Triple Crown winners Webb and Kitchen recall fourth round.
With the 2024 Monster Energy Supercross Championship proving to be unpredictable in its early stages, the A2 Triple Crown continued in that trend as we saw two more season-first winners for the fourth round in a row as Cooper Webb and Levi Kitchen shone through to take the 450SX and 250SX West victories in Anaheim. Both riders were available to the media following the main events for this Debrief feature.
Cooper, big win for you. First of the season, how do you feel to get it done in this Triple Crown format?
Oh man, it was awesome. You’ve got to be consistent all day. Like I keep saying, it’s a little weird to not win a main event, but overall, it feels great to get a win for the first one of the season. It was a rough end of the year last year. So it feels great to be up here back in the points swing and to represent the new team and all my new sponsors. It feels really awesome.
Last week in the press conference you just had an energy about you, like there was definitely a vibe that you were putting off, even at the end to kind of make sure that you congratulated AP [Aaron Plessinger]. It was a very in control mentality. How do you build that kind of vibe within yourself and can you feel that something’s been building in these early rounds of this championship? And if you look back to last year when you had your struggles, what’s the difference?
I think for me, it’s just overall everything’s gelling really well. The bike change helped me attack a little bit harder, to where last year I relied a lot on consistency and speed was sometimes not there. I feel like now I have the speed when I need it, I feel like I can maneuver things a little bit better, and honestly, I’m really motivated, but I’m having fun. I’m with a really solid group and I think just the change, mentally, was a great thing for me and I’m just enjoying putting in the work again. I have a great crew to ride with and the team is awesome and obviously it’s not easy to make us both happy and I feel like they’ve done a great job at making all three of us happy. I’ve always been a confident person, but I feel like this off season, towards the later half of it I was like, man, ‘I’m doing things on the motorcycle that I know is gonna be good at the race.’ That’s the biggest thing, I think.
Can you describe the feeling when you do win and overall without winning one of the, one of the races on the night? What’s that like for you?
It’s tough because I’m doing math in my head on lap one. I think we all do when we’re in a good spot going into the last one. It’s one of those things that if you do really well in the first two, the third one sometimes is easy. Like I had a lot of wiggle room and I could just honestly have a solo ride in fifth place. But it is a little bit weird, you know, for sure to, to not go over the checkered flag first. But, I think that’s kind of the unique thing about the Triple Crown is we’ve seen a lot of this happen and you can have big point swings and you can have one bad race, but then have two good ones and you end up on the podium or something like that. So it’s never over for sure in these situations. I saw Jason right in front of me and he went down. That probably wasn’t the best thing for me because it was instantly like I, you know, I can just kind of chill. But, I was grateful to put myself in that situation.
You’re dealing with being sick this week. How did that impact you during the races? Is a Triple Crown harder for that?
Yeah, for sure, it’s not great but everybody has those weekends where you don’t feel great and you just gotta kind of get through it. That’s sport and I made the most of it, and put myself in great position. It was definitely tougher in a Triple Crown scenario.
You’ve had different levels of popularity throughout your career with the fans. What’s your thoughts on the reaction to Jett tonight after all that’s happened in the last week or so.
The crowd gave him a pretty resounding booing.
Yeah. Just wondering the personal experience for you in your career. It’s kind of a strange.
Yeah, I wasn’t aware, that’s kind of crazy, but yeah, we’re in a world where there’s a lot of crazy things that go around, especially online. So, I’m sure Eli [Tomac] would say the same, it’s always best to keep your head down and you know, as much as you want sometimes knock somebody’s ass out, you just gotta keep it all in, [laughs]. But yeah, that’s pretty crazy, I didn’t know that.
We came into the Super Motocross playoffs last year and you really wanted to go fight for wins and be a title threat and obviously that wasn’t the case. Just talk about how you got the bike comfortable to where you are now and how you kind of turn things around. Like, you look completely different from last September. So, just talk about that mindset and the change with the bike and everything.
Yeah, SMX wasn’t great for me. Looking back, I was just not ready and that was the bottom line. I thought I was. I think it was one of those things where you get on a new bike and you’ve just got different scenery and you’re very pumped. But, I think it was good for me to go there and get really beat pretty good. Then I also figured some stuff out with my health side and that really helped, so that was good but mainly the bike and really trusting the direction of the team and working with the guys and having solid days. It’s crazy to see the turnaround from September to January. It was a massive difference. So, it’s really encouraging and I think for me, I always know supercross is something that comes maybe a little more natural for me and I’m always gonna hopefully be in a position to fight for a championship and I never lost sight of that. I think that was the biggest thing, even though it was a bit a little discouraging after SMX, I never lost sight of the main goal and neither did the team.
Obviously this bike is a Star bike, so it’s completely different from the factory Yamaha you raced in your first two years in the 450 class. Can you just talk about the changes to the bike in general and how different it is now compared to 2018?
It’s a lot different, pretty much everything. The personnel, the way the suspension is, like everything is completely different in the way it’s ran. Even though it’s the same Yamaha motorcycle, it’s a complete 360. Everyone’s like, “Don’t you have PTSD?” And I’m like, “No, I know this group and the success we had on 250s.” And even when I raced those select 450 races as a 250 rider on their bike I always did really well. So yeah, it’s kind of crazy to think how different it can be. But from every aspect of it, everything has changed and progressed.
The whoop sections had a couple different options across the three races. Some guys were skimming, some guys were jumping, some were doing both. What was your decision making each lap of how you wanted to handle that section? Because it seemed like it was changing throughout the night.
Yeah, they were pretty challenging but like you said, if you got a good flow skimming, it was good. And then the one set, I think the 3-3-3 seemed to kind of be the way. And then for me, it’s always, nice to jump because you can kind of save some energy to be honest, [laughs]. So that was kind of why I was sticking to it. But yeah, two sets of whoops this weekend, that’s always a little bit of a challenge compared to one set. But yeah, I thought the track overall was pretty good tonight.
Levi, Triple Crowns seem to be the thing you are great at. How much do you love this format?
Yeah, I like it a lot actually. It’s obviously treated me well, but I would honestly probably prefer the normal [format]. But every once in a while, it’s good. I just hope they don’t go to a lot of these. It’s fun to have a couple in the season, but I would say I prefer the normal format.
Eli Tomac said the same thing. He said to cap it at three, do you feel the same way?
I mean, I don’t even have three, [laughs]. I don’t even know how many I have this season. But yeah, definitely in terms of how many we run, I say three.
Every year, I feel like in the lites class we get a few rounds in and someone slowly establishes their dominance. Like last year it was Jett and Hunter [Lawrence], the year before we’ve had Christian Craig. So, you get a couple rounds in and someone kind of takes that spot. Do you think that spot is still up for grabs or are you slowly making a claim for that? And that first moto especially, you and RJ [Hampshire] were sending it. So, it seems like you guys are really in the battle for who is gonna be the guy of this class this season?
Yeah, it’s tough. Last year, I think Jett was clearly just a little bit better, so we’re all really close right now. Obviously, I wanna be the dominant guy, but yeah it’s close right now. You can’t start in like fifth or sixth with these guys and have them up front. I don’t even know what you’d have to do to be able to get up to them. So, I think it’s tighter than years past. Like, especially the top five of us. We’re all pretty experienced by now, so it’s definitely tight racing.
You [and Nate Thrasher] have been teammates in the past, so you’ve spent a lot of time riding with each other throughout the weeks. Do each of you take that into consideration on the race track? You know each other’s craft better than anyone else on the track. Is that something that works into your favor at all?
I think so. I’d say for the safety thing, I know I can follow Nate pretty much wherever I want. He’s pretty in control when he’s racing. So, I’d say in that case, yeah!
You look like a totally new rider this weekend, from rounds one through three, the leg swag in moto one and two. Is there anything that’s changed? You just looked like you were charging, it looked like you were flowing the whole weekend. Can you talk about anything that you changed, or did you just feel more comfortable?
Well, we didn’t get rain, [laughs]. So, I’d say that was the first thing. I mean, really the only take away we have is A1 and I was pretty nervous at A1, so I rode a little tight. I’d say I just rode like myself tonight more so.
In that last race you already had a pretty comfortable points lead in terms for the Triple Crown overall win. You didn’t need to pass Nate and you also didn’t need to beat Jo. Jo caught you in the end. Were you doing the math in your head? And also how would you feel if there were like championship points rewarded for first or even a podium, to give you some more incentive to actually race forward in that last race?
Yeah, if that was the case, I would have for sure made a push to try to get Nate. But, it didn’t matter tonight. I looked up on the triple and pretty much spotted RJ every time and then when I saw he went down, I pretty much just kicked him in cruise control and then just tried to be smart and get to the finish line.
As riders, is that too much extra stress to have additional championship points on the line for like a first in a single race?
Maybe, I don’t know. I think it would make the format definitely interesting. But, I think you’d see a lot more carnage, to be honest. I don’t really know how that would go.
You had three good starts tonight. But last year, you had issues with starts and now you’re on the Pro Circuit bike. Anything that you figured out? Or is it just technique or maybe confidence? What is it about your starts that you’ve figured out?
I think a little bit of it is the hydraulic clutch. It’s a little bit easier for me to get off the line with it. But other than that, I just worked on a lot of starts this year and I feel really comfortable on this bike.
I don’t know if you’ve looked at the points, but you and Jordon [Smith] are tied right now and you guys have a week off before you come back in Phoenix. Obviously, we always talk about the mindset of the red plate. So how does this feel for you right now?
Well, it’s new, I’ve never had it. So, I don’t know. There’s obviously a little bit of pressure, but I’m just gonna try to keep doing what I’ve been doing and if the win’s there, take it, if not, then just try to leave Glendale with the red plate again.
Obviously, two straight years you win the Anaheim 2 Supercross and it’s a Triple Crown. But last year, you went 7-21-1 and this year you’ve been on the podium with 3-2-5-1. Just talk about the differences, did you do anything mentally or training wise? We haven’t seen crashes in the early rounds like you had through your first few years of supercross. Talk about the differences compared to previous years.
I think just experience. Obviously new team, a lot of things changed, but I’d say it’s just mindset and being a little smarter with even gate position, anything. I’m just being a smarter racer and I’m learning a lot every time I’m out there.