The 2019 Monster Energy Supercross series is officially beyond the halfway mark and Red Bull / KTM’s Cooper Webb heads into the back half of the 2019 season with a completely reinvented career.
I guarantee you that there is not a person on earth that predicted the #2 would be over a red background heading into Daytona, but here we are. The man that many had written off as a 450 bust after scoring only two career podiums over the first two years of his 450SX career has run off 6 podiums and 5 wins over the first nine rounds of 2019 and is currently leading the 450SX Championship by 13 points heading into round 10.
If you think Cooper’s meteoric rise to an instant 450SX Championship contender is a surprise, imagine how the class favorites like Marvin Musquin, Eli Tomac and Ken Roczen are feeling. While we are all scratching our heads and speculating on what changes in his program were the catalysts to the turnaround, his competitors are stuck trying to figure out how to slow down the kid’s momentum before it’s too late.
At the Atlanta SX on Saturday, both Blake Baggett and Musquin had the perfect opportunity to slow Cooper’s momentum a little, but in the end, all they could do was eat sand for 26 laps and begrudgingly watch him light the candles for the 5th time.
After Cooper’s win in Atlanta, he sat down and answered some questions from the press.
Cooper, in that main event you changed your lines a lot. You started in one area, but as the race wore on you started to find the edges. When did you start looking for that?
It was tough. The track was changing a lot. I knew where I was good, but I was also getting caught by Marv at the beginning in some places. I knew where, but I wasn’t sure what line they’re doing. When you’re out front, it’s hard to see what the guy…you’re out front so you can’t see where you’re going slow or not. I was just trying to hit my marks and felt like they weren’t working as well as I’d like them to so I started searching. You make some mistakes as the race goes on, and I actually felt like towards the end I started hitting some better lines. I knew Blake [Baggett] was coming and he was good in the whoops like he always is. I knew that was his spot. With the sand, you almost feel bad sandblasting the guys. (laughs) They won’t eat dinner tonight. Another win. It was sweet.
You’ve pretty much seen the same layout over and over and over this year. There’s a lot of stuff that’s similar. Although the track conditions are different, is that helping you guys know what the rhythm is instead of having to learn an all-new track every week?
I think it’s tough with these Football ones, the floor space is a lot smaller. I mean maybe we’ll see some more creativity coming later on. Like Blake said, the ruts and the soil is what ultimately makes the difference because we start making mistakes. I think you see on the East Coast, all the practice times are really really close, and in the main event you get separated because of the track conditions. They did a lot of maintenance tonight, but it still gets soft.
You had a race where you felt good all day and you had a spectacular race you won in Texas. Then you said you didn’t feel good all day last time and you still got 2nd. Where did this one rank? Going into the main, did you feel like tonight could be the night or did you feel like you had some things you were going to have to fix in the heat of the moment? What were your thoughts going into the main event from earlier in the day?
It was good. I was right up there in practice, so it was good. I felt good all day. I liked the track. We were all close again in practice, but I felt comfortable again. I knew I had a shot. With the way the track broke down, I knew a start would be important. I was able to execute that. It was cool. I haven’t led a long main event like that in a little while. I had to fight the nerves a little bit. It was good to get another win, for sure.
Can you talk about the intensity. You three [Cooper, Marvin, Blake] could each other the entire main. Can you talk about the intensity, the fitness, not making any mistakes, the track breaking down and trying to set up passes? How intense was the entire main event?
It was a long main. Hitting your marks every lap is tough. Being in the driver’s seat, making mistakes is crucial when we did or at least when I did. For those guys, it was a little different, but for me, it was a lot of laps. That’s for sure.
We’re at the halfway point of the season, how would you grade your performance so far?
It’s obviously been great for me. It was a heck of a turnaround from years past. I really couldn’t ask for anything better. I’ve had a few mistakes—a few bad races—but I’ve been able to capitalize with some race wins. It’s halfway now and it’s Ricky [Carmichael] that always said: “The Championship starts at Daytona.” It’s cool for me. This is the most races I’ve ever done in a row. It’s pretty exciting. It’s been a great half of a year, and I’m looking forward to finishing it off strong.
Photos by: Simon Cudby