2013 National Guard AMA SuperBike Championship
Following the post-Daytona layover, the 2013 GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing season resumes this weekend as the series makes its anticipated annual stop at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. for the Subway SuperBike Doubleheader.
The break which has followed the season opener has presented either a lengthy opportunity to ride high on season-opening accomplishments or stew in disappointment depending on one’s Daytona performance.
While AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike leader Josh Herrin (No. 2 Monster Energy Graves Yamaha YZF-R1) and runner-up Martin Cardenas (No. 36 Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing Suzuki GSX-R1000) no doubt come into Road America full of Daytona-fueled confidence, it’s the predicament of reigning triple champ Josh Hayes (No. 1 Monster Energy Graves Yamaha YZF-R1) that arguably stands as the most compelling story heading into Round 2.
The Monster Energy Graves Yamaha ace has proven to be a dominant force in recent seasons, quickly accumulating statistics that have thrust him into conversations regarding the series’ all-time greats.
Last year’s stop at Road America served as a prime example of his overwhelming form as the Mississippian notched up a one-sided, perfect-points weekend. Hayes grabbed pole by shattering Mat Mladin’s old lap record (the first such mark toppled since the premier-class formula was heavily revised in 2009) while distancing himself from the remainder of the field by more than a second-and-a-half in qualifying. The races didn’t prove any more competitive as Hayes hustled the #1 YZF-R1 to a pair of easy victories, winning by more than 10 seconds both times out.
Hayes looked every bit as quick and motivated at Daytona this past March as he opened his quest to become the first man to win four consecutive AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike crowns. However, his unquestioned speed and racecraft couldn’t prevent him from leaving Daytona International Speedway relegated to just 18th in the early-season championship chase, some 48 points adrift of his young factory Yamaha teammate, Herrin.
A pair of mechanical DNFs erased two potential victories and gave Hayes the unenviable yet not-impossible challenge of making the long claw back up the order. A repeat performance of his ’12 Wisconsin weekend would go an awfully long way to putting his championship campaign back on track.
However, it’s unlikely Hayes will find it quite as easy to escape this time around. The scenic 4.05-mile circuit offers a variety of challenges to both rider and machine and rewards talent, horsepower, and setup nearly equally. For a rider in Hayes’ typically dominant position, the goal is to break the pursuit of any challengers and ease off into the distance. However, if his outright superiority isn’t quite decisive enough, the track’s three lengthy straights will immediately level the playing field, allowing his opponents to cling on and turn the race into a dogfight to the checkered flag.
It’s gone both ways for Hayes in recent seasons. Prior to his ’12 double, Hayes walked away in one race in ’12 while getting beat to the stripe on the last lap in the other. It was a similar story in 2011, when he won one race in a photo finish and was nipped at the line the following day.
While current title leader Josh Herrin wasn’t yet ready to challenge Hayes for victory at Road America as a rookie in 2012, he should prove a much more formidable adversary this weekend. Armed with identical equipment, Herrin tangled with Hayes twice at Daytona. In the first race of the season, he took full advantage of Hayes’ misfortunate, capitalizing by securing the first premier-class victory in his young career. He then followed that up with a runner-up result the following day, a 1-2 punch that earned him a quick 56 points and the championship lead.
Herrin boasts a rather sparkling Road America résumé himself. Besides claiming two podium results last year as a class rookie, Herrin won three times at the track while competing in the AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike class.
Considerably more confident on the stomping 1000 with a full season of experience under his belt, following his superb Daytona opener, Herrin pointed to Road America as an excellent opportunity to prove his worth as a genuine title threat to any remaining doubters.
Eager to live up to the high expectations that come with being named the lead rider for the renowned Yoshimura Suzuki team, Cardenas notched up a runner-up finish and a victory in his Yosh debut.
As a result, the Colombian finds himself just a single point back of Herrin (due to the bonus point the Yamaha pilot earned for leading the most laps en route to his breakthrough win) and in a similar position heading into Round 2.
Cardenas has proven himself to be a master of the Wisconsin circuit as well, winning at the track every year he competed there in GoPro Daytona SportBike, including last year’s double. His ’11 showing as a SuperBike rookie was quite impressive as well, as he raced to a pair of fourth-place finishes.
Herrin and Cardenas will no doubt be anxious to build on their early-season success and look to avoid squandering what’s effectively a two-race head start they’ve been gifted over title favorite Hayes.
In 2009, Road America was the scene of one of the proudest moments in Larry Pegram’s (No. 72 Pegram Racing Yamaha YZF-R1) lengthy racing career, as the Ohioan stood atop the podium following a thrilling dogfight with the legendary Mat Mladin.
Pegram’s offseason switch to Yamaha equipment bore immediate fruit at Daytona; the Foremost Insurance Pegram Racing runner collected a pair of third-place finishes after missing out on the podium altogether in 2011 and 2012. Now that he’s back at front-running form, can Pegram and his family-based team topple goliath once again?
Cardenas’ Yoshimura Suzuki teammate, Chris Clark (No. 6 Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing Suzuki GSX-R1000), is another pilot carrying a head of steam into Road America. Clark registered a pair of sevenths in Elkhart Lake last season — his best career National Guard SuperBike results until he bettered that with fifth and sixth-place showings at Daytona this past March.
Wisconsin has quietly become the haven for a number of leading National Guard SuperBike race teams, making Road America the ‘home race’ of sorts for a number of big name outfits. The Michael Jordan Motorsports and Erik Buell Racing squads are based out of East Troy, Wisconsin, and Mitch Hansen’s KTM/HMC Racing team has also long been based out of the state.
The twin-cylinder EBR 1190RS and KTM RC8R racebikes tend to excel on twistier and more technical courses, minimizing any ‘home track’ advantage they may appreciate at Road America. Conversely, the machines of the Michael Jordan Motorsports duo of Roger Hayden (No. 54 National Guard Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000) and Danny Eslick (No. 23 Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000) are well-suited for this venue and the team might just be in for a big weekend.
That said, last year’s stop was a disaster for Hayden, who could only manage 17th and 13th on the National Guard Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000. His Daytona opener was something of a disappointment as well (he’s currently ranked 12th in the standings after 18th and fourth-place results), but the Kentuckian has proven himself to be among a very select group who can push Hayes at the front and race for wins. Like the champ, he’ll be itching to turn things around this weekend.
His new teammate, Eslick, registered a solid debut on the No. 23 Jordan Suzuki bike at Daytona with a fourth and a fifth and should only be stronger at Round 2 with additional seat time on the team’s GSX-R1000.
Meanwhile, the KTM/HMC duo of Chris Fillmore (No. 11 KTM/HMC Racing KTM RC8R) and Taylor Knapp (No. 44 KTM/HMC Racing KTM RC8R), as well as Erik Buell Racing teammates Geoff May (No. 99 Team Hero EBR 1190RS) and Aaron Yates (No. 20 Team AMSOIL/Hero EBR 1190RS) — a four-time Road America Supersport/Superstock race winner — will have an opportunity to demonstrate the gains delivered by their respective teams’ offseason development programs.
Among the other riders to keep an eye on this weekend are Chris Ulrich (No. 18 M4 Broaster Chicken Racing Honda CBR1000RR), David Anthony (No. 25 Motosport.com Motul Fly Racing Suzuki GSX-R1000), Cory West (No. 13 Team RSRacecraft EBR 1190RS) and Dustin Dominguez (No. 68 Team RSRacecraft EBR 1190RS).
Road America AMA Superbike on TV
This weekend will mark the debut of GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing’s television broadcasts on CBS Sports Network as part of the CBS Sports Spectacular.
This weekend’s coverage includes LIVE broadcasts of both AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike races, and will begin Saturday, June 1 at 2:30 p.m. ET/11:30 a.m. PT with an all-new weekend Preview Show.
Live coverage of AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike Race 1 will air on Saturday, June 1 at 4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT with Race 2 slotted in for Sunday, June 2 at 4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT. Fans can find CBS Sports Network on their TV by using the channel finder.
In addition to the live broadcasts on CBS Sports Network, AMA Pro Live will be live streaming multiple channels of behind-the-scenes video of the weekend’s activities alongside Live Timing & Scoring. AMA Pro Live puts fans in the director’s chair, allowing them to choose from a variety of viewpoints including track cameras, paddock cameras and a press conference channel. Streaming will begin with coverage of the weekend’s practice and qualifying sessions on Friday, May 31 at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT at AMA Pro Live.
Tickets for the Subway SuperBike Doubleheader at Road America start at just $20. For more information, click here.