Josh Hayes Earns 40th Career Win
Three-time AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike champion Josh Hayes scored his 40th career win on Sunday at the New Jersey Lottery Devil’s Showdown. The Monster Energy/Graves/Yamaha superstar rebounded from Saturday’s disappointment with a classic ride that served as a reminder that he’s still the man to beat in any given premier-class race.
While he faces long odds in his quest to claim an unprecedented fourth-straight AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike title, the Mississippian got a measure of revenge for yesterday’s contest. On Saturday, Hayes fought his way through the field after suffering an early electrical issue to take the checkered flag, only to ultimately be dropped down to fourth in the official standings due to his third jump-start infraction of the 2013 GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing season.
On Sunday, after getting away cleanly at the start, Hayes powered into Turn 1 in third position from pole and then worked his way into the lead by the time the field returned to the start/finish straight for the first time in the 23-lap race.
Hayes’ Monster Energy/Graves/Yamaha teammate, Josh Herrin, slotted in behind Hayes’ rear wheel and the two factory Yamaha pilots made a quick escape from the remainder of the pack. Herrin, who (again) capitalized on Hayes’ costly mistake on Saturday to pick up his fourth win of the season and grab the inside line to this year’s crown, tagged along for several laps before Hayes’ blistering pace finally proved too much.
With Herrin no longer in his shadow, the champ immediately open a sizable lead, which he managed for the bulk of the race. Hayes ultimately scored his seventh victory of 2013 by over three seconds.
The triumph was Hayes’ eighth SuperBike win at New Jersey Motorsports Park. Afterwards, the straight-faced Yamaha ace said, “The race went pretty good. This morning I went out and put in a good string of laps so I knew I was capable of doing a lot of 21s. I just tried to get myself to the front and see how fast I could go. I did a couple 20s and Josh did a pretty good job—he was able to hang on while we were doing those. I just tried to keep the pressure on so I could get a little gap. It seemed like I got it and then it kind of hovered… I just tried to be steady and not make any mistakes or miss any marks. I just had a good, smooth ride and was able to bring it home.”
Herrin wouldn’t be lonely in second for long after losing Hayes’ tow, however, as he was tracked down by Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing’s Martin Cardenas and National Guard Jordan Suzuki’s Roger Hayden. They clawed their way up to make it a three-way fight for second position with just two laps to go.
Colombian Cardenas made his bid for the position on the final lap but Herrin was able to counter his pass with one of his own and hold the spot by 0.055 of a second at the stripe.
Hayden, who overtook Cardenas for third momentarily the lap before, was an interested observer in the heated battle as he accepted fourth just a half-second removed from a runner-up finish.
As a result of yesterday’s win and today’s second, Herrin now boasts a comfortable 22-point advantage heading into the ’13 finale. A finish inside the top ten is all he needs to earn his first-ever AMA Pro title.
Herrin said, “It feels good. It’s been since 2008 that I’ve been trying to get a championship. I’m not there yet but it’s getting closer. Today I went into the race really nervous — I’m not going to lie. I was thinking about the points and what I needed to do to get enough of a gap to where I wouldn’t have to worry too much at Laguna and I think we accomplished that. It’s not going to be easy to finish in the top ten but it’s a lot of weight off my shoulder knowing that’s the goal. We’ve been working hard all year and we’ve had minimal problems and we’ve only not finished on the podium twice all year. That was something that was real important to me this year… I’m just really excited to go to Laguna.”
Cardenas is now third, 23 points back of Herrin. The Suzuki runner said, “It was a very long and tough race; I didn’t have rest at any time. I made a good start but, at the end of the first lap, the two Josh’s passed me and they were a little bit faster than me on the first few laps. And then Danny (Eslick) and Roger tried to pass me and I had to fight back. By that time, Herrin and Hayes had a little gap and all the race I was trying to close that gap. I was trying as hard as I could every lap, and I saw the gap was coming down (to Herrin) little by little. On the last lap, I caught Herrin and tried to do my best to pass him and hold the position. I made an attempt, and it worked but only for a little bit and he passed me back. There was no other chance, so I had to settle for third.”
Jordan Suzuki’s Danny Eslick shined in the race’s early stages, dicing back and forth with Cardenas and Hayden while contesting third position. Eventually he fell off that chase and into a fifth-place finish — his ninth top-five of the 2013 campaign.
KTM/HMC Racing’s Chris Fillmore shook Team HERO EBR’s Geoff May and made a late run on Eslick, ultimately coming up just over a second short while claiming sixth position.
May finished a lonely seventh while Foremost Insurance Pegram Racing’s Larry Pegram was an equally clear eighth.
Fillmore’s KTM teammate Taylor Knapp won out in a race-long scrap for ninth ahead of tenth-place finisher David Anthony (Motosport.com Motul Fly Racing) and eleventh-placed Aaron Yates (Team Amsoil/HERO EBR).
With just a single race left to contest, Herrin heads to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca at the end of the month with 320 points and on the verge of his first SuperBike title. Hayes and Cardenas are still alive should things go wrong for Herrin, however, holding 298 and 297 points, respectively.
Photo by Brian J. Nelson