HOMESTEAD, Fla. — GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing history was made on Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the Triumph Big Kahuna Miami presented by Dunlop Tire and LeoVince and, for once, it didn’t have anything to do with Josh Hayes.
National Guard Jordan Suzuki’s Roger Hayden enjoyed what was likely the greatest day of his racing career to date; the Kentuckian claimed his first-career AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike pole position in the morning and then backed it up with his first-career premier class victory in the afternoon.
Hayden’s triumphant Saturday closed out two historic streaks of Hayes’ while delaying the inevitable. Hayden’s pole snapped the champ’s run of 11-consecutive pole positions (which tied Mat Mladin’s ’05-’06 record), and #54’s blowout victory ended Hayes’ all-time mark of 10-straight AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike wins.
Hayden took the early lead from Yoshimura Suzuki’s Blake Young and was followed past by the No. 1 Monster Energy Graves Yamaha of Hayes. However, the race took a shocking turn moments later when Hayes clipped a curb and crashed from second while working lap 3 of 23.
The Mississippian frantically sprinted to his downed machine, picked it up, and re-entered the fray, but could only work his way back up to 12th position in the end. The uncharacteristic mistake pushed the clinching of a third-consecutive National Guard SuperBike title back at least one more day.
Meanwhile, Hayden, who was momentarily dropped back to second by Young, reclaimed first and then broke free from the multi-rider fight that was developing behind him.
Taking full advantage of the opportunity before him, Hayden stormed off into the distance and took the victory with several seconds to spare. He used an intermediate Dunlop tire to win the race, a bit of a risk as he’d never run that particular tire before. Hayden and his team also changed the setup on the bike after the morning practice session.
An elated Hayden took the checkered flag in his hand for a victory lap to celebrate that long-awaited career achievement.
An emotional Hayden said, “It feels really good — it’s been a long time since I’ve won. So many things are going through my head right now, I just want to go back to the truck and sit there by myself and let it all sink in. It’s been a lot of work getting back — a lot of injuries. Lot of people stuck with me — my family mainly. My sisters, my brothers were always trying to help me, my parents were always right there. You have a lot of friends when you’re winning but when you’re laid up in the hospital bed with a broken back, broken pelvis, there’s not a lot of people calling you. My family stayed with me through thick and thin when almost everyone else gave up on me. I guess I want to dedicate this win to my family for everything that they’ve done for me no matter what.
“I’ve got to thank my team, Michael Jordan Motorsports, and the National Guard, because last year nobody really wanted to give me a chance — they thought I was used goods. I think today made it look like they made the right choice. And for myself, I put a lot of work into it and to finally win…
“I put my head down right away and was ready for the fight. These guys came by me and we had some good passes, and then I just tried to put my head down and get a gap and maintain it. I thought my lap board was missing laps because I was thinking, ‘I know we did more than just one lap.’ It seemed like it took forever but I got the win and I’m happy.”
Young fell off the chase for the win and back into a remarkable battle for second with Team Hero EBR’s Danny Eslick. The two traded the position back and forth countless times in a scrap that displayed the full extent of the two chargers’ repertoire of overtaking maneuvers.
In the end, Eslick’s aggressive tactics won out over Young’s, as the Oklahoman edged ahead at the checkered flag by 0.089 seconds.
“There was one lap where we probably went back and forth five, six, or seven times,” Eslick said of the dogfight. “It was a good race. It was clean, and it was just good, hard racing. Me and Blake have raced each other for a lot of years and raced each other hard. There’s no love lost while we were out there; we were definitely going for it out there. It was pretty awesome.”
Third-placed Young said, “I kind of had two races going on. I was racing at the front, and then Roger decided he wanted it more than me and kind of took off. I thought that was going to be the end of my day. And then I saw my pitboard about halfway through said ‘+1 69’ and I thought, ‘oh boy, here we go.’ Obviously, it was a pretty good race.”
Their brawl allowed Team Amsoil/Hero EBR’s Geoff May to claw back into podium contention as well; the Georgian finished in fourth just 0.252 seconds behind Young.
Jordan Suzuki’s Ben Bostrom finished a lonely fifth with M4 Suzuki’s Chris Ulrich claiming an impressive sixth.
A healthy tussle decided seventh position; Kneedraggers.com/Motul/Fly Racing’s David Anthony ultimately took the position just ahead of Foremost Insurance Pegram Racing BMW’s Larry Pegram, Riders Discount K&L Supply’s Taylor Knapp, EvanSteelPerformance BMW’s Aaron Yates, and KTM/HMC Racing’s Chris Fillmore.
The powerful Monster Energy Graves Yamaha squad’s Saturday pain was only intensified when Josh Herrin suffered a problem while circulating in sixth. He continued on track but faded all the way to 19th by the race’s completion.
Despite his Saturday disappointment, Hayes is still in commanding position to clinch the title. Only a non-score combined with either a victory or runner-up finish on Young’s part could prevent Hayes from claiming his third-straight AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike championship on Sunday.
Y.E.S. Graves Yamaha pilot Cameron Beaubier won the Saturday AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike race in decisive fashion over Martin Cardenas and Bobby Fong.
Beaubier has now won six out of the last eight races in the GoPro Daytona SportBike class after an early-season injury effectively ended his shot at the title as Cardenas (GEICO Suzuki) has taken charge of the championship.
Beaubier took pole for the race, but Cardenas earned the holeshot on the start. By lap four, the Californian had moved to the front and earned a gap he held for the rest of the race.
“I was pushing pretty hard at the beginning,” said Beaubier. “I had a soft tire that had started spinning up by the end. I tried to stay consistent and brought it home. The team gave me an awesome bike.”
“I led for two laps,” said Cardenas. “Cameron passed me and was a little stronger at the beginning of the race. I could see the board, and Bobby was behind me. At the end, I put my head adown and increased my rhythm. It was good to finish second.
Beaubier took the win by 1.633 seconds over Cardenas, who was threatened by Fong and Dane Westby (M4 Suzuki). Westby closed on his rivals and looked to be making a strong push, but he couldn’t get by so he took fourth.
Jake Gagne had an odd race. The RoadRace Factory/Red Bull pilot ran up front early, dropped back with an apparent machine issue, then returned to the action down in the pack. He made it back to fifth place and cut the race’s quick lap (1:26.066).
Jake Zemke was sixth on the DucShop Ducati, ahead of Tommy Aquino (Kneedraggers.com) and Jason DiSalvo (Latus Motors Racing Triumph).
Austin DeHaven, coming off an injury, was ninth for Kneedraggers.com.
Orient Express Celtic Racing’s James Rispoli outlasted Kneedraggers.com Stefano Mesa to win Saturday’s intense AMA Pro Motorcycle-Superstpore.com SuperSport shootout.
Rispoli and Mesa distanced themselves from an earlier seven-rider scrap for the lead and settled into a one-on-one duel over the race’s second half. Mesa made a couple of slick maneuvers to steal the lead briefly, but Rispoli had an answer for every assault. Mesa’s bid was made all the more difficult when his helmet’s visor came off with seven laps remaining.
In the end, Rispoli won out to the stripe by 0.564 after eking out a bit of space on the race’s final lap.
“It was really slick and me and Stefano did a good job of sliding around and making it look fun,” Rispoli said. “In the middle of the race, he came rippin’ by and I was like, ‘OK, it’s time to go.’ I got back in tow, reeled him in a little bit, and found some parts where I was a little bit faster. I made my move a couple laps later. It was really fun racing today.”
RoadRace Factory/Red Bull’s Tomas Puerta narrowly edged Riders Discount Vesrah Suzuki’s Jake Lewis for the final podium position by 0.043 seconds, but Lewis was still the big winner on the day.
East Region title leader Dustin Dominguez dropped out of the battle for third, and Lewis made up serious ground in the points chase, moving from 20 points out to just two points back (208-206).
National Guard/Fairhills Group/Celtic Racing’s Cory Alexander rounded out the top five.
Tyler O’Hara (Bartel’s Harley-Davidson) won provisional pole for Sunday’s AMA Pro Vance & Hines XR1200 Series race. O’Hara set a time of 1:38.629 in tough conditions at the 2.2-mile circuit on Saturday afternoon as he topped local rider Mike Barnes for the spot.
“We made the decision to get out there early and get a couple of good laps,” said O’Hara, who added the weather worsened for most of the session.
Barnes (KLR Group/Spykes H-D) was second, alongside Travis Wyman (Harv’s H-D) and Michael Corbino (Rossiter`s Harley-Davidson).
Title contender Kyle Wyman (KLR Group) crashed during the session.