News 22 Apr 2024

Why Webb isn’t worried about losing the red plate

As races wind down, Webb is sticking to his season gameplan.

Coming into Nashville tied atop the 450SX standings, Cooper Webb left the 14th round without a red plate any longer as a third-place finish dropped him five points behind Team Honda HRC’s Jett Lawrence in the standings. Despite this, the Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing rider isn’t worried about how things went down in Nashville as he continues to focus on taking each weekend one at a time.

Webb started the main event in Nashville right behind teammate Eli Tomac, the aforementioned Lawrence, and Progressive Ecstar Suzuki’s Ken Roczen. After Roczen passed Lawrence on the second lap, Webb was suddenly right on his title challengers’ rear tire. However, Lawrence simply inched away from Webb as he went on to take the win and the points lead back to himself in the process. After the race, Webb admitted Lawrence just had a different demeanor about him all day long.

Image: Octopi Media.

“I think today, I saw from first thing in practice that Jett had a point to prove and he did that,” said Webb. “He was, to me, the best all day. I was good but I didn’t really gel all day. I was just a little off all day. I think it’s easy to look at, “Hey it’s four to go,” but you also have to take it race by race. Anything can happen as we’ve seen these last few weeks. I think as important as it is to win, it’s important to also be in the fight, especially in these last ones. I think I’ll just regroup and take it to the next weekend. I feel good on the bike, feel good with my riding, I just have to be a little better next weekend and hopefully get the red plate. With Eli, maybe we can get a sandwich in there and get some points. We’ll see how it goes.”

While it is easy to think that this is a sprint to the finish in these final races, Webb’s approach to not force the issue has history behind it. Even last year, the title fight was firmly between Tomac and Webb with four rounds to go. But then, Webb suffered a concussion in Nashville and Tomac tore his Achilles in Denver and Chase Sexton came from third to win the championship.

Webb even noticed early in the race that Lawrence’s pace wasn’t without mistakes as the Honda man swapped a few times in the sand section and had some close calls as well.

“I was behind him the first few [laps] and I was like, “Oh boy!” He was holding on tight!” said Webb. “I think he figured it out. Where he was good was, he got that 3-3 after the whoops from the inside and that was really fast early. And the sand, I mean obviously we saw this summer that he’s good in the outdoor conditions and he was really flowing through that section well. That’s definitely where I was losing a bunch of time, but it was a tough section.”

Image: Octopi Media.

One way to look at the situation as well is that four rounds ago, Webb was 21-points down and right now he’s just five points back. Unlike Lawrence, Webb has been through his share of 450SX title fights, and he knows what it takes to get it done in the closing races.

Another factor is that Nashville is where Webb suffered the concussion that ended his title contention just last year. In his first time back in Nissan Stadium since that moment, Webb was never really in his element throughout the day.

“It’s not easy,” said Webb. “In our sport, you’ve got to forgive and forget. That’s what we try to do and that’s what I did today. I didn’t ever really feel super strong all day. I felt good but was just lacking a little bit all day. You take it for what it is. It was a distant third, but if you’re on the podium, that’s always a great thing.”

Image: Octopi Media.

As Webb mentioned, he does still have some things playing in his favor in having someone like Eli Tomac as a teammate who could potentially get in there and take points away from Lawrence down the stretch. Though the flipside is the series likely just lost Ken Roczen for the end of the season after crashing out of the main event in Nashville, and reigning champion Chase Sexton also will not be 100% after crashing out just before Roczen did.

So, while we may be down to just two riders really remaining with a realistic shot at this 450SX title, there are many factors that could change the results from week to week through the final three rounds. Whether Webb is just playing mental games with Lawrence to show he’s not worried or Webb is really that mentally tough after a rough night, it’s sure to continue adding to the fire that these last three races will bring before the champion is crowned.