DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Any residual sense of inevitability hanging over the paddock as a result of Josh Hayes’ all-conquering 2012 campaign was promptly shattered in the opening weekend of the 2013 AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike season.
Hayes’ improbable Friday DNF disaster was doubled up on Saturday, and the three-time defending champ now finds himself in an early hole in his pursuit of a fourth consecutive crown.
In contrast, Martin Cardenas celebrated a spectacular victory in his first weekend with the storied Yoshimura Suzuki squad, one-upping his Friday runner-up. He earned the win after pushing Hayes deep into the race before the Mississippian’s Yamaha expired shortly after the two took the stripe for the 12th time in the 15-lapper.
Hayes leapt into the lead at the green light, but was again unable to shake his Monster Energy Graves Yamaha teammate, Josh Herrin, who again tucked right in behind on his No. 2 R1.
Cardenas too got away with the leading Yamahas but appeared to be just barely clinging on to the front, fading to just over a second behind by lap 5. In danger of losing the lead draft, the Colombian summoned a remarkable 1:36.835 lap from his #36 GSX-R1000 (the only ’36 of the weekend) to close right back in on the escaping Yamaha pilots, apparently setting the stage for a race-long dogfight to the checkered flag.
The factory Suzuki man used that building momentum to fight his way up to the lead momentarily on lap 8, but Hayes and Herrin displaced him to third once again on the following lap.
However, Herrin bowed out of that battle on lap 10, running off in turn one. He re-entered the fray nearly ten seconds back – still in the top three but joined by the chasing Larry Pegram on the Foremost Insurance Pegram Racing Yamaha YZF-R1.
Hayes managed to eke out a small bit of padding over the subsequent laps but his hard work proved for naught when smoke began to pour out from beneath his machine’s fairing and he moved aside, allowing Cardenas to power into the lead and ultimately race home to the second AMA Pro SuperBike victory of his career.
“I didn’t expect a win to come this soon in the season,” said the triumphant Cardenas. “If Hayes didn’t have a problem I think he would have ended up first because he was a little bit faster than me today. I’ll take it anyway – anybody can have problems in each race.
“I’m very happy. I want to thank very much Yoshimura Suzuki for giving me the opportunity to ride for them. This team is awesome.”