The biggest motorcycle road racing event to date at New Jersey Motorsports Park (NJMP) will take place this Labor Day Weekend, September 4 – 6, when the 2009 season finales for AMA Pro National Guard American Superbike presented by Parts Unlimited, AMA Pro Daytona SportBike presented by AMSOIL and AMA Pro SuperSport presented by Shoei are run on NJMP’s Thunderbolt Raceway. The three-day AMA Pro Superbike Championships event also includes the penultimate round of the 2009 AMA Pro SunTrust Moto-GT series in a jam-packed holiday-weekend schedule of six races.
The action begins with practice, qualifying and Superpole qualifying on Friday, September 4, and continues straight into the weekend with three races each day on Saturday and Sunday. The SunTrust Moto-GT enduro on Saturday, September 5, at 11 a.m. will be followed by the first finals for American Superbike at 3 p.m. and Daytona SportBike at 4:10 p.m. Sunday, September 6, will see Daytona SportBike roll off first at 2 p.m., SuperSport following at 3:10 p.m. and American Superbike closing the weekend at 4:20 p.m. The Superbike and Daytona SportBike races are each 23 laps for 50 miles on the 2.20-mile Thunderbolt circuit while the SuperSport race is a 19-lap distance for 40 miles.
AMA American Superbike
All of the action from the AMA Pro Superbike Championships at New Jersey will be featured in a pair of same-day telecasts on SPEED. Saturday’s American Superbike and Daytona SportBike finals and other action will be shown that night in a two-hour show at 7:30 p.m. ET (4:30 p.m. PT) while Sunday’s premier class races and other highlights will air in a two-hour show that evening at Midnight ET (9 p.m. PT).
Mat Mladin (No. 1 Rockstar/Makita Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000) wrapped up the 2009 American Superbike Championship one race ago at last month’s Suzuki Big Kahuna Nationals at Virginia International Raceway (VIR). The Australian’s strong season also helped his Rockstar/Makita Yoshimura team clinch the 2009 American Superbike Team Championship and anchored Suzuki’s 2009 American Superbike Manufacturer Championship as well.
In recognition of the championship season and his outstanding career, Mladin will carry the traditional Champion’s No. 1 on his Rockstar/Makita Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000 at this weekend’s AMA Pro Superbike Championships. The event will be both Mladin’s debut and farewell in New Jersey as the record seven-time AMA Pro American Superbike Champion is retiring at the end of the weekend. He has left a lasting mark on the sport, including this year’s unmatched record of 10 wins that started with a streak of seven in a row to open the season. In addition to years of American Superbike success, Mladin has been AMA Pro Road Racing’s top rider in 2009, winning all but eight races and taking the Superpole seven times in this season’s 10 race weekend events.
While Mladin has the title sealed, several other top American Superbike riders and 2009 race winners will be battling for the final championship podium spots this weekend. The top contenders include Mladin’s teammate Tommy Hayden (No. 22 Rockstar/Makita Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000) and five-time 2009 race winner Josh Hayes (No. 4 Yamaha Motor Corp. USA Yamaha R1). Hayden is second in the championship and leads Hayes by just four points, 348 – 344. Although the oldest of the three racing Hayden brothers is still winless in his American Superbike career, he has finished in the top three in half of the year’s 18 races. That run includes the Sunday final one race ago at VIR where Hayden finished second to Big Kahuna Superpole and double-race winner Hayes. The VIR runner-up placing was Hayden’s sixth of the year and he also took second on Sunday in the Tornado Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka, the Saturday finals at Road Atlanta and Infineon Raceway and both rounds in March at Auto Club Speedway in California.
Hayes trails only Mladin on the 2009 race win list and his dominating weekend at the Big Kahuna followed a similar sweep at Mid-Ohio in July. He became the first rider other than Mladin this season to earn the top spot in Superpole qualifying on Friday at Mid-Ohio and then went out and won both weekend races. Hayes also put a stop to Mladin’s 2009 race win streak, and Suzuki’s multi-year lock on the American Superbike division, with a breakout victory in Race 1 at Infineon in May, where he also led the most race laps.
Hayes teams with Ben Bostrom (No. 2 Yamaha Motor Corp. USA Yamaha R1) who is fourth in the championship with 315 points. Bostrom joined Hayes on the box at both Big Kahuna finals with a pair of third place showings that are part of a strong streak of eight podium finishes in the last 13 races. Bostrom earned his second straight runner-up finish in the Saturday final at Topeka one race after following Hayes across the finish line in Race 2 at Mid-Ohio. He also finished second in the Sunday final at Infineon in May.
Three-time 2009 race winner Larry Pegram (No. 72 Foremost Insurance/Pegram Racing Ducati 1098R) is fifth in the championship with 313 points and is the final rider with a realistic chance to crack the top three in the final standings. Pegram dominated the Tornado Nationals and led every lap in both finals from the Superpole for the biggest weekend of his American Superbike career. Earlier this season, Pegram out-raced Mladin and the rest of the field at Road America for his first win in 10 years. Other highlights this season include a third-place showing in the Saturday final at Infineon and his first podium of the year in Race 2 at Auto Club Speedway with another third.
Blake Young (No. 79 Rockstar/Makita Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000) joins Mladin and Hayden on the powerhouse Yoshimura Suzuki team. The 21-year-old overcame severe injuries to his left pinkie and ring finger in a Sunday final accident at Barber Motorsports Park to remain a threat for his first American Superbike win at every race. His best run of the year came in the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on the July 4th weekend 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, which were the Saturday final at Barber, the day before his spill, and Race 2 at Road Atlanta in early April. He most recently hit the podium with a third-place showing in the Saturday final at Topeka.
Aaron Yates (No. 23 Brand Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000) and his Jordan Motorsports teammate Geoff May (No. 54 National Guard Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000) both head to New Jersey looking for their first victories of the season. Second-place finishes by Yates in the Sunday final at Barber and Saturday at Mid-Ohio are the best showings of the year for the Jordan team. Yates backed those podium placings up with back-to-back third-place showings in Race 2 at Road America and at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. May’s best results this season have been three third-place showings within the year’s first five races, including both rounds at Road Atlanta in April.
Two top privateers that have consistently raced and been ranked in the American Superbike top 10 this season are looking to hit the podium at New Jersey. Jake Holden (No. 59 Holden Racing Honda CBR1000RR) has been racing his own Honda under Corona Extra colors for the majority of the season and scored a career-high fourth place finish in the Sunday final at Topeka. He also qualified an impressive third in the Topeka Superpole after setting the fastest overall lap of the weekend earlier on Friday in the group qualifying session, two more career milestones. The other quick privateer is Taylor Knapp (No. 44 Taylor Knapp Racing Buell 1125RR), who Holden led across the finish line on Sunday at Topeka. Knapp’s fifth-place Kansas finish was the best of his career and is part of a steady run of 11 top-10 finishes this season.
Holden first returned to the Corona Extra team when he filled in capably for Neil Hodgson (No. 100 Corona Extra Honda CBR1000RR) earlier in the season. Hodgson has recovered from a post-Daytona motocross training injury to score sixth-place finishes at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and in the Sunday finals at Topeka and Road America. The results were the former World Superbike Champion’s best showings since taking second in the Daytona opener. Hodgson missed a total of six races during his early-season recovery.
Other riders to keep an eye on in New Jersey include Damian Cudlin (No. 8 Celtic Racing Suzuki GSX-R1000), who will ride the same bike that finished second in the Road America Saturday final, Chris Ulrich (No. 18 Roadracingworld.com Suzuki GSX-R1000), VIR Superpole qualifier Jeff Wood (No. 19 Higgins Powersports/Roadracingworld.com Suzuki GSX-R1000) and Cory West (No. 53 Erik Buell Racing Buell 1125RR). West will make his 2009 AMA Pro Road Racing debut this weekend and joins Knapp as one of two riders entered on the new Buell 1125RR. A total of 32 American Superbikes are entered for the AMA Pro Superbike Championships.
AMA Daytona SportBike
While Mladin, Rockstar/Makita Yoshimura and Suzuki have wrapped up their respective American Superbike Championships, all three titles in AMA Pro Daytona SportBike presented by AMSOIL will be decided this weekend. Each championship will likely come down to a battle between points leader Danny Eslick (No. 9 GEICO Powersports/RMR Buell 1125R) and 2009 race-win leader Martin Cardenas (No. 36 Team M4 Suzuki GSX-R600). Eslick and the No. 9 RMR Buell team are on top of the rider and team entrant standings with 357 points, 17 ahead of Cardenas and the No. 36 Team M4 Suzuki.
The dominant duo has combined to win 13 of the 18 Daytona SportBike race this year, with Cardenas one up on Eslick in the win column with seven victories. The riders were actually tied for first in the championship heading into the Big Kahuna weekend only to see Cardenas suffer a compound fracture of his right hand in a Friday morning practice crash at VIR. The tough Colombian raced despite the painful injury but could do no better than finishes of ninth and 11th, losing valuable ground to Eslick.
Eslick and Cardenas have both been on the podium an impressive 10 times in this year’s 18 races. Each rider has also turned in respective streaks of domination which have kept them at the forefront of the Daytona SportBike points race all year. Eslick has two weekend sweeps to his credit and first gave notice he would be a challenger for the Daytona SportBike crown when he went two-for-two at Auto Club Speedway in March. He also muscled his way to victories in both Mid-Ohio rounds in addition to his most recent win on Saturday at Topeka and a Sunday final victory at Road Atlanta in April. In total, the young Oklahoma rider has finished eighth or better in 16 of 18 races this year.
Cardenas has also doubled up on event weekend sweeps and scored four wins in a row by dominating the Infineon and Barber weekends. His victory in Race 1 at Road Atlanta was the first Daytona SportBike victory of his career. Cardenas also won the Sunday finals at Road America and again two races ago at Topeka.
Josh Herrin (No. 8 Team Graves Yamaha YZF-R6) is third in the championship with 321 points and is the only other rider alive in the title chase heading to the finale. He dealt himself into the Daytona SportBike championship picture big time with a weekend sweep of his own at the Big Kahuna. The victories were Herrin’s first in Daytona SportBike and have highlighted a strong late-season charge that has also produced three second-place finishes in the last six races, including both Topeka finals. Herrin also finished second on Saturday at Mid-Ohio and has additional runner-up showings this season in the Daytona 200 and Race 2 at Road Atlanta. He also has third-place finishes at Laguna Seca and the Sunday race at Infineon. Herrin’s teammate Tommy Aquino (No. 6 Team Graves Yamaha YZF-R6) hit the podium for the first time this year at Mid-Ohio, finishing third just behind Herrin on Saturday. Aquino backed it up with additional third-place showings in Race 1 at Topeka and in the Sunday final at VIR. He also crossed the finish line just behind Herrin at Infineon and Laguna Seca for then season-best fourth-place finishes.
Jamie Hacking (No. 88 Monster Energy Attack Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R) is fourth in the championship with 274 points. 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 seven times in his 16 races this season, out of the top-10 just twice and his best results have been five second-place showings, including most recently on Sunday at Mid-Ohio. Hacking also finished third in the Saturday final at VIR one race ago. His teammate Roger Hayden (No. 95 Monster Energy Attack Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R) has season-best results of second in the Saturday finals at Road Atlanta and Road America. Hayden also led and finished fifth on Sunday at VIR.
Joining Cardenas and Eslick as 2009 race winners are Bostrom, who has gone a perfect two for two in Daytona SportBike cameos on his No. 1s Graves Motorsports Yamaha YZF-R6, and Canadian rider Chris Peris (No. 10 Erion Racing Honda CBR600RR). Bostrom won both the season-opening Daytona 200 and at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in his only scheduled Daytona SportBike races of the season. Peris won Race 1 in the rain at Road America and also has a third-place finish at Road Atlanta to his credit.
Peris is teammates with veteran Honda rider Jake Zemke (No. 1x Erion Racing Honda CBR600RR) who finished fourth in Race 1 at VIR for the third time this season. Zemke 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 but he also showed well at Mid-Ohio with his second fourth-place finish of the year on Saturday. Zemke also finished fourth in the Saturday final at Road Atlanta.
Cardenas partners with the equally quick Jason DiSalvo (No. 40 Team M4 Suzuki GSX-R600) who has six podium finishes and a series-leading five poles so far in 2009. DiSalvo has season-high second-place finishes behind Cardenas in the Saturday final at Barber and the Sunday race at Infineon. He also finished third in the Daytona 200, the Sunday final at Road America and the Saturday races at both Auto Club and VIR. DiSalvo rounds out the top five in the championship with 261 points.
Chaz Davies (No. 57 Factory Aprilia / Millennium Technologies Team Aprilia RSV1000R) has been this year’s main Aprilia threat and scored a season-high finish of second at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The British rider also has fourth-place showings at Barber, Infineon and Race 1 at Topeka that have helped the former Daytona 200 winner stay in the top-10 championship standings all season. His fourth-place finish on Saturday at Topeka two races ago was his sixth top-five result of the year. Davies teams with Australian Aaron Gobert (No. 97 Factory Aprilia / Millennium Technologies Team Aprilia RSV1000R) as the only two Aprilia riders in the field.
Steve Rapp (No. 48 Bazzaz / Pat Clark Motorsports Yamaha YZF-R6) is another past Daytona 200 winner who has turned in some solid performances this season. He scored his first podium of the year at Infineon with a third-place finish in the Saturday final, in addition to four sixth-place finishes this season.
Two other Buell riders are also worth watching at New Jersey. Knapp (No. 54 Latus Motors Racing Buell 1125R) won his first career Superpole in Daytona SportBike action at the Big Kahuna and capped the weekend with his fourth fourth-place finish of the season in the Sunday final. Eslick’s teammate Michael Barnes (No. 34 GEICO Powersports/RMR Buell 1125R) has a season-best showing of fifth in the Sunday final at Barber. A total of 47 Daytona SportBikes are entered at New Jersey.