AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike Recap: Buckeye SuperBike Weekend presented by Dunlop Tire at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
NEWS July 19, 2012
Photo by Brian J Nelson
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NEWS July 19, 2012
Photo by Brian J Nelson
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 18, 2012) - While in the end Josh Hayes managed to keep his impressive collection of streaks intact, the biggest story coming out of Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course from the Buckeye SuperBike Weekend presented by Dunlop Tire was the on-track action, not just the continued accumulation of staggering statistics.
The Monster Energy Graves Yamaha ace walked away with his four consecutive perfect points haul weekend in AMA National Guard SuperBike competition but was seriously pressed along the way.
On Saturday, Hayes' archrival, Blake Young, somehow managed to slot his Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000 into the lead in the race's second corner following an early red flag and restart, despite having qualified down in eighth position.
Never an easy man to overtake, Mississippian Hayes had to work hard to find a way past Young on the slippery, one-lined circuit. Once in front, Hayes found himself pressured from close behind. Believing Young to be his pursuer, the Yamaha man was actually being trailed by his rookie teammate, Josh Herrin, who demonstrated an uncanny ability to latch on and push from second at the series' previous round at Barber Motorsports Park.
Herrin actually reeled in Hayes at certain points, but the vastly more experienced Hayes eventually did his younger opponent in with a succession of inch perfect laps around the tricky circuit. One small mistake laid the groundwork for a larger one and Herrin hit a false neutral just short of half distance and crashed in the Carousel.
Young had fallen into a spirited battle for third (which became second with Herrin's fall) with National Guard Jordan Suzuki's Roger Hayden. Controlling the pace in his trademark manner, Young proved impossible to get around and ditch, and despite arguably having inferior pace on this day, the Wisconsin native won out in the fight to the flag as he's down so many times.
The following day Hayes' challengers were even more determined not to let him have things go entirely his way. Herrin pounced from the outset and led a succession of laps in the contest's early stages.
The youngster made a mistake on lap 7 of 21, running wide at the end of the back straight, which knocked him out of contention for the win. That didn't mean Hayes could breathe easily however as Hayden was in rare form on Sunday.
Again, Hayes was initially confused, thinking Herrin was the +0 on his board before finally realizing it was the Suzuki-mounted Kentuckian.
A long-time Mid-Ohio master, in '11 Hayden scored his first premier class podium at the circuit. This year he was hoping to claim his first-ever SuperBike victory and had Hayes in his sights. Hayden posted the weekend's fastest lap during his chase (1:25.278), fought past Hayes more than once, including a breathtaking overtaking maneuver on the race's final lap deep on the brakes at the end of the fast back straight.
However, despite Hayden admirably pulling his GSX-R1000 back in line, Hayes had a superior angle into the subsequent corner and just laid his Yamaha YZF-R1 over the top of Hayden's bike and reclaimed the position.
From there he defended the position and won one of those 'close ones' of the sort that had slipped through his fingers so many times over the past two seasons.
"I was pretty sure (Hayden) would try on the last lap at the end of the back straight," Hayes said. "I was pretty slow in the middle of the Keyhole to make sure I didn't spin up and make a mistake on the exit. I felt like I got out of there pretty good, but probably because I was slow in the middle, it allowed him to do the same thing behind me. When he came by he was moving pretty quick; I was actually surprised he got it stopped as well as he did. Whenever I came back up the other side of him I didn't know if I was going to be able to get him. I wasn't trying to bump him but I was trying to crowd him a little bit. All I needed was an instant for him to get off the throttle to get in there. It worked out and at that point it was just ride around the inside line of the racetrack to the finish line.
"I'm really glad I was able to pull it off. It's fun. It was exciting racing and I'm glad to come out on top of one of those."
Having escaped with yet another victory, the burgeoning numbers were allowed to come back into focus. Hayes has now registered seven straight victories, which ties the all-time single season record, previously posted by National Guard SuperBike legends Mat Mladin and Ben Spies.
Hayes had been on pole in every race this season, upping his '11 mark to seven and his overall streak to nine. Mid-Ohio was his solitary non-pole performance a year ago.
His Mid-Ohio double also ups his season victory total to ten, accomplishing a year later the goal his famously set and fell far short of prior to Hayes' first title defense.
He currently boasts 27 career SuperBike victories, putting him just one shy of Spies' mark of 28. Hayes could move into a tie for third-place on the all-time order next time out at Laguna Seca with now factory MotoGP pilot Spies in attendance.
"No SuperBike win is easy and to get ten at this point of the season is huge," Hayes said. "I'm glad I could win one by less than a second whenever it came down to the barnburner at the end; I'm really excited about that. I'm greedy -- I want them all. (Wife) Melissa (Paris) keeps telling me now I need to win seven more to make up for last year. I think that's a bit to ask for but I'm sure going to try."
While still looking for that breakthrough win, Hayden impressed mightily and showed a lot of fight, especially considering the difficult outings as of late that had dented his confidence.
"It was a good race for me," Hayden said. "I got a really good start. This morning we put a heat cycle in the tire which really helped me. It allowed it to come in early so I could go with these two guys. I felt pretty good in the beginning and then Josh Herrin made a mistake and I got by, and I thought, this is my chance to run with Josh. I just put my head down and put it all out there. Once I got to the back of him I felt pretty comfortable. I was counting down the laps because I was pretty sure if I passed him I wouldn't be able to hold him off. I really wanted to pass him coming out of Turn 1 because that's my best place on the track but I went through the Keyhole really good and got a good drive. It wasn't like 'win or crash' but I was going to go past him and just pray that I got it stopped. I didn't and I wasn't going to force it by him and knock us both down or anything crazy like that.
"I'm definitely happy. Both Joshes have kicked our butts pretty bad the last couple races, so I think it's good for me and good for the team. We have to build on this and not make it a one time thing."
After his mistake, Herrin fell into an abbreviated scrap with Young. It didn't last long, however, as the Suzuki star crashed out, meaning Hayes' two nearest competitors collected one podium but also suffered one crash apiece during the Mid-O weekend.
As a result, Hayes currently boasts a massive advantage in the points, sitting with 383 to Young's 316 and Herrin's 225.
As an interesting side note, all six SuperBike podiums during the course of the weekend were delivered by Dunlop's new U.S.-built 200/55R17 KR449 rear slicks.
Third-placed Herrin said, "It's nice to get up here after yesterday's fall. It's been a really steep climb since I started at the beginning of the year. I've made really hard charges to get better on this bike. I've gotten to the point where I can do the times Josh is doing but I just can't do them consistent the entire race. It's just going to take more hard work. Every time I get on the track I'm learning."
Young said following his uncharacteristic fall and comparatively difficult weekend (eighth in qualifying, runner-up on Saturday and, a crash and 13th-place finish on Sunday after starting from pole and finishing first and second at Mid-Ohio a year ago), "I can't complain (about Saturday's starts). I ended up getting slotted up into first in the first couple laps. It felt good to be out front but I was pretty hesitant in trying to run clean laps by myself out front. I knew I was making mistakes in just about every turn. I wanted to let the bike roll a little bit more and open it up but I had a tough time finding my mojo or finding my flow so to say.
"On Sunday, I had some issues and the crash is going to make the points battle pretty tough. But we have a bike capable of winning, so I just need to keep my head down and do my best at Laguna Seca."
Steve Rapp was the clear winner of the 'best of the rest' tag at Mid-Ohio. Rapp put the Attack Performance Kawasaki ZX-10R on the front row and then logged a pair of lonely fourth-place finishes, while showing podium pace had he only gotten cleaner starts.
Next best were Team Amsoil/Hero EBR's Geoff May and Foremost Insurance Pegram Racing's Larry Pegram, who traded fifth and sixth place finishes during the weekend.
It was a bit of a quiet weekend for both men, May having featured so heavily up front in recent rounds, and Pegram carrying high hopes into his home round, but both left with solid points pickups.
May's Team Hero EBR teammate picked up a pair of top-ten finishes himself, coming home in ninth and seventh.
Jordan Suzuki's Ben Bostrom battled for fourth in both races but faded to seventh on Saturday and suffered a late technical issue which dropped him down to 15th on Sunday.
The former World Superbike hero said, "It was a rough weekend for the number 23 Jordan bike. But it was a great weekend for the National Guard Jordan 54. It was great to see Roger up on the podium and I hope to join him up there at Laguna Seca. And I have to thank the Jordan Motorsports boys, who are doing an awesome job as always."
M4 Broaster Chicken Suzuki's Chris Ulrich registered his third consecutive top-ten result with a pair of tenths in Ohio. He battled for position with Young's Yoshimura Suzuki teammate, Chris Clark, who took 11th and ninth during the weekend.
"Overall it was a really positive weekend," said Clark. "Mid-Ohio is a track I've always struggled at, but the Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000 is an incredible bike. By the end of the weekend, I'd improved my lap times by almost two seconds over my qualifying pace the year before. Obviously, I'm not too happy with where I finished, but it was a huge step in the right direction. I have to thank my Yoshimura Suzuki crew for their efforts and I'm really looking forward to Laguna Seca."
KTM/HMC Racing's Stefan Nebel had a difficult weekend as the sole KTM representative with Chris Fillmore still on the mend after breaking his hand at Barber Motorsports Park. Nebel was sidelined on Saturday due to an infection that spread through his bloodstream. The German managed to fight back on Sunday and raced to an 11th-place finish.
Hayes will look to continue his historic run with the entire world watching on when the AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike heroes join the global superstars of the MotoGP World Championship at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix, scheduled for July 27-29.
Danny Eslick claimed the weekend's MotoBatt "Hard Charger Award" by improving his position a cumulative 9 positions during the weekend's races. The MotoBatt Hard Charger Award is a $500 award that is given to the rider who improves the most positions combined from each of the weekend's race sessions.
Josh Hayes leads the Sunoco "Go the Distance" Award chase, having completing 702 laps and logged 1906 miles over second place Larry Pegram with 664 laps and 1792.78 miles.
Point Standings (After Round 7)