LEXINGTON, Ohio — Despite a dash of unexpected early drama, the inevitable occurred at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Saturday at the Buckeye SuperBike Weekend presented by Dunlop Tire as AMA Pro National Guard Superbike Champion Josh Hayes escaped to claim his sixth consecutive victory in AMA Pro Road Racing’s premier class.
The Monster Energy Graves Yamaha ace seemed primed to run off from the start, pulling a quick three-quarter second lead on the opening lap. However, an early red flag was shown due to a malfunctioning starter light, which forced a complete restart.
The Mississippian didn’t have things quite as easy the second time around, as Yoshimura Suzuki’s Blake Young blasted from eighth on the grid to storm into first by the second turn. The racy Young proved difficult for Hayes to find a quick path by and the field bunched up behind them in the restarted race’s opening stages.
Hayes managed to dive up the inside of Young to take control of the lead on lap three but soon found himself harried by his works Yamaha teammate, Josh Herrin, who followed past Young.
Similar to their race at Barber Motorsports Park, Herrin was able to stay in his wheel tracks and actually reel Hayes in at certain points. The champ broke his young challenger’s hopes on lap 9, opening up an additional half-second. Herrin crashed just over a lap later in the Carousel in his bid to stay in the fight.
From that point on Hayes cruised to the checkered flag, notching up his ninth win on the season. The victory was also the 26th of the Yamaha superstar’s career, moving Hayes to within two victories of three-time champ Ben Spies for third on the all-time order.
“The first half was a really tough race,” Hayes said. “I was running what I thought was a really strong pace. Honestly, it was pretty tough to get around Blake. I gave it a shot a couple of times and was coming up short and overshot it once; he’s pretty hard to pass. Once I did I just tried to keep my wits about me and ride smart and put together good, clean laps.
“I thought it would be tough for any of the guys to go out and do those laps. Josh, having me directly in front of him to measure off of, was doing a really good job of hanging in there. But at the pace, I felt pretty confident that one little mistake — you overshoot a corner here or you overshoot a corner there — all I needed was to keep the pressure on and the gap would begin to open up.”
As a result, Young’s close-quarters melee with National Guard Jordan Suzuki’s Roger Hayden for third was elevated to a fight for second. The two traded the spot multiple times, but in the end the top-end hit of Young’s Yoshimura Suzuki gave him the advantage required to beat Hayden for the position.
Young said, “I can’t complain. I ended up getting slotted up into first in the first couple laps. It felt good to be out front but I was pretty hesitant in trying to run clean laps by myself out front. I knew I was making mistakes in just about every turn. I wanted to let the bike roll a little bit more and open it up but I had a tough time finding my mojo or finding my flow so to say.
“We definitely learned a lot today and I think we can apply that to tomorrow. I think it’s mostly on my shoulders. I’m the one who is going to have to bring this thing back to the front and start winning races on it again.”
“The second start wasn’t as good to me as the first one,” Hayden said. “I fell back to about fifth and just tried to work my way up. Me and Blake got together and kind of went back and forth the whole race. He was better than me in some spots and I was better than him in some others. I tried to make a pass on him with two laps to go and was going to try to split a little bit in the infield but he got back by me on the back straightaway and I just made a few mistakes that last lap and he got a bit of a gap. But overall it was a good ride for me considering the last few weekends haven’t been that good. Hopefully we can get the ball back rolling and keep racing for podiums.”
Attack Performance Kawasaki’s Steve Rapp was an impressive, albeit lonely fourth, well clear of an intense shootout for fifth behind him.
Jordan Suzuki’s Ben Bostrom held the advantage for the majority of the tilt but eventually gave way to both Foremost Insurance Pegram Racing’s Larry Pegram (fifth) and Team Amsoil/Hero EBR’s Geoff May (sixth) in the end.
Riders Discount Vesrah Suzuki’s Taylor Knapp edged May’s Team Hero EBR teammate, Danny Eslick for eighth, while M4 Broaster Chicken Suzuki’s Chris Ulrich came out on top of a duel for the final spot in the top ten with Young’s Yoshimura teammate, Chris Clark.
The rolling Hayes now boasts a 44-point advantage over second-ranked Young (352-308) and will look to up his season win tally into the double-digit territory he famously sought, and fell short of attaining, in 2011.
The 21st and last lap of the Saturday AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike race at Mid-Ohio was one of the highlights of the motorcycle racing season. Dane Westby won a battle of teammates on Saturday as he topped championship leader Martin Cardenas on the final time around the 15-turn, 2.4-mile track.
Westby, on his M4 Broaster Chicken Suzuki, was the early leader and ran at the front the entire distance, but trailed Cardenas on his GEICO Suzuki on the last lap. Westby’s bid for the win at turn six came up short, but he was able to zip back to the front just three turns before the finish.
“It was a barnburner and Martin wasn’t going to give it up,” said Westby, who got the holeshot for the first time this season. “I played my cards right and got the win but it was really close.” The victory was Westby’s second career Daytona SportBike win and allowed him to move into a clear second place in series points.
“It was a great battle,” said Cardenas of the furious but clean battle. “I tried to close all the doors but Dane was very strong.”
Cameron Beaubier was third, having lost the lead duo in the last few laps but rallying to turn in the fastest lap of the race the final time around on his Y.E.S./Graves/Yamaha YZF-R6.
He finished ahead of teammate Tommy Hayden, who had worked his way up through the field during the event. Veteran Jake Zemke (Ducshop Ducati) followed in fifth. J.D. Beach (RoadRace Factory/Red Bull) was sixth, ahead of Fernando Amantini (Team Amantini) and Cory West (Riders Discount Vesrah Suzuki).
Polesitter Dustin Dominguez created a bit of early drama in Saturday’s 17-lap AMA Pro Motorcycle-Superstore.com SuperSport race when he sputtered off the line and was instantly enveloped by the field. Dropping outside the top ten as the pack raced into the first corner, the Latus Motors Racing Triumph pilot quickly regrouped and sliced his way forward.
He actually took control of the lead before the completion of the race’s second lap with a bold around-the-outside pass on Orient Express/Celtic Racing’s James Rispoli. Once in first Dominguez immediately opened up some space and proceeded to power away to a clear victory over runner-up Rispoli.
“Unfortunately, I got a horrible start again and had to work my way through some traffic,” Dominguez said. “But the bike is just handling awesome. I just tried to ride a consistent race. We’re just happy to be here and get pretty much every point we’ve gotten this weekend; it really helps at this time of the year. Hopefully we can continue this positive momentum and go out and do it again tomorrow.”
A pair of early-race leaders, Kneedraggers.com’s Stefano Mesa and local favorite Ryan Kerr on the RFC Kawasaki, waged an intense war for the final spot on the podium, along with RoadRace Factory/Red Bull’s Tomas Puerta and his late-arriving teammate, Hayden Gillim. The scrap featured a bevy of aggressive and creative passing maneuvers, but on the final lap Mesa did a superb job of blocking to ultimately walk away with third.
Kerr finished fourth, followed by Puerta, and Gillim.
In the AMA Pro Vance & Hines XR1200 Series, Michael Barnes put his MOB Racing Harley-Davidson XR1200 on provisional pole with a time of 1:36.234.
“We just rolled it right off the truck, bolted on some new suspension this weekend, and right out of the box it was fast this morning. I knew we had about another second in it,“ said the veteran.
The Sonoma winner topped his rivals Kyle Wyman (KLR Group) and Tyler O’Hara (Bartels H-D). Joining them will be Kyle’s brother Travis Wyman on the Harv’s H-D machine.