MONTEREY, Calif. – The debut of the Drag Specialties King of the Baggers didn’t disappoint at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on Saturday.
The victory in the race went to S&S Indian’s Tyler O’Hara, the pre-race favorite. It was not without drama as the Challenger-mounted Californian battled back from an off-track excursion in turn two to beat Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson’s Hayden Gillim by 1.9 seconds in the eight-lap introduction to the class at Laguna. Third place went to Indian-mounted Frankie Garcia with the Roland Sands Design-backed rider bouncing back from a painful crash during practice on Friday.
“Three or four laps in, I was going into (turn) two and I didn’t have any moments going into turn two the whole weekend and just ended up tucking the front,” O’Hara said of the off-track excursion that allowed Gillim to take the lead. “I saved it and then actually went all the way off into turn two. Actually, at the start Frankie (Garcia) was telling me my bike was smoking and I was like, ‘You’re full of it. What are you trying to psych me out?’ But he was serious. I looked at the bike and looked down and I saw a little brake fluid on the pipe. I said, ‘Okay, well we can figure this out. Don’t pull me out of here. We’re just going to figure it out.’
“We didn’t have any rear brakes at all either, so that was a little interesting. We just did our homework and I was very fortunate that I was able to keep it on two wheels in the sand. Hayden was riding really good, and same with Frankie. It’s just so fun, like you said, being able to be part of this whole King of the Baggers. I haven’t seen people that excited about motorcycle racing in a long time. People were jumping up and down and hooting and hollering. It was just fun to put on a show with these guys. My hats off to everybody who rode a bagger this weekend because some of the bikes out there didn’t look too fun to be on. So hats off to the team.”
With the exception of Richie Escalante, those who have won the most in 2020 won again at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on the opening day of the GEICO Motorcycle Superbike Speedfest at Monterey.
Supersport race one had a somewhat familiar start and a surprise conclusion as 2020 class champion Richie Escalante survived some early skirmishes with M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Sean Dylan Kelly and Celtic HSBK Racing Yamaha’s last-round replacement rider J.D. Beach, who got the holeshot in the race, but later crashed out of second place.
Escalante got into the lead on lap two and held onto it till lap eight when Kelly took the point and Escalante was shuffled back to second. Then disaster struck for Escalante when his HONOS Kawasaki experienced a technical problem, which ended his day.
CV28 Racing’s Cory Ventura, competing in Supersport for the first time this season, moved up to second and battled for position with Escalante’s new-for-this-weekend HONOS teammate Brandon Paasch, who switched from a Yamaha to a Kawasaki for the final round of the season.
At the checkers, it was Kelly taking the win, with Paasch finishing second over Ventura in third.
Two-time Liqui Moly Junior Cup Champion Rocco Landers kept his momentous season going strong on Saturday, winning his 14th race of the season. It was not easy for the Norton Motorsports/Ninja400R/Dr.Farr/Wonder CBD Kawasaki rider, though. He was hounded throughout the 13-lap event by BARTCON Racing’s Dominic Doyle, who moved up quickly from his fourth place starting position on the first lap, got into second place, and maintained his position all the way to the checkers.
Third place went to Celtic HSBK Racing Kawasaki rider Sam Lochoff, who was in a race-long battle with Liam Grant for the final step on the podium. Lochoff got by Grant on the final lap and made it stick to secure third place.
In Saturday’s Stock 1000 race, which was the season-concluding event for the class, Altus Motorsports Suzuki rider Cam Petersen, who clinched the class championship at Indianapolis Motor Speedway two weekends ago, added another victory to his resume with his eighth win of the season in another dominant performance for the South African rider.
Second place went to Ride HVMC Racing Kawasaki’s Corey Alexander, who recorded his 10th podium result on the year and completed what was a remarkably consistent season for the New Yorker. Procomps Racing BMW’s Danilo Lewis rounded out the top three, and the Brazilian was overjoyed to notch the first MotoAmerica podium of his career.