BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Seven points are all that separates Cameron Beaubier from year-long championship leader Toni Elias as the MotoAmerica EBC Brakes Superbike title tilt reaches a crescendo at Barber Motorsports Park.
Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing’s Beaubier did what he needed to do to keep his championship hopes alive on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Alabama, the three-time MotoAmerica Superbike champion taking his fifth win of the season.
Meanwhile, everything fell into place behind him.
Beaubier knew he needed to win, and he did. He also knew he needed help. And he got it with his teammate Garrett Gerloff finishing second.
Finally, he needed Elias to struggle, which Elias did, finishing third with his teammate Josh Herrin riding shotgun to the Spaniard in the final laps.
Beaubier’s win combined with Elias’ third place narrows the margin to seven points with just Sunday’s finale remaining in the championship. If Beaubier wins on Sunday and Elias finishes third or worse, Beaubier will earn his fourth series title.
“The start of the race, from the first lap, I thought it was going to go pretty well,” Beaubier said. “I got a good start. I was really happy with my start. I looked up at the board and I saw 31 at first, then I saw 2. Then I think I was distracted or something and I got in really, really late to turn 10 out on the back part of the track. I almost ran out of track. I didn’t want to ask too much of the front just because the harder tire, it’s only four lefts (left-handers) on the track or something like that.
“I didn’t want to ask too much of it too early in the race. That sent me back to third. Me and (Josh) Herrin were just playing games with each other. Stuffing each other here and there. Every time I think that I would go up the inside of him, I would open the next corner and he’d be right back there. He’s very tough to race. Pretty crafty with his passes and stuff. Once I broke him, Garrett (Gerloff) was almost three seconds out in front.
“I did everything I could to reel him in. I was really happy to see the lap times I was able to put down on the R1. I think I did a couple laps faster than what we qualified at. Like Garrett said, it’s a testament to our team for working so hard. I definitely want to keep this number-one plate on the bike so bad for myself and for Yamaha and everyone that supports us. I’m just going to keep going and fighting until it’s over.
“Whatever happens happens. I snuck up inside of Garrett and I put my head down on the last few laps. I rode tight lines the last couple laps, especially the last couple corners. I’m going to go and put everything out there tomorrow and see what happens.”
Gerloff led the majority of the race until he was caught and passed by his teammate.
“I was giving it everything I had and, obviously, Cameron (Beaubier) was ripping off really good laps today, catching back up to me,” Gerloff said. “When he got around me, I felt good. I felt like the Yamaha R1 had some pace, but he rode good the last couple laps. It just wasn’t my day.”
Elias was disappointed with third place but hopeful of better things to come tomorrow. He knows that to earn the title, third place isn’t going to be enough.
On Saturday, the former Moto2 World Champion was a distant third – 18.8 seconds behind Beaubier and just .033 of a second ahead of Herrin.
“Yeah, I had a lot of struggles,” Elias said. “I almost crashed 10 times, but there was someone there holding me on the bike. The day is not the best day in terms of talking about the race and talking about the points for the championship. Increases the points, still seven points ahead. It’s getting close. If tomorrow happens what happened today, we will lose the championship. But I don’t need another race like today.
“I give all my heart. Definitely will be better than today. Let’s do it. Let’s work hard. Let’s use all our experience and fight to the end.”
In the penultimate Supersport race of the season, M4 ECSTAR Suzuki rider Bobby Fong led the 19-lap event from start to finish and clinched the 2019 championship in a dominant performance for the Northern California rider.
At the finish line, Fong’s lead was nearly one-and-a-half seconds over Tuned Racing Yamaha rider Bryce Prince.
In Liqui Moly Junior Cup, 2019 class champion Rocco Landers raced his Ninja400R.com/Norton Motorsports/Dr. Farr Kawasaki to his 13th victory of the season.
The result was very much in doubt, however, as BARTCON Racing Kawasaki rider Dominic Doyle gave Landers a run for his money in the middle-to-late portions of the race as the two riders swapped the lead a few times.
Ultimately, Landers managed to get back around Doyle and make it stick as he took the checkered flag by .277 of a second.
Even though Franklin Armory/Graves Kawasaki rider Andrew Lee wrapped up his second consecutive Stock 1000 Championship two weeks ago at New Jersey Motorsports Park, the California rider just keeps on winning.
In the first of two Stock 1000 races at Barber Motorsports Park, Lee notched his seventh victory out of 10 races and his sixth in a row.