-- AMA SBK Miller recap
While AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike title contenders Blake Young and Josh Hayes entered the BigM Weekend presented by Lucas Oil at Miller Motorsports Park having split each of the 2012 season's previous three rounds, the equity was destined to end in Utah with only one SuperBike race to be won.
The race, the weekend, and ultimately the points lead all went to defending champion Hayes, who made a statement with his conquering performance at MMP.
While his runaway victory, combined with the points awarded for pole and leading the most laps, transformed what was a four-point deficit into a still-slight seven-point lead (194-187), the Monster Energy Graves Yamaha star's step forward has been even more pivotal than the championship table suggests.
An error on the part of Hayes at Sonoma masks his strong run of form, but rival Young has certainly taken notice that the Yamaha man has delivered four breakaway wins already in '12, and demonstrated the speed to make that five.
Hayes, who couldn't ask for much more from himself or his YZF-R1, said, "What an awesome day. The bike was good, things have been pretty smooth for the weekend, we didn't really make too many changes, and we just worked on getting good clean laps. All in all, it was a pretty smooth run."
The Mississippian also took notice of the bigger picture, stating, "It was a perfect Memorial Day. Having the National Guard as the primary sponsor of our series, it was fantastic that on Memorial Day we would be able to put on a good show for them. Thanks to all the servicemen and women out there who support us and hopefully they were entertained by the show under the umbrella they provide for us."
Young, meanwhile, is desperate to get back on track before Hayes creates even more separation at the front. The Yoshimura Racing Suzuki star is hoping that this weekend's doubleheader at his home track, Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, will allow him to successfully strike back.
"I really enjoy this (MMP), but I don't know what it is -- I've just been in this little funk," Young said. "I need to pull through it and apologize to my team. For some reason I'm just a little bit off the beat right now and I don't know if I can point a finger at something. I think I need to reevaluate and get focused. I don't have too much time before we'll be home at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin but maybe that's what I need -- to be home with my friends and family -- to get me motivated to be back up at the front and start racing with Josh [Hayes]. He's done this quite a few races already this year. I need to be racing at the front."
While Young is concerned with Hayes in terms of the championship picture, on Monday he was forced to turn his attention to the other Monster Energy Graves Yamaha Josh.
As Hayes powered away at the front, by the second lap it was obvious that Young would have his hands full with a very racy Josh Herrin -- not only nipping at his heels, but actively attacking for the position.
National Guard Jordan Suzuki's Roger Hayden was the third man in the fight for second. The Kentuckian showcased front-running speed all weekend but was having trouble effectively translating that into results.
While Hayden spent time atop the leaderboards in practice and qualifying (including posting the best lap in the Monday warm-up), Hayden crashed twice in the lead up to the race, including a big fall in Turn 1 on Monday morning that tore up his 'A' bike.
His weekend ended in the same style, crashing out of the race early while showing the speed to push for a runner-up position.
"I'm pretty disappointed," admitted Hayden. "I could see the leaders getting away and I felt like I had more speed, but I ended up going into the turn wide and using a little too much front brake, and I lost the front end. But we've been fast the whole weekend and that's something we can build on. It's Memorial Day, and I wish we could've gotten a better finish for the National Guard. For now, though, we'll just focus on Road America."
Hayden's teammate, Ben Bostrom, took up the charge in Hayden's absence, closing in on Young and Herrin before later fading from the fight.
SuperBike rookie Herrin shifted his strategy and chose to instead conserve his tires and wait on Young's rear tire for the final lap. A bold strategy considering Young's sparkling history of winning last-lap battles, Herrin made it work. His first attempt was immediately met with a very hard counter by the Suzuki ace, but the Yamaha pilot regrouped and made a second, more decisive, strike to win out for second place.
After claiming his best SuperBike result yet, Herrin said, "It was an awesome race other than the fact that Josh was on the same bike and beat me by eight seconds -- probably more; I probably went about half his pace at the end. But it was pretty cool to be riding with Blake. It was a lot of fun. I didn't quite have the pace to dice with him the whole race. I was just trying to learn where he was stronger and where I was stronger. I was able to get up close to him a few times and see that his tire was getting pretty worn out.
"I got lucky with that pass on the outside. It was pretty sketchy because it was dusty out on the edge of the track but luckily it stuck. I was able to hold him off the rest of the lap. Hopefully we can be a contender for a win later on in the season but for now I'm ecstatic getting second."
Meanwhile, Bostrom found himself come under assault by the Team Amsoil/Hero EBR 1190RS of Geoff May.
May and teammate Danny Eslick on the Team Hero EBR backed up their stellar Sonoma performances by again showing front-running pace. Coming off their Infineon Raceway podium results, the two qualified third and fourth, respectively, for the MMP final.
While they weren't able to challenge for a place on the podium this time out, May continued to build as the race progressed and eventually gobbled up Bostrom for fourth, giving Herrin and Young something to think about in second and third.
Bostrom held on for fifth, finishing a few seconds clear of Eslick in sixth.
Bostrom said, "What can I say? Jordan Motorsports continues to improve our #23 Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000 and I'm confident that we can win. I can't thank the boys enough for the long hours they've put in. It wasn't our day today but we're getting there."
Foremost Insurance Pegram Racing's Larry Pegram took a relatively lonely seventh on the BWM S1000RR, followed by Young's Yoshimura Racing Suzuki teammate, Chris Clark.
"Miller is my favorite track, and I was pretty confident that the Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000 would go good there," Clark said. "I'm getting more and more comfortable with the bike with every opportunity that I get to ride it, and I think my results this weekend show that. I've said all along that my goal is to finish the season in the top five overall and this weekend I moved closer to that goal. Now I'm just looking forward to Road America next weekend and hopefully progressing more."
Kneedraggers.com/Motul/Fly's David Anthony came home in ninth with KTM/HMC Racing's Chris Fillmore rounding out the top ten, one position ahead of a gritty ride by the mending Steve Rapp on the Attack Performance Kawasaki ZX-10R.
KTM pilot Fillmore, who was the team's sole entry with Stefan Nebel away due to visa issues, said, "It was a tough weekend coming to Miller for the first time and we had limited time on the track due to the changing weather conditions. We never found the optimal set-up for the race and we thought the potential was there for a stronger finish."
While Hayes and Herrin head to Road America riding high off their Utah 1-2, they'll have to contend with 'Cheese Power' in Wisconsin. Not only is Young from nearby Madison, Wis., but the EBR, Michael Jordan Motorsports, and HMC Racing outfits are all based in Wisconsin and will be eager to go home as well.
Three men have emerged at the front in the AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike class in recent races. Martin Cardenas (GEICO Suzuki), Jason DiSalvo (Latus Motors Racing Triumph) and Cameron Beaubier (Y.E.S Graves Yamaha). The trio fought at the front once again in Utah, with Cardenas grabbing a nail-biter from DiSalvo with a last-lap pass that culminated a hectic two-day weekend plagued with changing weather conditions.
Cardenas won pole again but DiSalvo led into turn one on the first lap. Beaubier, Benny Solis (Kneedraggers.com Yamaha) and Jake Zemke (Ducshop Ducati) got away quickly to set the early pace.
Beaubier made his case, taking the point on lap two before a dice with DiSalvo developed. Cardenas held his ground in third, conscious of tire issues caused by the cool temperatures.
By halfway, Cardenas had relegated Beaubier to third and the Colombian put his head down to chase DiSalvo, who had tried to make a break. The Triumph rider set his best individual lap time on lap nine.
The acknowledged master of late-race charges, Cardenas added to his reputation with a relentless pursuit of DiSalvo, who gave Cardenas little hope as the New Yorker clicked off mistake-free laps. Cardenas tried forcing the issue under braking on the last lap, but it did not work the first time he tried it and it seemed as if his best chance to pass was gone.
Cardenas got a strong drive going down into Club Corner, however, and made a great block pass on the #40 bike. Just then, the duo encountered lapped traffic. Cardenas was able to get through the two backmarkers better than DiSalvo to take the win.
"Jason got a gap in the middle of the race and I had to push very hard to catch up," said Cardenas. "I was planning to make a move in the hairpin but he was faster to the inside. It didn't work for me then, but the last two corners I got a good drive and I could try."
Cardenas now leads the championship over Tommy Hayden (Y.E.S. Graves Yamaha) by 31 and DiSalvo by 32.
"That last lap was tough. Martin rode a great race," DiSalvo said. "I put my head down in the middle of the race but I think I might have burned up my tire a little bit. I knew Martin was charging hard but I gave it all we had."
Beaubier had has hands full with Zemke in the late going. With three to go, Zemke made his way past, but Beaubier denied him of a trip to the podium.
"At the beginning, DiSalvo and I were trading positions back and forth, I burned up my tire and couldn't keep the pace," Beaubier said. "Zemke got around me with four or five to go. After that, I couldn't gather myself up until the last lap or two. I'm happy with the result but I want to keep the pace with the front two guys."
Zemke ran wide but was able to consolidate fourth, ahead of Meen Motorsports' Bobby Fong, who is having a strong season for a small team.
After poor starts, Dane Westby (M4 Suzuki) and J.D. Beach (RoadRace Factory/Red Bull) hooked up and were able to run down and pass Solis, who was in his first ride for his new squad in Utah. Westby took sixth, Beach seventh, and Solis eighth.
Championship hopeful Hayden had a disappointing Utah but was able to get ninth ahead of Jake Gagne (RoadRace Factory/Red Bull) who never got his bike completely dialed at Miller Motorsports Park.
The class now goes to Road America and the field will look to close the points gap Cardenas has been able to build.
The AMA Pro Motorcycle-Superstore.com SuperSport class has now seen five different winners in 2012. The class for new talent and fast local riders has boasted large grids this season and the Utah round added another name to the select group of winners this season - Hayden Gillim of the RoadRace Factory/Red Bull team.
Gillim won pole for the race, but crossed the line sixth after the first lap of the 13-lap race. By lap two, he was up to fourth and he then took the lead while working lap three. The Kentuckian quickly worked a gap and took a strong lead of around four seconds over the pack behind him, consisting of Road Atlanta winner Jake Lewis (Riders Discount Vesrah Suzuki), Infineon Winner Dustin Dominguez (Latus Motors Racing Triumph), and Tomas Puerta (RoadRaceFactory/Red Bull).
Lewis, Dominguez and Puerta put on a spirited battle for the podium behind the leader.
In the closing laps, Gillim's solid lead began to evaporate as his tire started going away. He was able to hold on for the victory by 1.062 seconds, though.
"I felt really good for the race today. I knew I could win, but I didn't have any idea I could get out front and get a gap. I thought these guys would be right behind me the entire way," said Gillim. "My tires started going away at the end, and they started reeling me back in but I had built up a big enough of a gap that they couldn't quite catch me. The RoadRace Factory/Red Bull team did a fantastic job for me this weekend. This whole year, we've been working up and I got all the points I could possibly get this weekend."
In order to equalize the points paying opportunities between SuperSport's East and West Divisions, points were paid for final grid positions and one additional bonus point was paid for fastest lap of the race. Gillim grabbed every available point this weekend, closing to within 21 points of West leader James Rispoli (Orient Express Celtic Racing) who had trouble in the race and didn't show his characteristic strength.
Lewis took second place after leading early. "I was in the lead on lap two but Hayden came by and dropped the hammer. He was going fast," Lewis said. "At the end, Dustin and I had a really good battle. It was fun."
Dominguez got some relief from Puerta after his rival made a mistake on the last lap, but Dominguez scored his fifth straight podium.
"It was a good race," said Dominguez. "I got a bad start. I got pinched in by some guys and had to work my way up through traffic. Jake Lewis and I had a good race. Hats off to him and Hayden. They rode fantastic. We're East coast so I was happy with that in my first time here."
Stefano Mesa was fifth, less than nine seconds back. The Kneedraggers.com Yamaha pilot had a gap on Tyler Linders (Nexx/Cortech/Hypercycle).
Daytona winner Elena Myers (SuzukiScoopFans Sportbiketrackgear.com M4 Suzuki) and Rispoli fought for seventh, with Myers taking the spot by less than 0.2 of a second.
Ryan Matter (Citizens of Humanity) won out over Sebastio Ferreira (Life In Christ Race Team) by less than half a second for ninth.
Bartel's Harley-Davidson's Tyler O'Hara delivered a rare blowout performance in AMA Pro Vance & Hines XR1200 Series action at Miller Motorsports Park.
O'Hara made his intentions known when he stormed to pole by a margin of eight tenths of a second -- or about the combined margin by which the three previous Vance & Hines XR1200 Series races were decided.
The Californian ripped free at the start and ultimately assembled a 4.261-second margin of victory over the eight-lap contest.
"Ever since we unloaded the bike off the truck it's been awesome," O'Hara said. "I rode here a few years ago on the Supermoto track and wanted to be out here. I'm just really comfortable on this track -- it's fast and flowing. I ran really hard tires and was comfortable out there sliding around. I put in a good charge at the beginning and just maintained the lead."
O'Hara's weekend performance saw him take a step forward in the title fight, as he became the first man of the developing three-way title fight to claim a second pole position and a second victory.
KLR Group/Vesrah Racing's Kyle Wyman took second but wasn't overly impressed to watch O'Hara run away out in front.
"My race was pretty lonely," Wyman said. "I think it was lonely for all three of us, really. It's about the most boring XR race you're ever going to see."
"Set-up was key this weekend for all of us and we all nailed it at three different plateaus, I think," Wyman said. "I just can't settle down. I made a big mistake and then I lost that initial time and then from there it was like, three-four seconds just stayed the same for the last half of the race, so I don't know."
Sonoma winner Michael Barnes finished a distant third, more than 12 seconds behind his race-winning Bartel's Harley-Davidson teammate.
Barnes, who was struggling with the flu all week long, said "We just didn't have the set-up to run with these guys. Just with the changing weather conditions, we just really didn't get the right tire pressure and that's basically what it boiled down to. We're going to have to regroup and hope the weather cooperates a little bit better for us at Elkhart. We know how that goes.
"It's a really long season and really right now we're racing for money. We're pretty much confident that we're going to be in the chase at the end of the year. I would say that goes for all three of us. So right now it's bragging rights and money and Tyler's (O'Hara) leading, so we've got to work on that."
XP Motorsports' Michael Corbino finished in fourth while Kuryakyn/Racing for a Wish's Gerry Signorelli rounded out the top five.
The multiple drafting opportunities presented by Road America generally make for thrilling XR1200 racing in Harley-Davidson's home state. O'Hara heads to Wisconsin with a 16-point lead over Wyman (115-99) with Barnes only a further single point back.
Next Event - AMA Pro Road Racing will next head East for Round 5 with a stop at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. The Subway Superbike Double Header will take place at Road America this weekend, June 1-3.
- AMA Superbike Championship 2012 -
RND 1 - DAYTONA
RND 2 - ATLANTA
RND 3 - INFINEON
RND 4 - MILLER
RND 5 - ROAD AMERICA
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