TAMPA, Florida – After getting off to a strong start with runner-up finishes in the first two races of 2023, Cooper Webb finished fourth overall in Anaheim 2’s Triple Crown format and ‘struggled’ last week with a fifth-place finish in the Houston Main, but with Monster Energy Supercross championships in 2019 and 2021, he’s looking to be the odd man in again this season. After all, he sits third in the standings, only 12 points out of first, and is one of just two riders who have swept the top five in the first four races of 2023.
Webb led most of the 2019 season with eight wins and an 18-point margin over Eli Tomac. Momentum was building.
But Tomac was always there, lurking in the shadows. And when Webb struggled in 2020, Tomac responded by winning the championship by 25 points – a full-race advantage.
When Webb won his first title in 2019 there was a lot of negativity surrounding his effort. Multiple injuries when he with Yamaha were fresh in the fans’ minds, but Webb was determined to tackle his new ride with Red Bull KTM with a positive mindset. He learned to shut out the noise.
In 2019, he got a poor start to the season with a fifth in the opener at Anaheim and a 10th the next week in Glendale, Arizona. But when he got his first win of the season in Anaheim 2, more quickly followed. He won four of the next seven races and finished second twice. By the end of the season, Webb was well out front and his 35-point advantage over Ken Roczen this time was the largest in the past several years.
Webb has become the odd man in.
“Yeah, as you said I’m the odd-year guy,” Webb told NBC Sports this week on media day in Raymond James Stadium as he straddled his bike and waited to make a few laps on select portions of the track. “I’m feeling good. I feel like we’re in a good spot. You know, last weekend was a little tough, but had a great week this week.
“The bottom line is it’s time to get that first one of the year and try to maximize our points and get back a little tighter in the hunt. But overall, we’re still a really good spot. It’s time to go racing.”
Even with his sweep of the top five, Webb knows there is a risk of losing sight of Tomac, who has won three of the first four races this season. Coming off last year’s incredible battle between Tomac and Chase Sexton in the Pro Motocross outdoor season, Webb is often the third rider mentioned in the chase, cementing his status as the odd man.
It bears noting that one is an odd number also.
This week, Webb feels he has a slight advantage. Originally hailing from North Carolina, Webb calls Clermont, Florida home now – a little more than 60 miles from Raymond James Stadium.
“This is Tampa,” Webb said. “They bring in the sand for the whole rhythm section every time we race here, so it’s definitely a little bit interesting. It looks like a good track so far. Also some, some weather in the air. Not sure how that’ll play a part tomorrow, but as of now the track looks really nice.
“Just driving here this morning was nice. I live in Florida full-time now, so just not having to get on a plane and sleeping in your own bed the night before is definitely a plus. Looking forward to the race. I’ve got a lot of friends and family coming, so vibes are hot – vibes are hot.”