Cooper Webb stalked Ken Roczen throughout Round 3 of the Supercross season and pounced on the final lap when the pair rode into traffic. Webb scored his first win and podium of the season as Roczen threw his hands up in frustration.
The ending was fitting, however, because several laps earlier Webb gave up three seconds when he too was caught in traffic.
The win turns Webb in the right direction after getting off to a slow start for the season. He finished ninth in the first round at Houston and was fourth on Tuesday. Saturday night’s win allowed him to close to within one point, however, as the championship hunt takes shape.
Last year Webb ended the season with six first or second-place finishes at Salt Lake City before a disastrous seventh race on that track sent him home eighth.
“It was a close race the whole time,” Webb said from the podium. “Kenny rode really well – a really solid race, not many mistakes. The track was really tricky. Easy to override. The lappers there at the end were a real bummer. I felt like we were going to have a real battle – and obviously we did – but the lappers were really tough tonight.
“We’re in Texas where you have to go big or go home.”
Roczen nearly had a storybook ending to a difficult week.
Four days after being docked four points for jumping on a red cross flag during Round 2 Tuesday night – a penalty that Roczen believed was unfair – he was determined to make a statement with a Round 3 win.
He shot out to an early lead, but could not shake Webb. Still, Roczen was confident he would hold off the challenger until they ran up on lapped traffic in the final round.
Entering a wall jump, Roczen had his progress impeded by Dean Wilson.
“Part of me wants to punch a hole in a wall, but I’ve been practicing my patience,” Roczen said. “I’m going to keep it cool.”
After the race, Roczen waited on Wilson and showed his frustration with raised hands.
“It was a bummer last lap,” Roczen continued. “(Wilson) was ahead of me for about three-quarters of it. I was screaming and yelling, and he told me he didn’t hear me. It is what it is. Unfortunately finished second. It is very, very, very frustrating but I’m going to try and keep it cool.”
Wilson apologized after the race.
“First off I [expletive deleted] up,” Wilson posted on Instagram after the race. “I never knew it was the the leaders behind me. Kenny I’m sorry and sincerely apologize.
“I ruined your race and wish I could take it back. … I should have been more aware of who was behind me. I just got locked in on the guys ahead.”
But even while he is frustrated, Roczen regained the points lead he briefly had before Tuesday’s penalty. With two second-place finishes and a fifth, Roczen leaves Houston with one-point advantage over Webb and Justin Barcia, who are tied for second.
Adam Cianciarulo scored his first podium finish of the season in third.
It has been a seesaw season for Cianciarulo. He scored a fourth-place finish in Round 1 and a 12th in Round 2 when he crashed while running second midway through the race. And after missing much of the 2020 Supercross season with an injury sustained in Arlington, Texas, it has been nearly 11 months since he last stood on the podium at San Diego.
Cianciarulo started the evening promisingly with a Heat win.
“I was stressing it hard (coming into this season),” Cianciarulo said after the race. “Everyone knows how stacked the field is.”
Cianciarulo is now locked in a four-way tie for fifth in the points, nine points behind Roczen. To challenge for the championship he will need for his arm to completely heal after off season surgery on his wrist.
One of the most compelling battles was for fifth. Riding a wave after his opening-round win, Just Barcia fell halfway through the Main and let Tomac get around. Within a two laps, Barcia passed him back. Getting around the defending champion was it’s own measure of victory.
Tomac rounded out the top five.
Finishing sixth, Malcolm Stewart leaves Houston with a sweep of the top 10. Ninth-place Zach Osborne and 10th-place Justin Brayton have also been perfect in that regard.
Colt Nichols kept teammate Christian Craig in sight throughout the Main and pulled the trigger when it mattered. He won his first feature in two years. Nichols last victory came on Jan. 2019 in the season opener at Anaheim. That season, he began the year with four consecutive podiums.
In 2021, Nichols is on pace to repeat that feat. In the first three races this year, Nichols has gotten progressively stronger with a third in the first Houston round and a runner-up finish on Tuesday.
“I was really just trying to be patient,” Nichols said from the podium. “The Star Yamahas took off like rockets and we were one and two. It felt like just another day in California with me and Christian just trading laps. I knew where he was faster and I tried to pick up on a few lines.”
In the first three races of the 2020 Supercross season, there have now been three different winners. Craig won Round 1. Jett Lawrence won Round 2.
Nichols had to pass his teammate to score the win. Craig jumped out to the early lead, but Nichols kept him in sight and prowled behind with a gap of just a little more than one second.
“Our team laid into me and Colt after our heat race,” Craig said after the Main. “That (heat) start was embarrassing. So we were both hyped up to get off the gate, We were went one-two.”
The Yamaha teammates had a comfortable five-second lead on the field at the halfway point, which allowed them to battle among themselves.
“I tried to put my laps down and spurt away, but Colt just latched on,” Craig continued. “That was my race to win, but Colt just ran so good and took advantage of those lappers when I got stuck and he made the pass quick.”
Nichols and Craig will share the red plate heading into Indianapolis next week with 70 points each. They have a six-point advantage over Lawrence.
This is the first time Craig has earned three consecutive podiums since 2016. That season he had five consecutive from Anaheim 2 through Arlington in Supercross 250 West.
Lawrence rounded out the top three, but his finish did not come without a little controversy.
In the closing laps he made an aggressive pass on Michael Mosiman and sent the other rider to the dirt.
“It wasn’t clean and pretty,” Lawrence said. “I had to make a little bit of a dirty move because I know (Mosiman) is a pain to get around.”
Lawrence was warned about his move after the race.
“I’ve already spoken to AMA and got a warning for that,” Lawrence said in the post-race conference. “Got a little slap on the wrist. It kind of wakes me up with it.
“It wasn’t my night and I had to make a bit of an aggressive move for third-place. It went a lot worse; I didn’t think it would go that bad, but it’s already done. I can’t really say I didn’t mean to do it. Obviously as a professional athlete, we know what we’re doing on the bike.”
Jo Shimoda finished fourth, which was his third straight top-five.
Mosiman remounted his GasGas stead and rounded out the top five.
The race began without two of its superstars. Austin Forkner and RJ Hampshire both crashed in practice. Forkner went to the hospital to have his collarbone checked. Hampshire was out with a wrist injury.