Round four of 2009 AMA Pro Road Racing heads to Barber

Championship leaders Mat Mladin (No. 7 Rockstar/Makita Yoshimura Suzuki GSX- R1000) and Danny Eslick (No. 9 Bruce Rossmeyer’s Daytona Racing/RMR Buell 1125R) will lead a full field of AMA Pro Road Racing teams and riders to Barber Motorsports Park this weekend for the 7th annual Honda Superbike Classic. Over 130 AMA Pro motorcycles are entered for the event that takes place at the picturesque Barber Motorsports Park circuit, May 1 – 3.

The packed weekend of AMA Pro Road Racing is headlined by AMA Pro National Guard American Superbike presented by Parts Unlimited and AMA Pro Daytona SportBike presented by AMSOIL, which will run dual feature races on Saturday and Sunday. Also on the card are the up-and-coming riders of the AMA Pro SuperSport presented by Shoei division and a two-hour enduro for AMA Pro SunTrust Moto-GT.

The Barber Motorsports Park weekend will be the second consecutive AMA Pro Road Racing event on a permanent road course in the Southeast after the series visited Road Atlanta for the AMA Pro Suzuki Superbike Showdown earlier this month. The 2009 series opened with a pair of races on the superspeedway road courses at Daytona International Speedway (Daytona 200 Week by Honda, March 4 – 6) and Auto Club Speedway (Suzuki AMA Pro Superbike Challenge, March 20 – 22).

Flag-to-flag coverage of the four featured Barber Motorsports Park races as well as SuperSport and SunTrust Moto-GT highlights will be showcased on the new AMA Pro Prime Time show on SPEED in consecutive episodes on Saturday, May 9 at 10 p.m. ET (7 p.m. PT) and in a special Sunday airing on May 17 at 10 a.m. ET (7 a.m. PT).

American Superbike

Undefeated American Superbike championship leader Mladin has 157 points and has not lost a race at Barber since 2006. He has been the clear class of the field this year while his Yoshimura Suzuki teammates Tommy Hayden (No. 22 Rockstar/Makita Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000) and Blake Young (No. 79 Rockstar/Makita Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000) have been among the few riders able to keep pace with their Australian teammate this season. Hayden is second in points with 112 and has finished out of the top three only once in the year’s first five races. Young, in turn, scored his first podium finish of the year with a second-place finish in Race 2 at Road Atlanta where he also led his first laps of the season. He is fourth in the championship standings with 89 points.

Geoff May (No. 54 National Guard Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000) is third in the American Superbike Championship with 92 points after finishing third in three of the last four races, including both rounds at Road Atlanta. His Jordan Suzuki teammate Aaron Yates (No. 23 Brand Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000) has yet to crack the top three this season but had a best finish of fifth one race ago at Road Atlanta. Yates won three straight Superstock races at Barber from 2006 through last year.

Yamaha’s American Superbike contenders include Ben Bostrom (No. 2 Yamaha Motor Corp. USA Yamaha R1) and Josh Hayes (No. 4 Yamaha Motor Corp. USA Yamaha R1). Hayes is fifth in the championship standings with 77 points and is coming off of his best weekend of 2009 at Road Atlanta where he scored fifth- and fourth-place showings. Bostrom is sixth in the standings with 71 points and has one top-five race finish so far this season.

In addition to the top Suzuki and Yamaha contenders, several strong Honda, Ducati and Buell teams are heading to Barber.

Neil Hodgson (No. 100 Corona Extra Honda CBR1000RR) will make his first start since finishing second in the Daytona opener. He later suffered a motocross training injury that kept him on the sidelines until this weekend. Hodgson was capably replaced by Jake Holden who will return to riding his own No. 59 Holden Racing Honda CBR1000RR at Barber while another Honda rider to watch is Aaron Gobert (No. 96 Team Trifoglio Racing Honda CBR1000RR).

Ducati’s Larry Pegram (No. 72 Foremost Insurance/Pegram Racing Ducati 1098R) has season-best showings of fourth in the Daytona opener and third in Race 2 at Auto Club Speedway one event later. Pegram will again lead the Ducati camp at Barber where he will be joined for the second-straight race by Daytona 200 sixth-place finisher and Daytona SportBike regular Barrett Long (No. 29 Longevity Racing Ducati 1098R) who will also run in the American Superbike class.

Buell has been a top contender in Daytona SportBike this season, but a pair of the American-built bikes is also entered in the Barber American Superbike round. Shawn Higbee (No. 11 Buell 1125R) and Walt Sipp (No. 221 Walt Sipp Racing Buell 1125R) will each mount up on Buells.

Another entry of note is Celtic Racing which will make its first start since finishing ninth in the Daytona opener with Michael Laverty (No. 8 Celtic Racing Suzuki GSX-R1000). Two more Suzuki riders, David Anthony (No. 25 Aussie Dave Racing Suzuki GSX-R1000) and Taylor Knapp (No. 44 Taylor Knapp Racing Suzuki GSX-R1000) complete the top 10 in the championship standings.

A total of 30 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 Honda Superbike Classic weekend. Both American Superbike races will be 21 laps for 50 miles.

Supersize Daytona SportBike Field

As it has been all season long, the AMA Pro Daytona SportBike entry is the biggest of the four classes racing at Barber this weekend. A total of 54 Daytona SportBikes are heading to Alabama and the size of the field is complemented by a diverse line up of motorcycles and riders from around the world.

Bostrom won the season-opening Daytona 200 from the pole in a one-off Daytona SportBike race where young talent Eslick served notice he and the Buell team would be a force to be reckoned with in 2009. They proved it at Auto Club where Eslick and Buell swept both races and he went on to pick up another checkered flag in Race 2 at Road Atlanta. With three wins in five races, Eslick leads the championship standings with 109 points. Eslick teams with veteran race winner Michael Barnes (No. 34 GEICO Powersports/RMR Buell 1125R).

The year’s only other race winner is quick Colombian Martin Cardenas (No. 36 Team M4 Suzuki GSX-R600) who charged from 10th to win Race 1 at Road Atlanta. He 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. The M4 teammates are fourth and fifth in the championship with Cardenas at 81 points and DiSalvo with 77.

Jamie Hacking (No. 88 Monster Energy Attack Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R) is second in the championship with no finish lower than seventh all year. His 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. Both Hacking and Hayden have won in AMA Pro Road Racing competition at Barber in the past.

Hayes joined Bostrom in Yamaha’s four-rider effort in the Daytona 200, but the team’s full-season Daytona SportBike riders have proven they can carry their weight as well. Josh Herrin (No. 8 Team Graves Yamaha YZF-R6) and 16-year-old teammate Tommy Aquino (No. 6 Team Graves Yamaha YZF-R6) have been competitive in both qualifying and races this season. Herrin finished second to Bostrom at Daytona and moved to third in the championship with 96 points after another runner-up showing in Race 2 at Road Atlanta. He has finished no lower than sixth all year and won at Barber last year in AMA Pro SuperSport competition.

Jake Zemke (No. 1x Erion Racing Honda CBR600RR) finished 11th in the Daytona 200 and returned to racing with the leaders at Auto Club and Road Atlanta. He and Canadian teammate Chris Peris (No. 10 Erion Racing Honda CBR600RR) will once again be Honda’s flagship Daytona SportBike team at Barber, where Zemke won in Formula Xtreme last year. He has a best 2009 finish of fourth in Road Atlanta Race 1 where Peris in turn scored his top season finish of third in Race 2.

Other notables include Long (No. 29 Paradigm Racing Yamaha YZF-R6), Chaz Davies (No. 57 Factory Aprilia /Millennium Technologies Team Aprilia RSV), Steve Rapp (No. 48 Bazzaz/Pat Clark Motorsports Yamaha YZF-R6), Dane Westby (No. 213 Westby Racing/ Yamaha YZF-R6) and dozens more.

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 21 laps for 50 miles.

SuperSport East Big Entry

A strong entry of 30 young riders is entered for this weekend’s AMA Pro SuperSport presented by Shoei race. SuperSport is divided into East and West Championships and Barber will be the second-straight stand alone race for riders battling it out in the East.

Championship leader Joey Pascarella (No. 25 LTD Racing Yamaha YZF-R6) is the only rider in the series who has finished in the top three in the year’s opening races at Daytona and Road Atlanta. He finished second at Daytona and third in Georgia and has 46 points on top of the standings.

Other expected contenders include Kyle Wyman (No. 33 Harv’s Harley-Davidson Yamaha YZF-R6), who is second in the championship, and Road Atlanta winner Leandro Mercado (No. 92 Monster Energy Attack Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R). Wyman has 33 points while Mercado is a close third with 31 points.

Dustin Dominguez (No. 44 House of Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R) is contesting SuperSport East this year but that didn’t stop him from showing up at Auto Club in California and trouncing the West division competition. Ironically, he has struggled in both East races he has contested at Daytona and Road Atlanta, but a change in fortune could be in store this weekend.

Another rider to watch is Josh Day (No. 4 Kerker Racing Yamaha YZF-R6) who finished second at Road Atlanta after crashing out at Daytona. He has also swept the poles in both races and is tied for fourth in the championship at 27 points with Ryan Clay (No. 90 Cycle Nation Yamaha YZF-R6).

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 17-lap (40 miles) SuperSport race of the weekend at 3 p.m. on Sunday.

SunTrust Moto-GT Back At Barber

The AMA Pro SunTrust Moto-GT class debuted at Barber last year and will be back with a two-hour endurance race at 11 a.m. on Saturday. SunTrust Moto-GT It is the only class in AMA Pro Road Racing that features multi-class racing with teams of riders that share a single motorcycle in a race. As a result, SunTrust Moto-GT is the only series in AMA Pro Road Racing that features rider changes and refueling during planned pit stops.

Another distinguishing element is that Moto-GT features two classes of bikes racing at the same time for overall and class honors. The faster GT1 class features a line-up of motorcycles as diverse as Daytona SportBike with top machines from Aprilia, Triumph, Ducati, Kawasaki, Buell and Suzuki all set to do battle. The slightly smaller GT2 class features bikes from Kawasaki, Buell, Suzuki and Ducati.

Daytona winners Calvin Martinez and Jeff Purk (No. 20 Wisconsin Racing Ducati 848) and Road Atlanta victors Armando Ferrer and Rodolfo Ramirez (No. 69 Suzuki GSX-R600) lead the way in the bigger GT1 class.

In GT2, Touring Sport Ducshop Ducati heads to Barber leading the championship after a victory at Road Atlanta and second in the Daytona opener. Frank Shockley and Westby will ride the first-place No. 77 Ducati PS1000LE while Pete Friedland and Brad Phillips will race the team’s identical No. 38 machine. Westby is filling in for Ryan Elleby, who is recovering from surgery. The No. 77 squad has a four-point lead over Daytona winners Jay Springsteen and Nick Cummings (No. 9 Pair-A-Nines Kawasaki EX650), who also finished third at Road Atlanta.

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