AMA SuperBike 2014
AMA Pro SuperBike is as tough as it gets in North American road racing completion. Winning the series title takes exceptional rider skill, courage and patience. For the fourth time, Monster Energy Graves Yamaha’s Josh Hayes has proven to be that guy.
Coming off a near-miss 2013 season, where Hayes did not repeat his 2012 title performance, the Mississippian was even more determined, methodical and fast throughout 2014 and reclaimed the title, despite tough competition from his own teammate Cameron Beaubier.
At age 39, Hayes is not prone to making mistakes or rash decisions on the track; it is that maturity and consistency that helped him reclaim his crown. Hayes clinched the 2014 title on Saturday with a second place at the Kawasaki Devil’s Showdown at New Jersey Motorsports Park. But he wasn’t done; he won Sunday’s race, scoring his seventh victory in eleven races (seven rounds), for a career total of 48 victories race wins.
It has not always been this good for Hayes. Not so many years ago, he did not have the ride he does now with the Monster Energy Graves Yamaha team and a legitimate shot at the title was always uncertain.
Now in rolling up certain Hall of Fame credentials, only Mat Mladin exceeds his statistics in any significant categories; the Australian has a total of seven SuperBike Championships. Indeed, it was Hayes who replaced Mladin as the king of the hill in Pro SuperBike.
“I remember early in 2009, having tears in my eyes because I was racing for eighth for the third weekend in a row,” Hayes said. “And within two months I had become the overdog. I was the giant killer. And then all the sudden, I was the giant. As soon as Mat retired, it became ‘Who’s going to beat Josh?’” Hayes recalls.
“It’s not been completely smooth for five years since then – I’ve had ups and downs. I’ve had great challenges and some years that were pretty easy. But I’ll always remain motivated to make up for lost time” Hayes continued.
Racing to win has always been paramount for Hayes and even as he became the man to beat, his competitive drive has not waned.
“If somebody takes a race win on me, I want them to feel good about it,” Hayes remarked. “I’ll always give everything I have – nothing left. I’m never going to give one away. If someone beats me, they earned it,” Hayes says.
“Those are the right things to do and the right way to think about things. There are no gifts. I’ve never felt like anyone ever handed me anything and I’m not going to cheapen anyone else’s experience.”
Regarding the other riders, Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing’s Roger Hayden earned his first victory of the year on Saturday and closed out his season by finishing second on Sunday – both in the race and in the standings.
Hayden was narrowly edged to the stripe by Hayes on Saturday but later awarded the win when Hayes was penalized for passing under yellow.
The Kentuckian rewarded Suzuki for making room for him when he was without a gig deep into the offseason by claiming its only SuperBike victory of the year. He also finished strong in general, closing out his first campaign with Yoshimura by ripping off five straight podium placements to edge second Yamaha pilot Beaubier for season runner-up.
“I’m really happy with the way the season went,” Hayden said. “We’ve been consistent and fast, and we were on the podium at just about every race. This was our first year together and I’m really proud of my team. I can’t thank Yoshimura and Suzuki enough for giving me this opportunity. This weekend was a good way to finish the season, I rode as hard as I could, every lap. This was my first time to finish second in points, and I learned a lot this year. We can all be proud of this.”
Beaubier ended his up-and-down rookie effort with a pair of crashes but made a huge impression during his first season in the premier class. Beaubier showed the raw speed to beat Hayes on his day and picked up three victories in the process.
Hayden’s Yoshimura Suzuki teammate Chris Clark also enjoyed a breakthrough season in which he earned his first SuperBike podium. He ultimately edged ADR Motorsports/Sic/Motul Fly Racing’s David Anthony – who took a big step forward himself – for fourth in the standings by a single point.
Preseason title hopeful Martin Cardenas struggled at times in 2014 but ended the year with a strong podium effort – his fourth of the season – to wind up ranked sixth.
“This was a tough weekend,” said Cardenas. “The track is very physical. I wanted to finish a little higher on the podium on Sunday but third was the best I could do. I’m very happy for me and for the Yoshimura Suzuki team to finish on the box.”
Team AMSOIL Hero EBR’s Cory West moved ahead of KTM/HMC Racing’s Chris Fillmore to finish seventh as Fillmore again saw a potential first podium ride end in disappointment.
Foremost Insurance Pegram Racing’s Larry Pegram earned his first podium ride of the season aboard the EBR 1190RS in Saturday’s wet race while Proto-Tech Spain’s Bernat Martinez secured tenth in the championship with what was easily his most impressive outing of the season.