ELKHART LAKE, Wis. — Entering the first race of the Subway SuperBike Doubleheader at Road America, reigning AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike triple champion Josh Hayes sounded a bit less than his usual supremely confident self.
The Monster Energy Graves Yamaha superstar admitted that he was a bit rusty, still growing comfortable with his tires, and generally struggling. Meanwhile, the emerging challenge of Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing’s Martin Cardenas hinted that the substantial crowd in attendance may be treated to a competitive battle for Saturday’s win.
Instead, Hayes stepped up and delivered yet another of his trademark breakaway victories. The convincing triumph was the 34th of the Mississippian’s illustrious premier-class career. Perhaps more importantly, it was the first of his 2013 title campaign that got off to a disastrous start in March at Daytona International Speedway.
Cardenas powered into the lead at the green light aboard his #36 GSX-R1000 but Hayes muscled alongside as they set up for the entrance of Turn 3. The two rubbed shoulders and the Colombian was pushed a bit wide as they jockeyed for position.
Hayes took control of the race at the point; he opened up a small gap that he gradually grew while Cardenas was forced to deal with Hayes’ teammate, Josh Herrin.
Cardenas eventually won out in that scrap for second but by then the damage was done. The Suzuki ace found himself a few seconds removed from Hayes, a gap from which he could never rebound. The two ultimately finished the race in first and second separated by just under four seconds.
After collecting his fourth consecutive Road America SuperBike win Hayes said, “Today’s race, in the helmet, felt a lot different than I think it looked on the track. I was pretty nervous coming into the race and wasn’t feeling real good. It’s been a long time since we’ve been racing and everything was going great last time and didn’t end that well. So I had a lot of nerves.
“I felt I was riding pretty good, and the guys showed me I think a little bit of a false gap, and I relaxed a little bit. I came around, and that gap shrank considerably, and I panicked a little bit. I had to change my rhythm twice and that’s pretty tough — once you back down to go back to putting in hard laps again. At that point, it was just trying to maintain or open the gap and just give myself some breathing room. Martin was riding pretty good behind me because I was trying pretty hard and he was maintaining a good pace. I’m sure tomorrow will be a different story; if he can get away in the first few laps with me I’m sure it’s going to be a race-long battle. I’m looking forward to it — it should be a lot of fun.”
Cardenas was able to take some consolation in the fact that his runner-up result catapulted him into the early-season championship lead.
“It was a good race for me,” Cardenas remarked. “Of course, I wanted to finish one step higher, but this time, it was impossible. Josh was very fast on the first few, and he gapped us, and I couldn’t catch up. But I tried to keep the pressure the whole way, and I had a good rhythm, and the bike was working really good.”
Herrin looked set for a lonely run to the final spot on the podium until he went off track in turn one, losing the position on lap nine of 13. The lengthy excursion plummeted Herrin from third to eighth in the process, but he regrouped and clawed his way back up to sixth by the time he took the checkered flag.
As a result of Herrin’s mistake, an extended struggle between National Guard Jordan Suzuki’s Roger Hayden and Foremost Insurance Pegram Racing Yamaha’s Larry Pegram was elevated to one for the podium. The Kentuckian eked open a small gap on the final lap to prevent the veteran from attempting a last-gasp drafting maneuver as they raced up the hill for the final time.
Hayden said, “In the beginning, I made a made a lot of mistakes, and these guys got a gap on me. They just slowly pulled away. I made another big mistake, and then Larry was on me. The last few laps was just holding him off. Herrin ran off the track — it’s a pretty disappointing third place, to be honest. I was so far back and didn’t really ride very good, and should have got fourth today. We’ll take it, but we have to do a lot better job tomorrow.”
Jordan Suzuki’s Danny Eslick came back from a less-than-ideal start to charge up from ninth to fifth in the end.