SALT LAKE CITY — Great racing and high emotions marked Red Bull KTM’s Cooper Webb’s dramatic Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship victory at the penultimate race Wednesday night, round 16, inside Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Crossing the finish second was Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac, who missed his chance to wrap up the championship by that one finishing position. Third on the podium was Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Zach Osborne, who led the first 22 laps of the 29-lap 450SX event.
In the final regular-format race in the Eastern Regional 250SX class, GEICO Honda’s Chase Sexton extended his points lead to 6 with his fourth win of the season.
The seats were empty due to COVID-19 regulations, but Rice-Eccles Stadium was filled with tension and nerves as the 450SX class racers roared off the starting gate.
Entering the first turn, points leader Tomac was dead last among the 22 racers. Osborne emerged with the holeshot with Team Honda HRC’s Justin Brayton in second, Smartop/BullFrog Spas/Motoconcepts Honda’s Justin Hill in third, and 2019-defending champion Webb in fourth.
Round 15 race winner Team Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen was in seventh. With less than a single race’s points separating Tomac from both Roczen and Webb, it looked like a perfect opportunity for Webb and Roczen to gain points.
For Tomac, a field of riders separated him from a race victory that would wrap up the title.
About three minutes into the racing, Webb had reached second place with Roczen keeping pace and passes along with him. But they were not clear of Tomac, who charged smartly through the pack, picking his passing sections and not pressing his luck.
In past seasons the daunting task might have led to hasty decisions, but Tomac was rock solid. When he made the pass into fifth Tomac was only 5.7 seconds out of the lead. After a short-lived battle with Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Jason Anderson he took over fourth place.
Up front at the race midpoint Webb felt the approach of Tomac and had yet to shake Roczen. Tomac got around the Honda rider with just under eight minutes left on the race clock. Roczen battled back but kept the racing clean. With under four minutes and one lap remaining, Webb ducked under Osborne in a bowl turn.
Osborne knifed his front tire and nearly went down, allowing Tomac an easy pass into second. Webb and Tomac set off into a sea of lappers to see if Webb would force the title to be determined at the final round. The KTM rider maintained a one second lead for most of the remaining laps, putting in a flawless defense until he grabbed the checkered flag and his fourth victory of the season.
Incidentally, Webb earned the win at every Wednesday race in the season’s accelerated-calendar second half; the win puts him 22 points behind Tomac with a single round remaining in the season.
When asked about the pressure from Tomac, Webb said after the race, “I wasn’t thinking about that too much I was just hitting my marks and trying to see where I could be a little bit better. The track was – we were all really close in speed, not a lot of separation. I fixed the whoops about halfway, I think that’s where it was holding me back, and started hitting them really well. I had a lot of pressure from Kenny [Roczen] , he was all over me there at the beginning. And Zach rode great out front. I definitely saw Eli get behind me and he was riding really good; I knew I had to go ahead and make a pass [on Osborne]. So, it’s a great night, it’s great to get another win.”
Tomac was disappointed even after his amazing charge through the pack, “I felt better on this track today just for making passes. I was pushing hard, as hard as I could. Caught the front pack, then once Cooper made the pass on Zach it seemed like he stepped it up. So, I did everything I could, couldn’t quite get there, but really good day for us.”
The Eastern Regional 250SX Class offered its own dramatic racing. Going into the race, Sexton held a three-point lead over Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing’s Shane McElrath. This would be their final match-up before the East/West Showdown where points can be gained or lost easier than in a standard season race.
Monster Energy’s Darian Sanayei nabbed the holeshot, with McElrath in second and Sexton back at fifth; within a half lap the two title contenders had reached the first two positions and the race for a points advantage was on. Just over three minutes into the fifteen-minute plus one lap race Sexton pushed McElrath aggressively high in a bowl turn to take over the lead; McElrath chased but never closed enough to attempt to take it back.
As they crossed the line, Sexton extended his points lead to six. In the other division, the Western Regional 250SX class, the title contenders sit only seven points apart.