Cooper Webb wins Tampa Supercross: Eli Tomac still leads championship by 2 points
TAMPA, Florida – Cooper Webb rode a perfect race to score his first Monster Energy Supercross at Tampa win in the last 22 races.
“That’s too damn long,” Webb told NBC Sports’ Will Christien immediately following the race.
Webb and Chase Sexton were in a class by themselves Saturday night at Raymond James Stadium. After winning his heat, Sexton jumped into the lead, but a motivated Webb never let him out of sight and bided his time. It has been a strategy that often works for Webb as he pressures his competitors into making mistakes.
“I felt good running that speed,” Webb said. “I felt like I could catch him when I needed to. The lappers were tough.
“I had a big moment in the whoops and held onto it. He had a big moment, and I saw him go down. I was ready for it to go down to the last laps. I could see he was getting flustered.”
With a handful of laps remaining, Webb got loose as he skimmed the whoops section. He almost crashed before catching his bike but without spotters to tell him he had a slightly bigger advantage over Webb than on the previous lap, Sexton continued to ride on the edge, and when he hooked an edge, he went to the ground as the clock was under a minute.
“Overall my riding and racing keep getting better,” Sexton said in the postrace news conference. “Tonight was some of the best main event riding I’ve had, aside from Anaheim 2.
“Cooper and I were going back and forth on who could go faster each lap, and the lappers were definitely getting both of us, especially in the sand section. It was really just being able to focus. I didn’t know he had a sketchy moment the lap before, and that main line just kept getting worse and worse. I was trying to make it work, and obviously, it bit me.”
Webb and Sexton lapped all the way up to ninth-place Joey Savatgy.
It wasn’t exactly Babe Ruth pointing to the fence to predict a home run, but prior to the race, Webb told NBC Sports, that his “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.”
Webb’s last win came in the 2021 season finale in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he clinched his second championship. After his first victory that season, he rattled off eight top-two finishes in the next 10 races.
In 2019, he won in Round 3 and then won four of the next seven.
Last week, Aaron Plessinger narrowly missed the podium. He ran strong throughout the Houston race, but lost his momentum near the end and finished fourth. Like his KTM teammate Webb, he was highly motivated to improve on that performance.
At Tampa, Plessinger scored his first SuperMotocross podium since finishing third last year at Ironman in the Pro Motocross outdoor season. It was his first Supercross podium since a second-place finish at Oakland in Round 2 of 2022.
“I just did my motos this week,” Plessinger said. “I think if it wasn’t for that red flag last week, it might have been a different story. ... If it wasn’t for the red flag, I could have landed up here (at Houston).
Ken Roczen rebounded from an eighth-place finish last week to score his fourth top-five in five races.
The Tampa Supercross race was uncharacteristically challenging for Tomac, who lost ground in the standings to both Sexton and Webb with a fifth-place finish. Tomac’s points lead is now a slim two points over Sexton and four over third-place Webb.
Like a rubber band, Hunter Lawrence and Nate Thrasher ran two different races that literally came together on the final lap.
Lawrence got a bad start and was mired in traffic in the opening laps. Meanwhile, Thrasher earned the holeshot and shot out to a sizeable lead.
But Lawrence is not the consensus favorite to win the 250 East division by giving up and riding a patient race. Lawrence surged through traffic and methodically trimmed the leader’s advantage. The closing laps were marked by heavy traffic and Lawrence’s more aggressive riding style carried the day.
On the final lap, Lawrence and Thrasher came together twice. Exiting the sand section, Thrasher pushed out wide and clipped Lawrence’s front tire. The lost momentum was negligible and on the final turn, Lawrence was able to return the favor, pushing Thrasher marginally offline.
“Wow that was awesome,” Lawrence said from the top of the podium. “I’m still hyped up What a ride. That was frickin’ awesome. I’ve got some work to do on the start after this week. What a race to have at home here in Tampa.”
Thrasher recovered but could not jump the final obstacle and finished 0.2 seconds behind Lawrence - the closest 250 finish since 2015.
“Hunter had a great race,” Thrasher said. “I got out front early and just put my laps in and felt like I had a good pace, but in the end, I ran into the lappers first and they are never your friend. I just have to be better.”
Thrasher was coming off his first heat win of his career and almost made it a fairytale weekend.
Max Anstie took the final spot on the podium, backing up last week’s second-place finish in his move from 450s into the 250 class.
Haiden Deegan ran third early in the race, but he bogged down at the end of the long sand section on Lap 3. He lost two positions and then reclaimed one to score his second consecutive fourth-place finish.
Jeremy Martin rounded out the top five for the second straight race.
Both heats were won by riders getting their first heat wins. Thrasher’s Heat 1 win was followed by one for Chance Hymas, who was making only his second 250 start. He fell to eighth in the Main and like Deegan and Martin, he replicated his Houston finish to earn his second top-10 in two starts.
Hymas was wowed by his early success.
“It’s just the start,” Hymas said with a little wonder in his voice. “And I have to keep learning and this is a crazy way to start it off. It’s surreal, leading the whole race and riding smooth. No goals tonight in the main. Just go out there, have fun and keep learning - and see where we end up.”
2023 Race Recaps
Houston: Eli Tomac bounces back from A2 crash to win third race of 2023
Anaheim 2: Triple Crown produces new winners Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen
San Diego: Tomac, Jett Lawrence double down
Anaheim 1: Tomac wins opener for the first time
Tampa Supercross coverage
Tampa by the numbers
Cooper Webb is the odd man in
Coty Schock excited for Tampa after Houston crash
Dylan Ferrandis out for Tampa under concussion protocol
SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston
Eli Tomac rebounds from A2 crash with Houston win
Results and points after Houston