Monster Energy Attack Kawasaki’s Mercado Wins in AMA Pro SuperSport Debut.
Monster Energy Attack Kawasaki’s Leandro Mercado earned his first win during his debut in the AMA Pro SuperSport race on Sunday at Road Atlanta. With only one appearance in the first two races, the win soars him into third overall in the eastern region points for the class. In the AMA Pro SportBike race, Jamie Hacking earned a top-five finish, while Roger Hayden went down and finished 31st. Mercado also rode in the race, finishing 13th after a 15th place start.
Number One For Mercado
Mercado got out to a great start from his seventh spot on the grid and was in the lead by the third lap. A handful of riders, including Mercado, fell when it started to rain on the back section of the track. Eventually the red flag came out on the same lap and Mercado was able to come in and receive limited repairs. With the bike not fully recovered from the incident, Mercado rode smoothly and capped off an up-and-down weekend with an impressive win on the Ninja ZX-6R.
"I am very, very happy to get the win today," said Mercado. "It has been a crazy weekend, but this is great. My team has really done a great job fixing up my bike after a few crashes this weekend. It’s been fun and I am looking forward to the rest of the season."
Although this isn’t Mercado’s first time standing on top of the podium, it’s his first career AMA Pro SuperSport win. Mercado won two AMA Rookies Cup races last year on a 125cc machine and now he has proven a good fit on the 600cc Ninja ZX-6R motorcycle. "I really like the bike," said Mercado. "It has a lot of power and handles really well. I am excited for the rest of the series."
This weekend, Mercado was pulling double duty as he raced in his primary class, the AMA Pro SuperSport East and in the AMA Pro SportBike class. As of now, Mercado plans on focusing his efforts on the AMA Pro SuperSport East for the rest of the season in hopes of earning his first professional championship.
Hacking rode a hard-fought race to finish fifth for the day in the AMA Pro SportBike class.
"It was an interesting race," said Hacking. "A lot of people went down or went backwards and I tried to capitalize as much as I could. I did the best to earn points for the championship because that is what we are concerned with."
Hacking improved on his finishing position from Saturday’s race and is looking forward to an upcoming test session to help progress the Ninja ZX-6R before the next race at Barber Motorsports Park in May.
"We did make small improvements this weekend and I really think the test at Infineon Raceway will be a huge help in getting more set-ups for future races. We were running pretty good here, but we are still learning the machine"
Getting Back Into The Rhythm
With Road Atlanta being Hayden’s first race back, the weekend went fairly well with each session out on the track being better than the last. Although he crashed during Sunday’s SportBike race, it was a productive first weekend back with the team.
"I wish I could have brought home a win for the guys this weekend," said Hayden. "I am very happy to be back and every time out on the track I felt better. The more seat time I get the better. The guys did great. I didn’t have any problems and if I needed changes, the guys were on it."
Saturday Night Outing
Just up the road from the races at Road Atlanta, another racing series took to the track in Commerce, Ga. The AMA Dragbike Series brought out fans from all around including drag race fan Hacking. After races finished Saturday, Hacking and a few friends made it to Atlanta Dragway to watch fellow Kawasaki rider Rickey Gadson compete.
One Month Off
The Monster Energy Attack Kawasaki boys have roughly four weeks until the next race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.
"It’s a good time to regroup and make sure we have everything together before the next race," said Hacking. "It will be great to get out and test, but I’m looking forward to Barber."