Jake Gagne’s domination of the MotoAmerica HONOS Superbike season continued at the Pittsburgh International Race Complex, claiming his 12th straight victory on Saturday, to kick off the weekend in style, after qualifying on pole.
As is the norm for the runaway championship points leader, Gagne hit the front from pole position, was never headed, and ended up crossing the finish line 11.3 seconds over second place.
“It went really smooth for me,” Gagne said. “I could tell there was a bit of drama behind me. There were those laps where my pit board would grow all of a sudden. After yesterday, we had a lot of weird weather and I think we all were kind of caught by surprise at how hot the track was. When these Dunlops get that hot, they almost don’t last quite as long as you think. I had a couple moments there. I was trying everything I could to try to break that gap. If I got off the first lap in first, I had to try to go because I know these guys are coming. I knew they were going to be close in the race, looking at times. I had just a couple tenths here and there, really, but come race time anything can change. So, I had to be ready for these guys to be right on my neck. But it was a smooth race. I saw, like I said, there was some drama behind me, and I could kind of just inch away a little bit. Half second here, half second there. But this is the type of track, even though I had a nice lead right there, not too far in the beginning, you can’t lollygag around. You can’t let up, because that’s when something bad happens, especially this place. It is tricky. It can catch you out. So, I just tried to keep my zone and focus and at the same time kind of try to think what we can do a little bit better tomorrow, because these boys are going to be coming. They don’t want to finish second or third. Hopefully, we’ll keep the progress going. Hats off to this team because Yamaha 1, 2, 3 is amazing. It shows how awesome these boys are rolling.”
It takes a lot for someone to overshadow 12 wins in a row, but on a sunny Saturday at Pitt Race, Toni Elias came pretty close to doing just that. In just his second race of the year and his first-ever outing on a Yamaha YZF-R1, Elias came off the couch to finish second on Josh Herrin’s Fresh N’ Lean Attack Performance Yamaha. Elias, who first threw his leg over the Yamaha on Friday, slotted in behind his temporary teammate Gagne and finished there.
Elias ended up some three seconds ahead of Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz. The South African had survived a hectic first lap with nemesis Loris Baz, the Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati New York-backed Frenchman slamming into Scholtz at least twice in the first handful of corners. Baz would come under attack from M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Cameron Petersen straight away with France clashing with South Africa for a third time in three corners. On the third lap, Baz was gone after crashing out of third place.
From there, Petersen held the spot for a few laps before being passed by Scholtz, who would hold on to third for the rest of the race with Petersen finishing fourth.
With Petersen fourth, fifth place went to a lonely Scheibe Racing BMW’s Hector Barbera with the Spaniard 17.9 seconds behind Petersen and eight seconds ahead of Panera Bread Ducati’s Kyle Wyman in sixth. FLY Racing ADR Motorsports’ Bradley Ward was seventh and M4 ECSTAR Bobby Fong was eighth after starting the race on pit lane and finishing lap one in 26th place.
Ninth place went to Altus Motorsports’ Jake Lewis, the Kentuckian winning the Superbike Cup race in the process as the top finishing Stock 1000. Hayden Gillim, in his first Superbike race of the year on the Franklin Armory/Disrupt Racing Suzuki, was 10th overall and second in the Superbike Cup.
Honos Superbike Race 2
Call it what you will: Lucky 13 or a baker’s dozen. It matters not. What matters is that Fresh N’ Lean Attack Performance Yamaha’s Jake Gagne continued his complete and utter domination of the 2021 MotoAmerica HONOS Superbike Series with his 13th successive win today at Pittsburgh International Race Complex.
But this one was closer. After besting his teammate-for-the-weekend Toni Elias on Saturday by 11.3 seconds, things got a bit tighter on Sunday for Gagne as Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz cut that gap in half, ending up 5.7 seconds behind the runaway championship leader.
“Yesterday, I know there was a lot of drama behind me, and I got through a lot faster than I should have compared to the pace that these guys had,” Gagne said after win number 13. “I knew it was going to be closer today. I got off to another good start. Put my head down for a couple laps. I think it was when Mat (Scholtz) finally got into second place, there were two laps or three laps where my pit board was dropping. I was like, ‘Oh, man. He’s pushing me. I got to go.’ I had to drop the times back and drop off a couple 10ths. When I had two or three seconds, it’s still enough to where I can’t do anything crazy, can’t make any mistakes, just hit my marks. I had fun. I love this track, so I’m happy we came out of here with some great results. I had a lot of fun. We had a good turnout. These boys don’t make it easy. We have a little bit of a cushion, and it looks easy, but it’s not easy. One little mishap and we could be off, and these boys could be right there with us. I know we’ve only got two rounds left, six races, so it will be battle royale. I know these guys want to win. I know we want to win, too. So, I’m looking forward to battling it out. I know we’ve been really fortunate this year to have a lot of wins. It’s pretty surreal. It will be a hard-fought last six races and these guys know. I know they’re ready for the fight. I think we’re all looking forward to it.”
Scholtz, who had made some tweaks to his Yamaha after Saturday’s third-place finish, started strong and was behind Elias until making a pass on the Spaniard and then doing his best to set off after the always fast-starting Gagne.
Third place went to M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Bobby Fong, the three-time HONOS Superbike winner a year ago earning just his third podium of what has been a difficult season for the Californian.
After finishing second in his Yamaha debut on Saturday, Elias slipped to fourth on Sunday, capping off a highly successful weekend in just his second weekend of racing in 2021. Elias ended up some nine seconds behind Fong and five seconds in front of Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati New York’s Loris Baz, the Frenchman rebounding from a crash in Saturday’s race to finish fifth.
M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Cameron Petersen was a lonely sixth, well clear of Scheibe Racing BMW’s Hector Barbera with the Spaniard beating Panera Bread Ducati’s Kyle Wyman on the last lap dash to the flag by just .117 of a second.
Altus Motorsports’ Jake Lewis was ninth and the first of the Superbike Cup riders, the Kentuckian beating his neighbor Hayden Gillim by two seconds with Gillim rounding out the top 10 in his first Stock 1000 race of the year.
Gagne’s 13th career HONOS Superbike victory puts him in a tie for 15th on the all-time AMA Superbike win list with Blake Young and Doug Polen. The win also gives him a 93-point lead over Scholtz in the championship point standings, 325-232. Petersen is third with 184 points, 19 ahead of his teammate Fong. Baz rounds out the top five with 149, just four points more than the absent Josh Herrin.
M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Sean Dylan Kelly came into Pitt Race with a six-race winning streak and a total of nine wins on the season. Meanwhile, defending Supersport Champion and HONOS HVMC Racing Kawasaki rider Richie Escalante has two wins this year, and he has finished second to Kelly seven of the nine times that he has won.
But, in race one at Pitt Race, Escalante finally turned the tables on Kelly, broke his winning streak, and notched his third victory this year. In this race, Kelly finished second, while Landers Racing Yamaha’s Rocco Landers followed up his second-place finish at Brainerd with a third-place result in race one at Pitt Race
“For sure, I’m very happy. I finished too much in second place, so I’m happy to be back in first. Very difficult weekend. I lost practice one yesterday (due to a technical issue with the bike), so I needed to step by step feel better with my bike. I’m not a qualifying rider. I like the races. Every race, I feel good. I think Sean’s (Kelly) very fast during all the race, so I learned a couple things. I’m just waiting, waiting, and then in some moments, especially in the chicane it’s very difficult to find a good line when you’re behind riders or every lap I just lose time there. I’m scared to touch the curb and grass. For sure, I need to continue improving for tomorrow. The most important thing is to start winning races, and we’ll see. It’s a championship and these are the last rounds, so I’m very happy. Thanks to all my team who support me. Keep pushing.”
Supersport Race 2
Sunday’s Supersport race was a chance for either HONOS HVMC Racing Kawasaki rider Richie Escalante to do the double and get his second win of the weekend or for M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Sean Dylan Kelly to resume his winning ways after Escalante broke Kelly’s six-race winning streak on Saturday.
As usual, it was far from easy, though, as Escalante shadowed Kelly throughout the entire race. Kelly led 12 laps of the 16-lap event, but Escalante took over the lead on lap 12 and held the position almost to the end. On the final go-around, Kelly, who had been carefully studying Escalante’s racing lines, overtook Escalante in the only place he thought he could make it stick. And he was right. Kelly took the checkered flag by just .064 of a second over Escalante.
Benjamin Smith, who was in third place for most of the race, faded back in the pack as the race approached its conclusion, and Landers Racing/Tyrant Designs/Yamaha/Yamalube’s Rocco Landers emerged as the third rider to stand on the podium.
Sean Dylan Kelly
“Something about this one felt pretty extra special. It was a really good day. Yesterday was tough. Honestly, I think I ran a really good race yesterday. I did everything I could. I think Richie (Escalante) just played it a little smarter and was having a good pace behind me and was just able to read me and study me a bit more and get me on the last couple of laps. I made a mistake, so I wasn’t able to get by him again yesterday on the last lap. Today definitely different strategies, a few different things. It played out well. I led most of the race, but I tried different rhythms there with my pace to see how Richie would react, and I saw he was with me the whole time. About five laps to go, he went by me again and at that point I said, ‘Okay, I’m going to try and do the studying this time.’ It worked out well. Richie was going really fast. He did some really consistent mid-43’s, which was really fast. I was able to push my bike to that same pace. I was able to study him. Honestly, that first flier he did, I had a little gap at first, but I was able to gather it and get right behind for the last couple laps. I knew, with two laps to go, exactly where I was going to do the pass the final lap. I’m pretty proud of that pass. Proud that I was able to defend the last few corners after that because that’s where he was able to get me yesterday in the last few corners. I was able to get it done, and honestly it just felt so good. I think I did the right work from yesterday to today. Just considering where we are in the season and where we are standing in the championship, this is really important for us. I’m just really excited to be going into New Jersey feeling like this with these races. Obviously, it’s an important win for us for many, many reasons. It just feels good to get this done.”
Coming into this weekend, Altus Motorsports Suzuki’s Jake Lewis had said that he was looking forward to Pitt Race because it’s one of his favorite tracks. And in Sunday’s Stock 1000 race, the current championship leader showed exactly why it’s a favorite racecourse for him.
Lewis started from the pole and led every lap of the 10-lap race to notch his fourth win of the season and extend his championship lead to 20 points over Corey Alexander.
Travis Wyman Racing BMW rider Travis Wyman started second on the grid and maintained his runner-up position all the way to the checkered flag, finishing 1.442 seconds behind Lewis. The surprise of the podium was third-place finisher Hayden Gillim who replaced Jason Farrell aboard the Franklin Armory/Disrupt Racing Kawasaki.
Gillim had competed in the three-round King Of The Baggers Championship, but he hasn’t competed in any of MotoAmerica’s sportbike race classes for nearly two years. Also, he had to work on Friday before driving to Pittsburgh, so he missed Stock 1000 first practice and provisional qualifying. Given all that, it was remarkable that Gillim finished third.
“It was a good race, Lewis said. “That was my plan to get out front and try to go. I felt like I had a little bit of pace on these guys all weekend to do 43’s pretty easy. This race was so tough because my pit board, I wasn’t getting a gap. I was just pushing honestly as hard as I could. I looked back once there. I was telling Travis (Wyman), I didn’t know who it was when I looked back. I was just trying like heck to break him. I was honestly a little tired. I was trying to relax my arms and stuff and focus on breathing. I was just focused on putting down those 43’s. But it feels good to win. I didn’t know where Corey was, if he crashed, or where he finished, but it’s a nice points weekend for us, especially in the Superbike cup and this class, as well. It’s a good weekend.”
The final race of the day on Saturday was the Twins Cup class’s lone event of the weekend. Veloce Racing Aprilia rider Anthony Mazziotto, who joined the team midway through the season, won his second straight race, and in this one, Mazziotto took the checkered flag by more than three seconds over second-place finisher Hayden Schultz, who was aboard his Hayden Schultz Racing Yamaha.
Incidentally, Schultz was moved up from third to second after Teagg Hobbs was disqualified following a post-race inspection of his bike. And, with Schultz moving up to second, Righteous Racing Aprilia’s Jody Barry rounded out the podium.
“Looking at the times this morning, I thought it was going to be him (Teagg Hobbs) and me up front,” said Mazziotto. “Everyone was just going so fast in the race. I was just trying my hardest to keep them 48’s down in the low 48.5, as low as I could keep the 48 just the best I could try to do. Just trying to break them guys. I looked back a few times and saw I had pulled a little bit of a gap, so the last couple laps of the race it was just smooth sailing for me. I actually saw someone filming coming over turn two, and I gave him a quick ‘peace’.”
The points race is tight in the SportbikeTrackGear.com Junior Cup class as the season approaches its conclusion, and Landers Racing Kawasaki rider Ben Gloddy, who is second in the championship, knows that he needs wins over points leader Tyler Scott to overcome his deficit.
Saturday’s race one started out like it was going to be another lap-by-lap battle between second-place Gloddy and race leader Scott. But, as the laps wound down, Gloddy managed to overtake Scott. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, a group of riders that included Joe LiMandri Jr., David Kohlstaedt, and Gus Rodio joined the fray.
At the checkers, it was Gloddy who got the win, with Bauce Racing/Cybersafe Solutions/JL62 Racing Kawasaki’s LiMandri Jr. finishing second and just .358 of a second behind Gloddy, while Veloce Racing Kawasaki’s Kohlstaedt finished third and only .259 of a second behind LiMandri Jr.
“It was an awesome race, I tried to keep the pressure on Tyler (Scott) as much as I could. I guess me and Tyler just weren’t going fast enough to pull away. I almost lost it there at the end. I had a couple moments with the front end. I was struggling with some chatter. We’re trying to get that sorted for tomorrow. I was praying Joe (LiMandri Jr.0 didn’t draft me to the line. Luckily, he didn’t, and I came out with the win.”
Junior Cup Race 2
SportbikeTrackGear.com Junior Cup race two was similar to Supersport race two in that the two combatants at the top of the championship continue to battle back and forth, and each of those protagonists took race wins at Pitt Race.
Landers Racing Kawasaki rider Ben Gloddy, who had won Saturday’s race while Scott Powersports/KTM rider Tyler Scott faded and finished fourth, faced a much stronger challenge from Scott in race two.
In fact, after Scott overtook Gloddy on lap two, the pair swapped the lead back and forth until three laps from the end of the 10-lap race when Scott stabilized his lead despite Gloddy trying everything he could to get around him. Gloddy made one more attempt to take the lead on the final run to the checkers, but Scott ultimately took the victory by .061 of a second.
Bauce Racing/Cybersafe Solutions/JL62 Racing Kawasaki rider Joe Limandri Jr., who recorded his first podium of the 2021 Junior Cup season with a second-place finish on Saturday, finished third on Sunday to make it a double podium for him at Pitt Race.
“It was pretty disappointing yesterday because we lost a bunch of championship points. We kind of fell back this weekend in the championship. We still have the lead. Yesterday I didn’t have the same aggression as I did today, and I kind of fell back right there at the end. I didn’t have enough laps to get back to the front and get crucial points that I needed. Today was a great race. The pace was definitely a lot faster, and I gave it my all. I knew I had to get to the front and try and pull away on the last lap.”
The first race of the weekend was round two of the Royal Enfield Build. Train. Race. Championship, and CJ Lukacs followed up her win at Brainerd International Raceway with a victory at Pitt Race.
As a matter of fact, the entire podium at Pitt Race was identical to the one at Brainerd, with Becky Goebel finishing second and Trisha Dahl coming home in third. The seven women who make up the program each custom-built their own Continental GT 650 racebikes, which they are racing in the three-round series.
“I wasn’t comfortable from the first time out all day yesterday, I struggled a lot with that, and I couldn’t get my bike to turn. I was frustrated, for sure. It was hard. But, at the end of the day and then in qualifying this morning, I felt 200 times better than I did at any point yesterday. I definitely felt way more confident coming into that.”
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