Just when things start to feel a bit too certain, the racing gods typically serve up a reminder of the unpredictable nature of the sport. Such was the case in the AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike season opener which capped off a thrilling opening day of GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing race action on Friday, March 15 at Daytona International Speedway.
Josh Hayes' overwhelming pre-race advantage was rendered meaningless less than five laps into the contest and the day's glory was shifted over to his young Monster Energy Graves Yamaha teammate, Josh Herrin, who walked away with the first National Guard SuperBike victory of his career.
Hayes pushed hard to hold onto first at the green light after earlier earning pole position, but that would ultimately prove to be his undoing. Hayes fended off quick starts from Yoshimura Suzuki's Martin Cardenas and Herrin in hopes of making an early escape.
Meanwhile, National Guard Jordan Suzuki's Roger Hayden, one of the few riders thought capable of pushing Hayes, saw his race end less than one lap into the opener. The Kentuckian lost the front in the chicane while running third and was unable to continue.
Hayes proved unable to break the pursuit of Herrin, who tucked his identically prepared R1 into the triple champ's draft and the factory Yamahas promptly stretched away from the pack while running in formation.
The building question whether Herrin would be able to make it a fight for the entire 15-lap distance became moot while working lap five as Hayes slowed dramatically and handed the lead over to his teammate. Hayes limped around for a period after that but eventually was forced to retire, the victim of clutch issues which he attributed to his aggressive launch off the line.
Hayes' misfortune didn't automatically hand the win over to Herrin, however. Despite building up a two-and-a-half-second advantage on Cardenas, without Hayes to lead the way and suffering from arm pump issues, Herrin was helpless as the Suzuki pilot gobbled up that gap. The reigning AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike champ closed right in on his former DSB rival, slotting in directly behind on lap 8 of 15.
Their position and proximity would remain basically unchanged to the flag from that point on. Cardenas attempted to line Herrin up for a final slingshot maneuver on the last lap but a big wheelie coming onto the banking cost him just enough of drive to allow Herrin to hold him off by 0.135 seconds at the flag.
"It feels really good," new race winner Herrin remarked. "I thought for sure Martin was going to get me on the last lap. I was trying to get him to pass me and it didn't work. I don't want to beat up on myself, but it almost doesn't feel like a win because Josh was out, Roger crashed. But it's still a win and the Monster Energy Graves Yamaha was working good. They've been putting in a lot of hours to get it working even better. I'm really grateful that the thing was fast enough to keep Martin behind me because I knew Martin was right there."
Runner-up Cardenas said, "Herrin and Hayes got away a little bit and I started pushing and pushing. I caught back up to Herrin midway through the race. My plan was to stay there and attack on the last lap because it's Daytona and the draft is very important. But this time it didn't work for me -- I kind of did the chicane badly and he got me a little too much. But second place is a good start to the season and we'll try to do a good job again tomorrow."
Foremost Insurance Pegram Racing's Larry Pegram enjoyed a successful start in his new partnership with Yamaha. Bouncing back from a big (and costly) crash on Thursday, Pegram rode a steady race to the podium in third.
"It's been a while -- I haven't been up here since 2010," the multi-time class race winner said. "I wanted to do well here and yesterday kind of threw me for a loop. I've already crashed the thing and did kind of the same thing once while I was testing. Being that this is my program, you crash these bikes and they get expensive. I was kind of down in the dumps last night, but my guys stepped up for me and said don't worry about that crash. I knew I had to get a good start. I was fifth and Roger fell so I was fourth. Once I got into third I kind of wanted to get through the race and get a podium. Tomorrow will be a bonus so we'll be able to really go for it."
Danny Eslick piloted the Jordan Suzuki to a lonely fourth in his maiden ride aboard the #23 GSX-R1000.
Behind him, second Yoshimura Suzuki entry Chris Clark narrowly edged Team Moto Venezuela Kawasaki's Robertino Pietri and Team Hero EBR's Geoff May following a race-long tussle for fifth.
Motorsport.com Motul Fly Racing's David Anthony took eighth while another three-way battle decided ninth. KTM/HMC's Taylor Knapp claimed the position, finishing just 0.108 seconds ahead of teammate Chris Fillmore, with Team AMSOIL/Hero EBR's Aaron Yates another 0.002 seconds back in his debut on the EBR 1190RS.
The champ will have an opportunity to get his revenge and go to work on his early championship deficit on Saturday morning as the AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike stars return to the high banks at 11:00 a.m. tomorrow for the second race of the 2013 premier class campaign.
Saturday's SuperBike final will be aired Sunday night on SPEED in a broadcast set to begin at 9:00 p.m. ET/6:00 p.m. PT.
In the AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike series, Cameron Beaubier claimed pole for the 72nd DAYTONA 200 on Friday. Beaubier, on board his Yamaha Extended Services/Graves Yamaha YZF-R6, dominated the field to set a best time of 1:49.612 on the 3.51-mile traditional motorcycle course in the afternoon session. The 20 year-old topped a front row of teammate Garrett Gerloff, Bobby Fong of Triple Crown/RMR, and Jake Zemke of Desmo Veloce for the 57-lap contest.
Beaubier led most of the session by a wide margin, eventually ending up with more than a second's advantage over the rest of the field when the session ended. Beaubier won the Rolex Daytona Cosmograph traditionally awarded to the DAYTONA 200 pole winner handily, but his rivals are expecting to give him a tougher task on Saturday.
"This morning, conditions weren't good but in the afternoon, the temperatures came up. I got a good draft on the straightaway at the finish," said Beaubier.
The front row offers a varying level of rider experience. Veteran Zemke is a former DAYTONA 200 winner while Gerloff has never competed in the 200-mile race before.
Row two is packed with some of the best young riders in the country. J.D. Beach of RoadRace Factory heads up the second row, along with Meen Motorsports' Jake Lewis, last year's winner Joey Pascarella on the Riders Discount Triumph and LTD Racing's Huntley Nash.
The sighting lap for the 72nd DAYTONA 200 began at 12:40 p.m. local time Saturday. The race will be televised on SPEED in a next-day delayed broadcast beginning at 1:30 p.m. ET/10:30 a.m. PT on Sunday.
In AMA Pro Motorcycle-Superstore.com SuperSport race one, Stefano Mesa won a closely contested event on the Motosport.com entry, winning a draft-fest by 0.026 over David Sadowski, Jr. Hayden Gillim took third place on the Team 95 bike in a photo finish which had to be confirmed by high-speed camera.
Mesa said, "It feels great. These guys rode a great race. It came down to the last lap and came down to the banking. I tried to get it up front and it worked out for us. I hope to win some more this year and I think this is a good start to the season."
After winning at Elkhart Lake last season, today's win marked the Colombian's second career AMA Pro victory.
"It was a wild one from my seat, too," said David Sadowski, Jr. Sadowski ran down the lead pack and nearly took victory in the 10-lap race.
Matt Sadowski earned fourth ahead of RoadRace Factory's Tomas Puerta, the polesitter who led much of the race before being shuffled back late. Sebastiao Ferreira, finishing sixth, was just 0.274 behind the winner on his BP Racing machine.
Mark Miller, Jr. was seventh, just behind the lead pack. The Mar Del Auto rider finished ahead of Cody Wyman (Harv's H-D).
The AMA Pro Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Series opener more than lived up to the lofty pre-race expectations of a thrilling battle for the first victory of the 2013 GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing season. Eleven riders took the fight to the checkered flag, with as many as eight riders running side-by-side on the banking as they jockeyed for position throughout the seven-lap affair.
On the final lap, Eco Fuel Saver/Scrubblade/Bartel's Harley-Davidson's Tyler O'Hara and Revolution Performance/Millennium Technologies' Kyle Wyman once again demonstrated why they are regular contenders for victory in the class, showcasing some serious strategic acumen.
Sitting several positions out of first as they started the final run to the flag, Wyman and O'Hara built up steam as they utilized the draft to blast past a succession of opponents. Wyman rushed into first with the checkers in sight, but O'Hara made one final slingshot maneuver and stole the win away at the stripe.
"It was crazy," race-winner O'Hara said. "It was almost like riding a Pro Single on a mile. It was hairball and I'm just happy everybody rode respectfully... My main goal was to come out of here with some good points and we did.
"Coming onto the banking I was in like sixth or seventh and I told my dad I thought I could win from around sixth. I was like 'slingshot -- engaged!'
"It's all about putting yourself in the right place at the right time. It feels really good to come out of here with a win."
Rossmeyer's Harley-Davidson's Bobby Fong came home in third in a race that saw the top 10 riders separated by a meager 0.792 seconds.
Rossiter's Harley Davidson's Michael Corbino finished fourth and Canadian Steve Crevier rounded out the top five, followed by defending champ Michael Barnes, who got shuffled down the order in the chaotic final drafting battle. NJMP winner Shane Narbonne was seventh, followed by pole winner Travis Wyman, Gage McAllister and Eric Stump completing the top ten. Ben Carlson was originally scored fifth, but was later disqualified for failing to comply with post-race technical inspection.
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