AMA PRO RACING:
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 one race ago at Virginia International Raceway (VIR) and they proved it Saturday in the opening day of AMA Pro Road Racing competition at the AMA Pro Superbike Championships on Thunderbolt Raceway at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
Hayes won his third straight and sixth overall AMA Pro National Guard American Superbike presented by Parts Unlimited race of the year while his younger Yamaha counterpart also went three for three in AMA Pro Daytona SportBike presented by AMSOIL victories. Hayes and Herrin have each jumped to second in their respective series’ championships with only tomorrow’s finals left in the season.
Hayes waged a great duel with recently crowned 2009 American Superbike Champion Mat Mladin (No. 1 Rockstar/Makita Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000) from the drop of the green flag. Mladin led the first seven laps from the pole, Hayes took the top spot for the first time on Lap 8 only to have Mladin return to the front on Lap 12. Hayes kept the pressure on Mladin and took the lead for good one lap later when the seven-time American Superbike Champion had a rare lowside going into Turn 1. Mladin was uninjured but done for the day and Hayes finished out the race with an unchallenged run to the checkered flag.
Hayes now has his highest championship ranking of the season with 375 points, two ahead of Tommy Hayden(No. 22 Rockstar/Makita Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000), who finished second on Saturday. Hayden crossed the finish line 1.419 seconds behind Hayes while Aaron Yates (No. 23 Brand Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000) capped another competitive run with a third-place finish.
Hayden has an impressive record of 10 top-three finishes in the year’s first 19 races but made it clear he is more than ready for his first career American Superbike victory.
“It’s alright, second again, it’s not super exciting for me, but I feel like I rode pretty good,” Hayden said. “I was having a little bit of trouble getting going and got shuffled back to fifth or sixth. I was able to fight back there at the end. The bike was good and hopefully tomorrow we’ll have one more chance to make something happen.”
Yates hit the podium for the fifth time this season.
“I was definitely trying,” Yates said. “When Mat went down, I was a little surprised but it was nice, like ‘okay now we’re second and we’re going to have to dice it out here, looks like these guys are hanging on.’ Then Tommy got by me and we raced it to the end. I thought there were a couple of spots I could try to get under him but it was really tough, really hard. I couldn’t quite get in there. Our gearing is a little bit different on our bikes, I could tell. He was getting off a few turns a bit better than me.”
Ben Bostrom (No. 2 Yamaha Motor Corp. USA Yamaha R1) capped a good day for Yamaha with a fourth place finish. He also moved to fourth in the championship with 333 points. Larry Pegram (No. 72 Foremost Insurance/Pegram Racing Ducati 1098R) finished fifth and is also fifth in the championship with 329 points.
Herrin and Yamaha in the Hunt
Herrin’s late-season charge has moved him, his Graves team and Yamaha into the hunt for the AMA Pro Daytona SportBike presented by AMSOIL Rider, Team and Manufacturer championships. He ran nose-to-tail with Tommy Aquino (No. 6 Team Graves Yamaha YZF-R6) at the front of the field for the majority of the race, and Herrin took a lead he would hold to the finish when his 17-year-old teammate lowsided on Lap 20.
“I got right in the spot that I like to be, I like to just sit second or third and just watch what’s going on,” Herrin said. “My plan was to try and strike at him in the last two laps. It’s a bummer that we had to win like that. Tommy was running a really good race and I know he would have fought right to the end.”
Herrin has now moved to within 22 points of Daytona SportBike leader Danny Eslick (No. 9 GEICO Powersports/RMR Buell 1125R) who had a steady run to a fifth-place finish on Saturday. Eslick has 373 points and Herrin has 351 as the only riders left with a mathematical chance to take the Daytona SportBike rider title tomorrow. The team championship is based on the same point scenarios. Herrin would need nothing short of another dominating victory coupled with a bad day for Eslick to leave New Jersey as the champ, but that is far from his focus.
“As for the championship, we just keep fighting and hope for the best,” Herrin said. “If we get it, we get it. If we don’t, we’re going to win some races trying. It’s fun and I’m just trying not to stress out about it at all and just go and do my race.”
While Herrin has some ground to make up in the rider and team battle, Yamaha is leading the Daytona SportBike manufacturer standings in one of AMA Pro Road Racing’s closest championships. Yamaha leads with 411 points, Suzuki has 403 markers and Buell is right there with 402 points.
Chaz Davies (No. 57 Factory Aprilia /Millennium Technologies Team Aprilia RSV1000R) finished second to match his previous best 2009 finish at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on the Fourth of July event weekend. He raced alongside Herrin in a battle for second early in the race but was never able to mount a challenge for the lead in the closing laps.
“In the end, I just didn’t quite have it,” said Davies, who crossed the finish line 6.028 seconds behind the winner. “I just didn’t have what it took to run with these two guys. Happy enough, and I was feeling pretty good in the opening four or five laps. I managed to keep in touch enough to get a good run up to the start-finish and got side-by-side with Josh, got some good top speed and knew I’d be pretty strong on the brakes. It was getting tight.”
Steve Rapp (No. 48 Bazzaz/Pat Clark Motorsports Yamaha YZF-R6) finished third and joined Davies in posting a finish that equaled his best this season. Rapp also finished third in May at Infineon Raceway.
“Really good day,” Rapp said. “I just wanted to get those first four or five laps out of the way. Chaz was right in front of me the whole race, and I used him to pace me. We had a great race. It kind of felt like back last year, or the year before, when we raced for Kawasaki. We raced a lot very closely together so I felt comfortable around him. He rode really smooth. This was a really good race for us, the bike was great.”
Bobby Fong (No. 51 Paradigm Racing Yamaha YZF-R6) finished fourth while Eslick rounded out the top five. Superpole winner Jason DiSalvo (No. 40 Team M4 Suzuki GSX-R600) recovered from an opening lap off-course ride at Turn 1 to finish 13th.
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