DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (September 27, 2012) - The GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing series' return to Homestead-Miami Speedway for the Triumph Big Kahuna Miami presented by Dunlop Tire and LeoVince proved to be a genuinely historic affair. While Mother Nature had her say, in the end the story was the continued bar-raising brilliance of Josh Hayes and the breakthrough performance of Roger Hayden.
The Monster Energy Graves Yamaha superstar came into Miami a two-time AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike champion and left a three-time king, joining the exclusive ranks of three-time champions, which also includes Red Pridmore, Fred Merkel, Doug Chanlder, and Ben Spies. Now only seven-time champion Mat Mladin boasts more titles.
Hayes' recoronation came a day later than expected. In fact, Saturday was perhaps his roughest day of an otherwise unprecedented campaign.
Variable weather conditions prevented the Mississippian from putting in his best effort in qualifying, snapping his year-plus pole streak at 11, leaving him tied with Mladin for the all-time mark. And then he crashed early in the day's race while chasing after early leader Hayden, clipping a curb while in pursuit. The spill effectively marked the end of his record-setting ten race win streak, but Hayes still managed to pick his #1 YZF-R1 up and race his way back up to 12th by the time he reached the checkered flag. However, the determined effort wasn't quite enough to clinch with three races still remaining.
Perhaps it's better that it wasn't. On Sunday, Hayes bounced back to score perhaps the most dramatic of his 14 victories this season. With most of his competitors opting to run a rain tire and an intermediate rear in the wet-but-drying conditions, the champ fit a pair of intermediates to his machine.
While he paid for it in the early stages, dropping more than 15 seconds off the lead, he later scythed his way up through the field to claim a runaway win in the end.
Besides upping his single-season wins record, the victory also put him at 31 all-time, just one removed from legend Miguel DuHamel for second on the career list, and clinched his third consecutive AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike title.
"It's been a pretty incredible year." Hayes said. "Especially after last year, the way things have gone this year... this is the way you'd hope I could push things to. I don't feel at a loss for motivation or anything; I want to win races. Championships are pretty cool and sometimes when you get a gap like we have it feels somewhat anticlimactic, but I still live for the individual victories. Every single race win feels so good. And if you get those the way that you want to, the championship kind of takes care of itself. Fortunately, I've been able to do that and we're going to continue doing it for as long as we can into the future."
While Hayes has been the man of the year -- and the man of just about every round, race, day, and session -- Saturday belonged to Hayden.
The National Guard Jordan Suzuki pilot came into Homestead-Miami Speedway with high hopes after showing impressive form in testing at the circuit and demonstrated front-running pace at recent events.
It all came together, first with his first-career pole position, and then with a breakaway win in which the Kentuckian survived an early scrap and powered off into the distance.
The win comes after years of committed effort, battling back from injury, alternating periods of triumph and disappointments, and determined toil. Once frustrated to the point of considering retirement, Hayden has blossomed as a SuperBike racer since teaming up with Michael Jordan Motorsports and promises to become an even bigger threat going forward.
After securing the hard-earned win, an emotional Hayden said, "It feels really good -- it's been a long time since I've won. So many things are going through my head right now, I just want to go back to the truck and sit there by myself and let it all sink in. It's been a lot of work getting back -- a lot of injuries. Lot of people stuck with me -- my family mainly. My sisters, my brothers were always trying to help me, my parents were always right there. You have a lot of friends when you're winning but when you're laid up in the hospital bed with a broken back, broken pelvis, there's not a lot of people calling you. My family stayed with me through thick and thin when almost everyone else gave up on me. I guess I want to dedicate this win to my family for everything that they've done for me no matter what.
"I've got to thank my team, Michael Jordan Motorsports, and the National Guard, because last year nobody really wanted to give me a chance -- they thought I was used goods. I think today made it look like they made the right choice. And for myself, I put a lot of work into it and to finally win...
"I put my head down right away and was ready for the fight. These guys came by me and we had some good passes, and then I just tried to put my head down and get a gap and maintain it. I thought my lap board was missing laps because I was thinking, 'I know we did more than just one lap.' It seemed like it took forever but I got the win and I'm happy."
While Hayes and Hayden shared the weekend headlines, Jordan Suzuki's Ben Bostrom quietly notched up the best combined scored over the two days (along with Hayes's Saturday crash, Hayden could managed just tenth after returning to the pits for a tire change) with his fifth and third-place rides.
That was good enough to win the Californian the coveted title of 'Big Kahuna' and the surfboard trophy that comes with it.
"I can't thank everybody enough," said Bostrom. "There's been some sketchy weather and sketchy racing, and I was just glad to be out there putting on a show for everyone. My Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000 has been podium material all year but I haven't been able to put it together. I haven't had too many opportunities to shine for my team, but they've stood by me and now I'm looking forward to a few more opportunities to shine again at the last race weekend."
Hayes, Bostrom, and second-place finisher Steve Rapp on the Attack Performance Kawasaki ZX-10R again proved the importance of experience with a combined age of 115 on the podium in Sunday's race.
Rapp and his Attack Performance crew wisely made the same tire selection as Hayes, enabling him to charge his way up a runner-up result -- his first SuperBike podium of the '12 season.
"I came here to race," claimed Rapp. "It was a gamble that the track would eventually dry out throughout the 23-lap event, fortunately our team picked the correct tires. We basically passed the entire field, except for Josh Hayes, and brought the Attack Performance ZX-10R in for our best finish of the season. It was a pretty exciting race for us, especially under these conditions."
Rapp advanced his position a combined 19 places to earn the weekend's MotoBatt "Hard Charger" Award.
Team Hero's Danny Eslick and Yoshimura Suzuki's Blake Young were tied together throughout the weekend. The former support class teammates went at it in Saturday's dry-weather duel in one of the most thrilling battles of the season.
The two passed and repassed one another, utilizing a huge assortment of techniques and tactics. Eslick finally won out in the end, edging Young for second at the checkered flag.
"There was one lap where we probably went back and forth five, six, or seven times," Eslick said of the dogfight. "It was a good race. It was clean, and it was just good, hard racing. Me and Blake have raced each other for a lot of years and raced each other hard. There's no love lost while we were out there; we were definitely going for it out there. It was pretty awesome."
Third-placed Young said, "I kind of had two races going on. I was racing at the front, and then Roger decided he wanted it more than me and kind of took off. I thought that was going to be the end of my day. And then I saw my pitboard about halfway through said '+1 69' and I thought, 'oh boy, here we go.' Obviously, it was a pretty good race."
And then the two both elected to sit out of Sunday's race.
Eslick's teammate, Geoff May, impressed on both days. The Georgian guided his Team Amsoil/Hero EBR 1190RS right onto the rear wheels of Eslick and Young at the end of Saturday's contest to finish a close fourth. He backed that up on Sunday by leading several laps before tire woes dropped him to fifth.
The only other rider to net a top-five result on the weekend was Monster Energy Graves Yamaha's Josh Herrin, who sliced his way up to fourth on Sunday after limping to 19th the day before.
M4 Suzuki's Chris Ulrich enjoyed his finest weekend of the season. The Californian notched up a second-row qualifying effort and backed that up with a sixth-place run on Saturday, matching his career-best in the premier division. He completed his strong weekend by taking another top ten on Sunday (eighth) despite falling and remounting in the tricky conditions.
Another rider who turned heads -- even if the final results weren't all that he might have hoped for -- was KTM/HMC Racing's Chris Fillmore. Fillmore only managed 14th and 11th place finishes but made a small bit of history himself last weekend by leading early in Sunday's race on the orange and black RC8, the first time a KTM has led a lap in AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike history.
"It felt great to lead that lap," Fillmore said. "Everything was clicking in those first few laps. Where everyone was cautious, I just pushed forward and was able to get out front.
"This definitely wasn't the finish I had hoped for after running in the lead at the beginning of the race. I am still very proud that we were able to lead a lap but I am bummed that we suffered on our tire choice and it cost me a decent finish. Luckily, we are learning from every race and I know we will come back stronger at the next one."
Even though Josh Hayes has already claimed the 2012 AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike title, don't expect him to take it easy on his competition at the season finale at NOLA Motorsports Park in New Orleans, LA, Oct 5-7.
Hayes, from nearby Gulfport, MS, will be motivated to show his home fans what the rest of the country has seen for the last three-plus years as he continues to rewrite the record books.
AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike Race Results
Race 1 Results
- Roger Hayden (SUZ), 23 Laps
- Danny Eslick (EBR), +5.069
- Blake Young (SUZ), +5.159
- Geoff May (EBR), +5.412
- Ben Bostrom (SUZ), +13.007
- Chris Ulrich (SUZ), +30.587
- David Anthony (SUZ), +37.170
- Larry Pegram (BMW), +37.542
- Taylor Knapp (SUZ), +38.106
- Aaron Yates (BMW), +38.543
- Chris Fillmore (KTM), +38.757
- Josh Hayes (YAM), +1:02.302
- Jordan Burgess (SUZ), +1:02.722
- Robertino Pietri (SUZ), +1:16.861
- Barrett Long (DUC), +1:20.970
- Sean Dwyer (SUZ), 22 Laps
- Bruno Silva (KAW), +3.896
- Felipe Maclean (KAW), +16.762
- Josh Herrin (YAM), +24.186
- Jeffrey Lampe (KAW), +1:00.063
- Steve Rapp (KAW), +1:20.930
Race 2 Results
- Josh Hayes (YAM), 23 Laps
- Steve Rapp (KAW), +4.787
- Ben Bostrom (SUZ), +14.516
- Josh Herrin (YAM), +30.102
- Geoff May (EBR), +42.435
- Robertino Pietri (SUZ), +44.080
- Bruno Silva (KAW), 22 Laps
- Chris Ulrich (SUZ), +9.596
- Sean Dwyer (SUZ), +13.077
- Roger Hayden (SUZ), +33.170
- Jeffrey Lampe (KAW), +35.559
- Felipe Maclean (KAW), +38.218
- Taylor Knapp (SUZ), 20 Laps
- Chris Fillmore (KTM), 18 Laps
- Larry Pegram (BMW), 16 Laps
- Jordan Burgess (SUZ), +9 Laps
- David Anthony (SUZ), 6 Laps
- Barrett Long (DUC), 3 Laps
- Blake Young (SUZ), DNS
- Danny Eslick (EBR), DNS
- Aaron Yates (BMW), DNS
Points and Awards Updates
Point Standings (Top 10)
- Josh Hayes, 517
- Blake Young, 401
- Josh Herrin, 307
- Roger Hayden, 293
- Geoff May, 259
- Ben Bostrom, 240
- Larry Pegram, 238
- Danny Eslick, 212
- Steve Rapp, 191
- Chris Clark, 167
Sunoco "Go the Distance" Award Update:
- Josh Hayes - 2623.182 mi.
- Larry Pegram - 2456.79 mi.
- Roger Hayden - 2368.798 mi.
|GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike Race 2 Highlights
|GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike Race 1 Highlights
|Aaron Yates Returns to GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing
|Team Amsoil/ EBR's Geoff May from Homestead-Miami
|GoPro Lap of the Track with Aaron Yates
|Triumph Big Kahuna Miami Weekend Opener
|Triumph Big Kahuna New Orleans - October 5-7
Event | Tickets