News 17 Aug 2009

AMA SBK: Mladin wraps up AMA Superbike title number seven


Mat Mladin (No. 7 Rockstar/Makita Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000) clinched a record-extending seventh AMA Pro National Guard American Superbike presented by Parts Unlimited championship Sunday at Virginia International Raceway (VIR) where Yamaha riders Josh Hayes (No. 4 Yamaha Motor Corp. USA Yamaha R1) and Josh Herrin (No. 8 Team Graves Yamaha YZF-R6) each earned the title of Big Kahuna for sweeping the weekend’s races.

Hayes led every lap from the Superpole in both yesterday’s race and the Sunday American Superbike final while Herrin raced from fifth on the grid to first in both AMA Pro Daytona SportBike presented by AMSOIL races. The near-perfect performance was Yamaha’s first AMA Pro Road Racing double-class sweep in history.

“All of these guys have been riding great this weekend,” said Hayes, who also swept the Mid-Ohio weekend two races ago. “Today’s race was considerably faster than yesterday. Everybody was just riding good and the R1 was definitely the bike to have this weekend.

Congratulations to these guys. Congratulations to Mat, he’s a deserving champion. He’s won all of these races, he deserves it and I hate that he’s going away because he’s definitely someone that we learn from on the race track. Congratulations to him.”

Hayes raced after his wife and fellow competitor Melissa Paris (No. 13 MarkBilt Yamaha YZF-R6) suffered a tibia/fibula fracture of her right leg in a multi-rider incident at the start of the Daytona SportBike race two hours before the American Superbike final. Paris was transported to Danville Regional Medical Center for treatment while Hayes prepared to race.

“That’s never easy and no one likes seeing someone they love get hurt,” said Hayes, who met with his wife right after the incident at the VIR Medical Center. “Melissa’s a racer and she’s tough too. When I saw her in the medical center she hadn’t shed a tear yet. She’s tough, you know. When I got into this I knew part of being a motorcycle racer is sometimes you fall down, you break bones, things like that happen. Had she hit her head, something like that, it might have been a tougher story today. A broken leg is, is terrible, but it’s part of this sport. As soon as we’re done here I’m going to go check on my wife and see what we’ve got to do to make her comfortable. Had I not won today, it would have been really tough to show my face to her again after yesterday and I’m really glad I could do this, and do it for her.”

Mladin beat Hayes into Turn 1 at the race start, but the Yamaha rider retook the lead in the same turn one lap later and steadily pulled away from the field. Hayes crossed the finish line 6.830 seconds ahead of Tommy Hayden (No. 22 Rockstar/Makita Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000), who was the only rider on the grid with a potential to keep teammate Mladin from clinching the title. Hayes’ teammate Ben Bostrom (No. 2 Yamaha Motor Corp. USA Yamaha R1) charged through the field from 12th on the starting grid to take the final podium spot for the second consecutive day.

Hayes now has five American Superbike wins this season, second only to 10 victories by Mladin, who sealed the championship with a steady run to ninth place on Sunday. Mladin’s American Superbike title is his first since 2005 and his other championships came in 2004, 2003, 2001, 2000 and 1999.

“It’s nice to get it done and tie it up,” said Mladin, who recently announced he will retire at the end of this year. “That’s about it really, we’ve done a lot of hard work at the start of the year and then, the last couple of months, been going through the motions. These guys will battle it out from now on and into the future. It’s been a great career and I’m really looking forward to being able to go for a run every day because I want to, not because I have to.”

Mladin’s No. 7 Rockstar/Makita Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000 team also clinched the 2009 American Superbike Team Championship.

“These guys are fantastic,” Mladin said. “It’s been a pretty amazing run. We’ve obviously won a lot of championships as a team over the last 10 years. It’s been pretty amazing from the first one in 1999 all the way through to this year, with Ben (Spies) winning a few, three in the last few years. It’s hard to believe that that many will ever be won in 10 years again by one manufacturer. It’s been nice to be part of it and part of building it. It’s been good fun.”

Hayden, the only rider still alive in the championship heading into Sunday’s race, had a great battle with Bostrom for second place.

“I knew someone was right there and then I could start hearing Ben when he closed up on me,” said Hayden, who has finished in the top three in half of this year’s 18 races. “He got by and I was following him for a few laps. I thought I could get back by him and maybe I could run a better pace the last five or six laps and it kinda worked out. I was able to get by, stepped it up a little bit and got through traffic good. Then I was pretty smooth after that. Congratulations to Josh on an awesome weekend, Ben pushed the whole way, and definitely to Mat. What an awesome career. He’s been a great teammate, I’ve learned a lot.”

Bostrom’s third-place showing was his eighth top-three finish of the year.

“I didn’t think I had much for Josh today, he was really, really unstoppable this weekend,” Bostrom said. “Mat and Josh are pretty incredible here, and Tommy’s had a lot of wins as well. I did enjoy the race actually, it was pretty hairball at the first turn. The Yamaha was great, it went through the guys and by the time I got back up to second I had either used up myself or my tire. I don’t usually get to race Tommy, that was enjoyable. Josh set sail. Mat was chillin out, like ‘I’ve got this thing worked out and I’ve won the war.’ The worst thing about it is losing Mat Mladin, he’s the greatest champion we’ve had in this sport and the benchmark for every one of us. It’s the reason I’m riding this class, this year, I came to race him.”

Larry Pegram (No. 72 Foremost Insurance/Pegram Racing Ducati 1098R), who is the year’s only other race winner, finished fourth. Aaron Yates (No. 23 Brand Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000) rounded out the top five.

Although Mladin has clinched the American Superbike championship with his current total of 427 points, the remainder of the top five are close heading into the season-ending race at New Jersey Motorsports Park on Labor Day weekend. Hayden is second with 348 points, Hayes has jumped to third with 344 markers, Bostrom is fourth with 315 points and Pegram is a close fifth with 313 points.

Daytona SportBike Double

Herrin went two-for-two after another AMA Pro Daytona SportBike presented by AMSOIL thriller and withstood a late charge from a resurgent Danny Eslick (No. 9 GEICO Powersports/RMR Buell 1125R), who crossed the finish line 1.874 seconds behind the winner.  Herrin’s teammate Tommy Aquino (No. 6 Team Graves Yamaha YZF-R6) rebounded from a spill in yesterday’s final to finish third.

“That was a real fun race,” Herrin said.  “As soon as I heard the Buell coming I just tried to hold him off for a couple more laps so I could run away.  It ended up working out exactly how I wanted to.  My pit board said there were three laps left, and there were four laps left, so I actually had to make an extra lap.  It was a really good race, everybody rode a good race, it was clean and lots of fun.”

After an uneventful ride to seventh place yesterday, Eslick returned to form on Sunday and charged to the front from 12th on the grid. On Lap 19 alone he moved from fifth to second, taking the final spot in a daring move by Herrin in the dirt.  Herrin took the spot back later in the lap but both riders were battling for first place the lap after that when leader Roger Hayden (No. 95 Monster Energy Attack Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R) over shot a corner.

“I guess I forgot about the championship for awhile, I don’t know,” Eslick said.  “I didn’t really think about it too much, just tried to ride a good, hard race and go forward.  We made some changes overnight to the bike, nothing real major.  We knew it wasn’t anything real big that was holding us back, just made some adjustments on the shock and changed the gearing a little bit.  Just those two small things made all the difference.  We were able to run the pace there at the beginning or at least stay consistent and not let the guys get too far away, just run good laps.  I knew I had something going I just didn’t know I was going to be that strong at the end.”

Aquino, who has hit the podium at least once per weekend in the last three events, had high praise for his Team Graves Yamaha crew that worked on his bike until the early morning hours last night.

“My team did such a great job,” Aquino said. “They put a lot of work in.  I did buy a big Band-Aid magnet at the store to bring some humor to it.  They made the bike to almost perfectly how it was yesterday.  I felt really good yesterday, just where I was today.  The race was crazy.  I was at the back, at the front.  The race was just really hard, it was hot out there.”

Pole-sitter Taylor Knapp (No. 54 Latus Motors Racing Buell 1125R) also recovered from a Saturday lowside to finish fourth while Hayden, who led a race-high 14 laps, completed the top five.  Knapp led the opening lap of the race and the only other leader was Jake Zemke (No. 1x Erion Racing Honda CBR600RR), who ended up seventh after running up front for three laps.

Martin Cardenas (No. 36 Team M4 Suzuki GSX-R600) finished 11th as he struggled with a broken right hand sustained in Friday’s practice session. That result and a ninth place finish in Saturday’s Daytona SportBike final has seen him lose 17 points to championship leader Eslick after coming into the race tied at the top of the standings.  Eslick now has 357 points, Cardenas has 340 markers and Herrin further improved in third with 321 points.

Sunday’s race was red flagged and completely restarted after an opening lap incident in Turn 1 that saw riders Paris and Brent Lyskawa transported to DRMC.  Lyskawa’s precautionary CT scan was negative.

Later in the Daytona SportBike race, Jason DiSalvo (No. 40 Team M4 Suzuki GSX-R600) was treated at the track medical facility after his right knee hit a curb at speed while running third.  DiSalvo rode his bike off course and retired after the incident.  He was examined and released by the VIR Medical Staff after X-Rays were negative.  DiSalvo has a deep bruise on his right knee.

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