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

Tom Blomqvist keeps eye on IndyCar during impressive rise: ‘ I would love to give it a go’


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In between two of his latest superstar-driver-in-waiting performances, Tom Blomqvist walked through the Daytona International Speedway garage in anonymity.

“Nobody knows who the (expletive) I am,” he said to a team member with a laugh (and without a trace of being miffed), evincing the cheeky humor of someone born in England, raised in New Zealand and also of Swedish descent.

The lack of recognition in the garage might have been because he was clad in a relatively nondescript shirt, hat and sunglasses instead of a colorful firesuit covered by sponsor logos. But he also was on the way to a Friday race eve media availability where his entrance was greeted by only one reporter (after a few minutes).

During a news conference a day earlier, he sat patiently on the dais while his Indy 500-winning teammates and car owner fielded nearly all the questions – even though Blomqvist had turned maybe the most impressive lap of the month to win the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole position in the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category.

The Meyer Shank Racing driver still might lack the attention commensurate with his already world-class CV (which expanded Sunday with his second consecutive Rolex 24  victory for MSR), but Blomqvist, 29, clearly isn’t bothered by it.

He carries the quiet confidence of knowing his immense talent will ensure results that will make him impossible to ignore.

“To a degree, I guess, it’s definitely ramped up a lot for me,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports. “In America, I’m starting to get a lot more (attention). In the last year, I’ve quite often got a lot of maybe what you’d call the glory moments. It’s been fun. And within the paddock, there’s a lot of respect for me anyway. It’s been good.”

There have been several moments of acclaim since he joined MSR barely a year ago in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. In his first start for the team at last year’s Rolex 24, Blomqvist turned in a Herculean performance to position the No. 60 Acura for the victory (giving way to Helio Castroneves because he was too “cooked” to complete the last 74 minutes).

He was even better this year at Daytona.

He ripped off a monster “one and done” pole-winning lap to beat the clock in qualifying on the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course. During the race, Blomqvist was as dominant in his first stint as his last in the ARX-06 while taking the checkered flag. He set the mark for the fastest time on Lap 6 that no one topped over the final 755 laps.

The 10 fastest laps in the race belonged to Blomqvist, carrying over his speed from the 2022 when he won the Petit Le Mans season finale to clinch the premier prototype championship at Michelin Road Atlanta.

A year earlier at the same track, he had burst onto the radar of car owner Mike Shank, who was intrigued by Blomqvist’s results as a BMW factory driver in the Formula E and DTM series. In 2014, Blomqvist also finished between second in F3, between champion Esteban Ocon (now with Alpine’s F1 team) and Max Verstappen (who has won the past two Formula One championships).

“He did a lot of high-level stuff, and then kind of fell out of favor, or I don’t know what happened, but he was a free agent,” Shank said. “I started looking at his numbers, and I’m like, ‘We should test this guy. So I take him to Road Atlanta in the fall of ’21, and he got in the car and just slayed it.”

Within minutes, he had called co-owner Jim Meyer.

“I’ve got our guy,” Shank said. “This is our guy. There’s no question about it.

Honda Performance Development president David Salters hugs Tom Blomqvist after the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

“Now what’s happened, though, and I think if you look back at the Rolex here last year (and) what he did, he’s a gold nugget. He reminds me a little bit when (Robert) Wickens came into IndyCar out of DTM (as a rookie in 2018).

“He truly believes he’s the fastest guy out there, and he proved it (at the Rolex 24).”

Said David Salters, president for Honda Performance Development: “We love Tom. He’s the real deal, isn’t he? Immensely talented, super smart, and on it.

The great thing about our teams, the strength in depth is tremendous. But if you look through the sports car racing now, that’s the standard you have to have. Tom, brilliant, Filipe (Albuquerque), brilliant. Ricky (Taylor). You can go through that list. They’re all superstars. Tom is awesome. His lap in qualifying quite frankly was unbelievable.”

Having conquered one of the world’s greatest endurance races twice with Acura, Blomqvist could be ticketed for the world’s biggest race next – the Indy 500 — with HPD’s primary brand.

He tested a Dallara-Honda for MSR last October at Sebring International Raceway, and while he plans to focus solely on IMSA this season, he remains very intrigued by IndyCar.

And with Castroneves, 47, beginning a one-year deal with MSR’s IndyCar team, there could be an obvious opening in 2024.

“Obviously, it’s not in the cards this year,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports the day before the Rolex. “Yeah, I would love to give it a go. To be honest, I think that would be an amazing step for me in my career. I enjoy the sports car stuff so much. It’s been really good to me lately. I really enjoyed the style of racing.

“But I feel like IndyCar would be a step up for me and my career. It would be fantastic if I could get that opportunity. But yeah, I guess I have to keep pushing Mike or something to give me a shot. But obviously for now, the focus is here in the sports car stuff. It’s not really down to me at the end of the day. And I’ve got to do my job and then the people who pay the bills and make the decisions obviously have to decide if that’s something worth pursuing.

“But yeah, I’d love to give it a go, and I definitely would be up for it.”

Tom Blomqvist after winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole on the final qualifying lap (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

A transition from IMSA to IndyCar naturally would be easier than switching teams, but it also would be comfortable because Blomqvist already seems such a good fit at MSR.

It might have seemed an unusual pairing given his European-heavy background, but Blomqvist likes the Midwestern culture that’s been built at MSR. Based just outside Columbus, Ohio, the team’s shop has “no egos, and that just enables each and every one of to reach our potential.

“Obviously, with Honda, we obviously have some great resources, but we’re up against Porsche, BMW and some big heavy hitters in the motorsports world,” he said. “I wouldn’t say we’ve got a huge team compared to them, but we’ve obviously got a very capable team, and I think that’s what has been so impressive and really, really nice to see about the work that’s been done. No stone has been left unturned.”

Blomqvist still is living in Europe and planning to commute for the nine-race GTP schedule (which has a nearly two-month break after the Rolex 24 until the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring). But though he’s “got good friends in America, so I do have places to stay,” he seems open to being based more permanently near MSR in America.

“Let’s see what the future brings, and if that means me spending more time over here,” he said. “It’s a fantastic team. It’s a different environment to what I’m used to. It’s obviously now a hugely successful team, but it is a small team. It does feel like a very small family-operated team, which it is.

“I think Mike’s really just built this thing. It hasn’t happened overnight. Mike’s a great guy and put a lot of trust and faith in me, and I played a relatively good part in some of the success last year. I was able to reward him and give him my all every time I’m on track, and he respects that. But we are still a small team. In the grand scheme of things, we still are a really, really small team.”

Blomqvist said the BMW factory program would have two or three times the staffing of MSR – just on one of its two GTP cars.

“But it’s not the number of people that makes a difference, it’s the quality of people, and obviously Mike and HPD are a fantastic operation to go racing,” Blomqvist said. “We’re racers at heart.

“I’ve been part of some big outfits, and the European way of working is very, very different to how people go about racing in America. I’d say it’s more seat of your pants. A lot of emotion and kind of rides on that competitive spirt, competitive nature and on their personalities. It’s a lot more pure. It feels very pure. You want to win, so we go out and don’t cut corners on trying to win.”

Though it’s aligned with Liberty Media and has big-budget backing and support from Honda Performance Development, MSR also is much less corporate than most GTP teams.

A longtime and respected team owner who has built a sponsor portfolio, Shank also describes his maniacal dedication to success as “messed up,” and he’s known for dropping vulgarities into postrace interview with his blunt and self-deprecating sense of humor.

Meyer Shank Racing co-owner Mike Shank congratulates Tom Blomqvist on the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole position (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

With a more laid-back but sometimes just as biting demeanor, Blomqvist has become the team’s unquestioned leader behind the wheel

“I definitely feel a lot more immersed,” he said. “Within the team, I was a bit more of an unknown quantity the start of last year. Obviously after last season, the team trusts me a lot. And that gives me a lot of pleasure, pride and confidence. In this sport, confidence is a huge aspect of drivers’ psychology in a way. We’re in extremely high-pressure moments where my job is to perform under the pressure of these organizations and the brand as well.

“It’s just a good, healthy team to be a part of. It’s a high-pressure environment, but the team obviously have put a lot of faith in me, and I’ve been able to deliver for them on occasions.”

Rolex 24 starting lineup
Tom Blomqvist celebrates after winning the pole in the No. 60 Acura ARX-06 (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).