AMA Pro Road Racing
To hear him tell it, Josh Hayes spent Friday’s opening day of the American Red Cross Devil’s Showdown presented by Team ProMotion at New Jersey Motorsports Park knocking out the cobwebs.
However, the timing charts tell another story, insisting that the defending champion picked up right where he left off the last time GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing was in action back in late July.
Hayes claimed the provisional pole for this weekend’s AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike doubleheader with a best time of 1:21.176, almost three tenths better than his Friday effort at NJMP a year ago.
Additionally, he was more than four tenths quicker than Friday’s next fastest men, National Guard Jordan Suzuki’s Roger Hayden (1:21.587) and Jordan Suzuki’s Ben Bostrom (1:21.589).
The Monster Energy Graves Yamaha pilot appears well positioned to secure the top spot on the grid and up his consecutive run of poles to eleven on Saturday morning.
“Wow — it feels like it’s been a long time since I’ve been on a motorcycle,” Hayes said. “I’m sure everybody else is feeling the same. We didn’t choose to do any testing between Laguna and here. Four weeks would have been a nice break; six weeks was a little long.
“Fortunately, we showed up and the track is in good condition and weather is good and we were able to go out there and focus on what we’re doing. I’m little ahead of where I was last year and that’s a positive.
“It definitely feels good to be back on the bike. I’m definitely using muscles that haven’t been used since Laguna. I feel a little rusty. Hopefully as we go through the rest of the weekend I’ll get better and better every time I’m on the motorcycle. I’m having fun and the R1 is as I remembered it.”
Along with his pole streak, Hayes is also aiming to score his ninth AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike victory in a row on Saturday, which would stand as a new outright series record. And with 74 points in hand, the Mississippian sees no reason not to go for every possible win at this point.
“At this point if we (took it easy), it would just be because I was tired and weak,” Hayes said with a laugh. “I don’t have to think about points very much, so I can race for every race win. If I throw a race away in a garbage can, then I’ll sit down and reevaluate how I’m going to handle the next few. Right now, I’m in a position, other than not wanting to get hurt, that I can race for the win and not have to worry about much of anything. If I don’t, I’ll be disappointed in myself I think.”
Hayden took his time working his way up to speed, throwing down some quick times lap late to leap up from outside the top ten to displace Bostrom for second.
The MJM riders were factors in the races at NJMP a year ago, each one walking away with a podium result. And they might just represent the biggest threat to Hayes’ win streak going forward this weekend.
The two men ranked second and third in the title fight, Yoshimura Suzuki’s Blake Young and Hayes’ Yamaha teammate Josh Herrin, were mired down the order alongside Hayden deep into the session.
While unable to match Hayden’s ascension, Herrin did manage to improve to seventh. Young, however, ended the day an uncharacteristic 11th at the same venue he scored one of the most memorable victories in series’ history a year ago.
Team Amsoil/Hero EBR’s Geoff May rounded out the provisional front row, albeit nearly a full second removed from Hayes’ session-leading pace (1:22.137 to Hayes’ 1:21.176).
Foremost Insurance Pegram Racing’s Larry Pegram (BMW) was fifth, followed by Attack Performance’s Steve Rapp (Kawasaki), fresh off his MotoGP wild card ride in Indianapolis.
May’s teammate, Danny Eslick, rounded out the provisional second row on the Team Hero EBR 1190RS, while Yoshimura Suzuki’s Chris Clark and KTM/HMC Racing’s Chris Fillmore completed the day’s top ten.
The final grid for the weekend’s AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike doubleheader will be set follow Saturday morning’s qualifying session.