AMA Pro Racing previews Mid-Ohio
A critical four-event stretch-run to the AMA Pro National Guard American Superbike presented by Parts Unlimited and AMA Pro Daytona SportBike presented by AMSOIL season championships begins this weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with the Honda Super Cycle Weekend presented by Dunlop Tires, July 17 – 19. The full slate of AMA Pro Road Racing action also features AMA Pro SuperSport presented by Shoei and the team-based action of AMA Pro SunTrust Moto-GT.
Dual finals for the American Superbike and Daytona SportBike divisions on Saturday and Sunday highlight the weekend’s schedule on the 2.4-mile road course. All four races will be televised in a pair of two-hour programs on SPEED on Sunday, July 19. Saturday’s races can be seen at Noon ET (9 a.m. PT) while the Sunday finals hit SPEED’s airwaves later that day at Midnight ET (9 p.m. PT).
AMA American Superbike
American Superbike championship leader Mat Mladin (No. 7 Rockstar/Makita Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000) is on the verge of clinching a record-extending seventh AMA Pro American Superbike title. The dominating Australian has been AMA Pro Road Racing’s top rider this year and has an unmatched record of 10 wins, including a streak of seven in a row to open the season. Mladin has won all but two races and is a pole-perfect seven-for-seven in qualifying. He leads the American Superbike class in every possible statistical category and has a hefty 127-point championship lead, 355 – 228, over Yoshimura Suzuki teammate and nearest challenger Tommy Hayden (No. 22 Rockstar/Makita Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000). Mladin has also had a lock on Mid-Ohio in recent seasons and is currently riding a five-race win streak on the Buckeye road course that dates back to 2006. In total, Mladin has won 10 Superbike races at Mid-Ohio.
Mladin’s teammates Hayden and Blake Young (No. 79 Rockstar/Makita Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000) have been among the handful of riders that have challenged the American Superbike leader this year. Kentucky native Hayden considers Mid-Ohio a virtual home track and would like nothing more than to score his first career American Superbike win in familiar territory. He has been on the podium in half of the year’s first 12 races and also led the most laps in Race 1 at Auto Club Speedway in March before finishing second to Mladin.
Young has overcome severe injuries to his left pinkie and ring finger in a Sunday final accident at Barber Motorsports Park to remain Mladin’s strongest challenger. His best run of the year came one race ago in the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca where he led the most laps for the first time this season before finishing second to Mladin. That finish matched two other runner-up showings in the last two races before his accident 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) each cracked the top five at Laguna Seca. Bostrom, who is third in the championship standings with 203 points, finished fifth for his fourth consecutive top-five showing and seventh of the year while Hayes also recorded his seventh top-five result with a fourth-place result. Hayes is fifth in the championship with 182 points and 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, where he also led the most race laps. Both riders were also victorious at Mid-Ohio last year with Bostrom taking AMA Pro SuperSport honors and Hayes winning in Formula Xtreme for the third consecutive time.
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 two races ago at Road America for his first win in 10 years. He has finished in the top five in four of the last five races and also finished on the podium in Race 2 at Auto Club Speedway. Pegram is fourth in the championship standings with 191 points.
Aaron Yates (No. 23 Brand Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000) and his Jordan Motorsports teammate Geoff May (No. 54 National Guard Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000) each have 173 points and rank sixth and seventh, respectively, in the American Superbike standings. May’s best finishes were three third-place showings within the year’s first five races while Yates has posted a pair of third-place showings of his own in the last two races at Road America and Laguna Seca. Yates has also given the Jordan team its top result of the year with a second-place finish in the Sunday final at Barber, and the higher finish gives him the championship tiebreaker over May. Yates also won the 2008 Superstock race at Mid-Ohio.
Young is eighth in the standings with 169 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 12 starts, including the last five races. Taylor Knapp (No. 44 Taylor Knapp Racing Buell 1125RR) ranks 10th and his season has been anchored by seven finishes of ninth or better. Knapp has ridden a Suzuki GSX-R1000 up to this point but debuts the all-new Buell 1125RR this weekend.
Honda is synonymous with Mid-Ohio and is well represented in American Superbike. Neil Hodgson (No. 100 Corona Extra Honda CBR1000RR) has recovered from an early-season motocross training injury to score strong sixth-place finishes in the last two races at Road America and Laguna Seca. They were the former World Superbike Champion’s best showings since taking second in the Daytona opener and Hodgson has made just six race starts this season. Jake Holden (No. 59 Holden Racing Honda CBR1000RR) filled in capably for Hodgson in the first part of the year and is continuing to race now under his own team name and 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 Mid-Ohio include Road America Race 1 runner-up Michael Laverty (No. 8 Celtic Racing Suzuki GSX-R1000), 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 total of 33 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 Super Cycle Weekend. Both American Superbike races will be 21 laps for 50 miles.
Daytona SportBike Title Run
While Mladin appears well on his way to the American Superbike crown, several riders remain in the hunt in AMA Pro Daytona SportBike presented by AMSOIL. Championship and race-win leader Martin Cardenas (No. 36 Team M4 Suzuki GSX-R600) has been victorious in six of the last nine races but an early retirement at Laguna Seca left the door open for the competition to make a move.
Cardenas went into Laguna Seca more than 50 points clear of the competition but has now seen his points lead shrink to just 39 over nearest challenger Jamie Hacking (No. 88 Monster Energy Attack Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R). Cardenas has 255 points, Hacking has 216 and third-ranked rider Danny Eslick (No. 9 GEICO Powersports/RMR Buell 1125R) has 212 points.
The potential championship run by Cardenas 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 just two races ago in the Sunday final at Road America. The quick Colombian has even proven to be lucky in races that don’t appear to go his way. He challenged for the win in the Daytona 200 only to finish ninth after missing the chance to change tires with the leaders and the distant 36th place result at Laguna Seca was his worst showing of the year. Each of those races, however, was won by class interloper and non-championship contender Bostrom who has gone a perfect two for two in Daytona SportBike cameos on his No. 1s Graves Motorsports Yamaha YZF-R6 in 2009.
Although still looking for a 2009 win, Hacking may be one of the most consistent riders in AMA Pro Road Racing. He has finished out of the top five just five times in 12 races this season, out of the top-10 just once and his best results have been four second-place showings. 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 the Saturday final two races ago at Road America and is worth watching at a Mid-Ohio circuit he also considers a home track.
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. The young Oklahoma rider could emerge as the strongest threat to Cardenas in the year’s final races and he has finished eighth or better in 10 of 12 races this year. Eslick’s 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. He teams with top California rider Jake Zemke (No. 1x Erion Racing Honda CBR600RR) who also factored into Erion’s strong Road America weekend 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 five podium finishes and a series-leading four poles so far in 2009. DiSalvo finished third in the Daytona 200, Race 1 at Auto Club and two races 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.
Rounding out the top five in the championship with 173 points is Josh Herrin (No. 8 Team Graves Yamaha YZF-R6) who finished second to his Yamaha cohort Bostrom in Daytona and earned another runner-up showing in Race 2 at Road Atlanta. Herrin has also finished third in two of the last four races, including the most recent event at Laguna Seca and in the Sunday final at Infineon. Tommy Aquino (No. 6 Team Graves Yamaha YZF-R6) crossed the finish line just behind his teammate Herrin at both Infineon and Laguna Seca for season-best fourth-place finishes.
Chaz Davies (No. 57 Factory Aprilia Millennium Technologies Team Aprilia RSV1000R) is the main Aprilia threat and scored a season-high finish of second one race ago at Laguna Seca. The British rider also has fourth-place showings at Barber and Infineon that have helped keep the former Daytona 200 winner in the top-10 championship standings all season. 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. His next best results have been three sixth-place finishes, including two weeks ago at Laguna Seca.
A solid entry of 47 Daytona SportBikes is set for Mid-Ohio and the first race for the class will close Saturday’s schedule at 4 p.m. local time. The Sunday final is the first of three races that day and will start at 2 p.m. Like American Superbike, both Daytona SportBike races are 21 laps for 50 miles.
Full SuperSport Show
A strong entry of 25 emerging young riders in AMA Pro SuperSport presented by Shoei will split the Sunday Daytona SportBike and American Superbike finals with a 17-lap/40-mile race at 3 p.m. SuperSport is reserved strictly for up-and-coming talents between the ages of 16 and 21 and is divided into Eastern and Western divisions. Sunday’s race is Round 5 of SuperSport East but that will not stop several top young guns from the West from mixing it up at Mid-Ohio.
Leandro Mercado (No. 92 Monster Energy Attack Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R) is the SuperSport East championship leader with 81 points on the strength of a pair of victories at Road Atlanta and in the dual-division race at Road America. Mercado also shook up the Western ranks when he scored a runner-up showing in May’s round at Infineon Raceway behind SuperSport West points leader Ricky Parker (No. 96 Team Graves Yamaha YZF-R6), who ironically finished second to Mercado at Road America. The two division leaders are expected to be at the forefront of the competition again at Mid-Ohio, but several other young riders will also be contenders.
A true spoiler on all fronts could be stalwart AMA Pro Flat Track crossover James "The Rocket" Rispoli (No. 71 NPS Racing Suzuki GSX-R600) who is making just his third career SuperSport start. He finished fourth in each of his previous races and returns to NPS after a one-off run with Roadracingworld.com at Laguna Seca. He was in sight of Parker and Mercado in his debut on the NPS Suzuki at Road America. In addition to being a top AMA Pro Grand National Singles Championship rider, Rispoli also showed his road racing talent in SunTrust Moto-GT competition last year.
Russ Wikle (No. 5 Roadracingworld.com Suzuki GSX-R600) and Josh Day (No. 4 Kerker Racing Yamaha YZF-R6) are tied for second in the SuperSport East standings with 63 points, just one point ahead of California rider Joey Pascarella (No. 25 LTD Racing Yamaha YZF-R6). Pascarella’s teammate Huntley Nash (No. 15 LTD Racing Yamaha YZF-R6) rounds out the top five in the championship with 49 points.
Other riders to watch include West division interlopers Tyler Odom (No. 46 Erion Racing/Pro Honda Oils & Chemicals Honda CBR600RR), who won Daytona’s season-opening dual division race, and Chris Clark (No. 48 Bazzaz/Pat Clark Motorsports Yamaha YZF-R6). Barber SuperSport winner Garrett Carter (No. 31 Ridersdiscount.com/Woodcraft Yamaha YZF-R6) is also looking for his second victory of the season.
Mid-Ohio SunTrust Moto-GT
The AMA Pro SunTrust Moto-GT class will make its debut appearance at Mid-Ohio with a two-hour race at 11 a.m. on Saturday. SunTrust Moto-GT is the only class in AMA Pro Road Racing that features teams of riders that share a single motorcycle in a race. The unique format means fans will see 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 is home to a line-up of motorcycles as diverse as Daytona SportBike with top machines from Aprilia, Triumph, Ducati, Kawasaki, Buell and Suzuki all doing battle. The slightly smaller GT2 class features bikes from Kawasaki, Buell, Suzuki and Ducati.
Despite being the only winless teams in the top six of the standings, the No. 41 Liberty Waves Racing Buell 1125R of Eric Pinson and Eric Haugo is tied for the championship lead with the No. 37 Old Pros Racing Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R of Paul Schwemmer and Jean Paul Tache with 68 points apiece. Just one point back is the No. 69 TeamHurtByAccident.com Suzuki GSX-R600 of Road Atlanta winners Rodolfo Ramirez and Armando Ferrer while the Daytona winning No. 20 El Rey Beer for Kings Ducati 848 of Jeff Purk and Calvin Martinez is in thick of it in fourth place with 64 points.
The year’s other victorious GT1 teams include the Barber winning No. 14 Crozier Motorsports Triumph Daytona 675 of Mark Crozier and Phil Caudill and the No. 70 James Gang/Hoban Bros. Racing Buell 1125R of Paul James and Jeff Johnson, who scored their first career SunTrust Moto-GT victory one race ago at Road America.
In the GT2 class, championship leaders Frank Shockley and Ryan Elleby made some history of their own at Road America when they finished first overall on the No. 77 Touring Sport Ducshop Ducati PS1000LE. It was the first time a GT2 class bike beat the faster GT1 class machines and marked the latest success in what has been a great season for the No. 77 team. In addition to the Road America win, the Ducshop Ducati squad has a victory at Road Atlanta, seconds at Daytona and Barber and no finish below the top two all year. They are firmly in first in the GT2 standings with 113 points.
Other 2009 GT2 winners and title contenders coming to Mid-Ohio include the No. 9 Pair-A-Nines Kawasaki EX650 of Hall of Fame rider Jay Springsteen and Nick Cummings that won at Daytona and the Barber winning No. 64 TeamHurtByAccident.com Ducati PS1000LE of veteran champion Jimmy Filice and his son Justin Filice. The No. 9 team is second in the standings with 94 points and the No. 64 group is third with 81 points.