Change is Good, Top Supercross Racers Say


 After an intense night of racing this past Wednesday at Rice–Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City—just three days after AMA Supercross kicked off the first of seven rounds scheduled across three weeks—450cc main event winner and defending series champion Cooper Webb was upbeat.



“I enjoyed it, honestly,” the 24-year-old KTM factory rider said. “It was different, but I quite enjoyed the quick turnaround; it was nice.”


Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac, the current points leader and runner-up to Cooper on Wednesday night, agreed. “It’s nice not getting on an airplane all the time,” he said, “So this Sunday/Wednesday thing is cool.”


Zach Osborne made his first podium appearance in the 450cc class after a long dry spell. The Husqvarna rider also praised the new single-venue, no-spectator format brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.



“I wish we raced like this more often,” he said. “Maybe this whole thing can spark something like this in the future. With the schedule as it is, you don’t ride practice as much [between rounds], and it seems like a better schedule. I may ride a little bit [Friday], but then I’ll just be looking forward to Sunday.”


Wednesday’s evening race—held at the same stadium using a new track design with the same dirt employed for Sunday’s afternoon event—had an unexpected benefit: It seemed like a completely different event.


Even weather conditions were bearable, which, in turn, helped keep the track in better shape throughout the evening.



“[The dirt] was moister, and the track was more technical,” said Shane McElrath, the 250cc East main event winner. “It was crazy how different the track was. It was difficult, but a fun race.”


Now tied for the points lead with Honda-mounted Chase Sexton, McElrath has found a new head of steam to push through these final rounds, rebounding from a loss of momentum prior to the pandemic-forced stoppage after Round 10 at Daytona in March.


So much of this situation is unusual for the riders. After years of competing only on Saturday nights in front of large crowds, they’ve been forced to adapt to different circumstances. Some are using the change to their advantage, which has translated to success on the track.



“Going from earlier [in Round 11] to later than we’ve ever raced before [Round 12], I felt comfortable,” Webb said. “I was stoked they changed the track quite a bit. That they were able to do it in two days was impressive.”


But the time off had another effect on Webb: He missed going to the race venues he enjoys the most.


“[The break] was a big help as far as healing little injuries and resting,” he said, “but I definitely missed racing those East Coast-style ruts and stuff.”


Slice it any way you like, but it’s clear that after Wednesday’s impressive win—and the three points gained on Tomac—Webb will be ready to pounce if the Kawasaki rider falters in his push for the title.



Another part of the Round 12 story is who performed "poorly." Honda’s Ken Roczen dominated his heat race, beating both Tomac and Osborne. But the German’s result in the main event was almost baffling.


Roczen appeared to simply run out of steam and, based upon an update he made on Friday to his Instagram account, that’s exactly what happened.



Did Roczen’s fifth-place finish take the wind out of his sails for the title chase? Now 13 points down to Tomac, having lost another five on Wednesday night, Roczen needs to perform perfectly over the final rounds for a shot at the title.


Crazy things have happened in Supercross, and a change in weather is a sure-fire way to throw a wild card into the mix. Look for yourself at the forecast for the next several days in Salt Lake City:

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Cooler temperatures and rain may be just what the doctor ordered for Roczen, who is an excellent mud rider.


That’s not to say Tomac and Webb aren’t equally adept. As Tomac noted in Thursday’s post-race press conference, “I’m just trying to stay level-headed about [the forecast].



In other words, it’s out of his control. And, as the saying goes, the conditions will be the same for everyone.


If a global pandemic, a compressed schedule, a single venue, seclusion and a modified race format weren’t enough to make this season unforgettable, Mother Nature also may come into play.


Based on what we’ve seen thus far from this group of AMA Supercross stars, the best way to summarize their collective thoughts may simply be, bring it on.


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