Jake Gagne made it 10 race wins in a row in the 2021 MotoAmerica HONOS Superbike Championship on Saturday, but this one was different. Gagne crashed and still managed to win the first AMA Superbike race held at BIR in 17 years.
Leading the race on the second lap, Gagne crashed in front of the pack and was stuck in the middle of the track as the field motored by on both sides. He finally ran to safety and, with his bike still on track, a red flag was thrown, stopping the race. Fortunately for Gagne, his Yamaha suffered only minor damage and he was able to ride back to the hot pit for repairs prior to the restart.
From there it was typical Gagne as he grabbed the lead and pulled away, ultimately besting M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Bobby Fong by 4.675 seconds to win his 10th race of the year and extending his championship points lead to 74 points. The win, which was also the 10th of his career, moves him into a tie with Mike Baldwin for 19th on the all-time AMA Superbike win list.
Jake Gagne – P1
“That was the highest my heart rate has probably been in a while. We sat on the grid for a long time both times. I know we were all kind of wondering what was going on. I know there was a crash on the warmup lap or the sighting lap. I saw the guy right next to me in the grass go flying by. So, that was just a weird start. I know all our tires were a little cold there at the beginning. I think with that quick of a heat fluctuation, you put so much heat in these tires in turn one and two especially, so from going that cool… I even spun the tire off the line, which I’ve never done in my life. I just lit it up. So, it was just weird. It caught me by surprise. I went into turn three and was barely on the gas. The thing came around on me and I just kept going. I was wondering if it was going to highside me. Luckily, it didn’t. I just kind of lowsided and then I’m sitting there in the middle of the track watching Superbikes fly at me. Luckily, everybody is looking ahead. We can see something is going on, so nothing bad happened. I’m just fortunate that that Yamaha slid. We bent a little lever. We had to mess around with the bars. The only thing that was wrong, we were just a little tweaked during the race, but it was totally fine. Hats off to the team because they hustled. We got that bike together right in the nick of time to get back out for pit lane. Again, thanks to Alpinestars for protecting me. I had a long slide, and the bike was really just sliding on top of me, so it was like digging my butt in the ground. We got a new suit on and went out there and did it again. So, I’m pumped I got another good start. I knew these guys were coming. Tomorrow will be another show. I know it’s tightening up every time. We’ve just got to keep doing our thing and focusing on our part.”
For Fong the race ended a podium drought that dates back to the very first race of the year at Road Atlanta in May. The battle for third was fought out between the two South Africans – Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz and M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Cameron Petersen.
At the completion of the 15-lap race it was Scholtz grabbing third for his seventh podium of the year, though it still allowed Gagne to pull farther away in the title chase. Gagne now leads Scholtz by a whopping 74 points, 250-176. Petersen, meanwhile, made a big move to third in the championship, moving past Josh Herrin, who missed the race after testing positive for COVID-19.
Petersen held on for fourth, some 2.5 seconds behind Scholtz and 14.2 seconds ahead of fifth-placed Hector Barbera on the Scheibe Racing BMW.
JD Beach battled early in the race with Barbera but ended up sixth on the second Fresh N’ Lean Attack Performance Yamaha in his replacement ride for Herrin.
Altus Motorsports’ Jake Lewis was seventh and that put him at the top of the Superbike Cup, a class within a class for those riding Stock 1000-spec motorcycles in the HONOS Superbike race.
Franklin Armory/Andrew Lee Racing’s Andrew Lee was eighth on his Stock 1000-spec Kawasaki ZX-10R ahead of FLY Racing/ADR Motorsports’ David Anthony and his teammate Bradley Ward with the Suzuki-mounted pair finishing ninth and 10th, respectively.
Notable among the non-finishers was Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati New York’s Loris Baz with the Frenchman crashing out of the race on the second lap with his Ducati Panigale V4 R too damaged to repair for the restart.
HONOS HVMC Racing Kawasaki’s Richie Escalante came into Brainerd International Raceway with a plan to stem the tide. The defending Supersport Champion knew he had to stop points leader Sean Dylan Kelly’s winning streak and start a winning streak of his own.
In Saturday’s race one, despite being pressured by Escalante for virtually the entire 16-lap event, Kelly was never headed and raced his M4 ECSTAR Suzuki to his eighth win of the season and fifth victory in a row. Meanwhile, third place went to Kelly’s teammate Sam Lochoff, who passed Benjamin Smith on lap 13, and completed the podium.
Sean Dylan Kelly – P1
“It was definitely a tough race. Not super happy with how my pace was. I was definitely expecting more of myself, but that’s how us racers are. We win a race, and we still aren’t too happy about it. Happy with the race win, with the consistency and being able to fight up there, not letting Richie by. We need to do some homework and make a proper step for tomorrow. Honestly, everything has felt good up to this point. I just went out onto the track today and had a lot of moments. We saw some weird crashes. There was clearly some stuff on the track. Just definitely bothered me. Didn’t have the best confidence out there once we had some moments. But we’re going to do our homework tomorrow and come back just a little bit better. Looking forward to making a good race.”
In the only Stock 1000 race of the weekend, Altus Motorsports Suzuki rider Jake Lewis started from pole and got the holeshot, but Chuckwalla Valley Raceway/Octane Lending Kawasaki rider Michael Gilbert chased Lewis down and took the lead temporarily until Lewis re-established himself at the front on lap three and maintained his advantage all the way to the checkered flag.
While Gilbert finished second, it looked like the third-place finisher was going to be Ashton Yates, but on the final go-around of the 13-lap race, Yates crashed out of the podium position, and MESA37 Racing Kawasaki’s Stefano Mesa finished third.
Lewis’ win, his third of the year, combined with Corey Alexander’s fifth-place finish, gives Lewis the points lead by two points, 157-155.
“Honestly, I didn’t expect to be this fast this weekend. The bike has just been feeling really good this weekend. The crew has been working flawlessly. No issues at all throughout the whole weekend, which has been nice. Last week like I said on the podium, I was down in Georgia on vacation with my girlfriend and her brother is a big workout guy and we went running every day. I even lost some weight. Just getting in better shape. It does a lot for my confidence. I just feel really good physically and mentally. I know the only way I can kind of win the championship is to get race wins. I was kind of in a deficit. Coming into this round, 12 points is quite a bit. Especially after that DNF, we gave up a lot of points. Just got to be smooth the rest of the year and keep trying for wins.”
Saturday’s Twins Cup race was one of best events of the day as former Minnesotan Kaleb De Keyrel returned to the track on which he learned to race and got the win aboard his Robem Engineering Aprilia. But it wasn’t easy.
Veloce Racing Aprilia rider Anthony Mazziotto came from the second row of the starting grid and led most of the 12-lap race until De Keyrel overtook Mazziotto in the final turn before the finish line.
While Mazziotto settled for second, Innovative Motorsports/Mike’s Imports Suzuki rider Teagg Hobbs rose from his second-row, fifth-place starting position to third and the final spot on the podium.
Kaleb De Keyrel – P1
“In the beginning of the race, Jackson (Blackmon) and Hayden (Schultz) were all riding really good. Mazziotto got away. I’m sitting back there kind of battling with these three and I’m like, ‘Oh man. He’s getting away, getting away, getting away.’ By the time I got by, he had a pretty big lead. I just was like, all right, I need to keep chipping away a little bit, a little bit, a little bit. But I kind of wasted a lot of tire catching back up to him. I could tell he was struggling, and I also knew I was struggling quite a bit, so on that last lap I knew I needed to try and plan an attack somewhere. But, like he said, going through turn one, he was sliding the rear and I was right here. So, his rear is sliding and I’m right next to him. It was just a fun race. It was pretty sketchy towards the end and we both had to just ride smart. You had to be super easy on the throttle because we didn’t have very much grip towards the end. So, I’m going to have to go back with the crew and try to figure out a better game plan as far as longevity of the tire for race two. I really wanted to win, just because I have a ton of friends and family out here supporting me, cheering me on. So, I really wanted to win for them. Honestly, the last lap, me and him are both sliding around so much, I wasn’t even focused on the win. I was just focused on keeping it upright, to be honest with you. It was really fun.”
Landers Racing Kawasaki rider Benjamin Gloddy won two SportbikeTrackGear.com Junior Cup races earlier this season, but he has finished second to Scott Powersports KTM rider Tyler Scott a lot more times than he would like.
On Saturday at Brainerd International Raceway, Gloddy and Scott engaged in another of their frequent battles for the win, and on the final lap of the race, it was Gloddy who overtook Scott in the final turn to get the win.
The victory moved Gloddy to within seven points of Championship leader Scott. Third place went to Veloce Racing Kawasaki rider Max Toth, who made his return to the class after suffering a hand injury in a crash at Ridge Motorsports Park at the end of June.
“This feels pretty good being back here. I was struggling with grip a lot through the race. Just tried to keep the tire underneath me. I was kind of having to ride it more like a bigger bike to get on the contact patch and drive off the corner. Great race with Tyler. We’ll make some changes. Hopefully, we can have a better race tomorrow.”
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