There’s been talk about the 2019 Supercross championship and how it played out. There’s talk every year, but usually not to this extent. If you’ve been on riders’ Instagram accounts and read some comments, checked out threads on VitalMX, or just read some of the reporting from the 2019 SX season, then you know there’s been some contention regarding the 450SX Champion, Cooper Webb, and the 250SX East Coast Champion, Chase Sexton. Specifically, people are wondering if Webb and Sexton really earned their titles, or if they should’ve gone to someone else.

Well, I’m here to set the record straight. I’ll go over the two controversial wins and discuss why the champions are just that: champions.

Cooper Webb Wins at Las Vegas SX 2019
Photo Credit: Kardy Photo

450SX Champion – Cooper Webb

It’s worth mentioning that I’ve never been a huge Cooper Webb fan. I went through the entire season without once jumping on the Webb Wagon, and, even with that being my opinion, I still know 100% that he earned his title. But, for some reason, there are several people that don’t feel the same. The word “luck” has gotten thrown around a lot this season, starting when Webb got his first win and continuing to today.

The “luck” arguments is not the most educated one of the season. In all 17 races this year, Webb finished in the top 10 and posted some of the fastest lap times that we saw all season long. He was the single best rider on the track, and there are numerous facts that bolster that assertion.

Let me show you the money.

What Makes Webb a Winner
Stat Rider
Best Average Overall Finish – 2.83 Webb
Best Average Overall Start – 4.35 Webb
Best East Coast Average Finish -1.71 Webb
Best East Coast Average Start – 3.00 Webb
Best Triple Crown Average Finish – 2.22 Webb
Best Triple Crown Average Start – 2.56 Webb
Best Average Heat Race Finish – 2.71 Webb
Most Wins in 2019 – 7 rounds Webb
Most Podiums of 2019 – 13/17 rounds Webb
Most East Coast Podiums – 8/8 rounds Webb
Triple Crown Champion – 2/3 rounds Webb
Most Laps Led – 128 Webb

Podium at Minneapolis SX 2019
Photo Credit: Kardy Photo

You’d think the stats would speak for themselves; Webb was the best at almost everything this Supercross season. No luck, no divine intervention, just him riding smarter, harder, and faster than everyone else on the track. Those types of accolades don’t just come from luck, they come from hard work and consistency. Nobody wins that many times because everyone else was just “having a bad night.” Nobody leads that many laps in that many rounds because they “just got a good start.” It takes speed and talent to get a good start and an eventual win. The best starts come from careful gate picks, and careful gate picks can only be made after a fast qualifying session and successful heat race. You’ve got to be on all night, and make that good start stick through the entire main event. If it was just luck that Webb got a good start every round, he would’ve fallen to the back of the pack by the end of the race à la Ryan Breece starting in 4th place and finishing in 14th in Denver.

Claiming luck is also problematic when you consider the stacked field that Webb waded into this year. Eli Tomac, Marvin Musquin, Ken Roczen, and Jason Anderson were all favorites going into the year, and all had proven Supercross success. Add surprise winners like Justin Barcia and Blake Baggett into the mix, and there was no shortage of competition for Webb. Despite this, Webb still took his first win of the season in round 3. He was winning in the beginning of the season when everyone was on the top of their game. He was winning before Anderson crashed out, before Roczen started to fade, before Musquin started to crash, and before Tomac started finishing out of the top 10. Webb performed better than all of those riders when they were at their best, and then blew past them as they continued to struggle through the season.

Cooper Webb at Houston SX 2019
Photo Credit: Kardy Photo

The point is, Webb didn’t win just because some riders crashed out and others had a difficult season. Though their crashes and struggles may have contributed to his success in the latter portion of the season, Webb was winning before any of that drama. Suggesting Webb won because Anderson crashed out and Tomac, Roczen, and Musquin had bad races is like saying Dungey didn’t deserve his rookie win in 2010 because Stewart, Reed, Millsaps and Villopoto had bad races and crashed out. Supercross is a mental game as much as it is physical, and Webb was on top of his game in both regards. His fierce determination and sharp focus helped him win as much as his training and practice did.

When it comes to the 450SX class, there is no argument for any other champion but Webb. The stats don’t lie, and any rider that can turn an average overall finish of 9.15 to 2.83 in just one year is a force to be reckoned with.

Cooper Webb Over the Finish Line at Houston SX
Photo Credit: Kardy Photo

250SX East Coast Champion – Chase Sexton

“Chase Sexton” and “championship” are rarely in the same sentence without “was handed the” sandwiched in the middle. And that’s not being dramatic. A look at both riders’ Instagram accounts reveal comments like:

  • “[Austin Forkner] was faster than [Chase Sexton] with a bum knee…the clear second best rider won.”
  • “I think Sexton should admit he got smoked all year and act a little more grateful and not get cocky.”
  • “No matter what you say, #23 coasted to a championship…Never beat Austin a single time…Don’t make excuses for 23. Put a * next to that 1 win championship.”
  • “Sexton is just going to coast into the title…he got smoked all year and didn’t earn it.”
  • “No disrespect to [Chase Sexton], but I would hate to win the championship knowing it’s only because [Austin Forkner] is physically not able to ride.”
  • “This championship is still [Austin Forkner’s] and everybody knows it, [Austin Forkner] whooped [Chase Sexton].”

Unfortunately, those comments are just a small sampling of the negative remarks that flooded the media after Austin Forkner’s untimely departure from the 250SX East Coast championship.

Austin Forkner at Arlington SX
Photo Credit: Kardy Photo

For those of you who need a refresher, here’s a recap of the last three East Coast rounds:

After hurting his knee during qualifying for Nashville, Forkner – then leading by 26 points – was out for the rest of the night. A torn ACL was suspected, but not yet confirmed by Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki. The rider and team took the two-week break to focus on rehab and recuperation to get ready for the next East Coast round in New Jersey. Come New Jersey and it seemed like the hard work Forkner and Kawasaki put in had helped, but it wasn’t going to be enough. Forkner was in obvious pain all through qualifying and his heat race, and one usually insignificant mistake in the main event cost him everything. The racer who had won every standard East Coast round was out for the rest of the season. Second in points, Chase Sexton, continued on through New Jersey to bag his first 250SX win, red plate, and then title in Las Vegas.

Chase SExton on the Podium at Las Vegas
Photo Credit: Kardy Photo

With those facts laid out, it’s understandable why there’s some contention surrounding the championship. Forkner had won every standard East Coast round of the season leading up to his injury, and was still on the podium for the East/West Showdown that he didn’t win. Sexton had only been on the podium for 4 out of the 6 rounds before Nashville, and didn’t win his first race until Forkner crashed out of it. Had Forkner not crashed out, there’s a good chance he would’ve kept his points lead and won.

But that’s the thing; Forkner did crash out. His injury in Nashville came after some serious pushing in Qualifying, an effort that seems just as excessive now as it did then. After his first qualifying session, Forkner was already the fastest by over one second. That was his fastest time of the day, too. By the end of Qualifying, his time put him in 3rd overall, giving him the second gate pick in his heat race. In the 2019 season, Forkner has started all the way back in 3rd place in a heat race and still finished in 1st, so it didn’t make too much sense that he was pushing it so hard in Qualifying. Going full-send every lap, every time has consequences. Sometimes those consequences are a flawless performance and easy win for Forkner, sometimes they are an injured shoulder in 2018 and an injured knee in 2019. For Forkner, we’re getting used to seeing the former in the beginning of the season and the latter by the end.

Austin Forkner at East Rutherford SX 2019
Photo Credit: Kardy Photo

It seems like Forkner should have some sort of strategy by now, something better than railing it every qualifying session, heat race, and main event. The go-getter, full-send mentality that he has is jubilant and admirable, but is not one that has earned him a championship. A little caution could go a long way for Forkner.

In a series of videos Forkner posted on his Instagram, he expressed how he’s not the type of guy to ride in 12th place while nursing an injury – he’s all or nothing. And true to that adage, he got nothing: no 250SX title and no chance at redemption in the outdoors. That’s not to say he wouldn’t have needed surgery after a lower finish in East Rutherford anyway, but had he played it slow in New Jersey, there’s a chance he could’ve rested enough to race Vegas, capitalize on Justin Cooper’s mistakes, and finish in 2nd overall. That strategy seems like it could’ve played out better for Forkner than the one that had an almost 100% chance of him completely crashing out of the season in East Rutherford.

Austin Forkner Preparing to Race at East Rutherford 2019
Photo Credit: Kardy Photo

A potential 2nd place finish overall in Vegas is just speculation, though. It’s plausible, but not guaranteed. What is guaranteed, however, is another adage: to finish first, you must first finish. Forkner, whether you believe he’s riding beyond his ability like I do or think he’s just unlucky, hasn’t mastered the whole “first finish” part yet. That’s why someone like Chase Sexton deserves the title every time. Knowing your limits and riding within them, being in control every round, and consistently showing up is just as important as raw speed and passion. Sure, Forkner was full of both, but when it led to another crash, Sexton took his own speed, passion, and control of his bike to take control of the entire season. “Smoking” Sexton every round didn’t do anything for Forkner since he couldn’t make the points lead stick.

Forkner’s wins of the 2019 season show that he’s got the speed, but Sexton’s win and now 250SX East Coast title show that he’s not only got the speed, but also the level head that makes a champion.

Chase Sexton Wins the 2019 250SX Championship
Photo Credit: Kardy Photo

What Have We Learned?

If someone wins a title, it’s usually because they earned it. It takes work, time, talent, speed, dedication, and more to clinch an overall win for an entire season of racing. Nobody who has that many championship points has them because they were handed them, and nobody who has been on the top step of the podium was only there because they were helped up. You’ve got to be in it to win it, and that means showing up, lining up, and shutting up. No excuses, no divine intervention, no luck – just you and your self-control. That’s how Webb and Sexton won this year, and that’s how people like them will keep winning again every year.

Chase Sexton Holds Up the 1E Plate
Photo Credit: Kardy Photo

Tell Us What You Think

What’s your view on the 2019 Supercross championship? Do you agree with our analysis? Let us know in the comments below.