Triumph Superbike Classic Recap: AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike

NEWS June 28, 2012

Triumph Superbike Classic Recap: AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike

Photo by Brian J Nelson

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 3, 2012) - While reigning series king Josh Hayes only further solidified his iron grip on the AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike class with another perfect points weekend at Barber Motorsports Park, a rising challenge to his authority was also on display.

Following three consecutive weekends in which no rider had the measure of Hayes in terms of sheer pace, the Mississippian was a bit hesitant to predict more of the same at the Triumph SuperBike Classic presented by America's First Federal Credit Union.

Sure, the '12 Yamaha YZF-R1 had shown increased top-end power, allowing him to escape at Road America and Miller Motorsports Park this year in contrast to being defeated by Blake Young on his Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000 following close races in 2011, but the characteristics of the Alabama circuit might make for different outcome.

Or not. Hayes once again scorched to pole in the weekend's blistering heat (his eighth in a row) and followed that up by leading every lap in both races and taking the checkered flag with seconds to spare.

Hayes' Barber Motorsports Park double win weekend ups his 2012 season win tally to eight, topping his previous best marks of seven, posted in 2009 and 2010. And there are still nine races remaining on '12 slate, meaning Hayes is well positioned to make an assault on Mat Mladin's single season record of 12 (2007).

Hayes also increased his career National Guard SuperBike win total to 25 and is threatening to move into third place on the all-time SuperBike win list (Ben Spies, 28), and possibly even second (Miguel DuHamel, 32), before the year is out.

The Yamaha star now boasts an imposing 37-point advantage over second ranked Young (320-283).

Asked about the possibility of equaling or bettering Mladin's single-season mark, Hayes said, "I don't know... Is it attainable? Yes. I think every track that we go to I can be competitive at. Attainable, yes, but I think it's a pretty big ask. Things are going really well right now and if I can maintain this, that would be great. But I don't expect these guys to let it go on for long. Fortunately for me, things are going good. Hopefully, I can keep it that way and the pressure is on them to turn around their thing and catch up to me. I'm pretty lucky -- four years with the same crew and the bike feels like home. I can get up to speed very quickly, like I have at the past several races, and then go about working on taking things to another level."

However, more than the hint of a serious challenge was presented in Alabama, and it didn't come from expected challenger Young. While the '11 National Guard SuperBike runner-up continues to search for a way to find equal footing on his #79 GSX-R that he guided to seven wins a year ago, Hayes was pushed and pushed hard in qualifying and Saturday's race by the only other man piloting a works Yamaha R1 -- SuperBike freshman Josh Herrin.

Herrin proved he could just about match Hayes' pace so long as he had the experienced pilot to lead him around in qualifying, dramatically lowering his time while grabbing a tow in behind the #1 machine and leaping up the leaderboards to qualify second.

The youngster then proved he could do the same in the race, clinging onto Hayes' rear wheel and running just inches behind his teammate for the bulk of Saturday's race before the heat took its toll and Herrin backed off to claim an impressive second-place result.

"I was learning every lap," Herrin said. "Every time I ride this bike I learn more and more. It's starting to be an amazing bike for me. At the beginning of the year, I don't want to say I struggled, but I wasn't where I am now. I put a lot of hard work in and my crew is trying to make this bike adapt to me. The settings were Josh's and I ride a lot differently than Josh. He helps me out a ton but sometimes I just have to figure out what works best for me. I'm finally starting to get to the point where I can set up the bike where I like it and my crew is getting to know me better every weekend too."

Hayes has taken notice of Herrin's rise, and said with a smirk, "I think (Josh) is learning way too many of my tricks."

Herrin's hopes of one-upping that performance on Sunday were foiled by an early mistake, as he ran off course in a bid to keep Hayes in sight. The former AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike star dropped to the bottom of the top ten during his foray into the grass, but sliced right back up through the field before arriving on Young's rear wheel in second.

Young made a similar charge earlier after dropping down to ninth on the race's opening lap. Having finished a distant third on Saturday, the Wisconsin defended the position heavily and the two went back and forth as Herrin survived a couple more minor mistakes to press Young.

However, the Suzuki's leading rider was ultimately rewarded for his steadier ride and the two swapped podium positions from the day before on Sunday.

Young said, "Well, the start was a little bit of a struggle and I found myself quite a ways back in the pack. I just thought, 'wow, I really messed up and made a lot of work for myself that I really didn't want to have to deal with today.' That's how it goes. You have a plan before the start but it never goes according to plan -- ever. I wasn't expecting that but I put my head down and felt better on my GSX-R1000 today."

Herrin said, "It was a crazy race. I just made way too many mistakes in the race today and lost too many positions due to it. That's the first time I've had any close moments on the 1000 all year, but luckily I was able to recover from it and come back from way back. That felt really good and I have a lot of motivation."

It's now long past the time when a strong showing by the EBRs seemed like a fluke. Team Amsoil/Hero's Geoff May continued his march to stake his claim for 'best of the rest' status and did well in that campaign again at Barber Motorsports Park.

May was actually second quick in Friday's provisional qualifying session on the #99 EBR 1190RS before proving that he and his machine were the fourth-best man/machine combo in Alabama. He qualified just off the front row in fifth, but raced his way forward ahead of National Guard Jordan Suzuki's Roger Hayden to claim fourth in both races.

Those results also saw May displace Hayden for fourth in the '12 championship order by a single point (159-158).

Fifth-ranked Hayden, meanwhile, is still seeking the same feeling he had on the #54 Suzuki GSX-R1000 at the tail-end of 2011, which allowed him to race at the front and fight for wins. He also admitted that he had been riding tentatively as of late after suffering a handful of crashes in recent weekends.

After picking up a pair of fifths at Barber Motorsports Park, the Kentuckian reported, "I got a good start on Saturday. And I settled into a rhythm and got up to fifth. I'm still trying to get my comfort level back after I had a few crashes one weekend, so I'm not as aggressive on the bike as I can be. But I got a better start on Sunday and I felt like I was riding better overall. We're going to Mid-Ohio next and that track has been good to me. I got my first Superbike podium there, so I'm looking forward to it."

Teammate Ben Bostrom finished sixth on Sunday on the Jordan Suzuki, winning back some points after crashing out of third on the opening lap of Saturday's SuperBike contest.

"I was pretty disappointed on Saturday," said Bostrom. "The Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000 was working great and I know it was capable of a podium. On Sunday, I got a good start but it was really slick out there. I know I couldn't have gone any quicker than I did. I raced as hard as I could for every lap."

Foremost Insurance Pegram Racing's Larry Pegram enjoyed a pair of solid outings in Birmingham. The four-time National Guard SuperBike race winner came away with sixth and eighth place rides as he whittles away the gap separating him from the lead pack on the BMW S1000RR.

Fellow veteran pilot, Steve Rapp, racked up similar results on the Attack Performance Kawasaki ZX-10R, finishing in ninth and seventh.

Meanwhile, Racing's David Anthony was the last man to collect a pair of top tens at BMP (tenth and ninth).

Team Hero EBR's Danny Eslick (seventh and 19th), second Yosh runner Chris Clark (eighth and 17th), M4 Suzuki's Chris Ulrich (18th and tenth), and KTM/HMC Racing's Stefan Nebel (20th and 11th) had mixed weekends for a variety of reasons.

German Nebel was on his own on the KTM RC8R after teammate Chris Fillmore crashed and broke his hand in the weekend's opening practice session.

Year-end Award Update:
Sean Dwyer clinched the weekend's MotoBatt "Hard Charger Award" by improving his position a cumulative 10 positions during the weekend's races. The MotoBatt Hard Charger Award is a $500 award that is given to the rider who improves the most positions combined from each of the weekend's race sessions.

Josh Hayes continues to lead the Sunoco "Go the Distance" Award chase, having completing 571 laps and logging 1,591.6 miles over second place Larry Pegram with 547 laps and 1,511.98 miles.

Next up is a visit to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, OH on July 13-15. The round should be a major test of Hayes' current run of dominance; the title leader missed out on pole for the one and only time last season when the series stopped at Mid-Ohio. He also finished fourth in one of the races, the only time all season long he failed to finish on the podium in the dry.



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