It was a night of excitement, drama, and significant championship point moves in the penultimate round of the 2019 Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The 450SX Class Main Event dropped the gate with four racers still with a mathematical chance at the title. When the checkers flew the crowd of 61,247 cheered for Red Bull KTM’s Cooper Webb, taking his seventh win of the season and stretching his points lead to 23 with one round remaining and only 26 points available to the winner of each round. In the Eastern Regional 250SX Class, GEICO Honda’s Chase Sexton took his first-ever Monster Energy Supercross win and also the points lead; he holds a nine-point advantage, but the final round is a 250SX East/West Showdown round where nine points can be easily made up or lost.
Prior to the start of the 450SX Class Main Event, Red Bull KTM’s Marvin Musquin had earned the fastest qualifying time and a Heat Race win. Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac was looking fast but had given up his Heat Race win with a crash. Point leader Cooper Webb was unimpressive but was riding while ill, having been under the weather all week. When the 22 riders funneled through the first turn, Cooper Webb emerged with the holeshot with Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Zach Osborne and Eli Tomac right behind while Musquin picked himself off the ground after high siding over another rider’s rear wheel. Tomac wasted no time getting around Osborne and the matchup was set – number one and two in the points going for a win at the second to last round of the season.
At just under two minutes into the race Tomac got cleanly around Webb, but Webb was not looking to settle for second and the two riders traded the lead and rode several sections side by side during the first five minutes of the 20-minute plus one lap race. Just before the midway point, the leaders looked to have settled into their positions up front; meanwhile, Musquin had worked his way up to tenth. Then Tomac got off-balance in one of the two whoop sections and crashed softly, handing the lead to Webb. While Tomac picked his bike up and pursued from fourth, Osborne moved into the lead until a bobble that almost sent him over a berm dropped him back to third. Tomac had the fastest pace and with three and a half minutes and one lap remaining, Tomac got back into second place; but one minute later he repeated his previous mistake and went down in the whoops in what looked like a replay of his first crash.
Cooper Webb brought home the victory, his seventh this year – and the seventh total after three years contesting the 450SX Class. With more wins than Tomac and a twenty-three point lead, Webb can ensure his first Monster Energy 450SX Title with a 20th place (out of 22 riders) at the final round next weekend in Las Vegas.
Right after the race, Webb said, “It was tough. I was just getting handed [gifts] left and right. Guys were making mistakes and I felt good. I was starting to battle with Eli for a bit and then tightened up a little. He got a good flow, but he crashed and then Zach was all over me. And I rode good, but man, those guys were a little better. But, I think when they got around me [they found out that] it’s tough to lead out there the way the track is. You’ve got to be so precise, and they made some mistakes and gave me a nice gift… I can’t believe it. I felt like crap all day and all week, so I was just glad to be out here. And the goal was a top five, so to get a win is incredible, and I thought for a second I clinched it, but it’s all good. It’s crazy how life works. You can be – this morning I was puking in the bathroom not knowing what I was going to do tonight, stressing, and then we’re winning tonight so, man, God’s good for sure… It’s obviously a great momentum booster for me and to get another win is awesome for me and for the team; they work so hard. And anything can happen, obviously when racing, we saw tonight, a lot can happen but it’s nice to go with a little better lead and we’ll see what will happen next week.”
Osborne was feeling good after proving he has the speed to lead, “It was an incredible race. To lead some laps and pass for the lead and just be in there and get that experience was huge for me. As you said my [late 2018] off-season performance was really, really good and I came into a couple weeks before Christmas and had an injury and it was pretty much worst-case scenario from there. And it’s just been a long, long comeback trail. Our chaplain here at the track, he talked about facing giants this morning and that’s what I feel like I’ve been doing all season. And today I conquered some giants and I’m very blessed to stand here right now.”
Tomac took his third-place finish in decent spirits, acknowledging his double mistake that cost him the win in the same stadium that set back his championship hopes just two years ago. Tomac said about tonight’s race, “That was something else, you know. I somehow managed to do that exact same move twice during that race. Just jumped in the rut there, as I was watching on the replay, my weight was too far right both times when I landed in the rut and then the notches got me, and I go into the same exact Tuff Blox. So disappointing… I could maybe get away with one of those, but both weren’t gonna do it tonight. So, just giving everything I had. I mean, that’s all I could do, right? Trying to stay in the front but a couple of mistakes got me… that was tough… That was my whole goal to keep this [title fight going] to the next race and we did that. I still would’ve liked to have been in front of Cooper but all we can do is take it to Vegas again. He’s got a sizeable lead now, so take it to Vegas and learn from our mistakes.”
In the Eastern Regional 250SX Class Chase Sexton grabbed his first-ever Monster Energy Supercross win and took over the points lead in the process. It was a dramatic day leading up to the Main Event. Sexton was only three points behind Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Austin Forkner; Forkner had earned zero points at the previous round due to a torn ACL in his left knee from a practice crash that same day. Forkner wasn’t at 100% in qualifying in New Jersey, pulling out midway through the second qualifying session but still qualifying with the third fastest lap time. When the gate dropped on the Main Event JGRMX/Yoshimura/Suzuki’s Alex Martin was out in front with the holeshot, with Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Martin Davalos, Forkner, and Sexton right behind. Sexton got right around Forkner, but before the pack had completed a lap Forkner aggressively slammed his way back past in a 180-degree bowl turn. Shortly after, Alex Martin went down, and title contenders Forkner and Sexton looked to be closing in on race leader Davalos. Two and a half minutes into the Main Event, Forkner landed hard on a flat landing and aggravated his knee. He rolled off the track in obvious pain, out of the race for a DNF and just one championship point. A little over six minutes into the race, Sexton took the lead away from Davalos and stayed composed on the challenging track to take the win, and with it a nine-point lead in the championship chase with one round remaining. Sexton’s closest competitor, Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha’s Justin Cooper, finished third. Cooper’s teammate Mitchell Oldenburg, split the title contenders for his first podium of 2019. Anything, especially making up big point gaps, can happen at the final round next weekend in Las Vegas where both the Eastern Regional and Western Regional 250SX Classes compete in one combined Main Event for single-event points payout.
Fresh from his first win, and now the points leader, Sexton said, “It’s unbelievable. It couldn’t happen at a better time. The track is super gnarly, so it was probably the longest fifteen minutes plus one lap of my life. It was super good, I mean I got off to a pretty good start and honestly Austin was trying to take me out, and I mean, you can’t win a race like that. I know it’s for a championship but trying to saw a front end off is not cool. So, I’m just glad that I got into the lead and took this one. It feels really good and I’m pumped. This feels so good. I’ve been wanting to do this for two years now, so I’m pumped on it.”
Earning his first podium in two years, Mitchell Oldenburg said from the podium, “Man, it’s unbelievable. It’s been a long two years for me. Just with injuries and just mentally I didn’t know if this was for me anymore. My wife’s been there for me since day one, really got me through those two years and man, this feels amazing. I’ve been working hard and everyone around me has been so awesome and believing in me and I just need to believe in myself. I can’t give it up to the team enough… It’s been a long time coming and it feels good to finally get this done and get this monkey off my back again.” When asked about passing and taking the second place points away from his teammate, Oldenburg said, “There was no team orders from our side so I was just going out there to do the best I could. I really wanted to win and I felt comfortable all day. My bike was working amazing all day long. We made some good changes today and I really trusted the team with their input and their thoughts on the bike and it really paid off tonight.”
Third place on the night and now second place in points, Justin Cooper was disappointed after not feeling comfortable all day, “Ever since first practice I was kinda struggling to find my flow. I kinda went out in the heat race, got a bad start, but was able to work my way through the pack pretty quick and able to feel more like myself. But I don’t know, in that Main Event the whoops were pretty treacherous and kinda hard to skim, so even jumping them I thought I would save energy, but I was just… I didn’t feel good on the bike the whole Main Event, [and] it showed out there. I wasn’t able to ride; my times were just dropping. Kinda disappointing but I struggled all day so I can’t really complain with a podium, but definitely not what we were going for today, and we’ll see what we can do in Vegas… [I want to thank] my whole family, fans out here, a lot of people supported me, I [live] an hour from here, was able to sleep in my own bed this week, so that was cool. Pretty cool experience to race here, good to get on the podium, but it’s just not what we’re looking for so we’ll take it into Vegas… It’s a bummer to have Austin go out like that. He was riding pretty good the first couple of laps. It sucks for him, it’s no good… But all in all, glad to be on the podium, just gotta get a little bit more comfortable in the next one.”
The 2019 Monster Energy Supercross season wraps up next Saturday night at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada. With two riders still in contention for the 450SX Class title, three riders still vying for the Eastern Regional 250SX Class title, and two riders only eight points apart in the Western Regional 250SX Class title, it’s sure to be another exciting night to cap off an incredible season. The race will air live on a unique network, the USA Network at 10:00 PM Eastern time, 7:00 PM Pacific time.