2012 AMA Superbike
While AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike title contenders Blake Young and Josh Hayes entered the BigM Weekend presented by Lucas Oil at Miller Motorsports Park having split each of the 2012 season’s previous three rounds, the equity was destined to end in Utah with only one SuperBike race to be won.
The race at MMP, the weekend, and ultimately the points lead all went to defending champion Hayes, who made a statement with his conquering performance at MMP.
While his runaway victory, combined with the points awarded for pole and leading the most laps, transformed what was a four-point deficit into a still-slight seven-point lead (194-187), the Monster Energy Graves Yamaha star’s step forward has been even more pivotal than the championship table suggests.
An error on the part of Hayes at Sonoma masks his strong run of form, but rival Young has certainly taken notice that the Yamaha man has delivered four breakaway wins already in ’12, and demonstrated the speed to make that five.
Hayes, who couldn’t ask for much more from himself or his YZF-R1, said, “What an awesome day. The bike was good, things have been pretty smooth for the weekend, we didn’t really make too many changes, and we just worked on getting good clean laps. All in all, it was a pretty smooth run.”
The Mississippian also took notice of the bigger picture, stating “it was a perfect Memorial Day. Having the National Guard as the primary sponsor of our series, it was fantastic that on Memorial Day we would be able to put on a good show for them. Thanks to all the servicemen and women out there who support us and hopefully they were entertained by the show under the umbrella they provide for us.”
Young, meanwhile, is desperate to get back on track before Hayes creates even more separation at the front. The Yoshimura Racing Suzuki star is hoping that this weekend’s doubleheader at his home track, Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, will allow him to successfully strike back.
“I really enjoy this (MMP), but I don’t know what it is — I’ve just been in this little funk,” Young said. “I need to pull through it and apologize to my team. For some reason I’m just a little bit off the beat right now and I don’t know if I can point a finger at something. I think I need to reevaluate and get focused. I don’t have too much time before we’ll be home at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin but maybe that’s what I need — to be home with my friends and family — to get me motivated to be back up at the front and start racing with Josh [Hayes]. He’s done this quite a few races already this year. I need to be racing at the front.”
While Young is concerned with Hayes in terms of the championship picture, on Monday he was forced to turn his attention to the other Monster Energy Graves Yamaha Josh.
As Hayes powered away at the front, by the second lap it was obvious that Young would have his hands full with a very racy Josh Herrin – not only nipping at his heels, but actively attacking for the position.
National Guard Jordan Suzuki’s Roger Hayden was the third man in the fight for second. The Kentuckian showcased front-running speed all weekend but was having trouble effectively translating that into results.
While Hayden spent time atop the leaderboards in practice and qualifying (including posting the best lap in the Monday warm-up), Hayden crashed twice in the lead up to the race, including a big fall in Turn 1 on Monday morning that tore up his ‘A’ bike.
His weekend ended in the same style, crashing out of the race early while showing the speed to push for a runner-up position.
“I’m pretty disappointed,” admitted Hayden. “I could see the leaders getting away and I felt like I had more speed, but I ended up going into the turn wide and using a little too much front brake, and I lost the front end. But we’ve been fast the whole weekend and that’s something we can build on. It’s Memorial Day, and I wish we could’ve gotten a better finish for the National Guard. For now, though, we’ll just focus on Road America.”
Hayden’s teammate, Ben Bostrom, took up the charge in Hayden’s absence, closing in on Young and Herrin before later fading from the fight.
SuperBike rookie Herrin shifted his strategy and chose to instead conserve his tires and wait on Young’s rear tire for the final lap. A bold strategy considering Young’s sparkling history of winning last-lap battles, Herrin made it work. His first attempt was immediately met with a very hard counter by the Suzuki ace, but the Yamaha pilot regrouped and made a second, more decisive, strike to win out for second place.
After claiming his best SuperBike result yet, Herrin said, “It was an awesome race other than the fact that Josh was on the same bike and beat me by eight seconds — probably more; I probably went about half his pace at the end. But it was pretty cool to be riding with Blake. It was a lot of fun. I didn’t quite have the pace to dice with him the whole race. I was just trying to learn where he was stronger and where I was stronger. I was able to get up close to him a few times and see that his tire was getting pretty worn out.
“I got lucky with that pass on the outside. It was pretty sketchy because it was dusty out on the edge of the track but luckily it stuck. I was able to hold him off the rest of the lap. Hopefully we can be a contender for a win later on in the season but for now I’m ecstatic getting second.”
Meanwhile, Bostrom found himself come under assault by the Team Amsoil/Hero EBR 1190RS of Geoff May.
May and teammate Danny Eslick on the Team Hero EBR backed up their stellar Sonoma performances by again showing front-running pace. Coming off their Infineon Raceway podium results, the two qualified third and fourth, respectively, for the MMP final.
While they weren’t able to challenge for a place on the podium this time out, May continued to build as the race progressed and eventually gobbled up Bostrom for fourth, giving Herrin and Young something to think about in second and third.
Bostrom held on for fifth, finishing a few seconds clear of Eslick in sixth.
Bostrom said, “What can I say? Jordan Motorsports continues to improve our #23 Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000 and I’m confident that we can win. I can’t thank the boys enough for the long hours they’ve put in. It wasn’t our day today but we’re getting there.”
Foremost Insurance Pegram Racing’s Larry Pegram took a relatively lonely seventh on the BWM S1000RR, followed by Young’s Yoshimura Racing Suzuki teammate, Chris Clark.
“Miller is my favorite track, and I was pretty confident that the Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000 would go good there,” Clark said. “I’m getting more and more comfortable with the bike with every opportunity that I get to ride it, and I think my results this weekend show that. I’ve said all along that my goal is to finish the season in the top five overall and this weekend I moved closer to that goal. Now I’m just looking forward to Road America next weekend and hopefully progressing more.”
Kneedraggers.com/Motul/Fly’s David Anthony came home in ninth with KTM/HMC Racing’s Chris Fillmore rounding out the top ten, one position ahead of a gritty ride by the mending Steve Rapp on the Attack Performance Kawasaki ZX-10R.
KTM pilot Fillmore, who was the team’s sole entry with Stefan Nebel away due to visa issues, said, “It was a tough weekend coming to Miller for the first time and we had limited time on the track due to the changing weather conditions. We never found the optimal set-up for the race and we thought the potential was there for a stronger finish.”
While Hayes and Herrin head to Road America riding high off their Utah 1-2, they’ll have to contend with ‘Cheese Power’ in Wisconsin. Not only is Young from nearby Madison, Wis., but the EBR, Michael Jordan Motorsports, and HMC Racing outfits are all based in Wisconsin and will be eager to go home as well.
Attached above are video highlights of 2012 AMA Superbike at Miller Motorsports Park.
Photo: AMA Pro Racing/Brian J. Nelson