Sorry Dave, I’m an awkward person and you are not.

“The things we have been through in our years together, it’s crazy that we continually improve and get better. We are standing on the podium after winning the championship and we are talking about the car, the race, and the tires. We weren’t talking about the championship.

“We never stop. The other boys were laughing at us, but I’m already thinking about next year.

“Ron Ruzewski (Team Penske IndyCar Managing Director and strategist) on the radio, always calm. He has actually made me a calm person. I rarely get upset on the radio anymore.”

Power also recognized the fans who helped boost attendance at many venues on the schedule this season as NBC Sports enjoyed its largest IndyCar audience yet.

“This series is growing,” Power said. “With open wheel racing now so popular because of Formula One, it’s really our time to push and put money behind it and go now and take IndyCar to another level because we have the best racing product in the world.

“I have to thank my teammates and (Team Penske president) Tim Cindric. I can’t tell you how hard we push each other. We are ultracompetitive and love each other and push each other hard, so thank you.”

Power won the championship by 16 points over hard-charging teammate Josef Newgarden, who finished second in the standings for the third year in a row.

“Overall, I’m filled with a lot of pride for our team and what we were able to do this year,” Newgarden said in his banquet address. “Any year that you step in the championship, you can easily see the challenges it presents everybody.

“It’s a very difficult challenge for the teams and drivers. To be a part of it, make it through it and for us at Team Penske, to topple it, is a very big deal. We’re all competitive.

“The tough thing about being in a championship fight, especially with teammates is we all want to be the best. That’s how it should be. We are competitive people and want to be the best. But it’s a team sport.

“Will, tremendous season, great, great job. I think the world of everybody on our team. It’s a big group. I’m so happy for all of you on the 12-car crew. There is so much we can take into next year.”

Six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon was unable to attend the banquet because of the Goodwood Festival in England but sent congratulations to Power via a video message.

“I really want to congratulate Will Power,” Dixon said. “You drove a tremendous season this year. Even with some of the lows that you had, some of the mistakes with qualifying, you bounced back tremendously. I know how tough these championships are and to see you do it in the style that you did it in the last race of the season, massive congratulations.”

Power’s championship formula included one victory, nine podiums and 12 top-five finishes. Teammate Josef Newgarden was second in the championship with five wins but only six podiums.

Cindric saluted Power’s season in accepting the championship team owner award.

“Will, you took it to another level this year,” Cindric said. “You are the complete package. You completed every lap, had nine podiums, finished out of the top 10 just four times, broke Mario Andretti’s record, and you did it all without cussing at the officials on national TV.

“One complaint I do has is while most of us think you might be from another planet, you never told us your wife was a fortune teller.”

Cindric also honored the seasons of Penske drivers Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin, who won three times in his second full season (“You are one of only two full-time IndyCar drivers that has driven for us in the past 23 years that hasn’t won an Indy 500 or an IndyCar championship. Your time is coming.”).

Kyle Moyer was named team manager of the year (his fifth time and Penske’s sixth). Pennzoil presented Lacasse with the chief mechanic of the year for the first time, the sixth time for Team Penske. The No. 12 crew also won the Firestone Pit Performance Award for the most pit stop performance award points in 2022.

Power, Newgarden and McLaughlin delivered nine of Chevrolet’s series-leading 11 victories this season, helping Chevy win the Manufacturer Award for the seventh time since it returned to the series in 2012 and the first time since 2017. Jim Danahy, U.S. vice president, Competition Motorsports Engineering for Chevrolet, accepted the award on behalf of his team.

Christian Lundgaard was honored as the 2022 NTT IndyCar rookie of the year. Lundgaard, from Denmark, scored one podium, two top-five finishes and seven top-10s in the No. 30 Honda fielded by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. He edged David Malukas of Dale Coyne Racing with HMD by 18 points in the standings for first-year series drivers.

Christian Lundgaard (Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

“It’s been a tough season and looking at how it panned out, we struggled so much at the beginning of the season and how we were able to turn it around means so much to me and the team,” Lundgaard said. “It’s the one thing that you only get one shot at. I’m happy to have it.

“Being the first Dane at the Indy 500 certainly helps. Competing here for me is quite important and also special. To win this award and to be here in future years means so much to me. I have a chance to compete for wins and championships.

“This team gave me this opportunity at this track one year ago. We came back and got redemption. We got our first podium here. This year was 40 years ago that Bobby Rahal won the same award. It’s pretty special to keep it among the team.”

Sweden’s Linus Lundqvist was honored as Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion after a dominant season for HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing. Lundqvist won a series-high five races in the No. 26 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing entry and clinched the Lights championship with a race to spare, ending with a 92-point advantage over Sting Ray Robb. HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing owners Henry and Daiva Malukas accepted the team championship.

“I’m very proud of that,” Lundqvist said. “It’s cool to see. We are starting to look to the future, and this might not be doing too bad. It’s been great. As most of you can guess with Henry and Daiva Malukas (team owners), it’s been an incredible journey. So much fun that we’ve had. To be on the grid this year was so much of a struggle for us. I didn’t even know I would be doing this until January.

“To be able to pull out the season that we had, I cannot thank this team enough. We will celebrate this for a long time. I’m so happy and proud about that.”

Outgoing IndyCar Director of Medical Affairs Dr. Geoffrey Billows also was honored as he is leaving that role while battling cancer.

“When I think of Dr. Billows, I think of two words,” IndyCar president Jay Frye said. “One is selfless and the other is tough. He’s gone through a lot these last couple of years, and he didn’t want anybody to know. He’s an amazing man, and we are very grateful for what you have done.”

Dr. Geoffrey Billows with IndyCar president Jay Frye (Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

Billows was presented with a framed checkered flag signed by all drivers in the series as well as other IndyCar officials and dignitaries.

“I was not expecting this at all,” Billows said. “This means so much for me to be part of this family for the past 30 years. I’ve been presented with opportunities I never thought I would ever have. I can’t tell you how much I love all of you guys and care for all of you guys.

“Thank you so much. I want to also thank my wife, Tammy, who has been a pillar of strength as I continue on this journey with cancer for the past two years as well. You will still see me as a consultant because I love this too much to quit altogether.”

When the evening concluded, Team Penske boarded a bus to the airport for the short return flight to Statesville. They were home by midnight.

Power’s Victory Lap was complete.

“The best thing about this is I get to sleep in my own bed tonight,” Power said.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500