The second of three 2009 AMA Pro Road Racing events in California will take place this weekend, May 15 – 17, at Infineon Raceway in the Napa Valley where the Kawasaki Superbike Showdown presented by Supercuts will feature five AMA Pro road races and more.
Headlining the weekend schedule will be dual feature races for AMA Pro National Guard American Superbike presented by Parts Unlimited and AMA Pro Daytona SportBike presented by AMSOIL on Saturday and Sunday. Also on the card are the up-and-coming West-division riders of the AMA Pro SuperSport presented by Shoei division. The Kawasaki Superbike Showdown is Round 5 of the 2009 AMA Pro Road Racing season and the middle event in a trio of weekends in the Golden State that started at Auto Club Speedway (AMA Pro Suzuki Superbike Challenge, March 20 – 22) and wraps up Independence Day weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix, July 3 – 5).
Flag-to-flag coverage of the four featured Infineon races, as well as SuperSport highlights, will be showcased on the new AMA Pro Prime Time show on SPEED in consecutive episodes on Saturday, May 23rd and 30th at 10 p.m. ET (7 p.m. PT).
Respective American Superbike and Daytona SportBike Championship leaders Mat Mladin (No. 7 Rockstar/Makita Yoshimura Suzuki GSX- R1000) and Jamie Hacking (No. 88 Monster Energy Attack Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R) will lead a strong entry of top riders and teams in the premier classes to the 2.32-mile Infineon road course that is a favorite with fans and competitors alike.
AMA Superbike Showdown
Mladin last won at Infineon in 2007 when he swept both of that event’s American Superbike races and it won’t be a surprise if he does it again this weekend. The crushing Australian has been dominant and undefeated all season and comes to Infineon with 220 points and an unprecedented streak of seven wins in the first seven races of the season, in addition to winning every pole. Mladin leads American Superbike in every statistical category this season and is part of a powerhouse Rockstar/Makita Yoshimura Suzuki team that also includes Tommy Hayden (No. 22 Rockstar/Makita Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000) and Blake Young (No. 79 Rockstar/Makita Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000).
Hayden is second in the standings with 143 points and gave Mladin one of his toughest challenges of the year at Auto Club in March in addition to battling for the lead in the majority of this year’s races. He has four top-three podium finishes this season, highlighted by consecutive second-place finishes at both Auto Club finals and Race 1 at Road Atlanta.
Young even racing at Infineon could be the story of the weekend as the 21-year-old suffered severe injuries to his left pinkie and ring finger after an early accident in Race 2 at the most recent event at Barber Motorsports Park two weeks ago. Despite the incident, Young’s best results have come in the last two races he has finished with seconds in Race 1 at Barber and the Sunday finale at Road Atlanta in early April. Young will train on a bicycle this week and will see how he feels on his Suzuki Friday in opening practice at Infineon in hopes of racing the entire weekend.
Geoff May (No. 54 National Guard Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000) is third in the American Superbike Championship with 122 points and his best showings have been three third-place finishes in Race 1 at Auto Club and both rounds at Road Atlanta. His Jordan Suzuki teammate Aaron Yates (No. 23 Brand Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000) had his best finish of the season in the Sunday final at Barber where he placed second. He is seventh in the championship standings with 98 points.
Yamaha’s American Superbike riders Ben Bostrom (No. 2 Yamaha Motor Corp. USA Yamaha R1) and Josh Hayes (No. 4 Yamaha Motor Corp. USA Yamaha R1) have seen their best results in the last two events at Road Atlanta and Barber. Bostrom had his best weekend of the year with dual third-place finishes at Barber and jumped to fifth in the championship with 113 points, his highest ranking of the year. Hayes has season-best fourth-place finishes in the Sunday finals at Road Atlanta and Barber and has finished no lower than fifth in his last four races. He is sixth in the championship with 111 points.
The only Ducati rider and a pair of competitive privateers round out the top 10 in the American Superbike championship standings. Ducati’s Larry Pegram (No. 72 Foremost Insurance/Pegram Racing Ducati 1098R) finished sixth in both finals at Barber for his best showings since placing fourth in the Daytona opener and third in Race 1 at Auto Club. David Anthony (No. 25 Aussie Dave Racing Suzuki GSX-R1000) is ninth in the standings with 69 points and Taylor Knapp (No. 44 Taylor Knapp Racing Suzuki GSX-R1000) is 10th with 68 points. Anthony’s pair of eighth-place finishes at Auto Club is his best showing of the season while Knapp has a top result of seventh in the Sunday finals at Auto Club and Road Atlanta.
Neil Hodgson (No. 100 Corona Extra Honda CBR1000RR) was expected to make his first start at Barber since finishing second in the Daytona opener but elected to sit out one more race after a motocross training injury put him on the sidelines that last two months. If Hodgson isn’t ready for Infineon, expect 2008 Infineon Superstock race winner Jake Holden to once again fill in. Holden has five top-10 finishes in six starts with Corona this year, highlighted by fifth in his first race with the team at Auto Club. Holden will likely ride his own No. 59 Holden Racing Honda CBR1000RR if Hodgson returns while another rider to watch in the Honda camp is Aaron Gobert (No. 96 Team Trifoglio Racing Honda CBR1000RR).
Other riders to keep an eye on include Chris Ulrich (No. 18 Roadracingworld.com Suzuki GSX-R1000), Anthony’s teammate Hawk Mazzotta (No. 121 Aussie Dave Racing Suzuki GSX-R1000) and Scott Jensen (No. 61 Moto Garage Racing Suzuki GSX-R1000) A lone Buell is also entered for Shawn Higbee (No. 11 Higbee-Racing.com Buell 1125R).
A total of 28 entries are set for the AMA Pro American Superbike class and the weekend’s first round starts at 3 p.m. local time on Saturday. Race 2 goes down at 4 p.m. on Sunday and closes the 2009 Kawasaki Superbike Showdown weekend. Both American Superbike races will be 22 laps for 50 miles.
Daytona SportBike Battle
While Mladin has taken firm control in American Superbike, two riders have scored three wins apiece so far in Daytona SportBike while Hacking has taken the points lead for the second time this year after the Barber weekend.
Hacking has finished out of the top five just once this season and even that was a competitive seventh-place showing in Race 1 at Road Atlanta. His best results are second from the pole in both finals at Auto Club, where he left leading the championship for the first time, and he also led the most race laps on Sunday at Barber on his way to his third runner-up showing of the year. He retook the championship lead with 146 points, three ahead of Danny Eslick (No. 9 GEICO Powersports/RMR Buell 1125R) and just five points clear of Colombian rider Martin Cardenas (No. 36 Team M4 Suzuki GSX-R600).
Eslick and Cardenas have each won three races and no other rider has stood on the top podium spot in victory lane this year since Bostrom won the season-opening Daytona 200 from the pole in a one-off Daytona SportBike start. Eslick swept both finals one race later at Auto Club while Cardenas went two-for-two one event ago at Barber. In between, the pair of young talents split the Road Atlanta weekend, where Cardenas charged from 10th on the grid to win Race 1 on Saturday and Eslick out muscled Josh Herrin (No. 8 Team Graves Yamaha YZF-R6) for the win in the Sunday final.
Herrin was on pace with Hacking’s consistency until a 30th place showing Sunday at Barber, but he finished no lower than sixth this season prior to that race. He finished second to Bostrom at Daytona, scored another runner-up showing in Race 2 at Road Atlanta and heads to Infineon fifth in the championship with 114 points. Herrin’s 16-year-old teammate Tommy Aquino (No. 6 Team Graves Yamaha YZF-R6) has been competitive in both qualifying and races this season and scored his best finish of the year in the Saturday final at Barber where he crossed the line in fifth place.
Eslick’s teammate Michael Barnes (No. 34 GEICO Powersports/RMR Buell 1125R) in turn posted his season-best finish of fifth Sunday at Barber and rounds out the top 10 in the championship standings with 64 points, one spot ahead of Aquino who has 61 points. Cardenas teams with the equally quick Jason DiSalvo (No. 40 Team M4 Suzuki GSX-R600) who finished third in the Daytona 200 and Race 1 at Auto Club before posting a season-best second-place finish from the pole behind Cardenas in the Saturday final at Barber. DiSalvo is fourth in the championship with 117 points.
Chaz Davies (No. 57 Factory Aprilia /Millennium Technologies Team Aprilia RSV) is sixth in the standings with 90 points, and like Barnes and Aquino, saw his best result of the year at Barber with a strong fourth place in the Sunday final.
Jake Zemke (No. 1x Erion Racing Honda CBR600RR) and his Canadian teammate Chris Peris (No. 10 Erion Racing Honda CBR600RR) saw their best results this season at Road Atlanta. Zemke led the most race laps and finished fourth on Saturday and Peris finished third in the Sunday final. Zemke is seventh in the championship with 74 points and Peris ranks ninth with 64 points.
The Erion Honda riders are split in the standings by Steve Rapp (No. 48 Bazzaz/Pat Clark Motorsports Yamaha R6) who was yet another rider to breakout at Barber where he finished a season-high sixth on Saturday. Rapp heads to Infineon with 67 points.
Hacking’s teammate Roger Hayden (No. 95 Monster Energy Attack Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R) – Tommy Hayden’s youngest brother – made his first start of the year at Road Atlanta and promptly went out and finished second to Cardenas in Race 1. He currently doesn’t factor into championship contention after missing the year’s first three races but is a rider to watch throughout the Kawasaki Superbike Showdown weekend.
Two riders pulling double duty in both premier classes will be racing Buells in Daytona SportBike. Higbee (No. 11 Higbee-Racing.com Buell 1125R) is racing his own Buells in each of the top classes while Knapp will ride both his Suzuki GSX-R1000 American Superbike and the No. 54 Latus Motors Racing Buell 1125R Daytona SportBike for the third consecutive event. Knapp pressured Peris to the line in the Sunday final at Road Atlanta in his debut weekend with Latus and once again teams with Josh Bryan (No. 45 Latus Motors Racing Buell 1125R).
Race 1 for AMA Pro Daytona SportBike will be Saturday at 4 p.m. local time with the weekend’s second race for the division getting the green flag at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Like American Superbike, both races are 22 laps for 50 miles.
SuperSport West Back In Action
An early-season championship battle is forming up in the West division of AMA Pro SuperSport presented by Shoei. SuperSport is divided into East and West Championships and Infineon will be Round 3 and the first race since March for the riders battling it out in the West.
Tyler Odom (No. 46 Erion Racing/Pro Honda Oils & Chemicals Honda CBR600RR) won Daytona’s season-opening dual East/West championship race and finished fourth in Round 2 at Auto Club to stay on top of the standings all season. He heads to Infineon with 48 points, 13 ahead of nearest challenger Clint Shobert (No. 26 American Honda/Pro Honda Oils & Chemicals Honda CBR600RR) and the West title battle could easily play out as a race between the two young Honda riders this season. Shobert – son of Hall of Famer Bubba Shobert – edged Odom for third at Auto Club and the duo is expected to once again be among the race-winning contenders at Infineon.
Chris Clark (No. 48 Bazzaz/Pat Clark Motorsports Yamaha YZF-R6) and Garrett Willis (No. 80 Mach 1 Motorsports/Arai Yamaha YZF-R6) also firmly factor in the early-season SuperSport West title battle. Clark is third in the championship with a pair of sixth-place finishes in the opening rounds while Willis finished second in his first race of the year at Auto Club and is fourth in the championship with 25 points.
Bryce Prince (No. 74 Arai/NJK Leathers/Cycle Gear Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R) joins Odom and Willis as California riders who rank in the top five standings in SuperSport West. Prince is fifth in the championship with 16 points after finishing fifth at Auto Club.
Several riders who are not officially competing in the SuperSport West championship could be among the favorites for the victory at Infineon. Leandro Mercado (No. 92 Monster Energy Attack Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R) won the SuperSport East race at Road Atlanta and could repeat at Infineon. Russ Wikle (No. 5 Roadracingworld.com Suzuki GSX-R600) is another interloper from the East who could be in the hunt for the win at Infineon. Wikle is third in the SuperSport East standings and joins Odom and Clark as riders who will also be racing in the Daytona SportBike division at Infineon.
A proving ground series, SuperSport is reserved strictly for up-and-coming riders between the ages of 16 and 21 who compete on 600cc sport bikes that are only minimally modified from what you will find at your local Suzuki, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Honda or other motorcycle dealerships.
The green flag is scheduled to drop for the only 18-lap (40 miles) SuperSport race of the weekend at 3 p.m. on Sunday.