LEEDS, Ala. – In the opening stages of Saturday’s AMA Pro SuperBike showdown at Barber Motorsports Park, the race for victory appeared to be shaping into a rematch of the epic clashes featured at last year’s Triumph SuperBike Classic.
However, the brutally hot conditions ultimately delivered a result more reminiscent of the race of attrition endured last time out at Road America, albeit due to heat instead of precipitation.
And as was the case in Wisconsin, it was the experience and rock solid riding of three-time AMA Pro SuperBike champion Josh Hayes that won out in the end. The Monster Energy Graves Yamaha rider held strong at the front all afternoon despite the extremely trying circumstances while all of his major rivals faltered.
As a result, the early advantage Hayes spotted his competition with his Daytona DNF back in March has effectively been erased. The 39-year-old now owns the inside line to a fourth-career SuperBike crown with a commanding 17-point advantage as the season approaches its halfway point.
2011 Barber Motorsports Park SuperBike race winner Martin Cardenas was the first to see his chances end with a crash, falling out of the race on its opening lap. The Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing star was joined a handful of laps later when Hayes’ Monster Energy Graves Yamaha teammate, Cameron Beaubier, fell in the same area of the racetrack.
That spill marked the conclusion of a long day for the rookie standout. Beaubier started from the second row of the grid after crashing in Qualifying 3. He then ran off track while running a close third on lap five and tumbled out of the race a lap later.
“I had a really good lap going in qualifying and for whatever reason I tucked the front,” Beaubier said. “I got in a little hot. Same thing this afternoon – I just felt like I had no grip compared to earlier and I made a mistake. And then I was trying to catch back up and I just washed front in the last right-hander. I don’t know – I’m pretty disappointed at this point. I’m sick of crashing.”
GEICO Motorcycle Road Racing Honda’s Chris Ulrich crashed in Turn 1 on the next lap, bringing out a red flag. At the restart, Hayes and title hopeful Roger Hayden immediately resumed the intense fight for first they waged prior to the stoppage.
Hayden, who twice pushed Hayes to the checkered flag at Barber Motorsports Park last season only to come up fractions of a second short of victory, battled hard to overcome him this time around. However, perhaps the Yoshimura ace battled just a bit too hard, crashing away a potential win while running in Hayes’ shadow on lap 16 of 21.
The mounting mistakes ultimately left Hayes all alone out front with ADR Motorsports/Sic/Motul Fly Racing’s David Anthony and HMC/KTM Racing’s Chris Fillmore embroiled in a scrap for second and third position.
Unfortunately for Fillmore, his hopes for a debut podium for KTM evaporated in heartbreak, as his race ended with him sitting aboard an expired RC8R in the gravel. Fillmore’s loss was Chris Clark’s gain, as the third Yoshimura pilot readily accepted a first-career AMA Pro SuperBike podium of his own.
“To me, the race was very reminiscent of last year,” said Hayes after claiming AMA Pro SuperBike victory No. 43. “It was hot, greasy and very easy to make mistakes. Fortunately, once the pressure was off, I was able to back things down a little bit and I felt pretty safe and sound the last few laps.