Features 4 May 2021

Debrief: 2021 Supercross Rd17 Salt Lake City

2021 SX champs Webb, Cooper, and Nichols recall 17th round.

The 2021 Monster Energy Supercross championship is complete and it was Cooper Webb taking the 450SX championship, Justin Cooper grabbing the 250SX West title and Colt Nichols taking the 250SX East crown. All three riders spoke to the media following the final round in Salt Lake City for this Debrief interview.


Image: Octopi Media.

Way to stamp it right? Get the win at the final race on a night that you’re going for the championship. What drove you to go out and get that win tonight? You were in a battle, you had to fight for it but we could tell you wanted to win that one. 

I think it was just mainly mindset. You know, all week I think it’s so easy to think about the what if’s and the don’t do this or don’t do that, but I just treated it like a normal week. I mean I was in a great situation with a nice points gap coming in and I knew [I had to get] I think it was 19th or better if Kenny [Roczen] won. So I think if something catastrophic happened I felt like I had a really good cushion. So honestly I just wanted to end the season on a high, I felt like in 2019 I won my championship and the nerves were high and all day I was just stressed out and I feel like I learned from it. I wanted to have fun throughout the day and enjoy it, I mean it’s not every day that you get to win a 450SX championship. So just enjoying the little things and not changing course throughout the day. Honestly, I was in a really good position, I thought me and Kenny were going to go at it for a majority of the main event, and anyway, long story short I was able to get around him and set my head down and just click my laps. I think that’s what helped me, like I said it’s easy to think about the what if’s and the bad but I think when you can press forward and go out and just race to your ability and race for wins, which I wanted to do, is a hell of a way to end it.

Cooper now that you’ve won this title twice have you started to think about you taking the mantle as ‘the guy’ in the sport, and what it means to be the endorser of the sport on and off the track with fans, media, kids, mainstream and all of that stuff? 

Yeah it’s obviously something you think about. It’s an honor, to win two is as of right now I think I’m the only guy to do that in the 450 class that’s currently racing. So it’s huge, I’m only 25 so I feel like I have plenty of good years left and you know, it’s a dream come true. I never expected to be in this situation and especially as an amateur as a kid. To be at the high of the sport and the top of the leaderboard if you will, is unbelievable. It’s something that I cherish and I’ll do my best to represent our sport the best way possible. For me yeah, that feeling of winning is just addicting and that’s what we strive for and that’s what I chase. So hopefully we can keep adding to the collection.

Was there a point in the season that you know that this was going to happen, that you were definitely the guy? What was the moment that you knew that this was your title to win? 

I think Orlando was the beginning of it, but I think Daytona stamped it. Seeing the emotions that went into that, I kind of knew right then and there ‘okay, I’ve got this guy beat’. Anyway, it’s crazy, obviously anything can happen. The mental side is the biggest part of our sport in my opinion, so when I saw how things went down there and just saw the reactions, I just kind of in my knew ‘okay, I’m right where I need to be, I’m right in the thick of the points’ I was gaining stride, I was gaining confidence and I just kind of knew from there that it’d be a fight and it was going to be tough but I just felt like the momentum shift there and kind of knew that I’d had this feeling before and let’s go for it again.

It seemed like it got a little chippy during the main, a little aggressive with Roczen. How far would you let that go and how far do you take it?

I honestly wasn’t expecting it to be honest. I mean I get it, you’ve gotta try what you can but I was getting a little annoyed to be fair. I get it, it’s racing if you can go for the front wheel and make it work and break some spokes or whatever the logic was, I mean I get it. But at the same time, it was quite a bit of a big points gap so. I think for me it was the ultimate statement though, to be able to take my time, get around him, kind of give him a bump back and I don’t even know what he finished if he got a top 10 or not so. It is what it is, it’s racing and for me I always want to be out front moving forward and never looking back.

You talk about how important the mental game is. It seemed like as the season wore on, you really wore on Kenny mentally. Was there a point where you felt, I own this guy mentally at this point?

No, you don’t own anyone. It’s just racing, I think like you said, I feel like I’m pretty good at making things happen and being able to pull things through in tough situations. Kenny [Roczen] is probably the most talented and best guy out there on certain days. So, you can never take anything for granted. I mean he put up a really good fight this year, and there for a while I didn’t know if we would be able to catch him. So, I don’t think you’d ever think that [you own someone] by any means, but you kind of know what you have in your back pocket.

Your first championship took place in 2019 before COVID-19. What’s the atmosphere like in the stadium winning the second time? Less people. Is the atmosphere still just as good for winning a championship?

Yeah, it was. Honestly tonight there were a lot of fans there, so it was super cool. It was sweet. I think for me, I was so nervous in ’19 and this weekend just being so excited and more hyped than anything. The feeling when I crossed the checkered was pretty cool. I got second last year which was a good motivator. So I think it was honestly a higher vibe today.

Bonus check. When that thing hits the bank account, what are you buying?

I’m a tightwad, so I can’t even tell you. I’ll let you know, maybe a boat.

250SX East

Image: Octopi Media.

Justin, what was the day like for you? Having that big points lead but knowing that you still had to get it done in a weird environment, how did you keep your composure today and kind of navigate the situation? Especially in the heat race when you were bumped off the track and were immediately in dead last to start the night. How did you keep it together today?

It all started off great with practice, I felt good on the track all day. I felt good with the bike, was down with everything. I even got the holeshot in the heat and Hunter [Lawrence] ran me off the track. That got my heart rate up a little bit, so I just tried to stay calm through that, just wanted to get straight to the main, I didn’t want to go through the LCQ. Got the pit board saying I was in P9 and I think I got eighth in that. Awesome to just go straight through there. I was lining up on the outside [in the main] and I just didn’t really get in a good spot in the first turn. I think I was outside of the top five, just cruised it on home from there. I didn’t really feel the need to push, I really just wanted to take this thing home. Really, really pumped for the team and for myself to pull this year off like this, seeing where we were before the season, it feels great. Like Colt [Nichols] said, it’s really not setting in yet, but I’m sure it will over the next few days.

You weren’t riding as fast as you could out there, was that something that you were just kind of laying up for the title, or did you find yourself stiff out there at all?

I didn’t execute the start. I was on the outside, I just really didn’t feel the need to go up to the front. It wasn’t really a race I wanted to be a part of, there was a lot of battles going on in front of me, the guys were getting pretty aggressive. Just hung back and did my own laps, clicked off the laps, and stayed out of trouble, stayed where I was. I knew I was in a good position to win and didn’t want to throw anything away. When you’re in the mid-pack like that, a lot can happen pretty quick once you’re trying to move through the pack and make some passes, so I was just pretty content with where I was. If I got a better start that would have been a different story, but given where we were in the pack I kind of just settled in and did our laps.

Coming into this weekend you obviously had two weeks to sit on wrapping up your championship where Colt [Nichols] only had a six-day turnaround. What was that like sitting for two weeks thinking about wrapping this championship up today?

It was tough, I wanted to keep going after that Atlanta round. We finished our eighth round and we had one round left, then we had two weeks to sit on it, like you said. It was honestly pretty tough. You obviously go through all the scenarios in your head and you just got to sit and wait for the race. It was a long two weeks, even today was so long just going through all the practices, I just wanted to get to the racing. It feels so damn good to wrap this thing up, it just takes so much pressure off. I really put a lot of pressure on myself to get it done this year, been runner-up the last couple years, [so I] had to make it happen at some point. To really just get it done is awesome, it’s awesome for the team, and we can start getting ready for next year.

Bonus check. When that thing hits the bank account, what are you buying?

I think I’m going to have to stop on the way back from Vegas and do some shopping, spend some of it that way. Then you’ve got to pay off the house and set yourself up for your future, that’s important stuff.

250SX West

Image: Octopi Media.

Colt, talk about the mindset coming into today. You could have taken it easy and got through the race, but you pushed and ended up second after leading for a while. Did you know you were going to go for it or was there any debate throughout the day?

I kind of tried to learn from last weekend really. I think I played it a little conservative last weekend, I just got a horrible start and tried to do what I could and I didn’t really want to do that again. So I was just really focused on the start tonight and wanted to just try to get up front and see what happened. Jett [Lawrence] was riding really well and I ended up holding my own pretty good. I straight-up wanted to win that race I felt solid and strong. I didn’t really know the situation as far as who was on me or what was going on and my mechanic gave me the board and said to let him by and try to stick with him. So I did that and I had no idea what was going on at that point. I tried to make a little bit of a push there at the end and just came up a little bit short. I really wanted to win that race and was a little bummed I didn’t but big picture it was cool to be on the podium nine times out of nine, so that was a cool feeling for this year to be on the podium every time. So it was good, I just tried to treat it like any other race since I kind of feel like I fumbled a little bit last weekend and I didn’t want to do that again this weekend for sure.

It’s been a long road, you were racing outdoor nationals in Costa Rica at one point in your career what’s it feel like when you cross that finish line and become a Supercross champion?

I don’t know if it’s honestly hit me yet. Like you said, I’ve been through it. I was just going to Costa Rica to make 500 bucks a weekend to race and kind of keep me afloat during the week. It’s been a road, man. That’s for sure. It definitely wasn’t the path that I thought I was going to do, but it’s the path that was meant for me, built a little bit of character on me. It felt pretty good, it didn’t really hit me until I was rolling through the rhythm there at the end. 250 East Coast supercross champion, that’s a pretty damn cool feeling. It’s something I don’t want to forget, I want to come back and try to do that again next year, that’s going to be the goal.

Bonus check, when that thing hits the bank account, what are you buying?

This is a fake chain, so I might buy a real one, to be honest. Pay my house off. That’s going to be first.