AMA PRO RACING:
Larry Pegram (No. 72 Foremost Insurance/Pegram Racing Ducati 1098R) won his first AMA Pro Road Racing pole since 1996 in AMA Pro National Guard American Superbike presented by Parts Unlimited competition in Friday’s Superpole qualifying for the Tornado Nationals presented by BriggsAuto.com at Heartland Park Topeka.
Pegram paced a competitive group of American Superbike competitors that saw four different manufacturers on the front row for the first time since the May 2002 race at Road Atlanta. It was also the first Superbike pole for Pegram since the 1996 Road America race and the first for Ducati since Eric Bostrom qualified first at Daytona in March 2004.
“I actually feel really good because I usually really screw up in Superpole,” said Pegram, who clinched the top spot with a lap time of 1:36.368 (93.392 mph). “I felt like I left a little bit out there like I normally do, but it was good enough to hold on. I’m really happy. My guys have worked so hard and there has really been rejuvenation this season by being back on a bike that is capable of winning.”
Pegram and Ducati will share the front row with Aaron Yates (No. 23 Brand Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000), Jake Holden (No. 59 Holden Racing Honda CBR1000RR) and Ben Bostrom (No. 2 Yamaha Motor Corp. USA Yamaha R1) for the most diverse American Superbike front row in more than seven years.
“It was a pretty decent lap and no big dramas or moments, or anything,” said Yates, who clocked in second overall and the fastest Suzuki at 1:36.513 (93.252 mph). “I let off a little over the hill in Turn 1 and slowed down a little too much for the switchback there. I was off a few tenths in the second segment, I think, which I have been struggling there all weekend, but I was pretty strong in the other end of the track and got through there good. I just barely missed out.”
Holden joined Corona Extra teammate Neil Hodgson (No. 100 Corona Extra Honda CBR1000RR) as the only Honda riders in Superpole and qualified a solid third with a lap of 1:36.540 (93.226 mph). Holden was also the fastest rider in American Superbike group qualifying earlier on Friday.
“After this morning I felt pretty good about going to Superpole,” said Holden, who posted his best qualifying effort of the year. “I felt like I got a decent lap in but I lost the front coming through Turn 2 there over the bumps. I tried to pull it back together and ended up still quick in that segment, so it wasn’t too bad. It is great to be back up here on the front row. I bought this bike right before Daytona and it is pretty much just a stock machine except for the motor.”
Bostrom represented Yamaha on the front row with a fourth-place qualifying lap of 1:36.643 (93.126 mph). He held the top spot for the majority of the middle of the session but knew his lap likely wouldn’t hold up for the pole.
“I botched the third split pretty bad, and I just wasn’t so good in the last one,” Bostrom said. “I felt fine in the first couple and got a few things to learn, but the bike is fantastic. It is really important to try out the newer soft tire before you go out for Superpole, but we kind of let that slip. We had a little mechanical there during qualifying. I don’t know, I just wasn’t ready for the thing to grip that good. The track is pretty slippery and really fun to ride around. There’s a lot of sideways action everywhere and the race is going to be exciting and I think one of the better races.”
Bostrom was also complimentary of the outstanding effort Heartland Park Topeka owner Raymond Irwin has made in working with AMA Pro Road Racing to improve the safety aspects of the circuit.
“The promoter is trying hard to reconstruct the track for safety issues,” Bostrom said. “When we come back there will be a few things that definitely need to be done, but it looks like he is proactive and will do it. Good on him, its nice to have a new track.”
Bostrom’s teammate Josh Hayes (No. 4 Yamaha Motor Corp. USA Yamaha R1) qualified fifth.
Saturday’s first American Superbike race of the weekend is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. local time for 20 laps/50 miles. Coverage of Saturday’s races will begin at 10:30 p.m. ET (7:30 p.m. PT) on SPEED.
While Larry Pegram and Ducati qualified up front for the first time in years, Jason DiSalvo (No. 40 Team M4 Suzuki GSX-R600) boosted his class-leading run of AMA Pro Daytona SportBike presented by AMSOIL Superpoles to five with today’s result at Heartland Park. DiSalvo locked down the top spot with a lap of 1:38.924 (90.979 mph) and now has his sites set on his first win of the season.
“I think we can get the win and it is going to be a good race,” said DiSalvo. “The crew has been working really hard and we have a new engine spec this weekend. I am just really excited. The bike feels great and we have made a lot of development to the chassis this weekend. I am really pumped to get out and race tomorrow.”
DiSalvo will share the front row with Josh Herrin (No. 8 Team Graves Yamaha YZF-R6) while their respective teammates Martin Cardenas (No. 36 Team M4 Suzuki GSX-R600) and Tommy Aquino (No. 6 Team Graves Yamaha YZF-R6) rounded out the top four.
“I figured I had a pretty good run all the way until the second-to-last corner when I tucked the front,” Herrin said. “The slide was just normal, every lap is usually like that. It’s just the style that I have. It felt really good the whole lap. We finally got the good solid Superpole lap we’ve been looking for the whole year. It’s nice just for confidence going in to tomorrow knowing that we don’t have to fight through that whole pack in the beginning.”
Points leader Cardenas is locked in a tight championship battle with Danny Eslick (No. 9 GEICO Powersports/RMR Buell 1125R), who qualified 10th, claiming the final spot of today’s Daytona SportBike Superpole qualifiers. Cardenas still expects the Eslick and Buell to be up to speed in this weekend’s races.
“I expect the Buell to be fast in the race and maybe something happened in his run,” Cardenas said. “I’ve been improving at the Superpole thing. This time it came up good, I got a third position and made a good lap. It could be better, but it’s the way it is. The bike has been working great and the crew also. We’ve been trying some different settings because here the back of the bike slides a lot. I think we found a good solution and the bike is ready for tomorrow.”
Aquino scored his first top-three finish of the year one race ago at Mid-Ohio and was on form again Friday at Topeka.
“We got some really close action in this class, it’s pretty intense,” Aquino said. “It seems like whenever I make it into Superpole I gain a position or two. Today I think I stayed where I was at. The second row is good. I’m pretty confident that everybody here is going to be in the main pack the whole race. It’s going to be good.”
Jake Zemke (No. 1x Erion Racing Honda CBR600RR) rounded out the Daytona SportBike top-five qualifiers.
Saturday’s first Daytona SportBike race of the weekend is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. local time for 20 laps/50 miles. Coverage of Saturday’s races will begin at 10:30 p.m. ET (7:30 p.m. PT) on SPEED.