Cooper Webb capped off the 2021 Monster Energy Supercross season with his eighth win of the season in Round 17 at Salt Lake City, Utah and his second championship in the past three years.
All Webb needed to secure his second 450 Supercross championship was a 19th-place finish, but that is not the way Webb rides.
When he saw Ken Roczen grab the holeshot, Webb’s competitive nature overrode any niggling thought of riding safely. Webb pressured Roczen throughout the first half of the race, even though the only chance he had of losing was to experience a catastrophic crash.
Webb stalked Roczen, never allowing his principle rival for the championship a moment to breathe. As the two concentrated on one another, Roczen’s teammate Chase Sexton caught the duo and passed them for the lead.
As the championship battle shifted to second, Webb felt Roczen took a swipe or two at his front wheel whenever he tried to come alongside. When it came time to make the decisive pass with about six minutes remaining, Webb nudged Roczen with his knee and moved the No. 94 off line – insuring that Roczen would not be able to retaliate in the next corner.
That was all it took.
Now in second, Webb set his sights on Sexton, caught him two minutes later and made the final pass for the lead.
Webb’s path to the championship began with a sweep of the Orlando residency’s two races. Since then, he has stood on the podium eight times in nine races, putting unrelenting pressure on field.
Seven of Webb’s eight wins came during that span.
Webb ended the season and a 35-point advantage over Roczen, whose four wins places him second on that chart. Eli Tomac scored three wins in route to a third-place finish in the points.
“It’s an incredible feeling,” Webb told NBC Sports’ Will Christien after the race. “This has been a heck of a year with everything in the world going on. We dug deep this year and stayed the course. It’s been an incredible journey, hard-fought season, a lot of hard races – a lot of good, a lot of bad, but this is worth it right here.
“Being a two-time champion is incredible. To get the win tonight is the cherry on top.”
POINTS, RESULTS: All the postrace statistics from Round 17 in Supercross
Webb’s teammate Marvin Musquin was able to get around Sexton near the end of the race. He won his first 450 race of the season last week in Salt Lake City 1 and scored back-to-back podiums for the first time since returning to action following a knee injury.
Sexton was denied his first 450 class win, but his third-place finish must have been rewarding nonetheless. Forced to sit out the middle portion of the season after a hard crash while leading Houston 2, Sexton was never in the title chase. He chose the tough infield circuit at Daytona International Speedway for his return, only to finish eighth in that race. It took four more attempts before he found the podium.
Sexton posted back to back runner-up finishes in Atlanta 1 and 2, but then slipped backward in the pack before securing his third podium in five races Saturday night.
Earlier in the afternoon, Dylan Ferrandis was awarded the 450 Rookie of the Year award. He used that motivation to finish fourth for the second consecutive time.
Malcolm Stewart backed up his career-first podium last week with a fifth-place finish Saturday night – his fifth of the season. Stewart has performed well at Salt Lake City. Last year when the series ran out the 2020 season on this track, he earned three top-fives in seven starts.
Joey Savatgy in sixth, Justin Barcia in seventh and Aaron Plessinger in eighth grabbed the next three spots.
That left the title contenders to battle over the final positions in the top 10.
After winning his heat, Tomac had a bad start to the evening and fell as low as 12th. He mounted a charge, cut could only get up to ninth at the checkers.
Having lost his rhythm, Roczen faded all the way to 10th at the end of the race, which was his worst result of 2021.
The 250 class featured a shootout between the East and West riders.
Jett Lawrence won the battle, but Colt Nichols won the war in the 250 East class with Justin Cooper was victorious in 250 West.
“It wasn’t looking good for me this weekend,” Lawrence said after the race. “I came in with a little bit of a cold. Before this moto, after the heat, I was coughing my gut up. I didn’t think a win was possible. Our goal was to get both the Lawrence brothers on the podium and thankfully we got that done.”
Nichols grabbed the early lead as chaos erupted behind him on the first lap. He developed a solid advantage in the first half of the race, but after Lawrence separated himself from a spirited battle involving Cameron McAdoo and Hunter Lawrence, he quickly chased Nichols down.
With the big picture in mind, Nichols’ mechanic instructed him let Jett go and settle in safely at second.
“It’s surreal,” Nichols told NBC Sports’ Daniel Blair. “I’ve dreamed of holding one of these No. 1 plates, just like everyone that’s held one says.
“It’s been hell. I’ve had some horrible years, some tough years with injury. We’re dirt bike racers. We all go through it. You get knocked down time and again and it gets harder to get back up. But we just kept fighting. Kept digging.”
Nichols scored three wins during the season and never finished off the podium.
— Supercross LIVE! (@SupercrossLIVE) May 2, 2021
They were joined on the podium by Jett’s brother Hunter.
“Jett was holding me up the first few laps and then I went down,” Lawrence said. “Take that little brother: ‘I was catching you.” It felt good to get both of us on the podium.”
McAdoo scored his seventh top-10 in nine races by finishing fourth.
The 250 Rookie of the Year, Seth Hammaker rounded out the top five.
For the first time this season, Jo Shimoda finished outside the top five in sixth. He was coming off his first 250 win last week and had the best opportunity to catch Nichols in the points standings. Shimoda finished second in the championship hunt.
Pierce Brown finished seventh with Jalek Swoll in eighth.
— Supercross LIVE! (@SupercrossLIVE) May 2, 2021
Justin Cooper saw the intense battles in front of him and knew that he only needed a solid run to secure the 250 West championship. After getting booted off course by Hunter Lawrence in his heat, Cooper chose discretion in the Main.
“There is such a story behind this,” Cooper said. “I went all the way through public school and even a year of college.
“I gave my all (during) my last year riding amateur and Star Racing gave me an opportunity to go ride for them. It’s been head down ever since. I’ve been runner-up in this championship the last couple of years. It’s been in my head to get this done.
“It wasn’t looking pretty in the beginning. I broke my foot right before this series started, only had a few days to prep and get back in the first round. I was even questioning if I was going to race this year.”
Kyle Peters rounded out the top 10.
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
ROUND 16, SALT LAKE CITY: Marvin Musquin wins, Cooper Webb closes in on second championship