Whilst Eli Tomac has been heading towards the serious big leagues in terms of all-time Supercross wins, Cooper Webb has himself hit a bit of a milestone with win #20 at round five in Tampa. Here we compare the three riders who are on that all-time benchmark of 20 Supercross wins.
Words: Ben Rumbold | Feature Image: Align Media
Webb has become the 12th racer to hit the 20 mark, and moves ahead of Damon Bradshaw in the all-time list. There are two riders at that exact mark, one who hit it over 30 years ago – fellow two-time Champ Jeff Ward – and one who Webb himself is very familiar with, double outdoor Champ but the only non-Supercross Champ to get this high, Mr Ken Roczen.
The Path to the Top
Now back in Wardy’s time, there quite simply was no small-bike class in Supercross, so even if you raced a 125 outdoors, as the short-but-strong Jeff did, you went straight in with the big shots of the 250 and 500 classes if you wanted to race in the stadia. And with the prize money on offer, they most certainly did! So Jeff had his learning years in amongst the likes of Bob Hannah, Kent Howerton, and Mark Barnett rather than having a few years on a smaller bike to acclimatize. And you can see from his first three years that he had a tough time, missing many races through injury or indeed problems in qualifying.
As for Roczen and Webb, their careers on 250 four-strokes were quite different. Roczen went West Coast on his KTM in 2011 so that he could get back to Europe as contracted and win himself a world title – incidentally he was the first German to do so in 43 years! Kenny was an instant hit with a single race win on his way to 6th in the series. He then went East Coast in 2012 as the later schedule gave him more time for testing. He finished 2nd there, with one win, to defending Champ Justin Barcia, before switching to the West for 2013 and preventing Eli Tomac from taking his second straight title for Geico Honda. He took three wins to Eli’s five and with consistency won the title by two points. He also added the then non-Championship East/West Las Vegas showdown win to his tally.
Webb, although like Bradshaw hailing from the East Coast state of North Carolina, rode West all the way as part of the Star Racing Yamaha team, and had a solid but winless rookie year for 5th in the points chase in 2014. He took two 2nd-place finishes but finished behind Champ Jason Anderson, Cole Seely, Dean Wilson, and Justin Hill. Cooper then won his first National that summer and absolutely caught fire as the dominant rider in the West for 2015, winning 6 out of the 9 races to a 50-point final margin over Shane McElrath.
His next outdoor campaign was interrupted by injury, but then in 2016 Webb came out firing with the first three wins in a row, before a mechanical failure stopped his run. He had a clear points lead with five wins but cut it fine in the Vegas shootout, just hanging onto the title by a single point over Joey Savatgy!
|Year 1||9 Races, 1 Win, 6th||10 Races, 0 Wins, 5th|
|Year 2||10 Races, 1 Win, 2nd||9 Races, 6 Wins, 1st|
|Year 3||10 Races, 4 Wins, 1st||9 Races, 5 Wins, 1st|
If you discount the first three years of Ward’s Supercross career as those for learning, then his next couple of seasons see a steady progression. On a Kawasaki that wasn’t quite on a par with the amazing factory Honda machines of the time, he worked his way into becoming a contender, and by 1984 he was up there, at the age of 23 taking on eventual Champ Johnny O’Mara and reigning #1 David Bailey. Rick Johnson was there on the Yamaha as well, and Wardy put the green bike on the map as he did for most of his career. Even with 4 wins in the 17-round series he was still 4th in the title chase, let down by four poor races in total.
Webb’s first 450 years in 2017 & ’18 were particularly torrid, missing five rounds in the middle of his first season despite claiming his first podium in Oakland’s fifth round. The second year was more consistent, with just one podium at Daytona until he broke his fibia at round 14 in Minneapolis.
Roczen dipped his toes into the 450 class with four races on a KTM 350F across his three 250 seasons, peaking with a great 2nd at Seattle 2012. That was a strange unique podium with Andrew Short taking his only Supercross win and Jake Weimer in 3rd, on a night when that year’s Champion Ryan Villopoto put himself out for the year with a serious knee injury from an innocuous little crash.
In the following season, Kenny hit the ground running with two wins in his first full year, grabbing 3rd in the series behind the two Ryans in his final year for KTM, before taking the outdoor title for the Austrian concern in 2014.
Wardy’s career came to its apex with titles in 1985 & ’87 – he won his first crown with sheer consistency, just a single win in 1985 from an 11-round series with 8 different winners! The final round, held then in August right in the middle of the outdoor eason, saw a stunning battle for the places between Ward, Yamaha’s Broc Glover, and Ron Lechien in his last Supercross for Honda. The Kawasaki man beat Glover for 4th place in the Main Event, those two points the difference between the pair in the final reckoning!
1986 was a difficult one despite two wins, as RJ moving to HRC had created a near invincible foe. Wardy got the better of Johnson in 1987 as the Honda man got hurt mid-way through the season. Between 1982 and 1995, Ward was the only rider to win a Supercross title on a bike other than a Honda! He won at least a single race each season for 8 straight years from ’84 to ’91, but injuries largely cost him his title chances in both ’88 and ’89. Like an American Eric Geboers, the shorter-than-average rider became the first to win outdoor titles in all three capacity classes, and is still the only one to add Supercross Championships as well. Ward was rightly inducted into the AMA Hall of Fame in 1999.
Roczen had a successful couple of years on the RCH Suzuki, with his best year being 2016 with 5 wins indoors and 2nd only to a dominant Dungey before taking his second outdoor crown. Sadly for Roczen, his fairytale move to the factory Honda team was ruined by two horrendous arm injuries right when he was in the prime of his career. He finally hit top form again in 2020, but came across his lifelong foe Tomac at his very strongest, combined with the emergence of our other subject here, Cooper Webb.
Webb’s move to KTM in 2019 took everyone by surprise. That old attitude from his 250 days came back, with 7 stunning wins to become the runaway Champion. He narrowly lost out to Eli in 2020, and the clash between Webb & Roczen made compelling viewing in 2021. Time and time again Webb would put serious psychological blows on his rival, with last lap passes, first corner nudges, and basically ensuring that the talented German always knew he was there.
Webb’s 8 wins to Roczen’s 4 put them tied on 19 at the end of 2021, and Ken hit the 20 mark with the win at A1 in 2022. Webb was 2nd in that race and the previous year’s rivalry looked on again, but it was a false dawn as Kenny developed health issues which saw him withdraw halfway through the season, and Cooper struggled with the new KTM to finish the year 7th in the points.
Kickstart Kenny’s highly publicised switch to Suzuki hasn’t seen him on the podium yet in 2023, but Webb looks rejuvenated after returning to the Aldon Baker training programme and becoming his old imposing self to pressure HRC’s new hotshot Chase Sexton into a mistake at Tampa, bringing Cooper his long-awaited (28 races, almost as long as the 34-race wait to take his first win) 20th career Supercross victory.
So both men are tied for 10th best all-time, with Bob Hannah next up the list on 27. It’s gotta be said that the 27-year-old Webb looks the most likely to add to his tally, but whether or not he can get to the Hurricane is another matter. Either way, to rank in the top ten of all-time wins is a serious achievement and any who think he doesn’t deserve to be in these conversations needs to look again.
|Seasons||13||(4×450 Guest Races) 10||7|
|Titles||2 (1985 & 1987)||0 (2nd in 2016 & 2021)||2 (2019 & 2021)|
|Races to 20||145||108||97|
|Year 1||3 Races, Best of 5th, 24th in Pts||17 Races, 2 Wins, 3rd in Pts||12 Races, Best of 3rd, 13th in Pts|
|Year 2||10 Races, Best of 3rd, 14th in Pts||9 Races, 2 Wins, 12th in Pts||13 Races, Best of 3rd, 9th in Pts|
|Year 3||4 Races, Best of 7th, 20th in Pts||17 Races, 5 Wins, 2nd in Pts||17 Races, 7 Wins, Champ|
|Year 4||11 Races, Best of 2nd, 8th in Pts||3 Races, 2 Wins, 20th in Pts||17 Races, 4 Wins, 2nd in Pts|
|Year 5||16 Races, Best of 2nd, 5th in Pts||6 Races, Best of 2nd, 18th in Pts||17 Races, 8 Wins, Champ|
|Year 6||17 Races, 4 Wins, 4th in Pts||17 Races, Best of 2nd, 4th in Pts||16 Races, Best of 2nd, 7th in Pts|
|Year 7||11 Races, 1 Win, Champ||17 Races, 4 Wins, 3rd in Pts||Wins 20th in 5th Race, 2nd in Pts|
|Year 8||10 Races, 2 Wins, 4th in Pts||17 Races, 4 Wins, 2nd in Pts|
|Year 9||14 Races, 5 Wins, Champ||9 Races, 1 Win, 12th in Pts|
|Year 10||8 Races, 1 Win, 3rd in Pts||6 Races to date, Best of 4th, 5th in Pts|
|Year 11||8 Races, 4 Wins, 5th in Pts|
|Year 12||18 Races, 2 Wins, 5th in Pts|
|Year 13||17 Races, 1 Win, 5th in Pts|
|Year 14||12 Races, Best of 2nd, 12th in Pts|
|Starts to 5||68 (7th Season)||35 (3rd Season)||34 (3rd Season)|
|Starts to 10||91 (Another 23 Races)||48 (Another 13 Races)||56 (Another 22 Races)|
|Starts to 15||108 (Another 17 Races)||88 (Another 40 Races)||69 (Another 13 Races)|
|Starts to 20||145 (Another 37 Races)||108 (Another 20 Races)||97 (Another 28 Races)|
This one is fairly straightforward for Webb & Ward – all of their wins in the premier class have been on just the one manufacturer, KTM for Webb and Kawasaki for Ward.
Kenny is among the few who have won on three different manufacturers (only Chad Reed has won on four), with 2 for KTM, 7 for Suzuki (so far), and 11 for Honda.