DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 18, 2014) - At New Jersey, Jake Gagne wrapped up his first AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike championship, winning one race and finishing second in the other in last weekend's doubleheader. Gagne marked his stamp on the 2014 season as he continues the upward trajectory of his racing career.
Gagne showed up at the Kawasaki Devil's Showdown at New Jersey Motorsports Park in the midst of a close title fight with a hot young rider and left the Garden State after making a statement in a pressure-filled weekend. No stranger to championship hunts, the RoadRace Factory/Red Bull pilot previously won the highly contested Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup in Europe. He showed up at New Jersey calm and collected then went about his business in his usual professional manner. The season was especially competitive, with five riders winning races and a dozen or more racers capable of putting their machine on the podium at any race. Gagne was consistently quick and it paid off over the course of the year. Gagne won when he could (with three victories, tied for the most in class) but grabbed maximum points when he couldn't.
Several riders experienced hot streaks along the way, but the Californian finished first or second in the last four races, when it counted most. His combination of speed and temperament paid off big time. Gagne may have given the impression everything was smooth, but it wasn't always. The team changed to Penske suspension before the season, so previous data wasn't necessarily relevant. Gagne also had arm pump issues early and had surgery following the Alabama round.
Jake Gagne on the #32 RoadRace Factory/Red Bull Yamaha YZF-R6 clinched the 2014 AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike Series championship last weekend, ending the season with three wins and eight podiums out of the 10 races held this season. AMA Pro Road Racing photo by Brian J. Nelson.
In New Jersey, Gagne took second place to Dane Westby in the first race, clinching the championship when second place points man Jake Lewis had bike issues during the red flag. On Sunday, he won in the dry to end the season in style. His pace was hot and he grew a gap while riders behind him diced for position. For Gagne, the future is bright, indeed. His smooth riding style should adapt to bigger bikes, too. "It was a huge weight off our shoulders to get it done," said Gagne. "I'm totally stoked for my guys and for the team. This is awesome. I mean, there's no better way to thank your guys for their hard work than by winning the championship. We set out with one goal this season, to win races. If we did that then the championship would come. We didn't win as many as we wanted (but) in the end we got the championship. Ending the season with a win is amazing," he added after his 2.562-second victory on Sunday. "Dane and Garrett (Gerloff) and those guys were really haulin', and I could see on my pitboard that I needed to turn it up a little bit."
Westby also had a huge weekend in New Jersey. 'The Wolverine' grabbed the opportunity to leap to third in points on the Yamalube/Westby Racing entry. His pole, a win on Saturday, and third on Sunday rounded out a great year as Westby cemented his status as a class contender on a brand new team. Westby won three races, equal with Gagne as best in class in 2014. He rebounded from a tough start, with a crash at Daytona while running at the front and then a machine failure in the next race at Road America, to charge up to the top three via some fast riding.
Westby said he couldn't sleep the night before Saturday's races. Never a great qualifier, Westby surprisingly put it on pole for the races and then was a demon in the wet, running away on Saturday in both legs of the red-flagged race. "I still have the claws," said the Oklahoman. "It was extremely treacherous out there, even with the rain tires. Until the very end, it was tough even with the bike straight up. Eric Knight, my Ohlins guy, put a new shock in at the last second for the wet conditions. I am glad we had a couple of laps to try things out before the race started. The crew has really worked hard for me all year and this morning they really came through again. They gave me a great bike in the dry and in the wet. I felt like I was on fire."
Jake Lewis came into the season eying the title. He and his Motosport.com/Meen Yamaha team entered the weekend trailing by seven points. An unfortunate machine issue left him in pit lane when the race restarted after a red flag and his championship hopes evaporated. Still, it didn't take away from Lewis' season, one that saw him win twice (his first AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike victories) and fight back into the points. The teenager proved he is a hot commodity in the paddock. Lewis charged back on Sunday, fighting for the second spot before ultimately finishing a close fourth.
Gerloff closed out the year with fourth on Saturday and second on Sunday. The Yamaha Extended Service/Monster Energy/Graves Yamaha pilot was strong late in Race 2, making his way through Westby and Lewis on the last laps. "That was a fun race, to be in that group with Dane. I was glad to get at the front of those guys and finish second," said Gerloff, sixth in the final standings. "The year didn't go quite the way I'd hoped, but I have to thank my Y.E.S./Monster Energy/Graves/Yamaha team for giving me an awesome R6 all season long."
Eslick emerged as fourth in points. The DAYTONA 200 win was a highlight of his season and 'Slick' also took a championship in the AMA Pro Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Series, but a Sunday morning tumble didn't help him hold off Westby in the points. "Crashing the Harley wasn't a good thing. My thumb is sore and my shoulder is pretty banged up," said Eslick.
Eslick's fifth and sixth held off JD Beach in the standings. Beach, on board the other Yamaha Extended Service/Monster Energy/Graves Yamaha entry, earned eighth and fifth in New Jersey. J
Jake Zemke earned his first podium of the year on Saturday. The veteran made the most of tough conditions to put the M4 Motorcycle Racing squad on the box for the first time in 2014. "It's been a tough year for us and we wanted to get up on the podium before the year was out," said Zemke. "I wanted to get up here to reward all the guys who worked hard all season." Zemke dedicated the performance to his stepson who passed away this spring. He ended the year seventh in points.
Castrol/Triumph/Sportbike Track Time's Jason DiSalvo couldn't back up his Mid-Ohio win this time out, but the New York native secured eighth in the championship, ahead of fellow New Yorker Kyle Wyman with Kyle Wyman Racing. Blake Young finished tenth on the GN Gonzalez entry. Young topped the best rookie in class, Tomas Puerta of RoadRace Factory/Red Bull. Another young rider, Joe Roberts of M4 SportBikeTrackGear.com, earned his best result of the year on Saturday with sixth place.
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