After being edged by his young teammate earlier in the day, Hayes got his revenge in what proved to be an ever tighter rematch.
Again starting from pole (this time due to posting the fastest lap in race one), Hayes ran in front with Beaubier close in formation as they quickly broke free from the pack. The lighter Beaubier finally made his move on lap 13 of 16, again powering past at the end of the back straight, in an attempt to duplicate his earlier victory.
However, this time around Hayes made that aggressive last-lap pass that he overshot in the first race stick. Seemingly in strong shape to maintain first from there to the flag, Hayes got off line through the Carousel. That miscue allowed Beaubier to get the drive and rip up alongside him as they sprinted to the stripe.
Too close to call without a review, the photo finish ultimately showed that Hayes held on by mere inches to claim the win.
The narrow triumph was Hayes’ eleventh AMA Pro Road Racing victory at Mid-Ohio, making him the winningest rider in the event’s long history, one up on the legendary Mat Mladin.
“I was thinking about passing him earlier in the race and just kind of mix up my rhythm instead of waiting for some kind of desperate move on the last lap,” said Hayes after Race 2. “While I was thinking about these things, we came up and I saw the white flag. I was completely taken by surprise with the white flag. I hadn’t been watching the lap board and had no idea it was last lap of the race. We were going through Turn 1 and I got a good run and I thought, ‘What am I going to do?’ I knew what he was expecting. I still felt very confident in there so when I was close enough to have a go, I did and got it stopped. From that point forward, it was probably the ugliest half lap of riding I’ve ever done in my life.
“I was pretty sloppy in the Carousel but I thought I had it because there are really no passing opportunities. I was just trying to get back to the inside and I ended up losing the front and really botching the last two corners. I never upshifted, I just held second and hit the rev limiter at the line. When I glanced over to my left I actually thought Cameron had got me, but it was so hard to tell right at the line. I was pretty relieved to get to the podium and find out I had won the race. I wanted to win it really bad and I had a lot of fun racing with Cam.”
Beaubier said he enjoyed the race as well.
“Josh made a hard, clean pass on me,” said Beaubier. “After that I was just looking for any way I could to get around him. He was braking pretty deep trying to not give it away. I tried to set him up coming off the last corner and I didn’t know who won.
“Regardless who won today, it was a great race. It’s kind of crazy not knowing who won until we came into pit lane.”
Hayden finished third for a second time on the day. He actually made inroads on the leaders for a couple laps after losing touch early, but a compound mistake dropped him well and truly out of contention on lap 7. The Kentuckian carried on to claim a lonely third, further enabled by Cardenas’ early-race crash in the braking zone at the end of the back straight.
“It was a decent weekend,” Hayden said. “Third place is not bad when you’re battling for the win but when you’re however many seconds back it’s not very satisfying. I don’t know… I’m having trouble keeping up off the corners and on the straights. I’m just riding so far above what I can do every lap and I just start making mistakes. We have some tests lined up and we need to make things a little better and hopefully at New Jersey make a race out of it.”
Fillmore took advantage of the Colombian’s mistake as well, coming home in fourth while Clark edged TOBC’s Racing Suzuki’s Taylor Knapp for fifth.
Anthony got off to a poor start and slashed his way up to seventh, while Ulrich and Team AMSOIL Hero EBR’s Cory West took eighth and ninth, respectively. Babuska again rounded out the top ten.
Race One: Cameron Beaubier, Josh Hayes, Roger Hayden, Martin Cardenas, Chris Fillmore, Chris Clark, David Anthony, Larry Pegram, Chris Ulrich, Frankie Babuska, Cory West, Bernat Martinez, Taylor Knapp, Johnny Rock Page, Mathew Orange.
Race Two: Hayes, Beaubier, Hayden, Fillmore, Clark, Knapp, Anthony, Ulrich, West, Babuska, Martinez, Page, Pegram, Orange, Cardenas.