Herrin, Cardenas Impress in Opening Round Action at Daytona for AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike Class

NEWS March 22, 2013


Herrin, Cardenas Impress in Opening Round Action at Daytona for AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike Class

Photo by Brian J Nelson

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla (March 22, 2013) - It's difficult to imagine a better way that the opening weekend to the 2013 AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike season could have played to signify the start of a new title campaign rather than a rehash of the one that preceded it.

On the heels of the most lopsided championship victory in series' history, many expected that three-time champion Josh Hayes would pick up right where he left off and run roughshod over the opposition in '13. While the Monster Energy/Graves/Yamaha superstar flashed the potential to do just that during the Daytona International Speedway weekend, the fact is, he left Florida with just eight points to his credit and facing an uphill climb to the tune of a 48-point deficit.

Twice, Hayes' #1 YZF-R1 proved unable to continue while the Mississippian was holding a narrow advantage, leaving him helpless but to watch his emerging championship rivals, teammate Josh Herrin and Yoshimura Suzuki's Martin Cardenas, trade the weekend's wins and runner-up finishes.

While bitterly disappointing to Hayes (and equally thrilling to Herrin and Cardenas, who each openly admitted after their victories that Hayes would have likely won both races had he not encountered his difficulties), the development bodes well for an exciting championship chase.

The challenge is one worthy of, but not beyond, Hayes' powers. In 2012, he managed to log seven perfect points haul weekends. At the moment, he is less than four perfect doubleheader weekends behind either Herrin or Cardenas, assuming one of the two managed to finish second in all of those races.

It's a big climb, but Hayes likely remains the championship favorite at this point even if the stakes and pressure have been raised considerably.

When asked exactly what went wrong with his typically reliable works Yamaha equipment, Hayes joked, "I guess I was just going too fast."

"I felt like I was riding well," he said. "I think (Herrin) is doing good things, but it's a long season. We have another big break here -- I think around nine weeks -- so we'll have to see if he's able to raise the level of his game because I still feel like I have a little bit of pace on those guys; they still have a little bit of work to do."

Commenting on his championship standing, Hayes remarked, "I've been in this position before. I've had a bad Daytona and had to come back from behind. I really have nothing to lose right now. It's kind of like having a big lead in the points. Once you get a full race lead, you have nothing to lose -- you have a giveaway. Well, I don't have a giveaway but second doesn't mean too much to me. My goal at this point is to get every possible available point for the rest of the season."

As Hayes' retirement came earlier in Friday's contest, in which Herrin narrowly fended off a charge from Cardenas to claim the checkered flag, Herrin earned the bonus point for most laps led, handing him an early one-point advantage over the Colombian atop the standings, 56-55.

The young Monster Energy/Graves/Yamaha pilot is expecting a breakout year in his sophomore SuperBike season, and he couldn't have asked for much better results to open his '13 campaign.

However, the weekend wasn't completely without its difficulties. Arm pump issues twice slowed Herrin, part of the reason he nearly lost the win on Friday to the Yoshimura Suzuki runner after earlier piling up a big advantage while breaking free in formation with Hayes.

And, in Saturday's rematch, Herrin hit a false neutral while battling Hayes and Cardenas for the lead, dropping him into a spirited battle for the podium a little more than ten seconds behind the victory.

Nevertheless, Herrin's spirits were buoyed by his increased competitiveness and comfort level compared with last year's Daytona trip -- not to mention grabbing the early-season championship lead.

"It's pretty awesome," Herrin said of leading the series leaving Round 1. "I feel like my riding is way better this year on this bike; I'm more comfortable on it. I’m definitely going to have to work way harder than last year to fight everybody off, especially Martin with as well as he's riding. I know that Josh had problems with his bike, but I feel like there is a lot of pressure on him, too... I feel like this is my breakthrough year and Martin has rode a Superbike before and is on an even better bike now. It's going to be hard to shake us off, especially when we get to more normal tracks. Daytona -- even though I won the 200 -- I feel like it's a weak track for me. The next couple tracks coming up are some of my favorites."

Cardenas was rock solid throughout his debut weekend as a member of the storied Yoshimura Suzuki outfit, steadily building speed and finally proving to be a serious thorn in the Yamahas' side before accepting Saturday's race win. At one point, Cardenas appeared to be on the verge of dropping off the chase before summoning up a 1:36.835 -- the only lap all weekend long to drop beneath 1:37 -- to close right back in and position himself to ultimately score the victory.

"I didn't expect a win to come this soon in the season," Cardenas admitted. "If Hayes didn't have a problem, I think he would have ended up first because he was a little bit faster than me today. I'll take it anyway -- anybody can have problems in each race.

"I'm very happy. I want to thank very much Yoshimura Suzuki for giving me the opportunity to ride for them. This team is awesome."

Herrin and Cardenas weren't the only riders to capitalize on Hayes' misfortune; Foremost Insurance Pegram Racing's Larry Pegram was a key beneficiary, as well. The veteran competitor twice finished on the final step of the podium in what proved to be a tremendously successful maiden weekend aboard his new #72-plated Yamaha YZF-R1.

After Herrin made his Race 2 mistake, Pegram closed right in on the factory rider and gave him fits to the checkered flag, but just couldn't make himself small enough to draft by at the end.

After Saturday's race, Pegram said, "I had a lot of fun racing with Josh Herrin. I'm not looking forward to the (angry) Josh Hayes that will show up at Road America. We can say whatever we want, but he was the guy to beat in both races and had some bad luck. I’m sure when we show up at Road America, he'll be fighting. But hey, we'll take it."

Perhaps the rider who feels like he most missed out on a golden opportunity at Daytona was National Guard Jordan Suzuki's Roger Hayden. Among the riders who returned for another shot at Josh Hayes in 2013, Hayden scored the most points in 2012 and was the only one of them to earn a race win.

However, the Kentuckian got a bit over-anxious on Friday and pushed too hard on the race's opening lap while running third in hopes of locking on to the champ before he could disappear. Instead, Hayden fell. And, on Saturday, Hayden notched up a solid finish in fourth -- narrowly beating new teammate Danny Eslick to the line for the spot -- but finished more than 17 seconds behind Cardenas.

Hayden said, “Danny and I had a pretty good race and we struggled with the same things. Fourth isn’t where we want to be and we need to be a little stronger for the next one. But we got out of here with some points and we’ll move on. We’re a lot better than fourth; we had the speed in practice and qualifying, and we just had some bad luck in the races. Hopefully, we got all of that out of the way, and I can’t wait for Road America.”

Eslick, meanwhile, is ranked fourth in the points behind Herrin, Cardenas, and Pegram, with a pair of top fives (he finished fourth on Friday) in what was a promising start to his career as the pilot of the #23 Jordan Suzuki machine.

“The Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000 was running great at Daytona,” Eslick said. “I felt like I was knocking some of the cobwebs off from the winter. In the second race, Rog and I ran around by ourselves for the last half of the race, but that’s good in its own way because we’re learning stuff riding with each other. Hopefully, at Road America, we’ll come out and fight for a win.”

Cardenas' stunning success was backed up by the best-ever Superbike weekend of Yoshimura Suzuki teammate Chris Clark's career. Clark came home in fifth on Friday and finished in sixth the following day.

He said, “It was good to get the first race out of the way; I was able to get the best finish of my career with fifth, so I was really happy about that. It was a little tough the first few laps because I didn’t get a good start but I was able to get around some guys on the Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000. I made a few little mistakes in the middle of the race but overall I was happy. In the second race, I finished sixth, and we wound up fifth in the points, so this was the best race weekend I’ve ever had. Now I’m just excited to get to Road America."

Another rider who enjoyed a standout Daytona was Robertino Pietri. The son of former AMA Superbike star Roberto Pietri piloted his Team Moto Venezuela PC 4x4 Store Kawasaki ZX-10R to sixth- and seventh-place finishes.

The Venezuelan said, “We are extremely pleased with the results this weekend. This was my best finish at Daytona in the SuperBike class. To be able to run in the top 10 and be able to mix it up with the big factory bikes says a lot. My crew did an awesome job, and I am extremely proud of the entire team."

Despite the fact that some serious horsepower upgrades were found for the developing KTM/HMC RC8R during the off-season but they were not quite ready for Daytona, Chris Fillmore still managed to notch up a pair of top-ten results at the high-speed circuit.

“(Saturday) went really well for us,” stated Fillmore after improving from a Friday tenth to eighth on Saturday. “(Friday) night, we were able to make a few minor changes to our setup that helped a lot for today’s race. I felt more comfortable on the bike and was happy with my result.”

Team Hero's Geoff May guided the EBR 1190RS to seventh on Friday while Team M4 Broaster Chicken Racing's Chris Ulrich bounced back from a difficult Friday to take ninth aboard his Honda CBR1000RR on Saturday.

In all, six different makes claimed top-ten finishes during the Daytona weekend in the premier AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike class.

"It went a lot better (Saturday),” Ulrich said. “(Friday), what bit us was a slight change in the engine management -- the downshift parameter -- which made the bike inconsistent during braking. It showed by running off three times. It was a challenging race, for sure. But (Saturday) started off good by running P4 in the morning warm-up, and we discovered a couple of things with the chassis of the CBR1000RR that don't necessarily correlate to the bike we used to ride. We had to soften the back of the bike up a little bit to get it to transfer some weight, and it improved grip a lot. We also fixed the electronics, and it was good.

"We made a slight mistake midway through the race but for the most part, every lap was faster than my qualifying time, and I also turned my fastest ever lap around Daytona today. It bodes well for the future. We're just scratching the surface and it's got a lot of potential. I'm really confident in the M4 crew to go forward with this thing."

Motosport.com Motul Fly Racing's David Anthony finds himself ranked eighth in the points with 8th and 14th-place results, while Spaniard Bernat Martinez is right behind him with impressive 12th- and 10th-place runs.

New KTM/HMC Racing pilot Taylor Knapp and Team AMSOIL/Hero's big name addition, Aaron Yates, battled through difficult openers. Knapp finished ninth on Friday after battling for position with teammate Fillmore and Yates, but crashed in the warm-up on Saturday and was forced to start from the back of the pack after struggling to start his back-up machine. A clutch issue later knocked him out of the race altogether.

Meanwhile, Yates' close Friday 11th was followed up with a DNF as well on Saturday.

Daytona isn't the friendliest track on the tour to the KTM or the EBR, which should both shine later in the season.

“I am bummed about not finishing this race,” commented Knapp. “But I am lucky I wasn’t injured (in the warm-up), and I am happy that my teammate was able to get a good result. Daytona is known for being really rough on bikes. There were six of us who didn’t finish today and that is not typical for a normal SuperBike race. I am really looking forward to the next round at Road America where I think we can shoot closer to a top five.”

Can Herrin, Cardenas, and company take advantage of the opportunity, or will the champ prove that he's still the man to beat despite his points deficit? Barring the addition of another round, the reshuffled SuperBike class will resume action on May 31-June 2 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.


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