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Ranking The Top Ten SuperBike Champions - No. 3

NEWS February 5, 2014

Ranking The Top Ten SuperBike Champions - No. 3

Photo by Brian J Nelson

Written by Chris Martin:

February 5, 2014 - Once seemingly forever damned to a career on the undercard, Josh Hayes has been transformed from the perpetual underdog to AMA Pro SuperBike's overwhelming overdog.

Unlike a number of his rivals who first threw a leg over a motorcycle before they can (literally) remember, the Mississippian was a bit of a late bloomer. Hayes didn't start racing until after high school and by then he was already 'too old' to ever be viewed as the next big thing by the paddock's factory talent scouts looking for the next Freddie Spencer.

That tag stuck with him even as he excelled in the support classes. Hayes was unfairly pigeonholed as nothing more than a solid journeyman rider, despite racking up feeder series wins and title victories.

Finally, achievement and circumstance landed him the second seat with Yamaha USA's SuperBike program in 2009 where he, as an veteran racer in his mid-thirties, was finally given his very first shot to prove his worth as a factory rider in the premier class.

Hayes has been making up for lost time ever since.

After suffering through a bit of a slow start as a rookie while he adapted to the YZF-R1 SuperBike (and it to him), Hayes came on like gangbusters late in the season. While '09 served as the unofficial retirement tour for AMA Pro SuperBike legend Mat Mladin, who cruised to his record-extending seventh title, Hayes stole some of the Aussie's thunder that season, winning seven races, including the final four in succession.

There was no possible better way for Hayes to bridge the gap between generations and has subsequently built upon the immense promise he demonstrated that season.

Despite a relatively short stint in the class, Hayes already stands second to Mladin in just about every meaningful career SuperBike statistic. He's reeled in 41 wins (eight more than third-ranked Miguel DuHamel), 30 poles (six more than third-ranked Ben Spies), and owns three AMA Pro SuperBike titles, tying him with such luminaries as Reg Pridmore, Fred Merkel, Doug Chandler, and Spies.

Hayes also boasts the single-most dominant season in series' history. He was in a class of his own in 2012, setting single-season records for wins in a season (16), wins in succession (10), perfect points haul weekends (seven), and tied the mark for most pole positions (10).

In some ways, Hayes was even further out in front of the field in 2013, but a bewildering blend of misfortune, mistake, and an impressively strong and consistent effort from teammate Josh Herrin meant that Hayes was on the wrong end of one of the biggest championship upsets SuperBike racing has ever seen.

After stealing away the #1 plate, Herrin admitted that he considered Josh Hayes the greatest rider in AMA Pro Road Racing history.

Earnest and driven, Hayes is as easy to root for as he is difficult to defeat. Expect him to be even more motivated in 2014 after losing his crown. With Herrin off to Moto2, the rest of the field may have to pay for his transgressions in his absence.

Next time: Okay, we all know who the final two riders are, but in what order? Good question… I’m still working that out myself.

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