AMA PRO RACING:
Josh Hayes (No. 4 Yamaha Motor Corp. USA Yamaha R1) won his second AMA Pro National Guard American Superbike presented by Parts Unlimited Superpole of the season while Taylor Knapp (No. 54 Latus Motors Racing Buell 1125R) scored his first career Superpole in AMA Pro Daytona SportBike presented by AMSOIL qualifying Friday at the 10th Anniversary Suzuki Big Kahuna Nationals at Virginia International Raceway.
Hayes turned a top lap time of 1:25.014 (95.702 mph) as the 10th and final rider to qualify in the single-bike Superpole format. He also won the Superpole two races ago at Mid-Ohio where he went on to sweep both of that weekend’s races. Hayes won his first race of the season in May at Infineon Raceway where he broke a season-opening streak of seven straight wins by Mat Mladin (No. 7 Rockstar/Makita Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000), who he edged for the Superpole Friday at 2.25-mile circuit.
“I think we left a little bit out there but it was a good lap,” Hayes said. “I put a lot of effort into it. Our bike had a lot of grip and worked really well. I did a clean lap and it was enough to nip Mat by just a small margin. Since we pulled the bike out of the truck we’ve been pretty fortunate that it’s going around the racetrack well. I’m having a lot of fun riding. This has been a good race track for me.”
Mladin, who turned a lap time of 1:25.103 (95.602 mph) held the top spot until Hayes made his run. He still leads American Superbike with a series-high eight Superpoles this season.
“It was all good today,” said Mladin, who joined most of his competition in having no trouble handling temperatures in the high 80s. “I’m looking forward to the race tomorrow. It’s been a lot worse around this place before, today’s not too bad. The breeze is nice on the bike, we’ve had a lot worse conditions here than today.”
Jordan Suzuki teammates Geoff May (No. 54 National Guard Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000) and Aaron Yates (No. 23 Brand Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000) turned in a solid Superpole team performance to complete the four-rider front row. May qualified third with a lap at 1:25.720 (94.913 mph) while Yates was fourth fastest at 1:26.126 (94.446 mph).
“I was feeling good,” May said. “We just re-analyzed some stuff. Since Road America we’ve had a downward spiral. This weekend we said ‘you know what, we’re going to go back to where we had this bike in the beginning of the year when we first got it.’ It seemed pretty good. So we rolled it out of the truck and haven’t really done much since and we’re back up where I feel we should be.”
Yates is on his second straight American Superbike front row after qualifying second fastest one race ago in the Tornado Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka.
“It’s just like any other weekend,” said Yates, who joins his teammate May as Georgia natives. “I’m just going out there and riding the thing. I definitely felt like the grip was down a little that time out, but we’ve made a few changes with the front of the bike. It was sitting lower, I don’t think we quite had the load on the rear that we’ve had earlier and it was missing some traction there. It’s like home for me, I like it hot. I didn’t know if was going to be like this, so we’re ready.”
Larry Pegram (No. 72 Foremost Insurance/Pegram Racing Ducati 1098R), who won the Superpole at the Tornado Nationals and both of that weekend’s American Superbike races, rounded out the top five in qualifying at VIR.
Saturday’s first American Superbike race of the weekend is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. local time for 23 laps/50 miles. The Big Kahuna races will be featured in a pair of same-day telecasts on SPEED. Saturday’s American Superbike and Daytona SportBike finals will be shown that night in a two-hour show at 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. PT) while Sunday’s premier class races and other highlights will air in a two-hour show that evening at Midnight ET (9 p.m. PT).
Wild Daytona SportBike Friday
An AMA Pro Daytona SportBike presented by AMSOIL Superpole qualifying session that was as notable for those who were not in it as the 10 riders who were saw Knapp break through for his first career top qualifying effort. Knapp clocked in with a lap time of 1:28.233 (92.210 mph) and will share the two-rider front row with Jake Zemke (No. 1x Erion Racing Honda CBR600RR) who lapped at 1:28.663 (91.764 mph).
“It’s not only my first pole, but the first time I’ve ever been in a press conference,” said Knapp, who finished a career-high fifth in the Sunday American Superbike final at the Tornado Nationals on the No. 44 Taylor Knapp Racing Suzuki GSX-R1000. “It’s really cool. I had a little spin coming out of Turn 2 or 3, the left hander, the track crowns off on the edge and I got a little wide. It spun up and I bounced off the curb and I didn’t know if that was going to hurt me too much. I just kept stringing the lap together the best I could and ended up on top. Totally cool, I’m looking forward to the races.”
Zemke joined teammate Chris Peris (No. 10 Erion Racing Honda CBR600RR) in giving Erion Honda its best starting positions as a team this year.
“I actually messed up the lap right at the very beginning going into Turn 1,” Zemke said. “I went in there and my foot slipped off the shifter. I was thinking, ‘I don’t think that thing went into gear.’ I hit the shifter again and it went into gear, but it was the wrong one. It was first gear. I lost a ton of time in the first segment. I just kept my head down and got through the rest of the lap and it turned out okay for us. Congratulations to Taylor on his first pole and it should be a good race tomorrow.”
Peris qualified third at 1:28.676 (91.764 mph) and was the only 2009 race winner participating in Daytona SportBike Superpole Friday.
“My lap was basically the same as I did in practice this morning,” said Peris, who won the Saturday final at Road America in June. “It was nothing too hairball. Nothing really out of the ordinary, but I wasn’t expecting to move up this far. Everyone went a little bit slower so maybe it was a little bit better. The bike’s working awesome, the team’s been great. It just all worked out.”
Roger Hayden (No. 95 Monster Energy Attack Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R) was also in season-best form Friday and qualified fourth at 1:28.682 (91.743 mph).
“The bike is definitely working pretty good this weekend,” Hayden said. “My lap was okay. When I came across the start-finish line I didn’t expect it to be a 28.7, I felt like I left a lot of time out there. I think it’s going to be a good race. We’ve been going pretty good all weekend, we just have to get a little bit better. I’m looking forward to it. I’m definitely a lot closer to the front than I’ve been all year. It makes the race weekend a lot more fun.”
Notable by their Superpole absence were Daytona SportBike championship leaders Danny Eslick (No. 9 GEICO Powersports/RMR Buell 1125R) and Martin Cardenas (No. 36 Team M4 Suzuki GSX-R600). Eslick laid the bike down in the downhill section during the group session and qualified 12th, missing the Superpole round, while Cardenas suffered a lowside incident in morning practice that resulted in a fractured right hand. After receiving medical treatment onsite at VIR, Cardenas rallied to participate in group qualifying and did well to clock in 13th quickest.
“I broke a bone in my hand,” said Cardenas, who crashed in the downhill run at Turn 15. “I made a mistake and hit a curb going downhill. It was a big mistake, I crashed and I hurt my hand. Off the bike, it feels okay and if I don’t move the hand, it doesn’t hurt. On the bike the hardest thing is changing direction, and a little bit under braking, especially turning to the right side. I will just try to deal with it, race tomorrow and do a good job. There is not much you can do, only put ice on it. That’s it, I think.”
Also enduring a tough day was Daytona SportBike Superpole leader Jason DiSalvo (No. 40 Team M4 Suzuki GSX-R600) who was uninjured when he went off course during his Superpole run. DiSalvo, who has a class-leading five Superpoles in 2009, will start ninth on the grid in this weekend’s dual races. Chaz Davies (No. 57 Factory Aprilia Millennium Technologies Team Aprilia RSV1000R) , who struggled with mechanical problems in the morning practice session and Superpole run, will start 10th.
Josh Herrin (No. 8 Team Graves Yamaha YZF-R6) rounded out the Daytona SportBike top five qualifiers.
Saturday’s first Daytona SportBike race of the weekend is scheduled to start at 4:10 p.m. local time for 23 laps/50 miles. The Big Kahuna races will be featured in a pair of same-day telecasts on SPEED. Saturday’s American Superbike and Daytona SportBike finals will be shown that night in a two-hour show at 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. PT) while Sunday’s premier class races and other highlights will air in a two-hour show that evening at Midnight ET (9 p.m. PT).