AMA Pro Racing previews Laguna Seca
Highlighted by back-to-back races for AMA Pro National Guard American Superbike presented by Parts Unlimited and AMA Pro Daytona SportBike presented by AMSOIL that will cap three full days of action at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, AMA Pro Road Racing will share the world-stage spotlight this weekend with MotoGP at the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix, July 3 – 5.
A pair of 23-lap/50-mile sprints for AMA Pro Road Racing’s top divisions will follow Sunday’s MotoGP main. The Daytona SportBike race is scheduled to go off at 3:30 p.m. local time and will be immediately followed by the American Superbike race that will be the finale of the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix weekend at 4:15 p.m. Also on the card is a sprint for the West division riders of the AMA Pro SuperSport presented by Shoei class. That 18-lap/40-mile race is scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday. The AMA Pro Road Racing action from the 2.238-mile Mazda Raceway circuit can be seen in same-day coverage on SPEED on Sunday, July 5 at 9 p.m. PT (late Sunday/early Monday, July 6 at Midnight ET).
AMA American Superbike
American Superbike points leader Mat Mladin (No. 7 Rockstar/Makita Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000) remains the rider to beat heading to California and took just his second loss of the season one race ago at Road America. Mladin has amassed an AMA Pro Road Racing series-leading total of nine wins so far in 2009, including a streak of seven in a row to open the season. Mladin is also six-for-six in qualifying for the pole and leads the American Superbike class in every possible statistical category. He has a monstrous 110 point championship lead, 325 – 215, over Yoshimura Suzuki teammate and nearest challenger Tommy Hayden (No. 22 Rockstar/Makita Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000).
Hayden will be racing on the same event weekend as his younger brothers Nicky Hayden and Roger Hayden for the first time in 2009, but his focus will likely be firmly set on scoring his first career American Superbike victory. He has hit the podium in six of the year’s first 11 races and also led the most laps in Race 1 at Auto Club Speedway in March before finishing second to Mladin.
Blake Young (No. 79 Rockstar/Makita Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000) is the third Yoshimura Suzuki rider and shook off severe injuries to his left pinkie and ring finger in an accident at Barber Motorsports Park to finish fifth in his first race back at Road America. His season-best results came in the last two races before his incident and included seconds in Race 1 at Barber, the day before his spill, and the Sunday finale at Road Atlanta in early April.
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 both factored into the points races after some strong results in the last several races. Hayes broke both Mladin’s 2009 win streak and Suzuki’s multi-year lock on the American Superbike division with a breakout victory in Race 1 at Infineon Raceway. The win was part of a six-race run of top-five finishes and Hayes ranks fifth in the championship standings with 164 points heading to Mazda Raceway. Bostrom is third in the championship rankings after a strong run of four podium finishes in the last six races. The highlight was a second-place finish in Race 2 at Infineon and Bostrom heads to his native state of California with 187 points.
Splitting the Yamaha duo in the championship is the year’s only other American Superbike race winner. Larry Pegram (No. 72 Foremost Insurance/Pegram Racing Ducati 1098R) out-raced Mladin and the rest of the field one race ago at Road America for his first win in 10 years. He has finished in the top five in the last four races and also finished on the podium in Race 2 at Auto Club Speedway. Pegram is fourth in the championship standings with 180 points.
Geoff May (No. 54 National Guard Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000) and his Jordan Motorsports teammate Aaron Yates (No. 23 Brand Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000) rank sixth and seventh, respectively, in the American Superbike standings. May’s best finishes were three third-place showings in the year’s first five races while Yates visited victory lane for the first time this year one race ago at Road America with his own third-place showing.
Young is eighth in points and a pair of competitive privateers round out the top-10 in the American Superbike standings. David Anthony (No. 25 Aussie Dave Racing Suzuki GSX-R1000) is ninth in points on the strength of eight top-10 finishes in 11 starts, including the last five races. Taylor Knapp (No. 44 Taylor Knapp Racing Suzuki GSX-R1000) ranks 10th and his season has been anchored by seven finishes of ninth or better.
Neil Hodgson (No. 100 Corona Extra Honda CBR1000RR) has recovered from an early-season motocross training injury and scored a strong sixth-place finish in the Sunday final at Road America. It was the former World Superbike Champion’s best showing since taking second in the Daytona opener, and he has made just five starts this season. Jake Holden (No. 59 Holden Racing Honda CBR1000RR) filled in capably for Hodgson and is continuing to race now on under his own team name but flying Corona colors. Another rider in the Honda camp is Aaron Gobert (No. 96 Team Trifoglio Racing Honda CBR1000RR).
Other riders to keep an eye on this weekend at Mazda Raceway 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). The weekend also marks the return of California-based rider Reno Karimian (No. 48 Team Reno Suzuki GSX-R1000) who will be making his first start since recovering from right arm and shoulder injuries sustained in the Auto Club event. Karimian broke four bones in his right shoulder, fractured his upper right arm and completed three months of physical therapy after surgery in preparation for his return.
A total of 37 entries are set for the AMA Pro American Superbike class which is scheduled to run a single race this weekend for just the second time this year. The season-opening race at Daytona was also a single final format.
Daytona SportBike Back on the Big Stage
As the featured class of the Daytona 200 By Honda, AMA Pro Daytona SportBike presented by AMSOIL competitors have already stepped into the international spotlight once this season. The Daytona opener marked Bostrom’s only Daytona SportBike start of the year and he promptly went out and scored his first victory in America’s premier motorcycle road race.
Both Bostrom and teammate Hayes will be moonlighting in Daytona SportBike again this weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca as Team Graves Yamaha has prepared a pair of its YZF-R6 bikes for the American Superbike regulars. Bostrom (No. 1s Team Graves Yamaha YZF-R6) and Hayes (No. 4 Team Graves Yamaha YZF-R6) will join Yamaha’s primary Daytona SportBike riders Josh Herrin (No. 8 Team Graves Yamaha YZF-R6) and 16-year-old teammate Tommy Aquino (No. 6 Team Graves Yamaha YZF-R6). Herrin finished second to Bostrom in Daytona and earned another runner-up showing in Race 2 at Road Atlanta. Aquino turned in a season-best finish of fourth in the Sunday final at Infineon.
Yamaha’s ramped up assault will no doubt be targeting Daytona SportBike championship leader Martin Cardenas (No. 36 Team M4 Suzuki GSX-R600) who has won six of the last eight races to lead the series. He has 255 points atop the standings, a full 51 points clear of Jamie Hacking (No. 88 Monster Energy Attack Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R) and 56 points ahead of third-ranked rider Danny Eslick (No. 9 GEICO Powersports/RMR Buell 1125R).
Cardenas’ impressive run includes four wins in a row, which he did by sweeping both the Infineon and Barber weekends. His victory in Race 1 at Road Atlanta was the first Daytona SportBike victory of his career and he also won the most recent race in the Sunday final at Road America.
Although still looking for a 2009 win, Hacking may be one of the most consistent riders in AMA Pro Road Racing and has finished out of the top five just four times in 11 races this season. Hacking’s teammate Roger Hayden (No. 95 Monster Energy Attack Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R) – Tommy and Nicky Hayden’s younger brother – made his first start of the year at Road Atlanta and promptly went out and finished second to Cardenas in Race 1. He scored another runner-up showing in Race 1 one event ago at Road America and is worth watching at Mazda Raceway. The third Monster Energy Attack Kawasaki rider is young Argentinean talent Leandro Mercado (No. 92 Monster Energy Attack Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R), who is also a top threat in AMA Pro SuperSport competition.
The year’s only other race winners are Eslick and Canadian rider Chris Peris (No. 10 Erion Racing Honda CBR600RR). Eslick has three victories after sweeping the Auto Club weekend and winning the Sunday final at Road Atlanta. His teammate is veteran rider Michael Barnes (No. 34 GEICO Powersports/RMR Buell 1125R) who scored a season-best finish of fifth in the Sunday final at Barber. Peris won Race 1 in the rain at Road America and also has a third-place finish at Road Atlanta to his credit. Peris teams with top California rider Jake Zemke (No. 1x Erion Racing Honda CBR600RR) who helped make Erion’s Road America weekend a memorable one in total with a season-high finish of second in the Sunday final. It was Zemke’s first podium finish of the season.
Cardenas teams with the equally quick Jason DiSalvo (No. 40 Team M4 Suzuki GSX-R600) who has won the pole at the last four races. He finished third in the Daytona 200, Race 1 at Auto Club and one race ago in the Sunday final at Road America in addition to season-high second-place finishes behind Cardenas in the Saturday final at Barber and the Sunday race at Infineon. DiSalvo is fourth in the championship with 179 points while Herrin rounds out the top five with 152 points.
Chaz Davies (No. 57 Factory Aprilia /Millennium Technologies Team Aprilia RSV1000R) is the main Aprilia threat and a pair of fourth-place showings at Barber and Infineon has kept the former Daytona 200 winner in the championship top 10. Steve Rapp (No. 48 Bazzaz/Pat Clark Motorsports Yamaha YZF-R6) is another past Daytona 200 winner who is hitting his stride after taking his first podium of the year at Infineon with a third-place finish in the Saturday final.
A solid entry of 51 Daytona SportBikes is heading to Mazda Raceway and it includes the debuting No. 394 Tri-Valley Moto KTM 990 Super Duke of Eric Gulbransen. The Austrian-built KTM was recently approved for Daytona SportBike competition and the all California combination of Gulbransen and Tri-Valley will be the first to run such a bike in top level AMA Pro Road Racing competition.