Features 26 Jan 2021

Debrief: 2021 Supercross Rd3 Houston

Main event winners Webb and Nichols recall third round in Texas.

Round three of the 2021 Monster Energy Supercross season is in the books. Both classes saw their third winner in as many races with Red Bull KTM’s Cooper Webb snagging a last lap victory in the 450SX class and Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha’s Colt Nichols edging out his teammate in the 250SX East class. Both riders were available to the media following the race for this Debrief interview feature.


Image: Octopi Media

Cooper Webb, I’m gonna start with you. Halfway through the race you got close to Kenny, kind of like when you were trying to size them up and then the lappers came into play, you lost a lot of time. At that point, did you still feel like you had a run in you? What was going through your mind? I guess at that point, cause Kenny was able to get back over three seconds. What were you processing at that moment? Were you ready to make another run or was it circumstantial?

Yeah. I mean, obviously it wasn’t ideal, you know, they caught a pack and I just didn’t get through them. And I’ll say, as we saw, it was tough tonight with lappers. So yeah, I mean that point, like I said I lost a lot and uh, just put my head down. I knew we were really close in time, so I knew it was going to be super hard, but, uh, just kept chipping away, chipping away. And you know, by the end we closed the gap a little bit, you know, as time kind of ran out, I felt like I made a really good charge at the end. And, yeah. Tough for all of us, for sure tonight.

Talk about the struggle here, these first couple of rounds. Sounded like you were working on settings, maybe the back slowed you down a little bit in the off season? What was the issue and do you feel good now or are you still a work in progress?
Yeah, we’re getting better obviously. Uh, it’s been a little bit of a struggle, you know, it wasn’t the off-season that I was hoping for by any means, but, um, you know, we have some new stuff on the bike this year and uh, Race conditions really different than the practice track, you know. I think these first few rounds, we’ve had a lot of traction, a lot more than I think any of us were anticipating. So, it’s been a little tough, but, uh, I gotta give it to my Red Bull KTM team. You know they really – we’ve been changing and stuff basically every time we’re on the track and, uh, tonight we made the right call. So I’m pumped on that. And now, you know, we have some time to ride. That’s kind of like the biggest thing we didn’t want to do is come here, not dialed in and, you know, chase your tail while you’re trying to race and stuff. So yeah, I’m stoked from the first Saturday to this Saturday is massive gains and looking to keep building with the long series still to come.

Cooper at this time last year, you know, you had had a good finish at Anaheim one and then some struggles, and then you bounce back really, really well at that big win in San Diego. Was this a similar position this year, where you finished off the podium and the first few races and then needed a win, because if it went too much longer, it was going to get away from you.

Yeah, I think so. And, uh, reminds me a lot of 2019. You know, I was first two rounds kind of off the radar and got the win at the third round. So, uh, it feels still similar to that. But I mean, it’s stacked man, as you saw these first three rounds, it’s, it starts. And anyone, not anyone, but it’s track position and starts. I think as we go maybe to more series, you know, they’ll kind of, tweak around with the tracks and get them to where we can hopefully get some better racing in and stuff. Uh, yeah, I mean, we’re in a good spot. It’s still early. So it’s going to be a lot of good and bad nights and you just gotta go with what you’re dealt.

Cooper coming up to toward the end of the main, you know, watching what’s happening in front of you, was there a plan or is it just take advantage of what happens around you?

Yeah. I mean, there wasn’t much of a plan, like you said. I mean really, until the last five, I was still kind of chipping away. So, you know, I think it was, it was more of, um, I just kinda went for it, you know, found some lines and just tried to put some really good laps in at the end. And I mean, I got close, you know, but yeah, not, not really a plan. Like I said, we were kind of doing the same lines and the same kind of thing. So, you know, I just wanted to get close and when you get close and pressure with the fans back, it can lead to mistakes. But, um, you know, no real plan, just get close. And when you get close, I just tend to kind of play it out and see what needs to be done.

I want to step back to the heat race. just to get your thoughts on the tabletop section when Barcia almost cleaned you out.

Yeah, it wasn’t very ideal. I mean, I just know how Bam-Bam is. And I saw him look and I’m like, please don’t do it. And he did so. But you know, took his red plate in the main, so it all worked out.

Cooper, we saw in the final laps of the main started changing your line up coming into the whoops. You were skimming, then you were going to jumping on the last lap, you ducked up the inside and skimmed. Did you see that as a place you could pass coming to that corner?

Yeah, I, I mean, I was kind of struggling skimming at the beginning of the day, but there at the main, I kind of had like a half jump, half skim going that seemed to work pretty good. And then I just kinda knew, kinda committed to that jump in line. And I felt like if I could get a really good run, skimming and close that little bit then maybe it would work. And so it seemed to be a good call.

You said on the podium that you let the team take control of your set up for this round and sort of you make it up as you went along. What sort of set up did you end up with? Was it an old set up or a new set up. Can you just run us through that sort of change that you made there?

Yeah. So, you know, obviously our shock is a lot different now, not being on a spring one. So it’s a lot to learn about. And you know, like I said, I didn’t spend much time and at all in California. So you know, we’re all so close that, when you’re comfortable on the bike, it makes a huge difference. So, just working with balance, I mean, there’s so much to try. And like I said at the level we’re at, you’re looking for just that 1% of comfort or whatever it may be. So we mess with forks, shocks, you know, pull rods all day and just kind of came up with a combo that we felt like was going to be the best for the main event. And, yeah, obviously, I felt like they made the right decision and we’ll hopefully stick with that and get some laps in and keep building.

You mentioned that you were riding with the air shock. Talk us through how much testing have you done with it and what made you choose the air shock and what are the differences compared to the spring shock.

It’s quite a bit different, that’s for sure. I mean immediately, I liked it a lot. It’s hard to explain without knowing the differences and feeling it. But [it] just seems to be a lot  plusher and more progressive, which I really enjoy. So, it’s just fine tuning it though, you know, it’s, it’s totally different. It’s all new. I mean, I think the KTM GP guys rode it at the end of the year for outdoors and GPs, but that’s it. So, you know, it’s all new from when [Ryan] Dungey rode it back in the day and you know, we’re still working on it. I mean, yeah, we’re just trying to improve as much as we can, but we feel like it’s still a better package than the spring. So, yeah, a lot different, untraditional, but it seems to- it’s got some good qualities.

250SX East

Image: Octopi Media

The lapped riders came into play and became a pretty big issue late. And if you look at the 250 class and the riders that are in there, there’s a lot of young riders, a lot of first season guys, safe to say you’re going to be in lap traffic a lot this year. You played it well tonight. Is that something you’re looking forward to navigating in the future? Because I think you guys are going to be living in lap riders for the majority of the 250 East coast championship.

Yeah. I mean, I don’t really think most of us are looking forward to that, but yeah, some are definitely gonna have to face, I think with, you know, a handful of guys out and some younger guys kind of filling the slot. So, it made it tough for sure. It was tough on, you know, I’m sure Christian coming up on them first and trying to navigate where to go. And I was just kind of going where he wasn’t. So, uh, it was tough. It felt like we hit lappers really early. I don’t know what lap we hit them, but yeah, it was, it was a little bit of chaos and especially in the heat race, I went down and had to come through the pack and it’s a little scary back there.
So, yeah I’m just trying to play it smart and glad I was able to do that tonight.

During the first half of the race, you were kind of pacing, but somewhere around midway, you kind of switched from pacing to attacking. Was there, was there a moment where you’re like, I can win this, I need to go after it?

Uh, yeah, I guess a little bit. You know, me and Christian were kind of just trading laps and I noticed we were doing a lot of similar things. I picked up on a few of his lines and kind of saw where I was just a little bit quicker and really just tried to wait my time. And, you know, I think the lappers maybe helped a little bit, close up a little and you know, some stuff like that, but I just tried to be smart and really just pick my battles. And I feel like I did that really well. Yeah. I was able to just close in on him and you know, I just wanted to keep going and keep going. And he got back by me and I just kind of just kept trying to apply the pressure. And, uh, it just made it a fun race though. It was really cool. Like I said, it felt like I had another day at Yamaha with me and him kind of just trading laps and, uh, that, that was fun. I’m glad we got off to a good start like that. And I was able to come through in the end. That was nice.

I kind of feel like we, some of us anyway, overlooked you little bit coming into the season. Was there any added motivation, uh, because you’re obviously w did overlook you. We, we probably think we look at fools right now.

Um, I mean maybe a little bit, but overall no. I mean, I knew what I was doing in the off season, just trying to put it in time really. And I was actually able to do that this year for the first time, really. You know, 2019, I had a good off-season, I was able to have a good series. I kind of learned a lot from that season, having the red plate for a while and I ended up missing a race and it was just, it was a good season for me though. I actually learned a lot and I was actually able to come in prepared for the first time in my career. I was able to do that this year too. So I knew if I just stayed healthy and was able to put my head down, I would be good. And, uh, it’s just kinda tough though when you’re not there. You know, last year I only raced I think three or four races all season, supercross and outdoors combined. So I kind of knew I’d be, you know forgotten about, in a sense. So uh, it didn’t really bother me. I understood why people weren’t really put me at the top of their fantasy picks, but I believed in my ability and you know, what I can do if I can come in and get a good start and come and healthy, and I was able to do that this year. So, it feels good, a three, two, one in Houston. I can’t really complain. So move on to Indy and try to keep it moving.

It seemed like you were pretty confident coming into the season because of the off season, but does this win give you a little boost or did you kind of feel you were already up?

I mean, I think a win always kind of gives you a little bit of a boost, you know, just kind of proving to yourself that you actually can win. It’s always, it’s just a good feeling. But I was happy with where I was, you know, three, two on the first two races. I feel like I was riding well, just wouldn’t put myself in a great position off the start on the first few races and I was able to do that tonight and just kind of haunt Christian around the whole main and we were just kind of trading laps. So yeah, it does give me a little boost and feels great. You know, we’ll be sharing the red plate, which will be kind of cool for the team going into Indy. So yeah, I’m looking forward to it.