- AMA Superbike 2011 - Barber
SBK Race One - Wet Race Crowns First-Time Winner in Saturday
Saturday's AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike action at Barber Motorsports Park started with a front-row shakeup in morning qualifying, as pole-earner Josh Hayes (Monster Energy Graves Yamaha) and runner-up Tommy Hayden (Rockstar Makita Suzuki) were joined by Iron Horse BMW/ESP's Chris Peris and National Guard Jordan Suzuki's Roger Hayden. Tommy's Rockstar Makita Suzuki teammate, Blake Young - second in points as the series headed to Barber, with four victories to his name - was left to head up the second row, the fifth-place start adding up to his worst yet in 2011.
Once the race itself kicked off, though, Peris and Young both proved that qualifying is an entirely different animal from actual competition-and they weren't the only ones. With a little help from inclement weather, Barber's National Guard SuperBike Race 1 resolved into a podium that delivered M4 Suzuki's Martin Cardenas his first AMA Pro career SuperBike victory, and welcomed second-place finisher Ben Bostrom (National Guard Jordan Suzuki) to the winner's circle for the first time in 2011.
Off the start, Peris was shuffled to the back of the top-ten while Young sailed forward to land on teammate Hayden's - who'd rocketed to the overall lead - rear wheel. Hayes immediately tucked into third with Roger Hayden right behind, and the lead four tore through the next handful of laps just bike-lengths apart. With sixteen laps remaining, however, heavy rain began to spatter riders' windscreens, bringing out the red flag. In a holding pattern, teams waited to see whether the system would pass, or whether it would stay put and mandate a switch to rain tires.
On the restart, with the majority of the grid and all of the front-runners on full rains, it was Young who took over the lead as the field picked their way almost daintily around the track in wet conditions. With Young, Hayes, and Tommy Hayden all riding conservatively, however - seeming to have switched their focus to a defense of precious championship points -- it wasn't long before new race contenders declared themselves.
First Roger Hayden made a bid for the lead, moving up to second behind Young with Cardenas just behind, and as Cardenas himself stole the lead from Young, Bostrom likewise broke into the lead pack, passing Roger and Young to settle into second position behind Cardenas.
With two laps to go, Bostrom was systematically stalking Cardenas, and while Young trailed in third, all eyes were glued to the lead pair as the white flag flew. Through the last two corners on the race's last lap, Bostrom pounced, trying the outside twice and the inside once but pouring out onto the front straight just tenths behind Cardenas, crossing the line .137 second after the leader.
"We had a very good bike, and the thought was obviously to wait until a couple laps from the end, then attack him," said Bostrom afterward. "I thought I was good on the brakes, but he was also very good on the brakes, so I got snookered there."
And while Cardenas - the reigning Daytona SportBike champion turned SuperBike rookie -- was happy with his first SuperBike victory, he noted that rain victories come with a sort of asterisk, and that he's got work to do yet. "It's always great to win in whatever class you're in, but it's different to win in the dry than in the wet. So this is good, but if it were a dry race it would be much better. We'll see tomorrow in the dry what happens ... I'll give my best. But today, I'm very happy for me and my team."
- AMA Superbike Race Two
After settling for third in yesterday's rain-soaked AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike contest, Rockstar Makita Suzuki's Blake Young demanded a swap from Race 1 winner Martin Cardenas (M4 Suzuki) and went right through Monster Energy Graves Yamaha's Josh Hayes to get it. With all three riders visibly exhausted after the extremely hot race, Young -- who started from the second row -- said, "I just kept thinking to myself, 'If I'm hurting this bad and this tired, he's gotta be hurting too, so just keep after it.'"
As sapped as the podium trio felt post-race, however, a pair of Hayden bothers -- Rockstar Makita Suzuki's Tommy and National Guard Jordan Suzuki's Roger -- undoubtedly felt worse. Tommy, who got the holeshot off the start and lead through the first third of the race, was handed sudden misfortune when his bike began spewing smoke and flames, sidelining the eldest Hayden.
Roger, who'd been running a very strong fourth before a ride through the grass relegated him to a much more distant sixth, had been making up impressive ground on the frontrunners -- closing the gap from over two seconds to less than a half-second -- when a crash ended his race with seven laps to go. Although the Jordan rider walked away shaking his head, however, one thing his Barber runs have made clear is that the SuperBike class could soon see a new contender for front-runner status.
Hayes and Young, meanwhile, continued to trade the lead while testing each other's lines, often running just inches apart and swapping spots in consecutive corners. With six laps left in the race, Young took back the lead and tried desperately to shake the Yamaha rider off, and he was able to eek out just enough of a margin to keep himself safe while the pair made their final charge up the front straight.
"I knew he'd be there," said Hayes -- "he always is. Blake knew the areas where I was fast, and I really thought maybe the end would come my way a little bit because it seemed like he was having to use his bike more defensively than me. But at the end, I think we were both in hot water: pretty hot, pretty tired, and the bikes were getting extremely hot. I made the best run I could at him, but he rode a smart race, and he beat me."
"Today conditions were very extreme, very hot," Cardenas agreed, "and I think today's race was even tougher than yesterday's because we were sliding even a bit more than yesterday, so it was very difficult to maintain the pace. Roger and Tommy and Josh and Blake were running very fast and gaining some time over me in Turn 2 every lap, so I had to push very hard each lap to close the gap. But at the end I was just exhausted, and the last eight laps were very difficult for me to move on the bike because I was very tired and dehydrated. But third is a very good result, and we were closer than ever to the frontrunners, so I am very happy."
Behind Cardenas, Steve Rapp (San Diego BMW), Ben Bostrom (Jordan Suzuki), Larry Pegram (Foremost Insurance/Pegram Racing), Geoff May (Amsoil EBR Racing), Chris Clark (Y.E.S./Pat Clark/Graves Yamaha), Chris Peris (Iron Horse BMW), and JD Beach (Cycle World Attack Kawasaki) rounded out the top ten.
- AMA Supersport Race 1
The opening race of the Barber SuperBike Classic Weekend at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama, stepped up the intensity of AMA Pro's "young-gun" class yet another notch -- and set the tone for the races to follow. Saturday's 17-lap AMA Pro Motorcycle-Superstore.com SuperSport race saw Roadracingworld.com's Benny Solis take his third victory of the season, but only after a race-long battle with pole-sitter James Rispoli (ANT-Racing.com Star School Suzuki) and a determined Elena Myers (Team SuzukiScoopFans Racing).
Rispoli got an excellent start and led the opening lap, but as the field entered Turn 3, LTD Racing Y.E.S. Yamaha rider Tomas Puerta went down, collecting teammate David Gaviria. The race was red-flagged and the field - minus Puerta and Gaviria -- lined up again for a complete restart. This turn of events changed the complexion of the race dramatically, since both riders had three wins between them this season.
Rispoli also led the restart, but this time he had Myers and Solis in tow. By lap four, Myers was in the lead, and she battled fiercely with Rispoli and Solis while the trio proceeded to gap the rest of the field. Myers led laps four and five before Rispoli and Solis were able to get by. At that point, the lead duo began pulling away from Myers, who ran a consistent pace to earn her first podium finish of the season.
Solis and Rispoli went on to stalk each other lap after lap, and it wasn't until a backmarker gave Solis an opportunity to dive underneath Rispoli as he went wide around the slower rider that Solis grabbed the lead and held it until the end.
Behind the top three, Jacob Morman celebrated an impressive fourth-place finish on a Yamaha sponsored by The Schwantz School, which is based at Barber Motorsports Park. Carding fifth was Hayden Gillim on a Bell Helmets Honda, while Ricky Parker (CS Corey Yamaha) took sixth place and Ryan Kerr (RFC Digital Impressions Kawasaki) was seventh. Front-row starter Corey Alexander (Vesrah Suzuki) had a tough race, finishing eighth, and was followed by LTD Racing Yamaha's Sam Nash and James Dellinger on the Vesrah Suzuki.
Benny Solis, 1st: "I felt a little more calm knowing [Puerta and Gaviria] were out; I had a little less pressure on me, and I think that helped in the race. In the beginning, [Rispoli and Myers] were starting to break away a little, but after three laps of following I was able to pick up some lines, and after that I was able to get in front and break away a little bit."
James Rispoli, 2nd: "It started off good: I qualified on pole ... on the second start I got another good start, and I was kind of just cruising; I wasn't doing the lap times I wanted to. Toward the end of the race my tires were going off pretty good and getting greasy. [Solis] made a really, really good move on a lapper and got that gap, and it was hard to get it back. He kind of just inched away. Hats off to my crew -- we'll come back strong tomorrow. It was a really good, hard race. [Solis] wasn't giving anything, and I wasn't giving anything."
Elena Myers, 3rd: "The season has started slow. I have a new bike and I haven't really gotten a chance to test it really at all, so it's been a struggle. But the bike's set up where I want it now and it's going really good. Today was a pretty crazy race... I got a good start and led a few laps, then these two fast ones [Rispoli & Solis] came by me. I tried to stay with them but I didn't really have the tires left to do it. Overall, I think I did a good job and I'm really proud of these guys over here. It's been a while since I've been on the podium, so it feels really good. Getting back on the podium is definitely a confidence-booster."
- AMA Supersport Race 2
The weather wasn't the only thing that was hot at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama, on Sunday, as the second AMA Pro Motorcycle-Superstore.com SuperSport race of the weekend boasted some seriously steamy action. ANT-Racing.com Suzuki rider James Rispoli barely edged out yesterday's winner, Benny Solis (Roadracingworld.com Honda), for the victory, while Hayden Gillim finished third and celebrated his first Motorcycle-Superstore.com SuperSport podium.
At the start of the 17-lap race, Rispoli put on a masterful display of control and pace as he worked his way toward a second career AMA Pro SuperSport win. He couldn't shake loose Solis, however, who even managed to shoot past Rispoli in the final turn on lap eleven. But Rispoli would not be denied, and he snatched victory from the jaws of defeat by just 0.064 of a second.
"I made a couple mistakes toward the middle of the race," acknowledged Rispoli, "and I looked back a couple times and saw he was right there, so I knew it was going to be pretty hard to gap him and then keep the tires. So I slowed the pace down a lot -- I think it was about a half-second slower through the middle of the race -- I was really trying to conserve tires. I saw him try that pass and said, 'It's not gonna happen, dude' [laughs], but it was clean race, and I really trust him, so it was cool. It was like dirt track again -- really cool. Hats off to my crew and everyone else ... it's been a great weekend with the second and first, and hats off to all men and women serving overseas -- I want to give a big shout-out to them."
"The whole race was just exciting for me," added Solis. "I was nervous the whole time, but having a lot of fun. I tried really hard to close the gap [on Rispoli], but once I was there I think I wore out my front tire. Every time I tried to catch him on the brakes, it started stepping out. I couldn't show him a wheel -- I tried really hard and wanted to attempt that last pass again, but I knew it wasn't going to work out, and I would rather have had second than both of us crash out. But other than that I'm just happy to be on the podium, and it was a lot of fun."
Behind the lead duo, there was action aplenty as yesterday's third-place finisher Elena Myers (Team SuzukiScoopFans Suzuki) got another great start and ran as high as third before having to settle for fifth. She had her hands more than full with Tomas Puerta (LTD Racing Y.E.S. Yamaha), Road America winner Travis Wyman (Harv's Harley-Davidson Yamaha), Stefano Mesa (Rata Racing Ducati), and Dustin Dominguez (Latus Motors Triumph), all of whom put on a great show in the young-gun class.
Gillim, meanwhile, was making quiet but steady progress up through the ranks from his tenth-place starting position. Before some of his competitors realized it, Gillim had worked his way up to third place -- just in time to take the last podium spot as the checkers flew.
"I started on the third row, but I knew I could run the same time as these guys," said Gillim. "I got a decent start and was seventh going into Turn One. From there, I was just trying to work my way up to front. About five laps into the race, I caught Travis and Elena and kind of had to sit back for a little bit; they were both running strong and I couldn't find anywhere to pass them. [Once I did], I put my head down and just tried to catch [Solis and Rispoli], but they had a four- to five-second lead by then. I'm just happy to be up here -- it's a good Father's Day present for my dad, and hopefully we can just keep the momentum going."
Corey Alexander put in a solid ride on his Vesrah Suzuki, finishing fourth ahead of Myers and Dominguez. Ricky Parker brought home seventh on his Yamaha, and Puerta took eighth ahead of James Dellinger on another Vesrah Suzuki. Ben Young rounded out the top ten on his Lean Angle Yamaha.
So far this year, there have been six different winners in the Motorcycle-Superstore.com SuperSport class, and the field continues to chase the $25,000 Motorcycle-Superstore.com points-fund bonus. Rispoli currently leads the East Division SuperSport standings, 92 to Puerta's 69.
- Daytona Sportbike Race 1
"As you can see," said GEICO Powersports/RMR Suzuki's Danny Eslick in the post-qualifying press conference, "this is a pretty mean front row." Sitting beside the AMA Pro Daytona SportBike pole-earner in Barber Motorsport Park's pressroom were the other three most-wanted men in 2011 Daytona SportBike racing: PJ Jacobsen (Celtic Racing/Fast by Ferracci), Josh Herrin (Monster Energy Graves Yamaha), and Jason DiSalvo (Team Latus Motors Racing).
The stakes were sky-high for all four heading into a sweltering Race 1 at the gorgeously green Birmingham facility, as a pair of DNFs at the previous round had seen DiSalvo forced to cede the lead-change to Herrin for the first time this season. In the end, however, victory shone not on points-leaders or former points-leaders, but on those from the road race-proud state of Oklahoma, as Broken Arrow's Eslick led M4 Suzuki's Dane Westby (Tulsa) and Vesrah Suzuki's Cory West (Oklahoma City) to what some OK-fans have labeled an "Oklapodium."
"It's been a tough season so far," said Eslick, who'd gone winless in 2011 until today. "It means a lot to get this win ... it's pretty awesome."
Eslick launched into the lead off the start, and - in an almost unheard-of occurrence in the shark-tank-like Daytona SportBike class - was never forced to release it, save for a brief skirmish with Jacobsen on Lap 1. Instead, he began almost immediately to spin out a modest lead that grew, over the 21 laps, to an unassailable one. Helping matters were that fact that two of his biggest recent threats, Herrin and Jacobsen, were negated early in the contest, Jacobsen sliding out at the end of Lap 1 and Herrin - pounding his tank in fury - having to pit just minutes later with a seized engine.
DiSalvo, trying desperately to chase down Eslick from second, initially appeared to be the heir-apparent challenger once Jacobsen and Herrin were out, but the Latus rider was likewise soon struggling, getting shuffled back to fifth in the lead pack. With about seven to go, a three-way battle for second kicked off between Aquino, Westby, and West, and as the laps clicked down, it only intensified.
"I could see the numbers on the scoring tower changing position," said Eslick, "[and] I kept seeing different numbers in second, so I knew they were racing pretty hard back there. I just didn't want to do anything crazy and mess up."
While Eslick checked out, heading the field by nearly four seconds at one point, DiSalvo did everything he could to keep the trio in front of him within grasp, but was ultimately forced to settle for fifth, his run of recent bad luck seeming to stretch yet further. And while Aquino was left to a solid but somewhat disappointing fourth, Westby and West each had plenty to celebrate, Westby claiming the race's runner-up position while West took over the overall points-lead in the Daytona SportBike Championship, 136 points to Eslick's 135.
"It's awesome," said West later, shaking his head. "I can't thank the Vesrah guys enough. Now we just have to try to push on and get another podium tomorrow."
- Daytona Sportbike Race 2
Monster Energy Graves Yamaha's Josh Herrin had something to prove -- and points to regain -- in today's AMA Pro Daytona SportBike Race 2, and when the light went green at Sunday's Barber Motorsports Park contest, that's exactly what he did. After stalking GEICO Powersports/RMR Suzuki's Danny Eslick through the majority of the hard-fought race, Herrin turned the misery of yesterday's DNF into a very sweet .022-second margin of victory, then celebrated by scaling an enormous fence to cheers from fans.
"I consider this my home race, and I was really excited," said Herrin. "I did the Track Walk yesterday and told a couple fans I'd climb the fence, and they were pretty excited about it. So, I thought I would be nice to the fans," added the rider who'd just taken a win in 96-degree heat, "to get them out of the shade up there."
Saturday's seized engine may come back to haunt Herrin in the overall points chase, but for today, the Yamaha rider -- followed across the line by Eslick and Jake Holden Racing's Cameron Beaubier -- is back on top. Only on top of the Barber podium, however, as it's Eslick who's taken over the championship points lead now, becoming the fourth rider to do so this year.
For Celtic Racing/Fast by Ferracci's PJ Jacobsen, today's event was eerily and unpleasantly similar to yesterday's, in which he crashed out early in the race after leading briefly. In today's contest, he lost that lead to a string of other riders before sliding out, but he was far from the only front-runner to suffer sideline fate: M4 Suzuki's Dane Westby followed suit after running as high as third, with former points-leader Cory West (Vesrah Suzuki) ran off just minutes later while trying to move up from fourth. (West was able to reenter, ultimately finishing 20th.)
As Herrin put steadily increasing pressure on Eslick while clearly planning a last-minute attack, it was Y.E.S./Pat Clark/Grave Yamaha's Tommy Aquino who grabbed the spotlight, putting on a performance unlike anything the 19-year-old's shown the paddock this year. Though Beaubier ultimately got him at the last minute -- "It was a little close," said Beaubier, "but I had to do it" -- Aquino demonstrated he's still got what it takes to land on the box.
When the white flag flew and the last lap unspooled, Herrin's attack, which he later labeled part of a "just I hope I can get it, and hope it'll stick" strategy, let loose on the string of final corners, delivered Herrin to the finish-line less than three tenths ahead of Eslick. "I can say I got beat," Eslick said later, laughing. "There's not much else to it. I led every lap down to the last corner pretty much, and he was definitely in a good position. After following me for 20 laps, he knew exactly where I was going on every lap. He definitely had options, and I didn't know where [the attack] was going to come from, but at that point I knew it was coming pretty quick."
When asked how the riders handled today's heat, Eslick quipped, "The same as we do whenever it's cold -- we're not the smartest people out here."
Third-place finisher Beaubier later described his strategy as "just trying not to make any mistakes at the beginning. I knew if I didn't charge hard enough at beginning, I wouldn't be there at end," he continued. "It was a really tough race. I had a couple hard moments trying to keep up, but it was an awesome race."
Behind Beaubier, Aquino, Taylor Knapp (Vesrah Suzuki), Jason DiSalvo (Latus Motors Racing), Kris Turner (Turner's Cycle Racing), Tyler O'Hara (GP Bike Parts Racing), Barrett Long (Longevity Racing), and Tyler Odom (Don Odom Racing) rounded out the top ten.
Parts Unlimited Harley-Davidson rider Steve Rapp piloted his XR1200 to a second 2011 victory in Barber Motorsports Park's hot and humid AMA Pro Vance & Hines XR1200 contest. Rapp barely edged out Chris Fillmore (Bruce Rossmeyer Daytona Racing) to take victory by a mere 0.157 of a second. Rounding out the podium was last year's AMA Pro SuperSport Top Gun Champion Tyler O'Hara.
At the start of the race, J&P Cycles Harley-Davidson's Michael Beck took the lead but suffered a violent, head-over-heels crash before the end of lap one. (He was checked out by EMTs then released.) Before the start of the second lap, Rapp took over and put his head down, riding an almost perfect race.
"I got a decent start," said Rapp. "I was in third going through the first couple corners, then got a little bit of a draft going in to Turn 4 and was able to start passing some people. By end of the first lap I was back in the lead, and then I just went as hard as I could without crashing. This class really shows bike skill and rider set-up, that's what I like about it. I had fun."
Although Rapp was pleased to be out front, it forced him to endure constant pressure from Fillmore throughout the 11-lap race. Fillmore, who lays claim to two wins in this class, shadowed Rapp through every corner but was never able to find a way by.
"In the beginning of the race when Michael got spit off, it was right in front of me and I ran into the grass," said Fillmore. "I kind of checked out of the race for a second then realized we had to get back in line. I was pushing hard, pushing hard the whole time, but every time I thought about making a move, the front end would push and the rear would come around -- it was really, really greasy out here. I kind of played it conservative. I wish I'd tried some more aggressive moves, but I was pretty much doing everything I could just to stay there. I'm looking forward to going to Mid-Ohio; we kind of struggled here." Despite the struggles, Fillmore maintains the overall points lead leaving Barber, 135 to Rapp's 119.
While Rapp and Fillmore created a gap on the 2.38-mile, 17-turn scenic Southern track, O'Hara put in a solid and consistent ride to his first podium in this class. Although he battled with Travis Wyman on his Harv's Harley-Davidson XR1200, O'Hara came out the victor.
"In the middle of race, Travis was catching me, and on the last lap he really put some heat on me and passed me going into 4 on the inside. [We ended up] drag racing all the way to the museum turn ... then I just held it wide open and made it work. I'm definitely really happy to be up here."
Behind O'Hara was Michael Barnes (Drag Specialties), followed by Rossmeyer Daytona Racing's Michael Corbino in fifth. Kyle Wyman, Travis's older brother, took sixth on another Rossmeyer Daytona Racing GEICO XR1200. Seventh went to David Estock (Black Hills Harley-Davidson), while Chase McFarland finished eighth on a Latus Motors Racing XR1200. Ninth and tenth went to Payton Sassaman (Harley-Davidson of Macon) and Brett Sassaman (Eagle Harley-Davidson), respectively.- LATE BRAKING NEWS -