Josh Hayes Wins AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike Race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Round 5 of GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing
NEWS July 25, 2013
Photo by Brian J Nelson
MONTEREY, Calif. (July 25, 2013) - When the GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing competitors arrived at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to share the spotlight with the MotoGP World Championship at the 2013 Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix, the AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike title fight was essentially starting fresh to kick off its stretch run of six races over the season's final four events.
Following the outcome of the previous round at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, the three primary championship contenders -- Monster Energy Graves Yamaha teammates Josh Hayes and Josh Herrin, and Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing's Martin Cardenas -- were separated by just five points at the top of the standings.
While the championship race remains tightly packed following a Laguna Seca contest that saw those same three men again stand on the podium together, defending triple champion Hayes reminded everyone involved that when all else is equal, he still holds a decided advantage over the field.
Herrin and Cardenas have put themselves in contention for the #1 plate by making serious strides in their respective second seasons in the premier class. Both men have been quick, both have won (Herrin twice, and Cardenas once), and perhaps most impressively, they've been consistent along the way, scoring combined 15 out of a possible 18 podium finishes.
But there's no denying the fact that the door has been opened at least in part due to the uncharacteristic misfortune (two mechanical retirements) and mistakes (two jump start penalties) on the part of Hayes.
The Monster Energy superstar has yet to be defeated heads-up this season and orchestrated yet another perfect points haul weekend in Monterey, racking up his 27th career premier-class pole position and then backing it up with a runaway triumph to notch up career SuperBike victory #39.
Following relatively close scoreboards in practice and qualifying -- including a Friday that saw National Guard Jordan Suzuki's Roger Hayden claim top honors -- Hayes was expecting to get his opponents' best shot at Lagana Seca -- particularly due to the added bit of motivation that comes with performing in front of the Grand Prix paddock and a massive three-day crowd that totaled nearly 120,000 spectators.
Instead, the Mississippian put his head down and opened up nearly a second's worth of separation on the opening lap and only continued to pile it on from there.
Hayes showcased his MotoGP-caliber skills and took the checkered flag nearly eight seconds out in front and with the Tech3 MotoGP squad that he subbed for in 2011 (scoring a seventh-place result at the season finale in Valencia) cheering him on from the wall.
"It's not how I expected the race would play out but I'm glad," Hayes said. "My idea of the race was it would be more similar to Ohio where the guys would be there for half the race and then the second half I would have a little more pace than them.
"The race actually came to me better than any session all weekend. Things clicked well, the laps times came pretty easily, and I didn't make any mistakes. It was a really smooth race for me, and I'm glad that it finally kind of came around for the race; I feel like I've been working hard all weekend and in the race things came a little more naturally."
Hayes might have been pressed if things had gone a bit differently for Hayden. The Kentuckian who came within mere fractions of a second of beating Hayes twice at Barber Motorsports Park, has closed the gap substantially in terms of outright pace over the middle of the season. Hayden looked to have Hayes-challenging pace at Mid-Ohio as well, but poor luck with his tires on Saturday and then a critical mistake on Sunday prevented him from fully capitalizing on that newfound speed.
Desperately seeking redemption, Hayden again showed breakthrough form at Laguna Seca ahead of the 23-lap race. However, his plan to beat Hayes was basically broken over the opening handful of laps as the champ stretched out an advantage while Hayden struggled to find a path past Herrin.
Once he did move into second on lap 8, Hayes was already five seconds out in front. And while Hayden managed to narrow the gap ever so slightly with a clear track in front of him, his race came completely undone when a mechanical failure forced him out altogether on lap 12. He was ultimately credited with a 20th-place finish.
"It was really a great weekend until we had some bad luck," Hayden said. "The Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000 felt good and we were quickest in practice on Friday. In the race, I had just pulled into second and I picked up the pace and was pulling away from the other guys pretty fast. But then I started having problems. It's just a bummer because we had a good bike and the Jordan Suzuki team has been working really hard. We'll put this behind us and focus on Miller in two weeks."
While Herrin found it impossible to prevent his escaping teammate from getting away, he continued his recent string of impressive results, logging another runner-up result while keeping his title hopes very much alive.
Herrin has been either first or second in over half of the races this season, and has continued to work hard on the fundamentals with hopes of making a strong end of the season push.
Herrin admitted, "My plan from the beginning was to stick behind Josh from lap 1 but it didn't work out so well. I know why -- on the warm-up lap he always goes from the line like it's the start of the race and gets the pace going and gets used to it. I just wasn't ready when the flagged dropped. I got a good start but he was gone the first couple of laps."
Herrin did well to keep Cardenas behind him in third. Cardenas closed in and even moved ahead of Herrin for a pair of laps before a mistake at the famed Corkscrew allowed Herrin to slip back ahead.
The Colombian was in position to strike late but Herrin held strong, no mean feat considering Cardenas' unprecedented career track record in late-race showdowns.
Herrin explained, "The battle with Rog and Martin was good. I'm not sure what happened to Roger -- bummer that he wasn't there. All the work I've been putting in... the last two laps when I decided I needed to put it down so (Cardenas) didn't pass me somewhere, I was able to do so easily. I think if we could have kept up with Josh at the beginning like we normally do, it would have been a tight race, but I just wasn't able to keep up with him."
Third-place Cardenas said, "It was a very tough race. I gave everything I had on all the laps. I got a little help to get on the podium because Roger had a mechanical and he was faster than me today. But I gave everything that I had. I had not the grip I wanted on the rear and was sliding all the race. I was hoping to get second position at the end but I didn't quite have a good enough last lap and wasn't close enough to make an attack on Herrin. I had to settle for third place. A podium is a good position but it's not the result we are chasing. It's a good result, and I'm happy. We'll keep trying at Miller and the next few races and hopefully it will come."
Jordan Suzuki's Danny Eslick continued his recent run as 'the best of the rest,' logging a third consecutive fourth-place finish. The Oklahoman had to fight for it however, as Eslick found himself in the sights of an orange and blue strike team consisting of KTM/HMC Racing's Taylor Knapp and Chris Fillmore.
Knapp was in the midst of his most impressive weekend yet since joining the KTM effort. He frequently ran ahead of his talented teammate during the weekend and then did so over the opening half of the race as well, as the two chased down Eslick.
However, Knapp's race would end early, as he crashed while in the mix for fourth on lap 16.
Knapp said, "Our team made a lot of progress this week. Both Chris and I qualified with good times and were holding our fastest pace this season before my crash. I am bummed about my crash but happy with the position I was in and the progress our team has made so far this season."
Fillmore actually passed Eslick on track for a brief moment, but the Jordan Suzuki rider pulled him on the straight and then did a superior job of negotiating traffic to open up some much needed breathing space. Fillmore suffered a near fall while looking to close back in and decided it wiser to call off the dogs and accept fifth, equaling his career best in the SuperBike class.
"This was a really good weekend for us," said fourth-placed Eslick. "We got off to a good start with the first practice session on Friday. I really had a good feeling about my Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000, which is something I've been struggling with. I was hoping to get on the front row in final qualifying, but that didn't quite work out. But overall, we got a decent start in the race and then I just turned laps out there by myself. It was good to get another top-five finish and now we'll go to Miller and try to get on the podium."
Fillmore said, "After I got cut off by the lapper, I lost about half a second on Eslick but was still within striking distance. Then I made a small mistake and almost wrecked. I figured at that point that I would back down a touch and hold on to finish 5th. My team and I are really happy with a top five result here at Laguna Seca."
Team Hero's Geoff May charged his way through the pack on his EBR 1190RS to claim sixth. As at Mid-Ohio a week before, May had to ride strongly in order to keep his Team AMSOIL/Hero-backed teammate Aaron Yates at bay as they raced to the checkered flag.
The two were the last to dispense of a fading Larry Pegram on the Foremost Insurance Pegram Racing Yamaha YZF-R1. Pegram was tucked behind Eslick during the race's opening stages, but like Hayden, suffered back-to-back disappointing weekends after stringing together six top-six results to open the '13 season.
After the race May commented, "I knew it was going to be a tough one starting from 11th on the grid. I made the best of it by picking my way through the field. I got a little lucky from some attrition from some other guys. I feel like if I could have qualified better, I could have run up there with Danny and Fillmore. We had the pace to run with those guys up front."
Fellow Georgian Yates said, "I pushed as hard as I could. I got hung up by a couple of lappers, but I was able to close that gap and end pretty close to Geoff."
Yates will now test the developing 1190 RS ahead of the upcoming Miller Motorsports Park round as the Eric Buell Racing team looks for some additional horsepower to allow its riders to better exploit the bike's excellent handling characteristics.
"Hopefully we can find a little more power for this thing and take it on to the next race," Yates explained. "The bike is working well. I can launch it on the starts, and it's handling really well in the corners. Now we're trying to find a little more speed, which will help us make another big step."
Motosport.com/EBR II's Cory West came home in ninth while Motosport.com Motul Fly Racing's David Anthony collected another top ten -- his seventh of the season -- after overcoming a bit of midweek travel drama just to make it to the circuit.
Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing's second rider, Chris Clark, and M4 SportbikeTrackGear.com Racing's Chris Ulrich just missed the top ten, finishing 11th and 12th, respectively. Both men came away feeling they had made progress over the weekend.
"It was a long weekend with MotoGP," said Clark. "For me, the weekend started slow but got better as things went on. At the same time, we only had one race so it was tough to work through a bunch of stuff on the bike. But we're on the right track with the Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000 and I feel like I'm improving every weekend. Communication with my crew is getting better and we're chipping away at it. I'm confident that it'll all come together and we'll get some good results as we go into the last few races."
Ulrich said, "I'd say we made big gains with the chassis this weekend. We understand the bike better and we have a good baseline now. We're still suffering a bit on the engine braking side but we also discovered a couple things we need to improve in the engine department. We're probably going to have to suffer through Miller and then we'll use August to improve. In the meantime I'll go home and see what I can do to stay fit and go on."
Hayes will carry his bolstered 11-point advantage into Miller Motorsports Park when the series resumes on August 2-4 for the 10th and 11th races of the season's 14-race slate.
Sunday's GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing finals from Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca will be aired in a set of tape-delayed broadcasts on CBS Sports Network.
Flag-to-flag coverage of the AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike and AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike races scheduled for Sunday afternoon will be featured in one-hour broadcasts as part of the CBS Sports Spectacular. Television broadcast airdates and times will be released as soon as they are available.
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