The young and hungry 450 class has been in an all out war for the vacant #1 plate Ryan Dungey left behind when he retired, and Monster Energy / Knich / Yamaha’s Cooper Webb is steadily trying to arm himself up to join the battle. The second year 450 rider has struggled some since graduating out of the 250SX class with two titles, but in Oakland, he showed he is not far away from finding the front lines.

To start the day in Oakland, the #2 was near the top of the leaderboard in the morning qualifying sessions and qualified for the show with the fifth fastest overall time. With a great gate pick in the heat race, Cooper yanked the holeshot and, after quickly getting passed by his teammate, Justin Barcia, he latched onto the #51, staying close for a second place finish in his heat race.

In the main event, Cooper rounded the first turn near the very back of the field. With the Oakland soil rutting up and turning into a treacherous mess, consistency was key and Cooper was close to perfect as you could be under the circumstances. He wasn’t blazing fast, but he kept it steady and worked his way up to his best finish of ’18: a 7th. It is not the podium Cooper is obviously looking for, but right now I think the crawl before you walk mentality that Cooper seems to have is key to his future successes in the 450 class.

The ruts of Oakland have been a good spot for Webb over the years. Photo by: Ryne Swanberg / Garth Milan

After Cooper’s very positive night in Oakland, I caught up with him at the Yamaha rig and asked him about his night.

Cooper, 7th for you tonight in the main event. All in all, it was a positive night for you, right? 

Yeah, it was. It was a great night. The whole day went a lot better. I was fifth in qualifying which was a great step—I wanted to be top five and that’s what I was. In the heat race, I got the holeshot, ended up making a little mistake, and Justin [Barcia] got me in the first turn. I got to ride behind him and learn some stuff. The main event, was just a terrible start, but I rode great. I made a lot of good passes. I was happy with how I rode. I was 7th, but with a start I think I could of been top five. I feel like I made a lot of steps and I’m right there with that little group in front of me. There’s a lot of positives to take from it. 


How big are heat races like that one for the growth of your confidence? Being able to race up front with Barcia, staying with the leader and pacing him for the whole race? Races like that seem like something you really need right now.

Yeah, for sure. In the heat race I didn’t really ride as well as I should have, but it was good to get a start. I haven’t gotten a holeshot. I haven’t been up there, so it’s all good. I think this week was a great week. All in all, any bit of confidence or experience up front I can get like that is always nice. 

If we can get a personality like Webb’s into this title fight, things will definitely get more interesting. Photo by: Ryne Swanberg / Garth Milan

Do you and Justin ride together at the Yamaha test track at all during the week right now? 

Not so much during the week now but during the offseason we did. We’re on opposite schedules right now. It’s been great having him on the team with us, pushing each other and bouncing ideas off of each other. He’s been really fast this year so it’s cool to always try to push towards that. 


I’m surprised at how surprised people are by Justin’s speed right now. You don’t just lose that. I think people don’t realize how injured you guys are at times or how long those injuries can linger physically and mentally. In the 450 class you have to first be healthy, but really everything has to be perfect physically and mentally to battle at the front. 

On the 450 you really have to be firing on all cylinders. It’s physical, it’s mental, it’s emotional and injuries play into it. It’s great to see [with Justin].  It’s easy easy to get written off in this sport, so it’s definitely understandable.

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What did you think of the track tonight? It looked like one of the gnarliest tracks I’ve seen in a long time. 

It really was! I thought it was a good track, though. Besides all the ruts, I think it still would of been a good race track. For the 450 main, it was no joke. (laughs) That’s Oakland. It always gets like that and we all know that going in. 


How tough were the lappers out there tonight. With the ruts, riders going down everywhere and lappers struggling in front of you, it had to get scary out there at times.

Lappers weren’t ideal. It sucks, but it is what it is. I think if we had a little longer lap times it would of been a lot better. But when guys are rolling the rhythm sections—going left and right while rolling—that’s a little sketchy.

While I get it that people tend to expect a lot out of graduating 250SX Champs in the 450 class, they need to realize that half that class has won past 250SX regional titles. Photo by: Ryne Swanberg / Garth Milan

Your teammate was the only rider I saw going 3-3-2 through that rhythm section after the whoops and then that right turn. It wasn’t really faster—maybe even a tick slower because the second triple shot him so high—but it took him away from the ruts. Is that something you looked at doing at all? 

Yeah, we did. I saw him do it in the heat, but it was one of those things I looked at and thought, “if I need to do it, be prepared.” It was good race craft by him. I think that’s something I should of picked up on but you get into the zone and you have a game plan. It’s tough to break that some times. That’s something I want to work on this week: changing some lines as the night goes on and being comfortable with stuff like that.


He hung a wheel one time on that second triple and it was sketch. The landing on that second one was peaked out. I appreciate you talking to us. 

Thanks. See you, Dan.


Dan Lamb is a 12+ year journalist and the owner of MotoXAddicts.