AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike Recap: NOLA Motorsports Park
NEWS October 15, 2012
Photo by Brian J Nelson
The AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike race at NOLA Motorsports Park promised to be a showdown between class titans, with the championship already decided and the final two races of the year shaped up to be a showcase of speed to see who could come out on top. YES/Graves/Yamah's Cameron Beaubier and GEICO Suzuki's Martin Cardenas thrilled the fans by splitting wins in spectacular fashion.
The Cardenas/Beaubier battle on Saturday saw both riders going for it. Cardenas crashed out late and Beaubier was the last man standing. On Sunday, Cardenas made a relentless run to close out his championship season with a narrow victory. Both riders proved to be worthy rivals in the middleweight class and closed out a memorable season.
Cardenas was a fast starter on Saturday and gapped the field in the first laps. Beaubier had to make his way through the top five to catch up to the two when the race was red flagged. Cardenas made another great start while Beaubier had to move up from fourth position. Cam lost another spot when Dane Westby (M4 Suzuki) made his way past. By lap seven, Beaubier had made his way up to second with two seconds to make up. By halfway, he'd caught up and it looked like Beaubier had better grip and drive. Martin had a few moments, but he fought to stay up front while Beaubier harried him. With five to go, Beaubier made his way past at turn eight. Undeterred, Cardenas countered with a pass into turn one. With three laps to go, Cardenas crashed out in the final section, losing the front. It was a noble effort, though.
Beaubier's Saturday win tied him with Cardenas with seven wins on the year. Maybe he couldn't win the championship after his early-season injury, but winning more races than Cardenas would have been a huge accomplishment for the young Yamaha pilot.
Cardenas, however, was having none of it. He started Sunday, the same way as he did in the first race - earning a gap by charging hard on colder tires. He knew Beaubier would charge, and he did, catching up from a two-second deficit by the halfway point of the 18-lap event. Beaubier lost ground when he botched a turn, but gained when Cardenas nearly pitched it to the moon exiting the last corner with a little more than four laps to go. Beaubier moved into the lead at turn eight and lead as the white flag flew.
Cardenas wasn't giving up and put a carbon copy pass on Beaubier, setting up a wild half lap in which both riders were all over the track looking to move to the front. Cardenas gained a measure of revenge when he held on, proving he's still the man when it comes to racing a Daytona SportBike.
"The last lap was very intense," said Cardenas.
"I wanted this win very much," he said after the race. "Cameron has been so good and won a lot of races lately but today I pushed with everything I had to get this win. It is a great way to end this incredible season. I know I have the best team in the sport and having GEICO on board has been wonderful. The big bosses are here today so it's nice to give them a big show.
"I don't know if we touched or not. It was very close. I had passed him in the same spot he passed me earlier and I knew he would try something at the end. He wanted to win as much as we did. It's really been a remarkable year racing with Cameron and the others. It made the championship so much better knowing we beat such great riders to get it."
Beaubier, with a win and a second, earned the Big Kahuna surfboard. "I managed to get myself back up to the front, and I worked hard to stay there. The last lap was a battle," he said. "I don't know if we touched, but it was definitely close racing, and I did everything I could to get the win. The surfboard is awesome, and I guess I'll have to add surfing to my off-season training program!"
Dane Westby secured second place in the championship with strong runs in New Orleans. The M4 Suzuki pilot took second on Saturday and had a tough fight with Tommy Aquino (Kneedraggers.com Yamaha) on Sunday before finishing fourth to close out the season.
"I'm really glad that we wrapped up the championship in second. That's amazing in this class," Westby said. "I'm really happy -- it's not easy against this field. I was there consistently in the last half of the season. I've been trying to put more tools in the toolbox all the time. There was a certain point where all of our hard work to improve paid off. I became better with my starts and was more confident when I was up there that the guys aren't going away from me."
Aquino's third place on Sunday was a nice payoff after losing out late in a podium fight on Saturday. On Sunday, he and Westby collided a few times but both riders remained on two wheels. "We had a great race with Dane and I didn't know where I could pass him," said Aquino.
The weekend began with another rider taking the spotlight - Jake Gagne from the RoadRace Factory/Red bull team. Gagne, coming off his Miami win, earned pole for the races. On Saturday, Gagne and Bobby Fong (Meen Motorsports) collided, setting off a brutal crash. Gagne missed Sunday's race with a knee injury.
Gagne's teammate J.D. Beach had a strong weekend (3-5), earning his second podium of the year. He beat out Aquino on Saturday.
Jake Zemke (DucShop Ducati) was fifth on Saturday, but his crash on Sunday ended his year a few laps early for the veteran.
Jason DiSalvo put his Latus Motors Racing Triumph sixth both days.
Reigning SuperSport East champ David Gaviria closed out his rookie DSB season on a high note, earning two more top tens on the Kneedraggers.com Yamaha (7-9).
Some riders with one good day and one bad day in New Orleans: Cory West earned eighth for Riders Discount Vesrah Suzuki on Saturday, but faced machine issues on Sunday. Austin DeHaven was ninth on Saturday but crashed in the waning moments of the race on Sunday for Kneedraggers.com Yamaha. An early crash on Saturday put Michael Beck out of the race but he charged back to finish eighth on the Team Beck bike. An injured Tommy Hayden wasn't himself but did score a tenth for Y.E.S./Graves/Yamaha.
Kris Turner earned 10th and 11th on the Turner's Cycle Racing Triumph
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