Some fans and journalists alike tend to shy away from giving a first time 450SX Monster Energy Supercross Champion that full credit until they back it up by showing they can contend for the second year in a row, and I think Red Bull / KTM’s Cooper Webb is seeing some of that in 2020. Heading into the 2020 season—while I personally had Cooper #1—the SupercrossLive.com preseason “Power Ranking” had the reigning 2019 Champ ranked number two, and I’ve seen many unwarranted posts on social media saying things like Cooper lucked into his first 450 title.
First, nobody lucks into a 450SX Championship and while some past 450 title winners have been given some help with injuries to some of the favorites, Cooper straight up beat the same guys that are the favorites in 2020—minus Jason Anderson—to win his title in 2019. Nobody lucks into 7 wins and 13 podiums with guys like Eli Tomac and Ken Roczen on the line and to discount Cooper in 2020 due to a slow start would be an assinine mistake for anyone to make. Especially before the season heads to the soft soil out East where the tracks break down and the #1 has shown he can thrive.
This last weekend on the softer soil of the Oakland SX, his ride from behind to finish second was a perfect example of what an underestimated Cooper Webb can do and if recent history has told us anything, he might just be getting started. In the main event, Cooper started near the front but he lost sight of Eli, Ken and Adam Cianciarulo through the midway point of the race only to find his speed late in the main event as the soft Oakland soil began to break down. With just three laps to go, he caught and passed AC and went on from there to erase a five-second gap to make an aggressive pass on Kenny in the final turn of the race. The same kind of pass that turned into the catalyst of Cooper’s 2019 Championship run.
After the racing was over, we caught up with the #1 to talk about his turnaround in Oakland and that last corner pass against the man with the red plate.
Wow, great ride Cooper, what a charge at the end to finish 2nd. Definitely your best ride of the year.
Much better night and day all around. Obviously practice went a lot better. I was third—which was a huge step and a lot of progress—and all day was just a bit better. I gotta give it up, the team worked hard to fix our issues with the whoops and I feel like we accomplished that. As well as making some good progress on the track actually. I was happy with everything. Crazy race. Good charge at the end so I was stoked.
Webb looks like the fastest 450 in whoops right now.. That is not a typo.. He looks real frisky early
— MotoXAddicts (@MotoXAddictsCom) February 1, 2020
You looked immediately comfortable on the track right out of the gate in free practice. I even tweeted during free practice, “Webb looks like the fastest 450 in whoops right now.. That is not a typo.. ” (laughs) Was it this Oakland dirt or more the work you and the team did during the week?
(laughs) Oh man, we worked all week to try to fix my whoops. Like I said last week, I got smoked in them these last few rounds. That’s something we really really tried to improve on and I feel like we did that. I fought hard and, obviously, second was the best we could do so far this season, but we’re making progress. Still, at the beginning of the race, I feel like I lost the tow so there’s plenty of work to do but it was a much better night.
Early in the main event, you were right with Kenny [Roczen], Adam [Cianciarulo] and Eli [Tomac] and even made a couple pass attempts on Eli, but then you lost touch with them. Your last seven laps were like a man possessed and on the last lap, you obviously went back after Kenny. Was there something you found midway through the race and used towards the end? And that last lap was just insane.
In the beginning, I think I got a little too excited, too quick. Like I tried to make some passes on Eli, but it was too soon. It’s a track that you could latch on, put in some good laps behind one another and I just jumped the gun too soon, made a mistake and kind of lost that tow. There at the end, I just kind of tried to figure it out and keep doing my laps, but I found some good lines. I started hitting the whoops really good and at the end started feeling really strong. With the guys up front, I couldn’t really see what was going on, but I could hear the crowd so I knew there might have been some battling. I knew that would give me a little bit to try to get back towards them.
Were you surprised you were closing on Kenny that fast at the end? It honestly looked like you were finishing third and had zero chance at getting to Kenny.
I was! Honestly, it was a huge gap. I was just doing my laps just in case. I was hoping for a mistake or for something to happen. You never know. I was really trying hard to try and make it happen.
Can you talk about that pass on Kenny a little?
Yeah…[long silent pause from Cooper before answering] It was one of those things where I was close. He had the inside and basically, he had been going to that top line every lap. That last lap, we did that triple, he braked really hard and he had the inside and decided to cut down to where… I felt like he honestly had it if he would have hit it normally. But when I braked—because he was really slowing down to cut underneath—he had hit that tight line and I thought he was going to go up high like he had all race and we made contact. It’s unfortunate because, obviously, I hate making contact. It sucks that it happened that way but it was definitely an important pass for sure.
Bottom line, that was hugely important pass?
Obviously! From a momentum shift to being able to beat the guy with the red plate was a huge accomplishment. We’ll keep working hard.
Photos by: Simon Cudby