News 11 May 2010

AMA SBK: Hayes hopes for win as Zemke leads to Infineon

Infineon Raceway’s 2009 AMA Pro National Guard American SuperBike race was the first glimpse of the future, but at the time, it didn’t seem so significant.

Now looking back, it was a moment that foretold the future as eventual 2009 AMA Pro American Superbike Champion Mat Mladin was beaten for the first time after opening the season with seven straight race wins by none other than Team Graves Yamaha rider Josh Hayes.

Mladin righted the ship with a win in the second race of the Infineon Raceway doubleheader but he only won three more races on his way to his record seventh championship as Hayes took control with six wins, including the last four in a row.

With Mladin’s retirement at the end of the year, Hayes set the tone for this season in American Superbike, where there have already been four different winners in six races.

This weekend’s West Coast Moto Jam race weekend at Infineon Raceway, just north of San Francisco, will be the perfect place for Hayes to get his first actual race win of 2010. Returning to the track that gave him his first career AMA Pro American SuperBike victory should provide Hayes with the momentum to return him once again to the winner’s circle.

The other rider who broke the string of Mladin’s win streak in 2009 is Foremost Insurance Ducati rider Larry Pegram. He was the only other rider to post victories after the Infineon Raceway weekend in 2009 and Pegram is one of the riders with a win in 2010.

Speaking of the Rockstar Makita Suzuki team that guided Mladin to so many victories, current riders Tommy Hayden and Blake Young have won the last three races in a row, both posting their first career American SuperBike wins, Hayden at Auto Club Speedway and Young in dramatic style at Road Atlanta.

What was perceived as a quiet start for the Yoshimura tuned team has turned into a full fledged assault on the season opening double race winner and points leader Jake Zemke on his National Guard Jordan Suzuki.

Zemke opened the season with a memorable first American Superbike win for the Michael Jordan-owned team and has not finished lower than fourth this year, riding with skill and patience on the masterfully tuned National Guard Suzuki. Zemke’s teammate at Infineon Raceway will again be Brett McCormick, standing in for the injured Aaron Yates who continues to recuperate impatiently at his Georgia home.

Another rider filling in for a sidetracked rider is Jake Holden, who will be riding the M4 Monster Energy Suzuki. Regular rider John Hopkins had medical attention to his injured wrist prior to the last race but unfortunately for Hopkins and his M4 Monster Energy Suzuki team, it became apparent that he needed additional treatment.

Another rider who would love to climb to the top step of the Infineon Raceway podium is California native Ben Bostrom. He has won in American Superbike down in Monterey at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and actually won an AMA Pro Supersport race at Infineon Raceway, but to date he hasn’t won there in American Superbike.

Two other riders who are having very successful 2010 campaigns are Chris Ulrich and Taylor Knapp, who are sixth and seventh in the points standings respectively.

Ulrich, aboard his M4 Monster Energy Suzuki has five top ten results from six races and is poised to benefit from his familiarity with Infineon Raceway. Knapp is seventh in points, just four behind Ulrich, and he has his ex-Mladin Suzuki on form, continuing to impress with his hard work and dedication.

Anyone watching the first five AMA Pro Daytona SportBike presented by AMSOIL races would agree that the action has never been better and that at least four of the first five races could have been won by any number of riders.

Lap after lap, pass after pass, this series has delivered excitement at every corner, yet a closer look at the standings shows that one particular rider is quietly putting his stamp of control of the class in a similar way to the 2009 season.

That rider is Martin Cardenas. Riding his M4 Monster Energy Suzuki motorcycle, Cardenas has put together three wins from five races and is on track to duplicate his season high total of seven wins from last year once again, and a great place for him to continue this trend is Northern California’s Infineon Raceway.

Cardenas captured both ends of the Infineon Raceway doubleheader race weekend in 2009 and he comes into this year’s race off of his most recent double win at last month’s Road Atlanta event. Displaying a calm confidence in his machine and team, Cardenas looks forward to getting back to Infineon Raceway but there are a number of other riders that feel they have the momentum on their side too.

One rider in that category is 2010 Daytona 200 winner Josh Herrin and his very competitive Team Graves Yamaha team. Herrin currently sits on top of the Daytona SportBike standings, just six points ahead of 2009 AMA Pro Daytona SportBike Champion Danny Eslick.

Herrin had a second win at Auto Club Speedway and is also coming off a second place finish at Road Atlanta, so he is ready to continue his strong start to the 2010 season.

Eslick, riding his GEICO Powersports RMR Suzuki, could be mistaken for a race winner so far this year, he has run up front in every race and had a couple of likely wins snatched away at the very last minute. Either way, Eslick hasn’t lost his drive as he fights for each and every position in qualifying and in the races themselves.

The aforementioned Cardenas is in third place in the standings with Cory West and Dane Westby in fourth and fifth places, respectively.

West has been a steady presence at the front of the pack all year long, his move from seventh to first at Road Atlanta was something to behold. His Vesrah Suzuki team has kept him at the forefront and West and his teammate Chris Fillmore will continue to take the fight to the other riders in the Daytona SportBike class.

Dane Westby with his Project 1 Atlanta Yamaha have also put together a solid string of results, a second, third and two fourth place finishes were offset by an unlucky 13th place finish at the second Road Atlanta doubleheader race dropping him down the standings, but he also has been right on the pace all year and is a threat every time he takes to the track.

This year’s Daytona SportBike class has had at least eight to ten riders going for the win every race and another rider who has been in the middle of the action is Team Latus Motors Racing Ducati rider Steve Rapp.

Rapp took an excellent third place at Daytona to open the season and he had another strong run to third at Auto Club Speedway in Southern California in April. Last race out at Road Atlanta, Rapp grabbed a pair of sixth place finishes but he could have had more, he led more than once during the weekend.

Team Graves Yamaha rider Tommy Aquino has also put together a strong string of results and he took his first career Daytona SportBike pole position at Road Atlanta, showing his natural speed and ability which will bring him a win any weekend now.