Saturday’s action during the Suzuki SuperBike Challenge at Auto Club Speedway saw AMA Pro National Guard American SuperBike and AMA Pro Racing Daytona SportBike presented by AMSOIL pick up right they left off after last month’s Daytona season opener.
After a major delay caused by high sustained and gusting winds from the East, teams, riders, and series and track officials pulled together to get in three thrilling races before the sun set on another phenomenal day of action around the 2.36-mile Southern California speedway road course.
After a brief morning warm-up session for the Daytona SportBikes, it was determined that conditions would not allow any further on-track activities until the wind and gusts subsided.
As the officials met with the riders, owners and crew chiefs, a number of scenarios were discussed and once the wind started to subside, a short warm-up session was run in preparation for the National Guard American SuperBike race. After a short break to check and verify the conditions were acceptable for racing, the SuperBike race started just short of two hours late.
At the start, Jake Zemke on his Daytona winning No. 54 National Guard Jordan Suzuki jumped ahead of the No. 23 Brand Jordan Suzuki teammate of pole sitter Aaron Yates heading into turn one.
No. 10 Team Iron Horse BMW/ESP rider Chris Peris took a fall in turn one before continuing, but the remainder of the 22-bike field made it through the opening lap without incident.
No. 72 Foremost Insurance Ducati rider Larry Pegram ran third, followed by fast-starting No. 21 M4 Monster Energy Suzuki rider John Hopkins.
Back in seventh, No. 4 Team Graves Yamaha rider Josh Hayes got down to business and started working his way up to the front. He and Hopkins battled lap after lap, while up front the action was too wild to even follow.
Blake Young, riding his #22 Rockstar Makita Suzuki, was in the middle of the Zemke, Yates and Pegram battle, soon to be joined by Hayes.
At times, one or two riders would pull out a slight lead and then immediately the lead pack was right back at it, making major moves heading into turn one and continuing all over the 21-turn circuit.
As the front group battled, Hayes was working his way to the lead and eventually took it on lap eleven. Hayes managed to pull a slight gap as Young ran wide and lost ground to the lead group. Soon thereafter, Yates had to abort the chicane in turn one and rejoined without losing touch with the leaders.
By lap 15 of the 21-lap final, the first four had broken away, with a slight lead for Hayes. He was quickly reeled in by the battling group and Zemke was running as hard as he could to take the lead back on lap 16.
As the race wound down, each rider seemed to have a strong shot at the win before Hayes dropped back, making it a three-horse race of Yates, Pegram and Zemke. Pegram made the pass for the lead in the infield section on lap 18 and held on for a popular and hard fought victory, followed by Zemke, Yates and Hayes.
After the delay for the windy conditions, the riders said noted the wind at the end of the infield back straight and into turn one but decided to put on one of the best races anyone has ever seen at Auto Club Speedway.
Pegram paid tribute to his wife and entire team as he talked about what it meant for him to put another win on the board after his three wins in 2009.
"To win against these teams with all the hard work everyone on our team puts in makes me so proud, I work as hard as I can on the track and my guys work every bit as hard as I do. I manage the team and my wife puts up with me but when we win I even get a little emotional because it means so much to all of us."
Zemke felt that his season can be even better as he gets used to his new team and the National Guard Suzuki package.
"Everything is still new for us and it is a work in progress, I know we can get the bikes better and as I learn to work with the team I know there is more to come."
Rounding out the top ten are the two Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s of Young in fifth and a quiet race for Tommy Hayden’s No. 22 Suzuki to sixth.
After his strong start, John Hopkins still finished a solid seventh, followed by Ben Bostrom on his No.
155 Pat Clark Motorsports Yamaha, Chris Ulrich on his No. 18 M4 Monster Energy Suzuki and No. 25 David Anthony riding the Aussie Dave Racing Suzuki, recovering nicely after their transporter awning was damaged by the high winds early in the morning.
The second National Guard American SuperBike race will be the final race of the weekend tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. local time. Be sure to check your local listings for SPEED’s coverage of this weekend’s racing.