Corey Alexander earned his first AMA Pro Road Racing national championship Sunday after a fierce battle among the top five riders in the SuperSport race. Consistency was the hallmark of Alexander’s 2013 season, with two wins and multiple podium finishes, the #5 National Guard Celtic Racing Suzuki GSX-R600 was regularly seen at the front of the pack battling for the lead and valuable points. Alexander’s championship comes on the heels of James Rispoli’s 2012 championship—making back-to-back SuperSport titles for Celtic Racing!
Friday afternoon’s SuperSport qualifying saw Alexander at the front of the pack before he would secure pole position with the fastest qualifying time, nearly a quarter of a second faster than Tomas Puerta, his closest competitor. Pole position included a valuable point towards the championship for Alexander, which brought his lead to ten points ahead of the first race at New Jersey. In SuperSport race one on Saturday, Alexander battled for the lead with Gillim, Puerta, and Mesa, before a red flag stopped the race with just six laps to go. After the restart, a heated sprint race began with the four riders exchanging the lead and looking for passing opportunities at every corner. Hayden Gillim would eventually finish first, just 0.007-second ahead of Alexander in second and Puerta in third.
With his SuperSport East lead narrowed to just four points after Saturday’s runner-up finish, National Guard Celtic Racing’s Alexander would have to be up front for race two on Sunday. Alexander was fastest in the Sunday morning warm up, despite a brief off track excursion. As on Saturday, Sunday’s race was a battle among Puerta, Gillim, Stefano Mesa, and Alexander. Passes for the lead among the group were frequent, with Alexander using every opportunity to shake things up and stay up front, earning a point for most laps led in the race on Sunday. Without a red flag to disrupt the race, Alexander would finish a strong third behind Puerta and Gillim, with Mesa bringing home fourth. Alexander enjoyed a weekend with pole position and two podium finishes.
“Today, I really wanted to win the race,” said Puerta, who won three events in his 2013 season. “I want to say congratulations to both of these guys, they rode really hard. Hopefully, we can see each other in the races next year.”
The race will be remembered as a four-rider battle for the entire 18 laps, with turn one being the action spot. Alexander was able to lead the most laps and earn the bonus point that eventually served as his margin of victory in the championship, but Puerta took the lead on the last lap and Mesa relegated Alexander to fourth place. Had the contest ended then, Gillim would have been champ, but Alexander got a better drive than Mesa and powered past by the slimmest of margins just before the finish line.
“I think that’s probably the hardest race I’ve ever ridden. Right off the bat, I knew I was going to have to work for it,” said Alexander after winning his first AMA Pro championship. “I put my head down but couldn’t get down to the times I was able to do yesterday to try to gap these guys. I could feel the pace slowing down at the end, so I knew I could be a little faster if I needed to be but my bike was spinning a lot and it was hot out there. I didn’t know where I would end up and who was where, or anything for that matter. These guys rode a great race, and that last lap was a little nerve-wracking. I led a little bit of it before Tomas took the lead and I found myself in fourth place going into that last section. I was a little scared for a second — I wasn’t sure if Hayden was going to be able to draft by into first. Fortunately, he didn’t. I really wanted that lap leader point so, every lap, I made sure I crossed the line first.”
Celtic Racing team principal Barry Gilsenan was very pleased to add another championship to the list of accolades the team has accumulated over the years. “Corey has worked hard all year,” Gilsenan said, “and really stepped up his intensity level on the bike. The team did a great job and I am glad we could give him the equipment to win a championship on. Our sponsors have also played a key role in our success again this season. No question, Corey earned their support and has helped to bring attention to the team and the sport.”
“Hats off to Corey and Tomas,” said Gillim. “We all rode a really good race. It was a hard-fought one. I look forward to next season to try to see what I can do and hopefully get on a bigger team. I wish these guys the best in the future, and I really think all three of us can go a long way in the sport.”
National Guard Celtic Racing’s James Rispoli had a good weekend at New Jersey Motorsports Park aboard his #43 Suzuki GSX-R600 in Daytona Sport Bike. Rispoli overcame some difficulties to finish eighth place on Sunday in race two, after a healthy sixth place finish in Saturday’s race one. Rispoli had speed all weekend, and spent a portion of both races battling for third place with the lead pack.
Rispoli worked hard to secure sixth place on the grid ahead of this weekend’s two races at New Jersey Motorsports Park, placing him on the inside of row two for the start of both Daytona Sport Bike races. Hard work and dedication helped him bring home two top ten finishes, and Rispoli felt his National Guard Suzuki GSX-R 600 had the speed to run with the leaders. Rispoli said that “It was actually a really good weekend, the team started to gel a bit more and we started to turn some things around and tried some new settings. We’ve been trying to break out of sixth and seventh place, which has been tough, so we have been working hard and trying new things which helped out a lot. Race one was really good, we were battling for the podium until the last three or four laps when we got caught out and I dropped back but it was great to be up front with the leaders having a blast and passing. Sunday morning I was 6/10th’s faster in warm up than I had gone in qualifying which was great. Race two was even better, we got a really good start and we were battling for third before the red flag, and I was running P3 when I experienced a massive head shake which damaged a chassis component. I knew I needed to finish strong to get as many points as possible for the Rookie Of The Year standings, and with the eighth place finish I’m tied for fifth overall with Jake Lewis going to Laguna Seca, and we are tied for the Rookie lead as well. Thanks to AGV Helmets, Dainese Leathers, Monster Energy, Spider Grips, and Techmounts for all their support – see you at Laguna in two weeks!”
Alexander stated enthusiastically that “this was just one of those weekends where you can’t really sleep at night, even though you really need to. My boys had my National Guard Celtic Racing machine set up perfectly right off the truck and we were definitely setting the pace we needed to all weekend. In race one yesterday, I came up a little short, though finishing second wasn’t the end of the world. Fortunately today we were lucky enough to finish third, and because Hayden finished second, it allowed us to win the championship by the smallest of margins. It’s been a roller coaster of a year and I cannot thank everyone enough who stuck behind me thus far. It still hasn’t really sunk in yet but I have to give a huge thanks to everyone, especially my crew Tim, Mike, and Barry for building me great bikes all year. Also, I have to give Barry Gilsenan, my team owner, a ton of thanks for really being behind me since the start of my roadracing career. It’s really unbelievable that this all started the summer of 2007! Thanks to my Uncle Richie Alexander I’m here talking about winning my first professional championship. I know my work isn’t done and I’m extremely excited for Laguna and my move into Daytona Sport Bike – it’s time to start the process all over again. Thanks to my personal sponsors, Arai Helmets, Spidi Leathers, XPD Boots, Ammo NYC, MJRS Freeman Racing, Jason Pridmore’s Star School, and Hudson Valley Motorcycles. Special thanks to my family and friends for coming to support this weekend—it was great to share this with you!”