Saturday saw three thrilling AMA Pro Road Racing races at Virginia International Raceway in the opening day of competition for the Suzuki White Lightning AMA Pro Nationals presented by Foremost Insurance. One was a runaway, one was a photo finish and the last was almost as close as the second one!
In the National Guard SuperBike race, it was Rockstar Makita Suzuki rider Tommy Hayden who took his fourth AMA Pro SuperBike win of the season by 0.005 of a second over pole position winner Ben Bostrom. Bostrom led on his Pat Clark Motorsports Yamaha coming down to the line but in a mighty move, Hayden pulled out and just crossed the line, inches ahead of Bostrom.
The fun wasn’t over for Hayden who, in his successful attempt to win the race, was out of position at that very high speed part of the track and he used all of his considerable skills to wrestle his Suzuki under control after he found himself running wide off the track onto the grass. He brought it back under control and took a critical victory in his pursuit of Josh Hayes and his Team Graves Yamaha team.
“We started coming to the finish and I had huge momentum when I pulled out,” Hayden commented on his pass for the win. “The way I was pointing too, when I pulled out, I never even got pointed towards turn one I don’t think.
“I started leaning a little and I just had the biggest front slide I think you can have without crashing. I pretty much thought I was down and somehow I just stayed in the throttle and steered it back up and pointed out in the grass and hoped there was nothing out there I couldn’t see, any ditches or nothing coming up and just tried to ride it out. It feels good, I really feel like I needed this one today.”
Hayes, by virtue of leading the most laps in today’s race, has a one point lead over Hayden in their close battle for the National Guard SuperBike Championship. Hayes had led early in the race after taking the lead from a fast starting Hayden. Hayes took the lead on lap four and led until lap 10 when Ben Bostrom asserted himself into the mix by grabbing the lead from Hayes in turn one.
Hayes responded and took the lead right back the next lap and he led for the next nine laps until Bostrom moved ahead on lap 21 which enabled Hayden to get by Hayes as well.
Bostrom led as the last lap began but Hayden made a big late braking move into turn one and took the lead but Bostrom was able to fight right back and retook the lead two corners later and looked a likely winner until Hayden made his great move heading down to the flag to take the win.
Behind the riveting battle for the win, Larry Pegram on his Foremost Insurance Ducati finished fourth after dueling with Jake Zemke on the National Guard Jordan Suzuki, Zemke’s Jordan Suzuki teammate Brett McCormick, Taylor Knapp on the RidersDiscount.com Suzuki and a front row starting Eric Bostrom on his Cycle World Attack Performance Suzuki.
Knapp actually finished fifth ahead of McCormick, Bostrom and Zemke.
John Hopkins made his return to the series today and he rode his M4 Monster Energy Suzuki extremely well, running in a solid fourth place for most of the race until he went down in turn four near the end of the race.
Another rider making a comeback this weekend was Jordan Suzuki rider Aaron Yates and he practiced and qualified his regular #23 Jordan Suzuki on the outside of the second row. Yates elected not to start today’s race, his recovery is obviously going well but he wasn’t absolutely sure he would bring his best to the race, which was run in very hot and humid conditions.
The AMA Pro Daytona SportBike presented by AMSOIL race was even more exciting and came down to an even closer finish. After seeing Danny Eslick take the pole position, Eslick was joined on the front row by his championship rival Josh Herrin along with six time 2010 Daytona SportBike winner Martin Cardenas and Tommy Aquino.
It took a photo review by AMA Pro Road Racing race director David McGrath to determine that Bobby Fong had indeed won by the absolute slimmest of margins to take his very first AMA Pro Daytona SportBike victory.
Fong had been knocking on the door for the last few races and after his heartbreaking fall while leading at the last round at Laguna Seca, this was a popular win for him and the CNR Motorsports team. Josh Herrin’s unfortunate crash enabled Eslick to take the points lead and allowed Cardenas to move into second in points ahead of Herrin.
“It feels awesome,” said Fong. “We’ve been working at it all year long to get to the top of the box. With this class, you don’t know, a person in fifteenth place could win it’s so close and the guys are just so awesome out here.”
The SuperSport race was won by former Red Bull Rookies Cup Champion JD Beach.