We’ve had to wait until the seventh round to see the top players show their hands. And it all played out over the most absorbing race of the year so far. And when the smoke cleared – there’s was one major victim and one clear winner
Cooper Webb. How did he do that? After the first lap Webb was a solid 2.6 seconds adrift of the lead but more importantly sat behind five other guys and then Roczen. With that much traffic to deal with he went backwards before he went forwards, dropping to over four seconds off the lead after five minutes. But Webb worked the 20 minutes and two-lap duration to perfection, moving forwards steadily at first but with increasing strength. Nipping past Joey Savatgy at half distance after the Kawasaki rider was put off line when Blake Baggett passed him, then Webb passed Baggett. Then came the inexorable wind-in of his KTM teammate Marvin Musquin, who he passed cleanly. Then, using the lapped traffic to catch Ken Roczen in handfuls of tenths of a second at a time he came up on the German. Roczen was wise though and covered Webb for that whole last lap and looked certain for the win. But Webb blitzed the last whoops with masterful speed and deftly switched to an inside line on the very last corner, and well within control managed to press Roczen high (but again cleanly) to then win the sprint to the line by two-tenths (apparently the closest win in Supercross history). Win number four, won the hard way, was a ‘statement win’ as Ricky Carmichael called it.
Ken Roczen. Gentle Ken was Immaculate Ken in Arlington. Heat win, holeshot and he counted the most laps as the leader except (vitally) the last, being mugged in those last yards. Was there fight? Some. When Eli Tomac passed him on lap one he didn’t manage a counter attack. When Musquin came past though, yeah he came back hard then. And he reeled in Tomac and passed him for the lead in lap five. But smooth, all done clean and tidy. And in building his lead he was lightning quick, smashing a 49.5 second lap. He then commanded the race. It wasn’t until the two-minute board came out that he really came under attack and he defended well, he resisted and looked secure mid last lap, but Webb still came. So disappointment for Roczen and surely a mental note to self – ‘crush Webb, soon’ – but as for the championship. Still looking good.
Marvin Musquin. A good night for the Frechman, kind of. A middling job in his heat (7th – which meant 14th gate pick, not good) but a great start and he was there in the three-way with Roczen and Tomac in the early stages. But he failed to keep Roczen in check and couldn’t hold Webb either. Like Roczen his championship chances are still there in good health but he needs to find an answer to his teammate’s speed – and soon.
Blake Baggett, Joey Savatgy. Two excellent, professional rides. But both were playing Sideshow Bob to the big fights on the night. Baggett is maintaining the pace that took him to the win at Glendale, Savatgy is showing he’s now a regular top-five prospect.
Eli Tomac’s in trouble, big time. He raced for the win, took the lead then got reeled in and passed by Roczen. Then while trying to counter-attack he slipped over in a rut. Something either broke, snapped or came unhinged, physically or mentally, because from there he went backwards, getting passed by lesser rivals to finish 12th and drop a whole 16 points off the championship lead. On the upside we can now expect Tomac to race for wins, which should prove exciting. Justin Barcia had an interesting ride. He blew through T1 in the main, dropped to last and then spent the night clawing his way forward. To finish ahead of Tomac and in 7th was a great ride, but these errors are costing him dear and he too slips further away from the title fight. Meanwhile Husky’s Zach Osborne made his season debut. He took the last qualifying position in Heat 1 and was in 9th again in the race when he came upon a flailing Tomac whereupon he got too excited and went for the position with a banzai pass in the whoops that got way out of shape and saw him out of control into the next corner and up and over the tough blocks – and out of the race. A stupid waste, his team boss won’t be so happy. Big ups to Suzuki’s Justin Hill meanwhile, who’s back from minor injury and after placing second to Roczen in his heat was doing alright – 9th – until a late race crash pushed him down to 13th. Looking good though.
RUST’s predictions for Detroit: Well, the racing is hotting up now. Tomac will need to let the dogs loose for sure. Musquin will want to re-assert his position, but at the same time knows his championship position isn’t so bad; same goes for Roczen, who’ll want to fight but knows he can’t afford a slip either. Those two will be hoping Webb makes a slip, but Webb’s in the groove, he’s very unlikely to. So we’ll say Tomac and Webb will fight for the win while the Europeans keep a watching brief and by gentlemen’s agreement sort the last podium spot.