Let’s face it, amateur racing is big business these days, and often times now, top amateur prospect are getting signed to a pro contract long before they’re old enough to graduate to the big leagues. GEICO Honda and Pro Circuit Kawasaki have been raiding the amateur ranks for years, and that early scouting has paid off big time, with recruits like Justin Barcia, Eli Tomac, and Trey Canard proving just how successful the process can be.
Among the 2013 rookies to break into the pro ranks is Cooper Webb. The 17-year-old was highly decorated as an amateur, winning 104 major titles during his career in the minis. Star Racing, now better known as the MyPlash Metal Mulisha Yamaha Team, recognized Webb’s speed and talent early on and was snatched up and signed in November of 2011, allowing the North Carolina rider to finish out his final year of amateur status as a factory rider. That’s a huge leg up for an amateur rider and it gives the team extra time to groom their rider and assimilate them into the fold.
Unlike most amateurs who elect to jump into the national series at Southwick or Unadilla immediately after the Loretta Lynn Amateur MX Championships, Webb made the decision to delay his pro debut until this year’s Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Series opener at Hangtown so he could race the Mini O’s, which takes place in November.
At Hangtown, Webb was a solid fifth in the first moto, finishing just a few seconds behind form World Champion Ken Roczen. In moto two, he ran eighth for much of the race, but stalled his bike on the next-to-last lap and wasted a lap trying to get the hot motor to relight. He was credited with 18th place, which gave him 11th overall.
“I was a little nervous before Hangtown,” Webb said. “But I kind of worked those bugs out and I was fine by the first moto. It ended up being all good and I learned a lot from that race. There are a lot of other rookies out there, and I guess one of my goals is to beat all the other rookies.”