AMA PRO RACING:
Josh Hayes (No. 4 Yamaha Motor Corp. USA Yamaha R1) and Josh Herrin (No. 8 Team Graves Yamaha YZF-R6) combined to give Yamaha a banner day Saturday at Virginia International Raceway in the opening rounds of the Suzuki Big Kahuna Nationals. Hayes dominated in AMA Pro National Guard American Superbike presented by Parts Unlimited for his fourth win of the year while Herrin made two passes for the lead on the last lap to win his first AMA Pro Daytona SportBike presented by AMSOIL race.
After winning his second Superpole of the season Friday in qualifying, Hayes took the lead at the start and never looked back. He led all 23 race laps and crossed the finish line a comfortable 10.062 seconds ahead of Mat Mladin (No. 7 Rockstar/Makita Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000). Hayes’ teammate Ben Bostrom (No. 2 Yamaha Motor Corp. USA Yamaha R1) prevailed in a thrilling race-long duel with Aaron Yates (No. 23 Brand Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000) to finish third.
“I think these types of wins are rare to come by, few and far between, except for what Mat’s done the last several years,” Hayes said. “I was fortunate. We worked really hard; we have a really good motorcycle. It was the right bike to be on and we made the right tire choice. We were able to put together good laps from the beginning and I feel real fortunate to be here. I’m sure that these guys are going to up their game tomorrow.”
Hayes won his first race of the season in May at Infineon Raceway where he broke a season-opening streak of seven straight wins by Mladin, who came up just short in his bid to win a seventh AMA Pro American Superbike Championship on Saturday. Mladin will clinch the crown tomorrow if his only remaining challenger Tommy Hayden (No. 22 Rockstar/Makita Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000), who is winless in his American Superbike career, doesn’t take the victory in Sunday’s final.
“Josh has been fast all weekend,” said Mladin, who is retiring at the end of the season. “He did a great job today. We got out to a bit of a gap so on the podium the boys have sort of quietly been trying to tell me to think about the championship in their passing comments. Sometimes you have to just do what you have to do, but today it wouldn’t have mattered really what I did. Even if I pushed as hard as I could, I don’t think I had anything for Josh. He was just too fast today. We’ll try and get through tomorrow and New Jersey and that’s it. VIR’s always a fantastic race. I enjoy coming here and I enjoy the race track. It’s nice to put on a good show in front of a good crowd.”
Bostrom rebounded from starting 12th after missing Friday’s Superpole to take the final podium spot. The third-place showing was his seventh podium of the year.
“Honestly, Aaron was doing a fantastic job and once we got up into third he actually got me back,” Bostrom said. “Fun racing today. It’s not fun from the third row, it’s hard. I saw Holden and Hayden, and a bunch of good riders there as well, so it was pretty cool to look forward and see Mat, Josh and everybody come back and see three rows of great riders there. I just have to step up tomorrow, obviously the boys here are out riding us and it’s time to get a little nastier off the starting line and get it up there and hold on.”
Yates swapped third place with Bostrom several times in the race and ended up finishing fourth after a great battle. The final position in the top five also came down to a thrilling conclusion with Hayden nipping his other teammate Blake Young (No. 79 Rockstar/Makita Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000) at the line.
Sunday’s American Superbike final is scheduled to start at 4:20 p.m. local time for 23 laps/50 miles and will close the Big Kahuna weekend. Saturday’s American Superbike and Daytona SportBike finals will be shown tonight in a two-hour show at 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. PT) while Sunday’s premier class races and other highlights will air in a two-hour show that evening at Midnight ET (9 p.m. PT).
Daytona SportBike Thriller
Herrin took the lead from fifth on the grid on the first lap and then had to pass Jason DiSalvo (No. 40 Team M4 Suzuki GSX-R600) twice on the last lap to score his first AMA Pro Daytona SportBike presented by AMSOIL race win. It was the third Daytona SportBike victory of the year for Team Graves Yamaha and Herrin’s first victory in AMA Pro Road Racing competition since winning in AMA Pro SuperSport at Barber Motorsports Park last year. Bostrom won the season-opening Daytona 200 and at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in July in a pair of Daytona SportBike cameo appearances for Team Graves Yamaha earlier this season.
Herrin battled at the front of the field for the entire race but led just the first and final laps and only two others in the 23-lap race. He charged by DiSalvo in Turn 1 on the last lap only to have the Suzuki rider retake the top spot a few corners later. Herrin then regrouped and slipped past DiSalvo in the Turn 16 downhill run leading up to the front straight. DiSalvo made a final move as the leaders crossed the finish line but Herrin held him off for a tight .010 of a second victory.
“At the start of the race I just had to stuff it in there,” Herrin said. “I think I passed six guys right there. I didn’t think I was going to make it but I did. From there on out it was a pretty smooth race, no big moments. I try not to be a real contact racer. I tried to pass Jason as clean as I could and I didn’t feel any contact. My Yamaha’s been working really awesome today and I just can’t thank my crew enough.”
DiSalvo finished second for the third time this year and scored his sixth overall top-three finish. He charged to the lead Saturday after starting ninth after an accident in yesterday’s Superpole qualifying.
“I just felt really, really good making passes out there today, which I needed to,” said DiSalvo, who was not injured in yesterday’s spill. “That was one of the biggest things that I focused on after yesterday, because I knew I’d be coming from ninth. Just figuring out what I needed to do to get from ninth to first, and we did it, we just couldn’t hold on. I knew I had the pace. I didn’t really expect Josh to come with me, but he did and he put up a great fight at the end. The pass up at the top of the hill was good. I leaned on him a little bit, because at that point that’s really all I could do. It was a good race. Tomorrow I just hope to be one spot higher.”
Jamie Hacking (No. 88 Monster Energy Attack Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R) finished third for his first podium result since finishing second at Mid-Ohio.
“It was a good race,” Hacking said. “I’m still waiting for that win. I know Josh probably feels good, it feels good to actually get a win. It’s been a couple of years for me now. We’re not giving up for sure. Josh made us look bad there on the start. He came from my row and I don’t know how he made it in there in Turn 1, but it was a hell of a ride that he did and he didn’t touch anybody.”
Jake Zemke (No. 1x Erion Racing Honda CBR600RR) and DiSalvo each led a race-high eight laps, with the Honda rider up front for Laps 2 through 9. Zemke finished fourth while Steve Rapp (No. 48 Bazzaz/Pat Clark Motorsports Yamaha YZF-R6) rounded out the top five for his best finish since placing third in the Saturday final at Infineon.
The race’s only other leader was Herrin’s teammate Tommy Aquino (No. 6 Team Graves Yamaha YZF-R6) who was uninjured when he lowsided in Turn 16 battling for the lead on Lap 15. First-time pole-sitter Taylor Knapp (No. 54 Latus Motors Racing Buell 1125R) was also running up front when he lowsided in Turn 3 one lap after Aquino’s incident. Knapp was uninjured.
Championship contenders Danny Eslick (No. 9 GEICO Powersports/RMR Buell 1125R) and Martin Cardenas (No. 36 Team M4 Suzuki GSX-R600) never played a factor and had quiet runs to seventh and ninth, respectively. Cardenas raced despite a broken hand from a Friday practice crash but only lost two points to Eslick after Saturday’s race. Eslick is on top with 332 points, Cardenas in second with 330 markers and Herrin closed on the top duo in third with 291 points.
Sunday’s Daytona SportBike final is scheduled to start at 2 p.m. local time for 23 laps/50 miles and will kick off the final races of the Big Kahuna weekend.