A full holiday weekend of close competition and enthusiastic celebrations brought the 2009 AMA Pro Road Racing season to a spectacular close with the inaugural AMA Pro Superbike Championships at New Jersey Motorsports Park (NJMP), September 4 – 6, and the AMA Pro Road Racing Awards Banquet, which was held Labor Day Monday, September 7, at the Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City.
Record seven-time AMA Pro National Guard American Superbike presented by Parts Unlimited Champion Mat Mladin and AMA Pro Daytona SportBike presented by AMSOIL Champion Danny Eslick earned 2009′s top rider titles but were just two of this season’s champions. A total of eight rider, team and manufacturer champions were crowned in New Jersey while several other race winners and top-three championship performers from the 2009 season were also honored at the Atlantic City Awards Banquet.
AMA American Superbike
Mladin, who retired at the conclusion of the season, clinched the unprecedented seventh American Superbike title one race before the New Jersey finale on the strength of a series-high total of 10 wins in the year’s 20 races. The dominating Australian ripped off a string of seven consecutive wins to open the year and also scored a series-leading eight poles in 11 event weekends this season. Mladin’s opening win streak stretched from March’s opener in Daytona through both weekend finals at Barber Motorsports Park in early May. He also scored victories in the Sunday final at Infineon Raceway and Race 1 at Road America before scoring the final win of his career in the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on the Fourth of July weekend.
Mladin shared title honors with his No. 7 Rockstar/Makita Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000 team members, who won the 2009 AMA Pro American Superbike Team Championship. Mladin and Rockstar/Makita Yoshimura were also the anchor performers in a strong season that saw Suzuki capture the 2009 AMA Pro American Superbike Manufacturer Championship.
Josh Hayes emerged as Yamaha’s top American Superbike rider this season and mounted a late season charge on the No. 4 Yamaha Motor Corp. USA Yamaha R1 to lock down second in the rider championship during the New Jersey finale. Second only to Mladin’s 10 victories, Hayes scored seven wins, including impressive sweeps in three of the year’s final four doubleheader weekends. The run of doubles included New Jersey, the Suzuki Big Kahuna Nationals one event earlier at Virginia International Raceway (VIR) and the Honda Super Cycle Weekend at Mid-Ohio in July. Hayes also put a stop to Mladin’s opening race win streak, and Suzuki’s multi-year lock on the American Superbike division, with a breakout victory in Race 1 at Infineon in May.
Mladin’s teammate Tommy Hayden finished third in the 2009 AMA Pro American Superbike Championship after ranking second for the majority of the season on the No. 22 Rockstar/Makita Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000. Although winless in his Superbike career, Hayden finished in the top three in half of 2009′s races. That record included the Saturday final at New Jersey where Hayden earned his seventh second-place finish of the year.
AMA Daytona SportBike
Eslick won the AMA Pro Daytona SportBike presented by AMSOIL crown on the strength of six victories in the season’s 20 races. His title came in partnership with his No. 9 GEICO Powersports/RMR Buell 1125R team members, who won the 2009 AMA Pro Daytona SportBike Team Championship.
Eslick and the No. 9 RMR Buell team were on the podium in half of this season’s races, which included a pair of doubleheader weekend sweeps at Auto Club Speedway in March and Mid-Ohio later in the season. He also won on Saturday in the Tornado Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka and Sunday at Road Atlanta in April. The strong season by Eslick and his team also kept Buell in a year-long manufacturer battle with Kawasaki and Yamaha.
Like his counterpart Hayes in American Superbike, a late-season tear by Josh Herrin on the No. 8 Team Graves Yamaha YZF-R6 helped Yamaha clinch the AMA Pro Daytona SportBike Manufacturer Championship. Herrin swept both the New Jersey and Big Kahuna VIR weekends to win the year’s final four races. The impressive run not only sealed the manufacturer title for Yamaha but also vaulted Herrin to second in the final AMA Pro Daytona SportBike rider standings.
Daytona SportBike race-win leader Martin Cardenas was Eslick’s toughest championship challenger this season. The seven-time race winner and his No. 36 Team M4 Suzuki GSX-R600 team were actually tied with Eslick and the No. 9 RMR Buell squad for first in the championship heading into the Big Kahuna weekend, only to see Cardenas suffer a compound fracture of his right hand in a Friday morning practice crash. The tough Colombian raced at VIR despite the injury but ultimately withdrew from the New Jersey finale. Despite the disappointment, Cardenas still finished third in Daytona SportBike rider points and joined Eslick in some dominating 2009 race weekend performances. He also made 10 podium appearances this season with the highlights being back-to-back event weekend sweeps at the Infineon and Barber weekends. His victory in Race 1 at Road Atlanta was the first Daytona SportBike victory of his career, and Cardenas also won the Sunday finals at Road America and at Topeka.
AMA SuperSport: Double Titles
The AMA Pro SuperSport presented by Shoei division also saw its pair of 2009 champions crowned in Atlantic City, but not before respective champions Josh Day, on the No. 4 Team E.S.P. Yamaha YZF-R6, and No. 96 Ricky Parker Racing/Team Graves Yamaha YZF-R6 rider Ricky Parker put on a thriller in the New Jersey finale. The two riders swapped the lead repeatedly lap after lap before East Champ Day ultimately won the race by .460 of a second over West Champ Parker.
The win was Day’s fourth straight, which led all SuperSport riders this year. He sealed the East title one race before the New Jersey finale at VIR. Parker won two races and wrapped up the West championship in that division’s finale at Topeka in August. Day’s four-race win streak came at Mid-Ohio, Topeka, VIR and New Jersey while Parker earned his victories at Infineon and Laguna Seca.
J.D. Beach (No. 73 Rockwall Performance/Red Bull Yamaha YZF-R6) finished second in the SuperSport East final standings and two-time race winner Leandro Mercado (No. 92 Monster Energy Attack Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R) was third. In the West division, Bryce Prince (No. 74 Clawson Motorsports Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R) finished second while Clint Shobert (No. 26 American Honda/Pro Honda Oils & Chemicals Honda CBR600RR) rounded out the top three in the final standings.
Next up on the 2009 SuperSport schedule is the National Championship Shootout at Daytona International Speedway, October 16 – 18. The lucrative non-points race is open to any rider that has run at least one SuperSport race this season, with the winner earning the title of SuperSport National Champion.
- The spectator audience at the season-ending AMA Pro Superbike Championships at NJMP was the biggest crowd to see an AMA Pro Road Racing feature event in 2009. Although NJMP officials do not release attendance figures, riders, teams, media and officials onsite were in agreement that the large and enthusiastic crowd was second only to the spectator turn out for the international MotoGP Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on the Fourth of July weekend. An equally energetic audience was also in attendance at the AMA Pro Road Racing Awards Banquet on Labor Day Monday evening at the Tropicana Casino and Resort in Atlantic City.
- Mladin is retiring with unmatched totals of seven AMA Pro American Superbike championships, 82 career victories and 63 pole positions. He entered the season as the all-time leader in each of the three categories and further solidified in 2009 his place as perhaps the best American Superbike rider of all time. The 2009 championship is Mladin’s first American Superbike title since 2005 with his other titles coming in 2004, 2003, 2001, 2000 and 1999.
- Despite Mladin’s strong season, parity returned to American Superbike in 2009. Three different riders won races for the first time since 2006 while three different manufacturers scored victories for the first time since the 2004 season. Larry Pegram (No. 72 Foremost Insurance/Pegram Racing Ducati 1098R) joined Suzuki’s Mladin and Yamaha’s Hayes in the 2009 win column with victories on Sunday at Road America and a sweep of both finals in Topeka.
- When Hayes rode his Yamaha to victory in the Saturday final at Infineon, the win was the first for a non-Suzuki motorcycle in American Superbike since Jake Zemke won on a Honda on June 18, 2006, at Miller Motorsports Park. Suzuki’s streak spanned 55 races. The victory was also the first for Hayes in American Superbike competition.
- While Mladin and the No. 7 Rockstar/Makita Yoshimura team were the major contributors in Suzuki’s American Superbike manufacturer title, several other Suzuki teams and riders stepped in to provide the points in seven races. Mladin scored for Suzuki with each of his 10 wins and second-place finishes at Road America Race 2, VIR Race 1 and the Sunday final at New Jersey. Hayden earned Suzuki’s points with podium finishes in the Saturday finals at Infineon and New Jersey and in the Sunday races at Mid-Ohio, Topeka and Virginia. First-year Yoshimura rider Blake Young (No. 79 Rockstar/Makita Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000) was the first Suzuki home on Saturday at Topeka in third place while Aaron Yates (No. 23 Brand Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000) scored for Suzuki with a runner-up placing in the Saturday final at Mid-Ohio.
- Yoshimura Suzuki, Yamaha Motor Corp. USA, Pegram Racing Ducati and Jordan Suzuki filled the majority of victory lane podiums this season, but at least one privateer team hit the box in 2009. Michael Laverty (No. 8 Celtic Racing Suzuki GSX-R1000) finished a strong second to Mladin in the Saturday final at Road America despite Celtic Racing’s limited schedule. The Sunday final at Topeka also saw a pair of privateers score career-high finishes with Jake Holden (No. 59 Holden Racing Honda CBR1000RR) finishing fourth just ahead of an equally impressive Taylor Knapp (No. 44 Taylor Knapp Racing Suzuki GSX-R1000) in fifth.
- Honda also hit the American Superbike podium in the season-opening race at Daytona where Neil Hodgson (No. 100 Corona Extra Honda CBR1000RR) finished second. What appeared to be a promising season went away just days later, however, when Hodgson was sidelined for the next six races after being injured in a motocross training accident. Hodgson dealt with the lingering effects of his injuries for the rest of the season but ended the year on a high note with a fifth-place finish in the Sunday final in New Jersey, his best result since the Daytona opener.
- Suzuki, Yamaha, Ducati and Honda all hit American Superbike podiums in 2009 but several other motorcycles raced or debuted in the class. In addition to a handful of teams and riders that campaigned the Buell 1125R, the Buell 1125RR also made its debut with Knapp at Mid-Ohio. Two of the 1125RR machines also ran competitively in the New Jersey finale with Cory West (No. 53 Erik Buell Racing Buell 1125RR) joining Knapp. Another debuting motorcycle was the KTM 990 Super Duke that made its first AMA Pro start with Tri-Valley Moto and rider Eric Gulbransen (No. 394 Tri-Valley Moto KTM 990 Super Duke) at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
- Winners in AMA Pro SunTrust Moto-GT competition, Richie Morris Racing’s championship-winning ascent to the Daytona SportBike class this year was a testament to AMA Pro Road Racing’s commitment to a deliberate and attainable ladder system to the next levels of the sport for teams and riders in major-league North American motorcycle road racing.
- Yamaha’s Daytona SportBike manufacturer title was anchored by Herrin’s four season-ending wins and a pair of victories by Ben Bostrom (No. 1s Team Graves Yamaha YZF-R6) who was victorious in the only two races he contested in the class. Bostrom won the season-opening Daytona 200 by Honda and the Daytona SportBike race at the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix in addition to finishing fifth in his full-time American Superbike championship bid. Yamaha led the Daytona SportBike manufacturer standings after Bostrom’s victory in the Daytona opener but didn’t take the points lead again until Herrin won on Saturday at New Jersey. Herrin’s win in the Sunday final then sealed the crown for Yamaha. Tommy Aquino (No. 6 Team Graves Yamaha YZF-R6) and Steve Rapp (No. 48 Bazzaz/Pat Clark Motorsports Yamaha YZF-R6) also earned manufacturer points for Yamaha this season.
- Honda scored a single Daytona SportBike win with Canadian rider Chris Peris (No. 10 Erion Racing Honda CBR600RR) who was victorious in the wet Saturday final at Road America. Peris and teammate Jake Zemke (No. 1x Erion Racing Honda CBR600RR) were also competitive in the New Jersey finale where Zemke ended the year strong with his second runner-up finish of the season in the Sunday final. Zemke also finished second in the Sunday final at Road America.
- Jamie Hacking (No. 88 Monster Energy Attack Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R) and Chaz Davies (No. 57 Factory Aprilia /Millennium Technologies Team Aprilia RSV1000R) were other top Daytona SportBike competitors in 2009. Hacking led Kawasaki’s charge and the early-season point standings and ultimately finished fourth in the championship. He was one of the most consistent riders in the series and half of his 10 top-five finishes were second-place efforts. Davies was the premier Aprilia rider in Daytona SportBike and picked up a second runner-up result on Saturday at New Jersey to add to his second-place finish at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
– Jason DiSalvo (No. 40 Team M4 Suzuki GSX-R600) was another fast rider who didn’t hit the win column in 2009, but he was the hands-down top performer in Superpole qualifying. DiSalvo won a class-leading six Superpoles this season and also recorded six podium race finishes. Another notable achievement in Daytona SportBike qualifying was Knapp, who shocked the more established teams by taking his first career Superpole at VIR on the No. 54 Latus Motors Racing Buell 1125R. Knapp’s best race results were four fourth-place finishes.