With only nine points separating the leaders, Round 8 of the AMA Superbike series at Virginia International Raceway this weekend (Aug. 13-15) may be a huge factor in who wins this year’s championship.
Leading the pack going into VIR is Team Graves Yamaha rider Josh Hayes, followed by Rockstar Makita Suzuki rider Tommy Hayden. Both riders split wins two rounds ago in Mid-Ohio, but it was Hayes who finished higher at Laguna Seca, taking second on his YZF-R1 behind race winner Ben Bostrom, leaving third to Hayden.
Besides his double at Ohio, Hayes also took a win at Infineon and Road America. Hayes also has much luck at VIR, considering he won both races last year at the 2.25-mile track containing 18 turns.
Josh Hayes says: “I like my chances at VIR, I won there last year and with the way my Yamaha is running this year, I feel pretty good about the upcoming weekend.”
But Hayden also has a good record this year while attempting to capture his first American Superbike title. The brother of MotoGP rider Nicky Hayden and World Superbike rider Roger Lee Hayden also took his first win of his American SBK career this year at Auto Club Speedway in California; he followed it up with a win at Road America and the one at Ohio.
Going into the Suzuki White Lightning AMA Pro Nationals Presented by Foremost Insurance at VIR, Hayes has 311 points, Hayden 302.
Sitting in third with 260 points is the man who doubled at Daytona, Jake Zemke. The National Guard Suzuki rider is coming off three consecutive six-place finishes, but has placed the GSX-R on the podium three times, not counting his Daytona wins. Last year Zemke competed in the Daytona Sportbike class, taking fourth.
Foremost Insurance Ducati rider Larry Pegram only has one win this year at Auto Club Speedway, and is in fourth in the championship with 225 points. Besides his win, he placed his Ducati 1198 R on the podium four additional times: once at Daytona, twice at infineon and once at Mid-Ohio. He’s coming off a fourth-place finish at Laguna Seca.
In fifth with 223 points is Pat Clark Motorsports Yamaha’s Ben Bostrom, who had his up and downs this season, but won at Laguna Seca from pole position. Bostrom, who was the 2009 Daytona 200 winner, recently underwent surgery on his left thumb that he injured in an accident, but says he doesn’t anticipate any trouble at VIR; he rode with the injured thumb at Mid-Ohio, where he took third in race 2, and also at Laguna Seca.
According to the AMA:
Two riders making welcome returns to the AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike series this weekend at VIR will be M4 Monster Energy Suzuki rider John Hopkins. Hopkins underwent surgery earlier this year and is back for his first race since Road Atlanta in April.
Hopkins has been ably represented by Jake Holden who posted a number of good results while substituting for the popular Hopkins. The other rider making his return after a fall suffered while testing at VIR is Rockstar Makita Suzuki rider Blake Young.
Young took his first two Superbike wins this year at Road Atlanta. That was a special weekend for Young as he took pole position and won both races on the demanding Georgia track. Young was at the recent race at Laguna and was raring to get back on his lightning fast Suzuki.
Seventh and eighth in the AMA Pro SuperBike points this year are two riders that are having nice solid years and are both quietly riding well and showing excellent form. M4 Monster Energy Suzuki rider Chris Ulrich has put together a very solid year.
Ulrich has shown excellent consistency and has posted a solid run of results with only one finish outside the top ten until the last race at Laguna Seca where he uncharacteristically went out after two laps.
Ulrich is seventh in points with 150. Right behind Ulrich in the points with 141 is Taylor Knapp on his RidersDiscount.com Suzuki. Knapp and his close knit team have done a nice, steady job and Knapp has responded by taking seven finishes of tenth or better.
The action at the Suzuki White Lightning AMA Pro Nationals Presented by Foremost Insurance begins on Friday, Aug. 13, with practice and first round qualifying. Round one of the doubleheader race weekend will be on Saturday, August 14, and more races including the AMA Pro Vance & Hines XR1200 race will be on Sunday, Aug. 15.
Check all the weekend activities at the beautiful Virginia International Raceway including the popular Pit Lane Fan Walk and AMA Pro Autograph sessions as well as the Second Annual MRO VIR Food Drive to Benefit God’s Storehouse in Danville, Va.
AMA Pro Racing SPEED TV Schedule:
Saturday, Aug. 14, 10 p.m.: National Guard SuperBike Race 1
Saturday, August 14, 11 p.m.: Daytona SportBike Race 1 & SuperSport Race 1 Highlights
Sunday, Aug. 15, midnight: Daytona SportBike Race 2
Monday, Aug. 16, 1 a.m.: National Guard SuperBike Race 2 & SuperSport Race 2 Highlights
AMA Superbike Points Standings(after 13 of 19 races):
1. Josh Hayes, 311
2. Tommy Hayden, 302
3. Zemke, 260
4. Pegram, 225
5. Ben Bostrom, 223
6. Blake Young, 197
7. Chris Ulrich, 150
8. Taylor Knapp, 141
9. Brett McCormick, 112
10. Jake Holden, 93