MILLVILLE, N.J. — Monster Energy/Graves/Yamaha’s Josh Herrin took a huge step towards attaining his first AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike championship with a clutch victory on Saturday at the New Jersey Lottery Devil’s Showdown.
Amazingly, earlier in the race his title chances seemed much more likely to be extinguished than bolstered. Meanwhile, the championship hopes of defending triple king Josh Hayes took a severe blow despite the Yamaha duo’s unusual races playing out in remarkably similar fashion.
Saturday’s wild National Guard SuperBike contest at New Jersey Motorsports Park provided another monumental twist to an already bizarre title fight as the GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing drama continued to elevate to rare heights.
After all the ups and downs were tallied, Herrin was credited with the win, while National Guard Jordan Suzuki’s Roger Hayden and Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing’s Martin Cardenas rounded out the podium.
And, for the second time this year, Hayes took the checkered flag first but wasn’t awarded the victory, placed fourth in the final race results after being assessed with a jump-start penalty — his third such infraction of an uncharacteristic ’13 campaign. However, Hayes’ penalty was far from the only footnote that made Saturday’s race an oddity.
A pair of warnings of impending disaster for the champ and the dominant Monster Energy/Graves/Yamaha squad backing him were raised during Saturday’s morning qualifying. Hayes, despite locking down his 28th career SuperBike pole at the conclusion of the session, saw both his ‘A’ and ‘B’ YZF-R1s malfunction with electrical issues.
Yamaha’s worst fears were then realized at the race’s start. Not only did the defending champ suffer from an electrical malfunction just a few turns after he made his launch at the green light, but so did teammate and fellow title hopeful Herrin. The two blue machines were forced to pull off and immediately plunged to the back of the order while Suzuki ace Cardenas — Yamaha’s biggest championship threat — grabbed the holeshot and powered into the lead.
Yamaha’s twin troubles brought back memories of Hayes’ season-opening disaster at Daytona International Speedway in March, in which the Mississippian twice saw likely victories transformed into mechanical retirements. Making matters worse for a suddenly luckless Hayes was the fact that he was also hit with the aforementioned five-second penalty for jumping the start.
However, Hayes and Herrin both managed to right the issue by restarting their machines on the opening lap and the duo then began slicing their way forward while Cardenas tussled with Hayden at the front. In a most fortuitous turn, the Yamaha riders’ near-impossible task of fighting back into contention was made manageable after seven laps when the race was halted and subsequently restarted due to fluids deposited on the circuit by the Neyra Racing machine of Huntley Nash.
After an extended clean-up period and a brief practice for course evaluation, the field was re-gridded for a 13-lap second half. Cardenas opened from pole this time while Hayes and Herrin restarted well down the order. Herrin made the most of his second chance, storming from Row 3 to take the lead on the opening lap of the restart while the opposite occurred for Hayes. The champ made contact with Hayden entering Turn 1 and dropped down the order once again, forcing him to dig deep and embark on yet another forward charge.
The final 13 laps saw Herrin, Cardenas, Hayden, Jordan Suzuki’s Danny Eslick and a motivated Hayes wage a relentless and unforgiving heavyweight fight for supremacy — at least on track. Hayes — along with Eslick — were saddled with five-second penalties but battled for position all the same.
Hayes ultimately showed his caliber by systematically working his way to the front, at last taking the lead (again, on track) with two laps remaining. A surprised Herrin nearly highsided while attempting to counter Hayes’ ascension, but quickly calmed himself. Realizing that Hayes was actually behind in the official order due to his penalty, Herrin regrouped in time to strike past Cardenas in the race’s final corner to steal away a vitally important victory at the flag.
Herrin’s decisive maneuver also allowed Hayden to displace Cardenas at the stripe, knocking the Colombian down to third while further aiding Herrin’s burgeoning title chances.
After claiming his fourth-career SuperBike victory, Herrin said, “It was awesome — it really couldn’t have gone any better. We got really lucky with the red flag. We had to start tenth, and something was up with the bike. I haven’t used the R1 without launch control since I’ve been on it — not even a practice start. But we had to on the restart and it went great, so I may just take the launch control off from now on. We went from tenth to first on the first lap, so it was pretty awesome.
“That battle with Martin was amazing. It was a lot of fun, and I really wanted to get the [point for] most laps led. Whenever Josh went by, I panicked for a second because I had a feeling that he had charged from behind and was going good. I thought I had to keep up with him because I needed this race win. After that huge moment that I had, I realized he had that five-second penalty so I kind of backed it off a little bit. I figured if he could beat me by five seconds in a lap-and-a-half, I had other things I needed to worry about… But it was a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to tomorrow and I’m really happy I was able to capitalize on Josh’s jump start and get an even bigger cushion in the points.”
Runner-up Hayden said, “The first half of the race before the red flag was going pretty good. Me and Martin had a pretty good pace going there. We had a nice gap on the guys behind us, so I really didn’t want to see that red flag. I was just going to sit back there and wait to the end. But that’s the way it goes sometimes. In the second part of the race I got another good start, but just wasn’t strong enough to get past these guys anywhere. It’s pretty easy to stay there but to get by them is difficult… I wanted to stay close enough just in case they got too close I could capitalize. In the last corner there Josh got underneath Martin and pushed him wide and I was able to get second.”
Third-placed Cardenas said, “The race was incredible — a lot of passing and a lot of battling with these guys, especially Herrin. Unfortunately, the result wasn’t what we were expecting, but I’m very happy with the race. The Yoshimura Suzuki worked very good. We’re looking forward to tomorrow, and we’re hoping for a similar race with a result that’s a little bit better.”
Hayes, meanwhile, was credited with fourth despite taking the checkered flag first. In many ways, the contest encapsulated Hayes’ difficult 2013 campaign in which repeated misfortune and mistakes have left his chances for an unprecedented fourth championship in doubt despite routinely dominating practices, qualifying sessions, and races.
Cameron Beaubier wrapped up the 2013 AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike championship with his record tenth win of the year on Saturday at New Jersey Motorsports Park. Beaubier and his Yamaha Extended Service/Monster Energy/Graves Yamaha team had a tough time with Meen Motorsports’ Jake Lewis, but Beaubier was able to win by 1.029 seconds with a late lap push. Jake Gagne of RoadRace Factory/Red Bull Yamaha took third following a hotly-contested four-rider battle that lasted the whole race.
Beaubier faced another tough battle for the win, with Lewis having his best GoPro Daytona SportBike race yet. Lewis and Beaubier traded the lead several times through turn one.
Beaubier clinching the title means that Yamaha has finally won an AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike title after watching other manufacturers take the glory in each of the previous seasons for the competitive class that was launched in 2009. The 97-point lead that Beaubier now holds is insurmountable with just two races to go.
“It’s an awesome day,” said Beaubier. “I can’t thank my Y.E.S./Monster Energy/Graves/Yamaha team enough for all they’ve done for me this season. Also, I’ve got to thank my Mom and Dad, and my girlfriend Kayla for all their love and support. It feels really good to get this Championship for Yamaha.”
Beaubier’s tenth victory in 2013 — eight of which have been consecutive — also broke the previous record of nine Daytona SportBike wins achieved in a season, previously held by Martin Cardenas.
“I got the holeshot and put my head down right away because I knew Cameron and Garrett [Gerloff] had a little bit faster pace in practice and qualifying so I wanted to get off to an early lead,” said Lewis. “I was pushing really hard and made a few mistakes early on in the race. It was the first time I’ve led a race in probably a year so I was pretty excited about that. I wanted to win really bad today but Cameron was really fast and didn’t make any mistakes. That’s why he’s the champion this year.”
Behind the leading duo, the four-way battle between Gagne, D&D Cycles’ Bobby Fong, GEICO Motorcycle Road Racing pilot Dane Westby, and National Guard/Celtic Racing’s James Rispoli showcased plenty of passing, too. Gagne won the spot at the end.
“I was in third and tried to put my head down and made a bunch of mistakes,” said Gagne. “I was kinda all over the place the whole race trying to keep the thing under me. Towards the middle, I was battling with Westby and Fong and we were all going back and forth. I had a fun race with those guys, and I think we were putting on a pretty good show. Then I just wanted to get in front of those guys with a few laps to go and not deal with it. I got in front on the second-to-last lap and tried to hold it to the line and ended up taking it. There weren’t a whole lot of places to pass, so I felt that if I could get in front on the last lap, I’d be all right.”
Jason DiSalvo was a lonely seventh on the Latus Motors Racing Triumph and fellow veteran Jake Zemke followed next on the Riders Discount Racing Triumph.
Team 95’s Hayden Gillim needed a win to stay alive in the AMA Pro Motorcycle-Superstore.com SuperSport race, and he came up big in Saturday’s first race of the weekend at New Jersey Motorsports Park in a contest that had more twists and turns than a soap opera. Corey Alexander of National Guard Celtic Racing was a close second, just 0.007 back, and overall 2013 series champ Tomas Puerta was third for RoadRace Factory/Red Bull.
After watching point leader Alexander take pole, Gillim came alive early and jumped out to a 4.2-second lead in the opening laps of the race. Gillim looked to repeat the form he had displayed at races like Miller Motorsports Park and NOLA Motorsports Park last year, where he decisively dominated the AMA Pro Motorcycle-Superstore SuperSport races.
But Alexander quickly found his form and began taking chunks of time out of Gillim’s lead, catching up to him after a torrid succession of laps and setting the fastest lap of the race. With six laps to go, Alexander took the lead, only to have a bad run through traffic that allowed Gillim to retake the point.
Then the red lag flew, bunching the field up for six laps of action that saw Gillim, Alexander, Puerta, and Motosport.com RSRacecraft’s Stefano Mesa run at the front.
Alexander, Gillim and Puerta all led in the final scenes of the race, but it was Gillim that led the last time around. Alexander tried to make a pass, but came up a scant 0.007 of a second short at the stripe in a photo finish.
“Every finish I’ve ever been in where it was that close, I end up losing out,” Gillim said. “Actually, we had a finish just like that last year at Daytona but, you know, it’s really fun when you can finish like that because it makes it that much more exciting. I was able to get a good start and put my head down and get a pretty good gap. I saw Corey was coming back, and I was just waiting for him to go past. But once he got up to me, I thought, ‘okay, let’s race — this is what it’s about.’ And then, the red flag came out, and we went back at it. It was just back and forth, back and forth. I’m really glad I was able to get the win and close up a little bit on the championship. I think it’ll be just as good tomorrow.
AMA Pro Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Series championship leader Aerostar Global/Suburban Harley-Davison’s Steve Rapp led the way on Saturday as the XR Showdown contenders got in their first qualifying session of the weekend at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
Rapp, who’s looking to return to his winning ways after seeing his four-race win streak halted at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in August, posted a laptime of 1:30.024 to claim provisional pole.
Rapp said, “I like the track — I’ve had some good races here. In general I like it, the weather is great, the bike is working good, the team is really motivated, and I’m excited. Everything is good right now.”
His Suburban Harley-Davidson teammate, Ben Carlson, was second best on Saturday. The Suburban duo was joined on the provisional front row by current XR Showdown runner-up Travis Wyman on the Harv’s Harley-Davidson and Eco Fuel Saver/Scrubblade’s Tyler O’Hara.