DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (September 27, 2012) - It's hard to predict an AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike race, with a deep and talented field racing on a variety of machines that can provide similar performance levels. The two races at the Triumph Big Kahuna Miami presented by Dunlop were no exception. While Saturday's race saw Y.E.S/Graves/Yamaha's Cameron Beaubier earn win number six on the year, Sunday saw Jake Gagne (RoadRace Factory/Red Bull) win his first-ever GoPro Daytona SportBike race.
The headline event of the weekend was Martin Cardenas (GEICO Suzuki) clinching his second Daytona SportBike championship. The Colombian has been excellent in his return to the class, showing the pure speed to lead the pack and the consistency to win championships. His class leading seven victories this year were augmented by other strong finishes that allowed him to maintain (and often grow) his points lead throughout the summer. With a big points lead, Cardenas concentrated on getting big points each weekend, even if it meant restraint in going for victory at times in order to assure the championship. His second and fourth in Miami were excellent examples.
On Sunday, he'd mathematically eliminated all of his challengers with the doubleheader in New Orleans still to come.
"It feels great to get this done with a little extra room to spare," said the 2010 and 2012 AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike champion. "We built up a pretty good points lead earlier in the season and it has been stressful at time maintaining the gap. You always want to race to win each weekend but when you have a big lead in the points you also feel as though you don't want to make a big mistake. Every race and every lap since maybe the middle of the summer has been a test. You stay very focused on limiting your mistakes and just riding to the best of your abilities. We have been able to do that this year and I'm very pleased."
With two Daytona SportBike championships bookending a solid debut AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike season that saw him win a race, Cardenas is truly one of the stars of the series.
Cardenas' championship season has also seen the rise of Cameron Beaubier, the young Californian who has proven his talent after an early-season injury ended his hopes for the title. Beaubier has improved throughout the year, and his Saturday race where he was able to earn a 1.633-second victory over Cardenas was another case of him proving he has what it takes. Cardenas may have clinched the title, but Beaubier has made some thunder of his own in 2012.
"At the beginning of the race, I felt really comfortable, so I put my head down and concentrated on pulling a gap," he said. "I went with the soft tire, and that helped in the beginning, but I really had to conserve towards the end. It all worked out, though, and I'm happy to get the win for my team, and for Yamaha."
Beaubier backed up the win with third on Sunday in the wet.
Saddlemen "Rookie of the Year" leader Jake Gagne's breakthrough win on Sunday might not have been expected, but the signs have been there. His 2012 season has been a collection of bad luck and some uncharacteristic errors. The Californian's career in the US and Europe has been noted for speed and the ability to bring the bike home on two wheels. Until this year, he seldom crashed but arm pump issues caused him to lose feeling in his hands and Gagne tested his safety gear far more than normal before he had surgery to repair the issue. He also had bad luck, both mechanically and in his riding. On Saturday, Gagne set the fastest lap in the race and finished fifth, but he hit the kill switch early on and lost ground to the leaders getting it sorted out.
On Sunday, he fought hard with Dane Westby (M4 Suzuki), one of the best wet-weather riders in the series. As the laps wore down, the two riders gambled on how the tires would last if the track began to dry. Gagne felt they would last and pulled away. Westby thought it would dry and didn't pick up the pace. Gagne was right, and for his efforts earned his maiden GoPro Daytona SportBike win.
"Right away, I knew how fast we could go from the earlier practice (in the wet). I got behind Dane and we took off," said Gagne. "I saw we had a couple of seconds. I figured I'd try to get past Dane and see what we could do - up the pace and see if I could still stay on the bike. We ended up pulling a little gap. I did a couple of fast laps to get the gap.
"We've had ups and downs this year but this really makes up for it."
Westby's fourth and second were solid results that saw him maintain his second place in the points. The Oklahoman looked strong at times in Miami, in Sunday's aforementioned race and on Saturday when he was on a charge to catch up with Cardenas and Bobby Fong (Meen Motorsports) and dice for second until he lost a little ground at the end.
"I wasn't too worried about trying to keep up with the leader after I was passed. I figured he'd come back when the tire went away but it stayed wet so there wasn't any of that," said Westby. "I was being conservative with the tire. I thought it would dry off faster than it did."
Fong had another strong weekend as he earned third on Saturday. He has raced all season in a small team but produced some big results.
Plenty of riders left Miami with the pride of earning a top ten finish. They included Jake Zemke (Ducshop Ducati), Tommy Aquino (Kneedraggers.com Yamaha), Jason DiSalvo (Latus Motors Racing Triumph) on Saturday. On Sunday, David Gaviria (Kneedraggers.com Yamaha) had his best Daytona SportBike result yet, while Kris Turner (Turner's Cycle Racing), Huntley Nash (LTD Racing), and J.D. Beach (RoadRace Factory/Red Bull) earned fine results in the Florida rain.
One young rider that notched a fine weekend was Austin Dehaven of the Kneedraggers.com Yamaha team. Dehaven was injured earlier in the season but has come back strong with two top tens in Miami, ninth on Sunday and eighth on Saturday.
With the championship decided, the stage is set for an epic battle at the front at NOLA Motorsports Park in New Orleans. Cardenas, who has mentioned his desire to return to National Guard SuperBike next season, would like nothing better than to go out on top, but riders like Beaubier, Westby, and Gagne might have something to say about it.
Sunoco "Go the Distance" Standings
1. JD Beach - 2705.148 mi.
2. Dane Westby - 2616.65 mi.
3. Cory West - 2539.05 mi.
AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike Results
1. Cameron Beaubier (YAM), 23 Laps
2. Martin Cardenas (SUZ), +1.633
3. Bobby Fong (YAM), +2.676
4. Dane Westby (SUZ), +6.304
5. Jake Gagne (YAM), +13.037
6. Jake Zemke (DUC), +19.715
7. Tommy Aquino (YAM), +19.860
8. Jason DiSalvo (TRI), +20.208
9. Austin Dehaven (YAM), +38.857
10. Joey Pascarella (SUZ), +39.298
11. David Gaviria (YAM), +39.557
12. Michael Beck (YAM), +51.088
13. Cory West (SUZ), +51.929
14. Barrett Long (DUC), +56.182
15. Huntley Nash (YAM), +1:07.744
16. Kenny Riedmann (TRI), +22 Laps
17. Fernando Amantini (KAW), +0.220
18. Melissa Paris (SUZ), +16.982
19. Nicollas Ferreira (YAM), +21 Laps
20. JD Beach (YAM), +8 Laps
21. Bryce Prince (YAM), +1:21.929
22. Shane Narbonne (YAM), +7 Laps
23. Kris Turner (TRI), +4 Laps
24. Benny Solis (YAM), +3 Laps
1. Jake Gagne (YAM), 23 Laps
2. Dane Westby (SUZ), +7.126
3. Cameron Beaubier (YAM), +14.248
4. Martin Cardenas (SUZ), +38.340
5. David Gaviria (YAM), +42.804
6. Kris Turner (TRI), +58.386
7. Huntley Nash (YAM), +1:02.987
8. Austin Dehaven (YAM), +1:05.013
9. JD Beach (YAM), +1:14.111
10. Joey Pascarella (SUZ), +1:20.014
11. Barrett Long (DUC), +1:24.051
12. Nicollas Ferreira (YAM), +1:33.704
13. Shane Narbonne (YAM), +22 Laps
14. Bryce Prince (YAM), +3.044
15. Fernando Amantini (KAW), +29.460
16. Kenny Riedmann (TRI), +40.587
17. Michael Beck (YAM), +41.486
18. Jason DiSalvo (TRI), 21 Laps
19. Tommy Aquino (YAM), 20 Laps
20. Bobby Fong (YAM), 9 Laps
21. Melissa Paris (SUZ), 4 Laps
22. Cory West (SUZ), 1 Lap
23. Jake Zemke (DUC), DNS
24. Benny Solis (YAM), DNS
Point Standings (Top 10)
1. Martin Cardenas, 415
2. Dane Westby, 339
3. Cameron Beaubier, 317
4. Tommy Hayden, 250
5. Jason DiSalvo, 225
6. Bobby Fong, 222
7. JD Beach, 215
8. Jake Zemke, 213
9. Joey Pascarella, 189
10. Cory West, 181