Last weekend at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., Cooper Webb was told to pack it up and go home.
It may have been just a pointed quip from a team member, but the comment did exactly what it was supposed to do — inspire Webb for the main event.
It had been 651 days since Webb’s last win, which came on May 1, 2021, in Salt Lake City, Utah. He ended his 2022 season without a single victory. Needless to say, it was due time for the Red Bull KTM rider to get back to the top of the podium.
While Webb visited the podium at the opening two rounds of the season, he spent the next two weeks off the box with a fourth and a fifth-place finish. The feeling of disappointment and reaction to being spurred on was apparently what he needed to flip the switch.
On Feb. 11, Webb scored a significant victory the home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, renewing his campaign for the championship and securing his confidence as one of the top 450cc class contenders.
The question that remained after Tampa was: Can he do it again?
As the series landed in Oakland, Calif., to make up the weather-delayed race that was scheduled for Jan. 14, the 27-year-old faced the opportunity to continue spinning his web.
“Once I get that first one, I know what it feels like to win again and what it takes,” Webb said optimistically in Tampa. “Hopefully we can keep the ball rolling.”
The No. 2 rider had a solid showing in qualifying on Saturday afternoon in Oakland, ending the final session of the day in fifth. He continued the trend in his heat race, shooting out front and finishing third.
The main event held a few surprises for Webb, as late in the race the two riders he was trailing made mistakes. First to go down was Honda HRC’s Chase Sexton, which handed Star Racing Yamaha’s Eli Tomac the lead and allowed Webb to catch the rear tire of Sexton.
A few laps later, Webb blew past Sexton and was chasing leader Eli Tomac.
A final chance to back up his Tampa triumph struck on the last lap, when Tomac made a mistake and veered off the track, shrinking the gap between he and Webb from four seconds to just over one second.
“The crowd went crazy, I saw a tuff block going and I was like, ‘Oh man, this might be good for me,’” Webb said. “Man, [Eli Tomac] threw it down the last lap. I did, too, but I heard his revs. He was going for it.”
While it provided a chaotic finish, Tomac expertly defended Webb’s charge, claiming his fourth victory of the season and leaving the Red Bull KTM rider to finish second.
Webb was anything but disappointed with his result.
“After last weekend, to have belief again, to know you could do it for sure helped,” he said. “I think that’s always important, to get some momentum going your way and get the monkey off your back. Tonight, second was good.”