New Jersey Motorsports Park Recap: AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike
NEWS September 14, 2012
Photo by Brian J Nelson
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (September 14, 2012) - Without a genuine challenger on the racetrack, AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike champion Josh Hayes continued to race against the GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing record books at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
The Monster Energy Graves Yamaha superstar logged yet another perfect weekend as he proved unstoppable at the American Red Cross Devil's Showdown presented by Team ProMotion.
Hayes' run of dominance is unprecedented and the Mississippian is currently assembling a strong case suggesting he's in the midst of the single greatest campaign in the sport's history.
At NJMP, Hayes achieved two more significant milestones, upping his '12 wins tally to 13 and his victory streak to 10, both new series records.
Further underlining his complete control of the premier class is the fact that he notched up a 12th straight pole position dating back to the 2011 season.
With his propensity to run away out front and lead the most laps, those factors have combined to see Hayes score maximum points in 10 consecutive races - a staggering feat considering the closeness of National Guard SuperBike racing in the previous seasons.
Perhaps even scarier for his competitors is the fact that Hayes is only three minor miscalculations away from being completely perfect on the season. He got a poor drive onto the banking on the last lap at Daytona, waited too long to pass teammate Josh Herrin after a red flag at Road Atlanta, and dropped the bike while leading in Infineon.
At the front, both SuperBike finals at NJMP were more or less the same. Hayes got off the line from pole well and demonstrated speed that no one could rival. On Saturday he torched out to a 20-plus second margin-of-victory, while on Sunday, he 'cruised' to an eight-second win.
After both blowouts, Hayes just shook his head and opened with an identical rhetorical question: "What can I say?"
"To be able to stretch away and pull away like that... just having pace on people -- that's what racing is all about. I like it and I'm working really hard and having fun."
Hayes, who was repeatedly passed over for SuperBike opportunities and didn't land that long-awaited opportunity until his mid-thirties, spoke of his underdog assault on the record books: "It's pretty cool. When I got this opportunity at Yamaha I couldn't imagine I'd be here now. I'm still pretty awestruck by it. When I graduated high school I had just bought my first street bike and to think that one day I'd be here is pretty amazing. I hope my parents are proud. I'm proud of what I've accomplished and I'm going to keep working hard at it and do it for as long as I can."
The racing behind Hayes was considerably more unpredictable. Jordan Suzuki's Ben Bostrom had been without a podium result since the last time the series visited NJMP and was committed to putting that inauspicious streak to an end.
The former World Superbike star accomplished that goal, but likely had to pass more riders than anyone else over the course of the weekend to do so.
He limped off the line on Saturday and battled his way up from outside the top ten to finish as the race's runner-up.
Meanwhile, the Californian was away well on Sunday, but was punted off track in an incident with Hayes' Monster Energy Graves Yamaha teammate, Josh Herrin, and dropped down to 15th. He again sliced his way forward, but fell short of the box, rounding out his weekend with a fifth.
"It was entertaining," Bostrom remarked. "Saturday's race started out a bit rocky for me, but overall it was a really fun race. It wasn't the most productive race, but it was really enjoyable. I could see the frontrunners battling and that allowed me to catch up to them."
Herrin, meanwhile, chased after Hayes after his Sunday run-in with Bostrom. Struggling through perhaps his most difficult weekend as a SuperBike contender, the SuperBike class freshman proved his mettle by rebounding with a Sunday podium after being well off the pace throughout the lead-up.
Just a sniff of the escaping Hayes was all Herrin needed to separate from the pack and he held strong for second, improving on his Saturday fifth.
Herrin admitted, "(Saturday) was horrible. It was nice to get a good start and be up there today and not have to work twice as hard to get there. I was trying to make the least amount of mistakes that I could. Josh had already gotten a little bit of a gap so I was trying to put a gap on them so I didn't have to keep working super hard to keep them from passing me.
"This was probably the worst weekend I'd had all season as far as all the sessions go. It was definitely cool for me to fall and have a race like we did yesterday and bounce back like we did today."
Bostrom's teammate, Roger Hayden, had his start-line issues as well. Twice falling back from his hard-earned spot on the front row, the National Guard Jordan Suzuki pilot came away with a disappointing ninth on Saturday but stepped up to claim third on Sunday.
Still, it wasn't exactly the result Hayden was looking for, particularly after fighting for the win at NJMP a year ago and showing competitive speed at Mid-Ohio and Laguna Seca.
"The podium was maybe a gift today," Hayden said. "We pretty much struggled all weekend being consistent. I think I showed up a little bit rusty... But all and all, I'm happy with the podium. My pace was a lot better than yesterday but we still have to cut down the gap to the two Joshes."
Another rider who earned a podium on the weekend but left disappointed was Blake Young. The Yoshimura Suzuki rider score one of the more legendary victories in memory at the circuit a year ago. And while he continued to notch up strong results (third and fourth), Young is desperate to find a way to end Hayes' uninterrupted run of success.
Young's Saturday third was his 14th podium of the season. He might have very well been in line for a 15th on Sunday but came together with Team Amsoil/Hero EBR's Geoff May while passing his rival for third.
May crashed while Young ran off-course and returned to ultimately beat Bostrom, Attack Performance Kawasaki's Steve Rapp, and Riders Discount K&L Supply's Taylor Knapp for fourth.
"I really haven't been doing myself any favors in qualifying," said Young, who qualified fifth this weekend. "On Saturday, I got off to a good start on my Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000 and got into second. But I was never able to settle in and feel comfortable. The weekend's been pretty frustrating for me and I know it has to be tough on my guys. The Yoshimura Suzuki team has been around for a long time and they deserve to win, so I need to perform better at Homestead in a few weeks."
Georgian May was also fast enough to threaten near the front on Saturday, but faded to sixth on a weekend that didn't pay off in the way that his pace predicted.
It was a somewhat similar story for Rapp. The veteran rider was confident returning to a racetrack for the first time on the Attack Performance ZX-10R and it showed early on Saturday as he charged into second position. However, his time there was short-lived as he crashed from the spot on lap 3.
His Sunday sixth was small consolation for what might have been.
Knapp was one of the more impressive stories of the weekend. He harassed big-name riders throughout the weekend and walked away with a fourth and a (competitive) seventh.
KTM/HMC Racing's Chris Fillmore also enjoyed a promising weekend, returning to action following his Barber Motorsports Park crash with a pair of top tens (8th and 10th).
He said, "I had a really solid ride during Saturday's race and was happy with the bike set-up and am excited to break into the top ten on my first race back.
"My hand is getting stronger every day and the most important thing for me to focus on is getting it to 100%. I have two weeks until the next race and I hope to return stronger and improve my results closer to the top five."
Others to land in the top ten on the weekend were Foremost Insurance Pegram Racing BMW's Larry Pegram (7th and 9th) and Team Hero EBR's Danny Eslick (8th on Sunday).
Hayes now boasts a mammoth 98-point advantage as the series prepares to travel to Homestead-Miami Speedway. Even a non-Hayes like performance in Florida should see the Yamaha ace clinch his third-career AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike title, which would tie him for second all-time in that category.
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