Josh Hayes’ recent winning trend in AMA Pro National Guard American SuperBike competition continued Saturday at the Suzuki SuperBike Doubleheader at Road America with a gripping photo-finish victory in the first race, marking his third win in as many races and propelling him to first in the championship standings.
Hayes topped the charts throughout the weekend’s practice and qualifying sessions and led the field from the pole position in the today’s race, building a half second advantage on the field by the end of the first lap. It quickly became evident that Hayden wasn’t going to let Hayes march away to another unchallenged win, the Kentucky native quickly reducing the gap and stalking Hayes around the 4.05-mile circuit. The leaders pulled away and were the only riders consistently turning laps below 2:14.
"Man, that was a fun race," said Hayes. "It was hard. I got out front and tried to put together some decent laps and kept seeing plus zero on the board. On lap four I took a peak over my shoulder and I wasn’t sure which of these guys it was, I just saw a Yoshimura bike."
Hayden turned up the heat on lap eight, making a run out of the last corner, pulling up alongside of Hayes and taking the lead momentarily as the duo crossed the start/finish line, a move that would become a reoccurring theme for the rest of the race. Lap after lap, Hayden shadowed Hayes around the racetrack challenged the Yamaha rider in a drag race out of the last corner.
In his third and final attempt, Hayden made the pass stick and led a surging Hayes for two full laps. Hayes took a page from Hayden’s playbook on the final lap of the 13-lap race, diving deep into the last corner, setting up a drag race to the finish line and edging Hayden by just .001 seconds at the stripe.
"Once I saw the white flag I decided that I had to find a spot somewhere on the racetrack," continued Hayes, whose two other wins in the 2010 season came last month in the Moto Jam Weekend at Infineon Raceway. "I rolled the dice; it could have been either of us."
Today’s second place finish marks Hayden’s sixth trip to the podium this season, including his first career SuperBike victory in race two at Auto Club Speedway in March.
"Once I got ahead, there was no shaking Josh," said Hayden. "I just tried to ride as hard as I could there the last couple of laps and at least make him work for it. I felt like I did some pretty decent laps but I just wasn’t quite getting away. I was in a good position in the last corner but he got a really good drive off of there. I thought I had a pretty good drive but it wasn’t quite enough. This is the third time this year I’ve been on the backend of those real tight ones like that. We’ll keep working hard, keep riding hard and hopefully I can change positions with one of these guys in one of these close ones."
Third place went to Hayden’s teammate Blake Young, who had a lonely race on the No. 79 Suzuki GSX-R1000 until he was passed by a charging Larry Pegram on lap 11. Young, also utilizing the last turn drag race, passed Pegram’s No. 79 Foremost Insurance Pegram Racing Ducati 1098R to claim the last podium spot by just .069 seconds.
"As my race unfolded, it wasn’t playing out to what I thought it was going to be," said Young. "I tried to make a pretty big push there for a few laps but it didn’t seem like I was doing much damage and I definitely couldn’t ride the whole race like that so I just decided to sit back and run my own race. With that I apparently let Pegram get pretty close to me so I let him lead a lap because I needed to see where he was better than me. I set him up for the last turn, last lap pass coming out of [turn] fourteen and I pulled it off."
Behind Pegram was the No. 54 National Guard Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000 of Jake Zemke, who fell to third in the SuperBike point standings. With today’s victory, Hayes jumped from third to first in the points, leading Hayden 202-199.
Sunday’s activities at Road America include a rider autograph session at 10:50 a.m., a fan grid walk at 11:30 a.m. and race two of American SuperBike competition at 2:30 p.m. The inaugural AMA Pro Vance & Hines XR1200 final will be the first race of the day, with the green flag scheduled to fly at 12:30 p.m. local time.
SPEED will be broadcasting same-weekend coverage of both SuperBike races, with race one airing tonight, Saturday, June 5th at 10 p.m. ET (7 p.m. PT) and race two airing late Sunday night/Monday morning at 12 a.m. midnight ET (9 p.m. PT). A re-broadcast of today’s race one final will also be broadcast on tomorrow at 2 p.m. ET.