Houston was a Triple Crown race day. Shorter, sharper races around a thrilling track that combined speed with technicality and plenty of passing opportunities. It opened up the competition to some of the hardest racing we’ve seen all season.
Cooper Webb. 2-1-3. Coop should have been elated, but at the post-race press conference he seemed far from that. The reason – Marv had been rattling his cage. Only that’s not true, all Marv did was to pass Webb on the first lap of Main #1, Webb did the rest, getting all riled-up and going super aggressive. Which was just fine by the fans who were treated to some seriously hard determined riding that ended up with Webb barging Marv clean off the track. Webb would win out on the night and if attack really is the best form of defense then Webb is The Man. But… you kind of got the impression Webb burned himself (not just on his exhaust in a qualifying crash), he didn’t maybe like the man he became, or – more likely – he knows in showing his hand he’s opened the door to all manner of tactics that his rivals will now bring. If Coop can play hard then so will the rest. The days of gentlemanly sport are over for 2019. For his part Coop said, “I know I made some mistakes and got a little frustrated and I’ll try and learn from it and be better.” Such platitudes might have come too late.
Marvin Musquin. 5-3-1. Marv took the moral victory and he spelled it out in clear terms: “I did a clean pass, I never touched Cooper, it’s not my intention to (ride) like that, he’s my competition but also my teammate”. And if that didn’t make it clear enough: “Cooper was very aggressive and pushed me off the track.” And finally came the salt: “It’s not always the fastest guy who wins the overall.” We love Marv for his Houston performance. He absolutely flew on the track, he rode fast and loose – loose enough to fly clean off the track even when not pushed – and in the last moto he showed who’s the fastest alright. Marv is on a mission, no doubt, and while he may respect Webb, they might train and practice together, he’s shown come gate drop he’s prepared to do what he must to win. And while Webb beat him in Houston, that’s just one battle, the war will rage on…
Dean Wilson. 3-2-5. The Canadian-Scot was the unsuspecting interloper to the KTM civil war. Wilson rode smooth and clean in some contrast to the dirty tricks flying around him. Three excellent starts set Wilson up for three great races. One very professional performance.
Eli Tomac. 6-7-2. Wow, every mood of Tomac in one night. We had shameful Tomac after main #1, when he rolled off on the finish line letting Marv grab fifth by an inch. We had distracted Tomac in Main#2, when unable to make the race at the front he got mugged by Zach Osborne. Finally, with a big green boot stuffed firmly up his butt, we got our favourite fast ‘n’ furious Tomac in Main #3 when he at last got a decent start, then gave it away, before fighting back and dealing to Webb what Webb had been dealing to everyone else all night. We just need rides like that every time, not every other weekend…
Cole Seely. 4-4-11. You gotta expect an HRC Honda to be in the top five, only this time it was – at last – Cole Seely’s CRF450R that was in the frame. Coming back from big injury in 2018, Seely’s season has been pretty forgettable until this round, but he found his mojo in Houston. Only maybe he should have held onto it for one more race as he could have made the podium. But hopefully he’ll use this to push to the end of the season.
Got to feel for Ken Roczen. In Main #1 he scorched to an uncontested win, his first main win in two years (or third-of-a-main win). Then he tangled with Dean Wilson in T1 of Main #2 and slammed hard into the deck. Kind of game over. He got back on track for Main #3 and salvaged some points for 10th overall, but the season looks to be slipping away for Ken. Zach Osborne continues to get stronger, looking faster with each race, getting one over Tomac in Main #2 will have boosted his confidence and that showed in the final race when he grabbed fourth for sixth overall.
RUST’s predictions for Nashville: We can barely wait! Marv will be on fire. Webb might be conflicted but more than likely will have got his head straight and realized that yes, hard fighting is correct in these circumstances. And hopefully Tomac and Roczen will come out swinging, too. For three of the four there’s now nothing to lose. Expect Webb to be displaying a nervous twitch every 180º turn he rides…