Cooper Webb caps 2021 championship with eighth Supercross win in Round 17 at Salt Lake City


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.

Cooper Webb earned his second championship in the past three years with Ken Roczen second and Eli Tomac third in the points. Feld Entertainment, Inc.

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.

MORE: Cooper Webb on the verge of the 2021 title

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.

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.

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

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).