INDIANAPOLIS – Cameron Beaubier has left few doors ajar for his rivals this season in MotoAmerica HONOS Superbike competition.
However, once again Bobby Fong rode through a rare opening by Beaubier and won race one of Superbikes at the Brickyard on Saturday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Fong rode to his second victory of the season on the No. 50 M4 ECSTAR Suzuki, holding off the No. 32 Monster Energy Attack Performance Yamaha of Jake Gagne by .228 of a second at the finish.
Lorenzo Zanetti rounded out the podium finishers on the No. 87 Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati New York Ducati, 11.391 seconds behind Fong.
But the biggest story of the day was two falls during the race by runaway championship leader Beaubier, who ended up unclassified in the race after his second accident on the No. 1 Monster Energy Attack Performance Yamaha.
It was just the second time in 15 races this season that Beaubier didn’t win, as Fong also triumphed June 28 at Road America when Beaubier hit a bump in turn one and crashed.
Saturday’s dramatic race was halted twice by red flags for accidents, with subsequent restarts, putting extra miles on tires and extra strain on clutches and riders’ nerves.
“It was tough at the end, with all of the heat cycles on those tires,” Fong said. “I felt like we did about 30 laps on those tires, with all of the warm-up laps. But we managed, and the bike ran good. Hopefully we continue the hard work tomorrow and finish the weekend strong.”
Drama unfolded almost immediately in the race, which was scheduled for 17 laps.
Beaubier, starting fourth, charged from the second row to the lead midway through the first lap, diving under Fong in the infield section of the 16-turn, 2.591-mile road course.
But Kyle Wyman was flung off his No. 33 Excelsus Solutions/KWR Ducati Team Ducati exiting turn 16 onto the front straightaway of the IMS oval. His stopped bike was marooned in the middle of track, forcing the first red flag and restart.
Beaubier appeared to have a problem with his Yamaha on pit lane during the red flag and was late to the grid for the sighting lap, so regulations forced him to start last on the restart of the race, which was shortened to 15 laps.
Pole sitter Toni Elias led on the restart into turn one on his No. 24 M4 ECSTAR Suzuki, with Fong right behind. Fong dove under Elias for the lead in turn one on lap two, with Beaubier on a charge and already into sixth place after starting from the rear.
But then Mathew Scholtz on the No. 11 Westby Racing Yamaha fell in turn nine on lap three while running fifth. Beaubier, running right behind Scholtz, also fell. The incident triggered the second red flag and restart.
Four-time MotoAmerica Superbike champion Beaubier caught a break because his bike wasn’t severely damaged in the crash, and he was able to make the grid in time to occupy in his original fourth starting spot for the second restart.
Beaubier wasted no time showing his dominant speed, climbing from fourth to second in turn one behind Elias on the restart. He then passed Elias for the lead in turn five on the first lap of the restart.
Meanwhile, Fong passed teammate Elias for second on lap two and tried to stay close to Beaubier.
Then the unthinkable happened – again.
Beaubier slid out of the lead in turn 16, entering the front straightaway from the oval, on lap four and handed the lead to Fong. Meanwhile, Zanetti had climbed to second and began to hound Fong for the top spot, with Gagne running a distant but closing third.
On lap nine, Zanetti used his Ducati power to dive under Fong for the lead in Turn 1. But one lap later, Zanetti missed a shift in turn 13 and ran wide into the gravel, handing the lead to Fong and dropping to fourth.
Gagne, who started sixth, closed to within one second of Fong and started to turn up the pressure on his fellow California rider. Gagne appeared faster in the second sector of the track, but Fong was flawless in the important third sector, which includes the exit of Turn 16 and the front straightaway to the Yard of Bricks.
Fong held off the closing Gagne over the final laps of the 15-lap race to earn his second win and sixth podium finish of the season.
“Three starts on a day – that’s a lot of craziness,” Gagne said. “My start wasn’t good, and Bobby (Fong) went hard right away and Luca (Zanetti) was right there, and it took me awhile to reel those guys in.
“But man, I just couldn’t get quite close enough to Bobby. He was riding really good. There were some sections he was going, some sections I would bring him back. Hat’s off to Bobby.”
Pole sitter Elias ended up fourth.
Beaubier’s lead was reduced to 83 points over teammate Gagne, who trailed by 103 points at the start of the day. Beaubier needs to lead by 75 points or more after both races Sunday to clinch his fifth MotoAmerica Superbike title and third in a row.
In support class action, Travis Wyman won the Stock 1000 race on his No. 10 Travis Wyman Racing BMW. Cameron Petersen finished second but clinched the season championship on the No. 45 Altus Motorsports Suzuki.
Petersen crossed the finish line first, .307 of a second ahead of Wyman, but was penalized four-tenths of a second after the checkered flag for exceeding track limits during the race.
Richie Escalante dominated the Supersport race on his No. 54 HONOS Kawasaki, winning by 15.523 seconds over the No. 37 MESA37 Racing Kawasaki of Stefano Mesa.
Rocco Landers swept the Twins Cup and Liqui Moly Junior Cup races.
He won by 5.822 seconds in Twins on his No. 97 SportbikeTrackGear.com Roadracingworld.com Suzuki and triumphed by 2.057 seconds in Junior Cup on his No. 1 Norton Motorsports/Ninja400R/Dr. Farr/Wonder CBD Kawasaki.