Southern Comfortable: Hayes Rallies to Win Big Kahuna Title at Road Atlanta
BRASELTON, Ga. (April 22, 2012) - Reigning AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike Champion Josh Hayes responded to rival Blake Young's shocking Saturday victory with a Road Atlanta triumph of his own to conclude the Triumph Big Kahuna Atlanta presented by Dunlop Tire and LeoVince.
While Young's wins are almost always taken in dramatic fashion (and none more so than yesterday's), Hayes' more often come in the form of domination.
The Monster Energy Graves Yamaha star imposed his will on the field on Sunday early, breaking the Yoshimura Racing Suzuki pilot's pursuit with a string of blisteringly quick laps while still in the race's developing stages. Hayes pushed his No. 1 Yamaha YZF-R1 around the 2.55-mile circuit with a string of laps faster than his pole time, including a 1:24.922, which stood as nearly a half-second better than his qualifying best.
Hayes worked his advantage up at a clip around a half-second per lap during the stretch, ultimately pushing his margin of victory to 5.214 seconds in the one-sided affair.
After scoring Yamaha's first-ever AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike victory at Road Atlanta, the weekend's 'Big Kahuna' said, "I'm excited about it. This has always been a pretty good track for me and I've always had pretty good speed here. I'm glad to be able to put one together this afternoon and put some good strong laps down.
"Yesterday's race was the first time we came in and did a good debrief and tried to make some improvements. This morning I rode the bike and thought it was the right direction to go. We decided to stick with it for the race and we were able to put down some good laps. "It's not how I expected the race to go -- I expected a race a lot like yesterday. It's a lot easier on my ticker to be able to get away a little bit and ride by myself."
Young was pulled free of the remainder of the group in his early chase of Hayes and rode a lonely race from there. He did his best to stay in touch with his title rival and was rewarded with a second-placed points haul in the end. The result was a relatively welcome one considering Young's Sunday chances came under threat when he felt something wrong with his racebike on the warm-up lap.
"I was a little bit sore when I woke up this morning, but I got warmed up and stretched out and felt pretty good by the time I got on the bike this morning," Young said. "I was ready for the race but we had a little bit of drama with the bike when I rolled out. I had to come in and get the other bike and was just happy they let me grid up in the second spot this time instead of putting me on the back row. "I found it a little difficult to settle in and it just took a minute for Josh to click off some quick laps and get his gap. There wasn't much I could really do with it then."
A spirited battle raged behind to decide the final podium position. Hayes' Monster Energy Graves Yamaha teammate, Josh Herrin, held down third pretty much throughout the 20-lap content, but never with any significant breathing space as he felt the constant pressure of National Guard Jordan Suzuki's Roger Hayden.
Hayden made an attempt on the brakes entering Turn 10 at the end of the back straight on the penultimate lap, but Herrin held strong and solidified third as he came out on top of a side-by-side swing through the chicane. "I didn't see Roger until the second-to-last lap in Turn 10," Herrin said. "That gave me a little boost for the last lap because I knew he was right there. It was a really good race -- I had fun just keeping Josh and Blake in my sights for the first seven laps or so. That felt good. I'll go home and work on my strength -- I just need to be a little stronger to throw these bikes around."
Another showdown decided fifth. A big pack of riders aboard varied machinery contested the spot with Larry Pegram narrowly laying claim to it aboard the Foremost Insurance Pegram Racing BMW S1000RR. The National Guard SuperBike vet finished fractions of a second ahead of RidersDiscount.com/Vesrah Suzuki's Taylor Knapp, KTM/HMC's Chris Fillmore, and Attack Performance Kawasaki's Steve Rapp.
Team Hero EBR's Danny Eslick fell off that tussle late to accept ninth with Young's Yoshimura Racing teammate, Chris Clark, completing the top ten. Team Amsoil/Hero EBR's Geoff May was running a solid fifth early before being forced to pit with a mechanical issue. The home track hero returned to climb his way back up to 13th in the end. Meanwhile, Jordan Suzuki's Ben Bostrom was an early DNF, crashing out on the race's second lap.
Hayes' second victory of the season has catapulted him back in front of Young in the 2012 AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike title fight, 116-110.
Martin Cardenas, riding the GEICO Suzuki, took his 18th career AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike win in a race-long battle with Tommy Hayden on the Y.E.S. Graves Yamaha. Cardenas had his hands full with Hayden but the Colombian pulled away in the last two of 20 laps as he eased a slight gap of 1.220 seconds to sweep Road Atlanta's GoPro Daytona SportBike races.
"Today's race was a lot tougher than yesterday," said Cardenas, who now leads the points. "Tommy was on my back the entire race and he wasn't backing up. I rode as hard as I could to try to put some gap between us but it wasn't possible. So I tried to maintain a very good rhythm to the end. Two laps to the end we found some lappers. I was in front so I passed them first and they held him a little bit. It gave me a little gap and it was enough to secure the position and win the race."
Hayden upped the ante and had a quicker pace throughout after conceding he could not hang with the Suzuki rider on Saturday.
Dane Westby (M4 Broaster Chicken Suzuki) earned another podium finish when he took third. Westby had a good fight with Jake Zemke (Ducshop Ducati) around the scenic Georgia circuit, with Westby earning the spot with another late-race push. Aside from Cardenas, Zemke was the only other rider to officially lead a lap during today's contest. The Californian surged to the front from the start to lead the 30-bike field across the stripe on the first circuit.
After a Saturday crash, Jake Gagne (RoadRace Factory/Red Bull) managed to earn the top-five finish that had eluded him recently. Bobby Fong (Meen Motorsports) took the top spot in a three rider pack that included JD Beach (RoadRace Factory/Red Bull) and LTD Racing's Huntley Nash.
Jake Lewis won his first AMA Pro race when he was declared victor in the AMA Pro Motorcycle-Superstore.com SuperSport race at Road Atlanta. Lewis, who battled with James Rispoli yesterday, was engaged in another fight 'til the end. Lewis and Rispoli traded places several times and looked to be even around the 2.55-mile circuit. Rispoli happened to be leading Lewis when the race was red flagged just after the two crossed the line on lap 12, but Lewis had led the last completed lap and thus took the victory.
Dustin Dominguez (Castrol Triumph) took third place less than six seconds back, ahead of Hayden Gillim (RoadRace Factory/Red Bull) and Kneedraggers.com rider Stefano Mesa.
Tyler O'Hara led home a Bartel's Harley-Davidson 1-2 in the weekend's AMA Pro Vance & Hines XR1200 Series race. O'Hara, who started from pole, was engaged in a three-man scrap for the lead with teammate Michael Barnes and Harv's Harley-Davidson's Steve Rapp deep into the contest. Rapp, however, encountered a mechanical issue while leading the pack with just over two laps to go, leaving O'Hara and Barnes to settle the race between themselves.
Rapp's loss was Kyle Wyman's gain. The KLR Group/Vesrah rider crashed in oil on the race's original opening lap, resulting in a short red flag period. Wyman switched to his backup machine, forcing him to start from the back of the field when the group lined up for a complete restart. He then pulled a mini-Blake Young, racing forward and ultimately landing on the bottom step of the podium.
AMA Pro Road Racing will next head west for Round 3 with a stop at scenic Sonoma, Calif. The Great Clips West Coast Moto Jam will take place at Infineon Raceway in two weeks time, May 4-6. For tickets and event information, please visit www.infineonraceway.com.
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