News 28 Mar 2010

AMA SBK: Pegram and Cardenas win on Saturday at Fontana

Today’s action during the Suzuki SuperBike Challenge at Auto Club Speedway saw AMA Pro National Guard American SuperBike and AMA Pro Racing Daytona SportBike presented by AMSOIL pick up right they left off after last month’s Daytona season opener.

After a major delay caused by high sustained and gusting winds from the East, teams, riders, and series and track officials pulled together to get in three thrilling races before the sun set on another phenomenal day of action around the 2.36-mile Southern California speedway road course.

After a brief morning warm-up session for the Daytona SportBikes, it was determined that conditions would not allow any further on-track activities until the wind and gusts subsided.

As the officials met with the riders, owners and crew chiefs, a number of scenarios were discussed and once the wind started to subside, a short warm-up session was run in preparation for the National Guard American SuperBike race. After a short break to check and verify the conditions were acceptable for racing, the SuperBike race started just short of two hours late.

At the start, Jake Zemke on his Daytona winning No. 54 National Guard Jordan Suzuki jumped ahead of the No. 23 Brand Jordan Suzuki teammate of pole sitter Aaron Yates heading into turn one. No. 10 Team Iron Horse BMW/ESP rider Chris Peris took a fall in turn one before continuing, but the remainder of the 22-bike field made it through the opening lap without incident.

No. 72 Foremost Insurance Ducati rider Larry Pegram ran third, followed by fast-starting No. 21 M4 Monster Energy Suzuki rider John Hopkins. Back in seventh, No. 4 Team Graves Yamaha rider Josh Hayes got down to business and started working his way up to the front. He and Hopkins battled lap after lap, while up front the action was too wild to even follow.

Blake Young, riding his #22 Rockstar Makita Suzuki, was in the middle of the Zemke, Yates and Pegram battle, soon to be joined by Hayes.

At times, one or two riders would pull out a slight lead and then immediately the lead pack was right back at it, making major moves heading into turn one and continuing all over the 21-turn circuit.

As the front group battled, Hayes was working his way to the lead and eventually took it on lap eleven. Hayes managed to pull a slight gap as Young ran wide and lost ground to the lead group. Soon thereafter, Yates had to abort the chicane in turn one and rejoined without losing touch with the leaders.

By lap 15 of the 21-lap final, the first four had broken away, with a slight lead for Hayes. He was quickly reeled in by the battling group and Zemke was running as hard as he could to take the lead back on lap 16.

As the race wound down, each rider seemed to have a strong shot at the win before Hayes dropped back, making it a three-horse race of Yates, Pegram and Zemke. Pegram made the pass for the lead in the infield section on lap 18 and held on for a popular and hard fought victory, followed by Zemke, Yates and Hayes.

After the delay for the windy conditions, the riders said noted the wind at the end of the infield back straight and into turn one but decided to put on one of the best races anyone has ever seen at Auto Club Speedway.

Pegram paid tribute to his wife and entire team as he talked about what it meant for him to put another win on the board after his three wins in 2009.

“To win against these teams with all the hard work everyone on our team puts in makes me so proud, I work as hard as I can on the track and my guys work every bit as hard as I do,” Pegram said. “I manage the team and my wife puts up with me but when we win I even get a little emotional because it means so much to all of us.”

Zemke felt that his season can be even better as he gets used to his new team and the National Guard Suzuki package.

“Everything is still new for us and it is a work in progress, I know we can get the bikes better and as I learn to work with the team I know there is more to come,” he said.

Rounding out the top ten are the two Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s of Young in fifth and a quiet race for Tommy Hayden’s No. 22 Suzuki to sixth.

After his strong start, John Hopkins still finished a solid seventh, followed by Ben Bostrom on his No. 155 Pat Clark Motorsports Yamaha, Chris Ulrich on his No. 18 M4 Monster Energy Suzuki and No. 25 David Anthony riding the Aussie Dave Racing Suzuki, recovering nicely after their transporter awning was damaged by the high winds early in the morning.

Following the incredible AMA Pro National Guard American SuperBike race, the Daytona SportBikes went ahead and put on a show of their own.

Danny Eslick on his No. 1 GEICO Powersports/RMR Suzuki led from pole position ahead of a fast-starting Tommy Aquino on his No. 6 Team Graves Yamaha, Daytona 200 winner Josh Herrin, also riding a Team Graves Yamaha, and Team Latus Motors Racing Ducati rider Steve Rapp, followed by Dane Westby and Martin Cardenas on his M4 Monster Energy Suzuki.

Westby, riding his Project 1Yamaha, was the man on the move and he took Cardenas with him towards the front. Aquino and Rapp fell back and the group comprised of Eslick, Herrin, Westby and Cory West on his Vesrah Suzuki, put on a breathtaking show.

Lap after lap, they fought back and forth, with Eslick holding station at the front for the first six laps. Occasionally pulling out a slight lead, it was just as quickly diminished as the riders behind fought back on the front banking and all throughout the many twists and turns of the infield section.

After his heartbreaking Daytona race, a vey determined Cardenas showed why he is a major threat for the championship by fighting his way to the front on lap 12 and holding off the very determined assaults of Eslick, Westby and Herrin.

Westby led for two laps and had one of the greatest saves of the day as he had a huge moment and was somehow able to stay on top of the Yamaha and only lose a couple of seconds to the leaders. He fought back as Eslick and Cardenas put on a demonstration of hard fought racing with total respect as each rider gave the other only just enough room as they battled for the win.

On the last lap, Eslick made his final lunge for the win in turn 11 and he and Cardenas ran side-by-side through the corner, inches apart but neither rider giving an inch. Cardenas held on for the fantastic win ahead of Eslick, Westby, Herrin and West.

Rounding out the top ten were Aquino, who stayed with it and took sixth, Rapp in seventh and Chris Fillmore, riding the other Vesrah Suzuki, taking eighth. Bobby Fong took a solid ninth place, riding his DNA Energy Drink CNR Motorsports Ducati, and Clinton Seller rounded out a great day for Project 1 Yamaha with tenth place.

Eslick was delighted with his race and had fun too.

“I never gave up, and tried everything to stay in front early and then I kept working on trying to win the race,” he said. “I saw both the front and back of Dane’s leathers when he had his moment and I thought he was going to end up in my lap but somehow he held on and saved it.”

Cardenas said he thought Danny had gotten away at the start but he kept working and made some passes and then fought as hard as he could to stay up front until the end.

“I knew he (Eslick) was going to try something at the end, I just didn’t think he would try and pass me there, I saw his front wheel but I just held on and I knew the Suzuki was good and we took the win,” he explained.

Click here for detailed results