Heading into round two of this year’s AMA Pro Road Racing Championship at California’s Auto Club Speedway on 26-28 March, riders, teams and fans are ready to rejoin the battles that begin at the opening round last month at Daytona International Speedway.
After an historic two-race Daytona sweep for Jake Zemke and his No. 54 National Guard Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000, all eyes will be focused on whether the California native can build on his fast start to the season with his new team and maintain his championship points lead.
Hot on Zemke’s heels is No. 22 Rockstar Makita Suzuki GSX-R1000 rider Tommy Hayden, who finished second in both Daytona races after running in the lead in race two before Zemke passed Hayden for an incredible 0.009 of a second win at the line.
Both National Guard American SuperBike races at Daytona International Speedway were wild affairs and a number of riders held and battled for the lead in each race.
No. 72 Foremost Insurance Ducati 1098R rider Larry Pegram finished a strong third in race one and backed that up with a solid fifth in race two to put him in third place in the points.
Round one pole position winner Aaron Yates (No. 23 Brand Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000) underscored the strong weekend for the Jordan Suzuki team by finishing fourth in both races under the watchful eye of team owner Michael Jordan.
Hayden’s teammate, Blake Young (No. 79 Rockstar Makita Suzuki GSX-R1000) also ran well at Daytona and currently sits fifth in the points after solid fifth and seventh place runs. Taylor Knapp is in sixth place in the points after two strong races on his No. 44 RidersDiscount.com Suzuki GSX-R1000.
Conspicuously absent from the top of the standings are Yamaha riders Ben Bostrom (No. 155 Pat Clark Motorsports Yamaha R1), Josh Hayes (No. 4 Graves Motorsports Yamaha R1) and Chris Clark (No. 48 Pat Clark Motorsports Yamaha R1), but even though their Daytona performances didn’t meet their expectations, keep your eye on this group at Fontana and beyond.
Bostrom had a tough start to his season with an eighteenth place finish in race one but recovered nicely to take a strong third in race two on his Pat Clark Motorsports/Palms Hotel/Las Vegas Motor Speedway Yamaha. Bostrom’s teammate Clark just missed a top ten performance in race one and finished sixteenth in race two.
Team Graves Yamaha rider Josh Hayes took fourteenth after an early off-track excursion in race one and improved to a solid sixth in race two but is still below his and the team’s expectations.
Two other riders that had up and down weekends at Daytona were Chris Ulrich, who finished a solid sixth place in race one and recovered for another strong finish in race two after he also had an early off track excursion on his No. 18 Roadracingworld Monster Energy Suzuki GSX-R1000. His teammate, fan favorite and former MotoGP star John Hopkins had a troublesome first weekend back on his No. 21 M4 Monster Energy Suzuki GSX-R1000.
After a busy winter testing schedule at Auto Club Speedway, the teams are ready to tackle the exciting 21-turn, two-mile plus combination circuit and with the unpredictable start to the season, this weekend’s Suzuki AMA Pro SuperBike Challenge races should be more competitive than ever.
After putting his name firmly into the history books with his dramatic Daytona 200 win, AMA Pro Racing Daytona SportBike presented by AMSOIL points leader Josh Herrin and his No. 8 Team Graves Yamaha head into the second race of the season at California’s Auto Club Speedway looking to take advantage of his early season momentum.
The rider most anxious to get back to work this weekend is No. 36 M4 Monster Energy Suzuki rider Martin Cardenas. He started second on the grid at Daytona and held the lead after the first turn but had an unfortunate fall on the first lap, ending his race before it really had begun.
Another rider who hoped for better things at Daytona was Daytona SportBike Championship defender and No. 1 GEICO Powersports Suzuki rider Danny Eslick. He started from pole position but had slow starts on both the original start and red flag restart. Eslick fought back to an impressive fourth place at the end of a long night in Daytona but showed he is more than ready to defend his Daytona SportBike championship crown.
No one can take anything away from what was an historic Daytona 200 victory for Herrin and his Team Graves Yamaha. His victory underscored that this sport is also about teamwork, as his Team Graves Yamaha Team gave him a lead he would not surrender at the second and final pit stop. He and eventual second-place finisher Dane Westby came down pit lane side by side and it was only the excellent pit work that got Herrin out with enough of a lead so that Westby and his Project 1 Atlanta Yamaha couldn’t reel Herrin back in.
Veteran Steve Rapp put up an excellent performance, showing his patience and experience in taking his Team Latus Motors Racing Ducati to a fine third place in the race and also the points standings heading into the Fontana, CA Auto Club Speedway event.