450 Supercross championship midseason recap: And then there were two


The 450 Monster Energy Supercross championship battle is the closest in the history of the sport, which is notably evident in the fact that Eli Tomac and Cooper Webb enter Round 12 in Glendale, Arizona tied in standings with a share of the red plate.

Eli Tomac has shown speed, but Cooper Webb has matched him with consistency. – Feld Motor Sports

Strictly based on wins, it should not be that close. Tomac’s six victories in the first 11 rounds has allowed him to capture one milestone after another. He tied Ricky Carmichael for third on the all-time wins list in Oakland and James Stewart for second the most recent race in Seattle. With six rounds remaining in 2023, it strains the imagination to think he won’t win at least one more race to take over sole possession of that spot in the record books.

And yet, Webb has as many points as Tomac due partly to a couple of bad rounds for the defending 2020 and 2022 450 Supercross championship title holder. Equally impactful, Webb finished second behind Tomac five times, minimizing his points’ differential.

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Race 1 | Anaheim 1
The 450 Supercross championship got underway with a thrilling race in Anaheim and Tomac began clicking off milestones. During a storied career that boasted 450 Supercross titles in 2020 and 2022, a 250 championship in 2013 and Lucas Oil Pro Motocross championships in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2022, the one thing he failed to accomplish was to win a season opener. Tomac took care of that after losing and regaining the lead after a mishap on a tunnel jump. Webb finished second in this race to begin a pattern that persists through Round 12 as Chase Sexton stood with them on the podium to start another trend.
Results and points after Anaheim 1

Race 2 | San Diego
Tomac made it two for two with Webb finishing second again. With the 2019 and 2021 450 Supercross championship winner breathing down his neck in the closing laps, Webb served notice he was going to be very much in the thick of the conversation by closing the gap in the final laps and finishing just a little more than a second behind. There was some doubt at the beginning of the year after Webb struggled with a radical new bike design by manufacturer KTM. Justin Barcia rounded out the podium as Sexton finished fifth.
Results and points after San Diego

Race 3 | Anaheim 2
Hold on, it’s not a two-man battle for the 450 Supercross championship just yet. With two victories and a fifth (1-5-1), Sexton won the Anaheim Triple Crown format as Tomac and Webb both struggled. Webb barely failed to podium in the overall for the first time in 2023 with a fourth-place finish and Tomac was a relatively distant sixth. Tomac was in contention for the overall win with a third-place finish in Race 1 and a second in Race 2, but an intense battle with Webb caused him to jump wide in the final feature. He crashed hard and finished a distant 13th. Jason Anderson in second and Ken Roczen rounded out the podium.
Results and points after Anaheim 2

450 Supercross championship
Chase Sexton’s win in the Triple Crown format of Anaheim 2 served notice that he would be part of the 450 Supercross championship battle. – Feld Motor Sports

Race 4 | Houston
Tomac’s assault on the record book continued in Houston when he earned his 47th career win to close to within one of Carmichael. Tomac was not getting too far ahead in the 450 Supercross championship points, however, with a seven-point advantage over Sexton in second and 13 above Webb in third. The little bit of breathing room enjoyed by Tomac came courtesy of Webb finishing off the podium for the second consecutive race. Anderson made his presence known with a second consecutive podium, but the biggest news from the round was headlined by Dylan Ferrandis. Battling for eighth with Roczen in the Main, he overjumped and landed on that riders’ back wheel. Slamming face first into the dirt, Ferrandis sustained a concussion that has kept him out of competition since.
Results and points after Houston

Race 5 | Tampa
It wasn’t exactly Babe Ruth pointing to the fence to signal a home run, but Webb told NBC Sports that he needed and expected to win in Tampa. Reminded that he was the “odd man in” with a 450 Supercross championship in the last two odd years, he closed the points’ gap to Tomac and trailed by just two points. It had been 22 races since his last Supercross win and “that’s too damn long,” Webb said immediately following the race. For Sexton, it was the first of several races in which he suffered self-inflicted points’ loss. Webb earned his victory by pressing Sexton into a mistake and forced that rider to crash. Sexton lost only three points with the fall, but he continued to have trouble in five of the next six rounds. Anderson was placed on probation for rough riding following an incident with Justin Barcia in this race.
Results and points after Tampa

Race 6 | Oakland
Tomac scored his 48th career win at Oakland, a race that was originally scheduled to be Round 2 of the 450 Supercross championship. With this win, he tied Carmichael for third on the all-time wins list, but he was forced to hold off a determined charge from Webb, who nearly took advantage of a Tomac mistake on the final lap. That would have been fitting since Tomac inherited the lead when Sexton crashed at about the halfway point while sporting a five-second lead. For Tomac, this was his second win following a disappointing round, making one of the 2023 themes the ability to bounce back. Tomac’s Houston victory came after he finished sixth in the Anaheim 2 Triple Crown and he was fifth the previous week at Tampa.
Results and points after Oakland

Cooper Webb pressured Chase Sexton into a mistake at Tampa and closed to within two points of the 450 Supercross championship lead. – Feld Motor Sports

450 Supercross Championship Standings

Race 7 | Arlington
Webb once again closed to within two points of the 450 Supercross championship lead with the overall win in the second Triple Crown format race and he did so after steadily improving during the three features with a 5-2-1. With the same number of event points, Webb needed the tiebreaker that came with his Race 3 win to claim the overall victory and three extra points it provided. Sexton finished second with Tomac third. This was the third time in 2023 and the second consecutive race in which these three riders shared the podium. More importantly, the three-man battle was extraordinarily close with Tomac holding just a five-point advantage over Sexton in third.
Results and points after Arlington

Race 8 | Daytona
Crack open the record book again. Tomac added to his Daytona Supercross record with a fifth consecutive win and seventh overall. Equally important, he used this win to break out of the tie with Carmichael and take sole possession of third on the all-time wins list on a track where Carmichael once scored five consecutive victories as well. Tomac looked beatable at the start of the event. He was outside the top five in practice and fourth in qualification. It wasn’t until the heat that Tomac felt comfortable on his bike. Four the third consecutive race and fourth in the season, Tomac, Webb and Sexton shared a podium so the 450 Supercross championship remained tight.
Results and points after Daytona

Race 9 | Indianapolis
There were very few dry eyes in the house as Ken Roczen earned his first 450 Supercross race in more than a year. Riders lined up to congratulate him and the fans stayed on their feet through podium ceremony. It was a relief for the rider who finished second in the 2021 Supercross championship. This winter, Roczen made the bold decision to leave Honda and return to Suzuki, the bike of his youth. He desperately needed change, he said earlier in the season, and that change was good. Standing on the side of the podium, Webb wrestled the red plate away from Tomac when that rider had the worst performance of the year in eighth. Tomac announced the following week that he had been battling a stiff neck. Meanwhile another mistake by Sexton cost him 10 points and he was gradually losing contact with the leaders.
Results and points after Indianapolis

Ken Roczen bows to his bike. His win in Indianapolis was the only time in 2023 that the top three points’ leaders did not grace Victory Lane. – Feld Motor Sports

Race 10 | Detroit
For the fifth time in 10 rounds, Sexton, Webb and Tomac shared the podium, but the win was pyrrhic for Sexton as he was docked seven points for jumping in a red flag section of the course. By this point in the season, he’d lost 27 points with mistakes in five races, 17 of which came in the last two weeks – and that was precisely the points’ gap between him and the leader Webb. Sexton wasn’t out of contention yet, but it was starting to look grim. Notably, Sexton’s win came after Aaron Plessinger crashed with two laps remaining when his foot got caught in the dirt and launched him off his bike. After the race, Sexton said he was gratified that he kept his bike upright from gate drop to checkers.
Results and points after Detroit

Race 11 | Seattle
And then there were two. By now you’ve sensed several themes in the first 11 rounds of the 450 Supercross championship. Another win by Tomac came as Webb finished second to him for the fifth time. His 50th career win ties him for second on the all-time list with Stewart. For Tomac, it was a bounce back victory like his Houston and Oakland triumphs, but he was unable to gain sole possession of the red plate because of the doggedness of Webb. As for Sexton, another mistake relegated him to fifth at the checkers and cost him another eight points from where he had been running at the time. The lost opportunities now total 35 points. Sexton cannot be discounted entirely with six rounds remaining, but with 22 points behind Webb and Tomac, he needs those riders to make a mistake and they have practically been immune to that.
Results and points after Seattle

Sexton’s mistakes notwithstanding, the top three in points have dominated the season. Between them, they have won all but one race and have earned 25 of 33 podium finishes. With three podiums, Barcia has challenged them most often followed by Anderson and Roczen earning two each. Plessinger is the only other rider to earn a podium when he was third in Tampa.

‘It’s gnarly, bro’: IndyCar drivers face new challenge on streets of downtown Detroit

IndyCar Detroit downtown
James Black/Penske Entertainment
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DETROIT – It was the 1968 motion picture, “Winning” when actress Joanne Woodward asked Paul Newman if he were going to Milwaukee in the days after he won the Indianapolis 500 as driver Frank Capua.

“Everybody goes to Milwaukee after Indianapolis,” Newman responded near the end of the film.

Milwaukee was a mainstay as the race on the weekend after the Indianapolis 500 for decades, but since 2012, the first race after the Indy 500 has been Detroit at Belle Isle Park.

This year, there is a twist.

Instead of IndyCar racing at the Belle Isle State Park, it’s the streets of downtown Detroit on a race course that is quite reminiscent of the old Formula One and CART race course that was used from 1982 to 1991.

Formula One competed in the United States Grand Prix from 1982 to 1988. Beginning in 1989, CART took over the famed street race through 1991. In 1992, the race was moved to Belle Isle, where it was held through last year (with a 2009-2011 hiatus after the Great Recession).

The Penske Corp. is the promoter of this race, and they did a lot of good at Belle Isle, including saving the Scott Fountain, modernizing the Belle Isle Casino, and basically cleaning up the park for Detroit citizens to enjoy.

The race, however, had outgrown the venue. Roger Penske had big ideas to create an even bigger event and moving it back to downtown Detroit benefitted race sponsor Chevrolet. The footprint of the race course goes around General Motors world headquarters in the GM Renaissance Center – the centerpiece building of Detroit’s modernized skyline.

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Motor City is about to roar with the sound of Chevrolet and Honda engines this weekend as the NTT IndyCar Series is the featured race on the nine-turn, 1.7-mile temporary street course.

It’s perhaps the most unique street course on the IndyCar schedule because of the bumps on the streets and the only split pit lane in the series.

The pit lanes has stalls on opposing sides and four lanes across an unusual rectangular pit area (but still only one entry and exit).

Combine that, with the bumps and the NTT IndyCar Series drivers look forward to a wild ride in Motor City.

“It’s gnarly, bro,” Arrow McLaren driver Pato O’Ward said before posting the fastest time in Friday’s first practice. “It will be very interesting because the closest thing that I can see it being like is Toronto-like surfaces with more of a Long Beach-esque layout.

“There’s less room for error than Long Beach. There’s no curbs. You’ve got walls. I think very unique to this place.

PRACTICE RESULTS: Speeds from the first session

“Then it’s a bit of Nashville built into it. The braking zones look really very bumpy. Certain pavements don’t look bumpy but with how the asphalt and concrete is laid out, there’s undulation with it. So, you can imagine the cars are going to be smashing on every single undulation because we’re going to go through those sections fairly fast, and obviously the cars are pretty low. I don’t know.

“It looks fun, man. It’s definitely going to be a challenge. It’s going to be learning through every single session, not just for drivers and teams but for race control. For everyone.

“Everybody has to go into it knowing not every call is going to be smooth. It’s a tall task to ask from such a demanding racetrack. I think it’ll ask a lot from the race cars as well.”

The track is bumpy, but O’Ward indicated he would be surprised if it is bumper than Nashville. By comparison to Toronto, driving at slow speed is quite smooth, but fast speed is very bumpy.

“This is a mix of Nashville high-speed characteristics and Toronto slow speed in significant areas,” O’Ward said. “I think it’ll be a mix of a lot of street courses we go to, and the layout looks like more space than Nashville, which is really tight from Turn 4 to 8. It looks to be a bit more spacious as a whole track, but it’ll get tight in multiple areas.”

The concept of having four-wide pit stops is something that excites the 24-year-old driver from Monterey, Mexico.

“I think it’s innovation, bro,” O’Ward said. “If it works out, we’ll look like heroes.

“If it doesn’t, we tried.”

Because of the four lanes on pit road, there is a blend line the drivers will have to adhere to. Otherwise, it would be chaos leaving the pits compared to a normal two-lane pit road.

“If it wasn’t there, there’d be guys fighting for real estate where there’s one car that fits, and there’d be cars crashing in pit lane,” O’Ward said. “I get why they did that. It’s the same for everybody. I don’t think there’s a lot of room to play with. That’s the problem.

“But it looks freaking gnarly for sure. Oh my God, that’s going to be crazy.”

Alex Palou of Chip Ganassi Racing believes the best passing areas will be on the long straights because of the bumps in the turns. That is where much of the action will be in terms of gaining or losing a position in the race.

“It will also be really easy to defend in my opinion,” Palou said. “Being a 180-degree corner, you just have to go on the inside and that’s it. There’s going to be passes for sure but its’ going to be risky.

“Turn 1, if someone dives in, you end up in the wall. They’re not going to be able to pass you on the exit, so maybe with the straight being so long you can actually pass before you end up on the braking zone.”

Palou’s teammate, Marcus Ericsson, was at the Honda simulator in Brownsburg, Indiana, before coming to Detroit and said he was shocked by the amount of bumps on the simulator.

Race promoter Bud Denker, the President of Penske Corporation, and Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix President Michael Montri, sent the track crews onto the streets with grinders to smooth out the bumps on the race course several weeks ago.

“They’ve done a decent amount of work, and even doing the track walk, it looked a lot better than what we expected,” Ericsson said. “I don’t think it’ll be too bad. I hope not. That’ll be something to take into account.

“I think the track layout doesn’t look like the most fun. Maybe not the most challenging. But I love these types of tracks with rules everywhere. It’s a big challenge, and you have to build up to it. That’s the types of tracks that I love to drive. It’s a very much Marcus Ericsson type of track. I like it.”

Scott Dixon, who was second fastest in the opening session, has competed on many new street circuits throughout his legendary racing career. The six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion for Chip Ganassi Racing likes the track layout, even with the unusual pit lane.

I don’t think that’s going to be something that catches on where every track becomes a double barrel,” Dixon said. “It’s new and interesting.

“As far as pit exit, I think Toronto exit is worse with how the wall sticks out. I think in both lanes, you’ve got enough lead time to make it and most guys will make a good decision.”

It wasn’t until shortly after 3 p.m. ET on Friday that the IndyCar drivers began the extended 90-minute practice session to try out the race course for the first time in real life.

As expected, there were several sketchy moments, but no major crashes during the first session despite 19 local yellow flags for incidents and six red flags.

Rookie Agustin Canapino had to cut his practice short after some damage to his No. 78 Dallara-Chevrolet, but he was among many who emerged mostly unscathed from scrapes with the wall.

“It was honestly less carnage than I expected,” said Andretti Autosport’s Kyle Kirkwood, who was third fastest in the practice after coming off his first career IndyCar victory in the most recent street race at Long Beach in April. “I think a lot of people went off in the runoffs, but no one actually hit the wall (too hard), which actually surprised me. Hats off to them for keeping it clean, including myself.

“It was quite a bit less grip than I think everyone expected. Maybe a little bit more bumpy down into Turn 3 than everyone expected. But overall they did a good job between the two manufacturers. I’m sure everyone had pretty much the same we were able to base everything off of. We felt pretty close to maximum right away.”

Most of the preparation for this event was done either on the General Motors Simulator in Huntersville, North Carolina, or the Honda Performance Development simulator in Brownsburg, Indiana.

“Now, we have simulators that can scan the track, so we have done plenty of laps already,” Power told NBC Sports. “They have ground and resurfaced a lot of the track, so it should be smoother.

“But nothing beats real-world experience. It’s going to be a learning experience in the first session.”

As a Team Penske driver, Power and his teammates were consulted about the progress and layout of the Detroit street course. They were shown what was possible with the streets that were available.

“We gave some input back after we were on the similar what might be ground and things like that,” Power said.

Racing on the streets of Belle Isle was a fairly pleasant experience for the fans and corporate sponsor that compete in the race.

But the vibe at the new location gives this a “big event” feel.

“The atmosphere is a lot better,” Power said. “The location, the accessibility for the fans, the crowd that will be here, it’s much easier. I think it will be a much better event.

“It feels like a Long Beach, only in a much bigger city. That is what street course racing is all about.”

Because the track promoter is also the team owner, Power and teammates Scott McLaughlin and Indy 500 winner Josef Newgarden will have a very busy weekend on the track, and with sponsor and personal appearances.

“That’s what pays the bills and allows us to do this,” Power said.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500