Hayes Sweeps Barber, Inches Closer to National Guard SuperBike Top Spot
NEWS June 26, 2013
Photo by Brian J Nelson
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla (June 26, 2013) - AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike superstar Josh Hayes furthered his recent run of excellence with a second consecutive perfect points haul weekend at Barber Motorsports Park for the Triumph SuperBike Classic presented by America's First Federal Credit Union.
Monster Energy Graves Yamaha's reigning triple champion has made serious inroads to his early-season points deficit and in shockingly quick fashion; just one more weekend like his last two and Hayes will move atop the 2013 championship standings, only three rounds removed from his Daytona double disaster.
In Birmingham, Hayes once again demonstrated why he's the dominant force in GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing, registering another near-flawless performance, despite facing some rather significant obstacles that stood between him and those 63 available points.
After locking down his 25th career pole on Saturday morning (handing him sole possession of second on the all-time order ahead of fellow three-time champ Ben Spies), Hayes and second-qualifier Roger Hayden (National Guard Jordan Suzuki) crept forward ahead of the lights. Their early jumps directly led to the similar infractions of Foremost Insurance Pegram Racing's Larry Pegram (lined up behind Hayden), M4 SportbikeTrackGear.com Racing's Chris Ulrich (also on the right side of the grid), and LTD/Neyra Racing's Huntley Nash.
After carefully reviewing the video evidence, the five riders were hit with five-second penalties as the race was taking shape on track. Hayes and Hayden, who were pulling free at the front, were dropped down the order momentarily, but their pitched battle would push them far enough out in front that their dogfight again officially became one for the lead… and just in time.
'13 points leader Martin Cardenas (Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing) ran in third on track the entire time, but the penalties of Hayes and Hayden meant he was actually considered the race leader from lap 1 until the moment that Hayes was more than five seconds ahead on track, which took place on lap 11 of 21 by an impossibly small 0.005-second margin. That nearly non-existent gap could prove critical as the season's point chase takes shape as it signified a two-point swing in the championship fight -- moving the lap leader point from Cardenas to Hayes.
Hayes ultimately fended off the spirited challenge of Hayden on the race's final lap by 0.245-second margin.
While they avoided the added hassle of the jump start penalties on Sunday, Race 2 eventually developed into a last-lap rematch as Hayes and Hayden essentially repeated their shootout from the day before. And again, Hayes denied the hungry Hayden with clutch inch-perfect riding in hot and greasy conditions, edging him to the stripe by an even narrower 0.221-second margin of victory.
The victories were the 36th and 37th of the Mississippian's spectacular career. He's once again proving that he's the odds-on favorite to become the first man in AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike history to win four consecutive championships.
However, the early season results have also provided solid evidence that the field has raised its collective game in response to Hayes' commanding form, stepping up to threaten the champ's position atop the pecking order in a serious fashion.
Consider that while Hayes was leading both races and in strong position to win at Daytona before he was struck down by mechanical issues, he was caught up in fairly intense scraps at the time. Last year at Daytona, Hayes won the opener by 8.332 seconds. If you only take the riders still in the hunt in 2013 into account, Hayes' Daytona margins grow to 16.202 and 10.284 seconds respectively, margins that were effectively erased this past March.
That trend continued at Road America, where he won in 2013 by 11.349 seconds (18.556 seconds ahead of his closest rival still in the series) and 13.906 (13.945). And at Barber Motorsports Park a year ago, Hayes marched to victories of 5.136 and 4.988 (7.299) seconds -- a far cry from this past weekend's nail-biting showdowns.
After completing the BMP double, Hayes said, "That was a really hard race. I was driving as hard as I could and trying to push it until everyone's tires were junk at the end so hopefully nobody could make any moves. I was trying to pick my lines smart so I didn't make any mistakes. It got pretty greasy and I had my share of mistakes still but fortunately I did it in spots where it wasn't easy to get by. Fortunately, it was enough. Rog rode an incredible weekend and Josh (Herrin) was riding really well at the beginning… It's a big testament to my team and a lot of hard work. Fortunately we have a lot of years of development in that machine and we can get to a good place pretty quickly. I really enjoyed the race -- it's fun having a close race and pushing hard all the way to the end. The last lap, for me, was as harrowing for me as lap 2. It was really fun, I really enjoyed it, and I'm really looking forward to going to Mid-Ohio."
Hayes is now seconds in the standings, just ten back of Cardenas (144-134).
The emergence of Roger Hayden in Alabama after a couple of relatively disappointing outings to start the year hints that Hayes may be facing even bigger challenges ahead. Hayden pushed Hayes to the brink at Mid-Ohio a year ago and typically grows stronger and stronger as the season progresses.
Hayden said similar things after both races. On Saturday he admitted, "It's a little bittersweet to be that close to actually beating Josh and him getting me just by a little bit there at the end."
And on Sunday the Kentuckian reported, "I just sat behind Josh the whole race but never got close enough to pass him. Sometimes he got a small gap but the last couple laps I was right on his back tire just trying to find a place to make a pass. I was starting to slide around a little bit and so was he. Every time I tried to get a good run on him the last two laps I could never get that little bit more I needed to take a shot at it."
Looking ahead, Hayden said, "I'm pretty happy -- the first two races haven't start out that good. I knew we were a lot better than we showed at Daytona and Road America. Hopefully this is a turnaround for my season."
Hayes' Monster Energy Graves Yamaha teammate, Josh Herrin, came into Barber Motorsports Park with big expectations after qualifying second and claiming a strong runner-up result at the track a year ago. However, he struggled on Friday and was never truly on the pace as he rode to fourth on Saturday. But Herrin stepped up his game on Sunday, winning the holeshot, riding in Hayes' wheel tracks early, and even taking advantage of a minor mistake on the part of the champ to retake the lead and hold down first place for a couple laps mid-distance.
Herrin suffered a big moment while running a close second, which allowed Hayden to slip by and pick up the challenge on Hayes. And while Herrin couldn't maintain the leaders' pace, he did regroup to pull free from Saturday podium finisher Cardenas as the two traded third and fourth-place finishes on the weekend.
Herrin, who is now third in the title race with 131 points, said, "It was good at the beginning -- as you can see, I still need to work on how fast I go once I get the lead. I was trying my hardest. The middle of the race is what I need to work on. Both days I was decent in the beginning, seem to fall off in the middle, and then regroup at the end and seem to hold the gap to first. So at least I know I can ride good on the tires at the end of the race. Now I just need to go home and work on my fitness a little bit more… I can't wait until Mid-Ohio. Mid-Ohio is going to be the middle of the season and it's time to turn things around and prove that I can run up front the whole race."
Cardenas may have expected more after his excellent Daytona and Road America performances, along with his stellar BMP track record, but still managed to retain his points lead on the strength of third and fourth-place results.
The Colombian said, "My (Saturday) race was a little bit tough. Physically, I think for everybody, but I thought I had a little bit better rhythm going into the race. But early on I found out that I wasn't as fast as these two guys. I tried my best and tried to stay as close as possible, but halfway through the race I lost a lot of time. I just tried to finish in third place and get some points. "
He added, "For Sunday, we changed a few things and we had some good speed at first, but from the middle to the end of the race, I had a hard time keeping the pace. Next we go to Mid-Ohio, and I like the layout of that track. I’ve had some good results there and I hope to come back stronger for that race.”
Larry Pegram was the only rider penalized whose five-second penalty dropped him in the official order. He finished fifth on track but sixth in the final results, as KTM/HMC Racing's Chris Fillmore followed him across the stripe to steal away the position.
Pegram came back the following day and took full advantage of an improved set-up on his YZF-R1 to track down Jordan Suzuki's Danny Eslick and earn the top-five result that eluded him the day before.
On Saturday Eslick spent the bulk of his race making up for an early mistake in which he went off track and dropped to 13th. He eventually made his way up to eighth. On Sunday he showed his true BMP form, in which he held down fifth deep into the contest before finally relenting to Pegram's pressure and finishing sixth.
“Sunday was definitely better than Saturday,” said Eslick. “On Saturday, I got off to a good start but another rider had a big moment in front of me and I ran off the track. That put me back and I had to make my way back up to eighth. Sunday was good, I got an awesome start and I was right there with the lead pack. I tried to hold on but I wasn’t comfortable with their pace. Then I ran around in fifth and had a little battle at the end so I ended up sixth. Now I’m looking forward to Mid-Ohio. I’m feeling good on the Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000 and I’ve done well at Mid-Ohio in the past.”
Fillmore, meanwhile, won out in a huge five-rider brawl for seventh on Sunday to back up his Saturday fifth. The KTM ace made a late move to come out on top of the tilt that also involved Team Hero EBR's Geoff May, his KTM teammate Taylor Knapp, Motul Fly Racing's David Anthony, and Team AMSOIL/Hero EBR's Aaron Yates.
Fillmore said, “The majority of the race was about a five-man battle for 7th position. I was fortunate enough to make a great pass on Geoff May with a few laps remaining that pushed me ahead of him and allowed me to pull a small gap as we crossed the checkers. My team has been working really hard this year and it is great to finally get two good results for them.”
May took seventh and eighth place results on the weekend after showing so strongly a year before in Alabama, when he qualified second provisionally and walked away with a pair of fourth-place finishes. Teammate Yates finished 10th on Saturday to go along with his close Sunday 11th aboard his Erik Buell Racing 1190RS.
Fillmore's teammate, Knapp, had to work hard just to get up to 13th on Saturday after a warm-up lap issue forced him back into pit lane for some quick repairs. He got away dead last before starting his charge. Sunday's competitive ninth showed considerable promise, however.
David Anthony also finished ninth on Saturday as the Aussie scored two more top tens on the weekend, a feat he has managed in five of six races this season.
M4 SportbikeTrackGear.com Racing's Chris Ulrich battled with Motosport.com/EBR's Cory West both days. Ulrich's Saturday penalty meant he had no realistic chance of beating the Arkansas native for eleventh on Saturday, but he came back and outpaced him for 12th on Sunday.
"We've been making big, steady gains on the chassis," Ulrich remarked. "Finally, this week we rolled off the truck with a pretty decent baseline and were just trying to work forward. We haven't had too many of the electronic glitches like we had at Road America -- we worked pretty hard to get that sorted. The chassis is getting better and we're almost to a point where we can stop messing with it so much and concentrate on riding it."
Meanwhile, former SuperSport standout Huntley Nash decided to shift his focus away from AMA GoPro Daytona SportBike in order to concentrate on the premier AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike class in Birmingham.
Nash had a couple difficult outings but is excited about his future prospects in National Guard SuperBike: "I wasn’t really happy with the way this race went from my standpoint as a competitor. I was looking to be higher in the results, maybe into the top ten, and show what we can do. I wasn’t really happy with my riding and I felt like I needed to be more aggressive. This track is tough on a Superbike and we were fighting the grip level out there. Having said that, we made good progress with the Neyra Racing Kawasaki this weekend. We were able to improve the bike under braking and continued to try some things with the suspension. The team worked really hard and I’d like to thank Justin, Gary, and the crew. This is a very promising project and we’re looking forward to giving it another shot in Ohio."
The rolling Hayes will look to make it six straight wins and move into the championship lead when the 2013 GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing season resumes at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, on July 12-14 for the Buckeye Superbike Weekend presented by Dunlop Tire.
The 2013 GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing season will resume on July 12-14 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio for the Buckeye Superbike Weekend presented by Dunlop Tire. For tickets and more information regarding the event, please visit http://www.midohio.com/Schedule/Buckeye-Superbike-Weekend-2013.
This season's GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing action is being broadcast on CBS Sports Network as part of the CBS Sports Spectacular. Fans can find CBS Sports Network on their TV by using the channel finder at http://www.cbssportsnetwork.com/channel-finder.
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About GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing:
GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing is the premier motorcycle road racing series in North America and is universally regarded as one of the most competitive road racing organizations in the world. The 2013 schedule consists of nine rounds of competition on the country's finest road courses. The Series is comprised of four production-based classes: AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike, AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike, AMA Pro Motorcycle-Superstore.com SuperSport and the AMA Pro Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Series. Learn more about GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing at www.amaproracing.com/rr/.
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