The Year That Was: 2017 MotoAmerica Road America

Brian J Nelson

Paul Carruthers

Fast racetracks produce the best racing. Case in point: Phillip Island in Australia. And on our side of the Pacific, Road America in Wisconsin. The four-mile racetrack in the heart of cheese country has long produced top-notch racing and the 2017 Dunlop Championship at Road America was no exception.

But, alas, the proof is in the pudding. In the first of two Motul Superbike races on Saturday, Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing’s Cameron Beaubier beat Yoshimura Suzuki’s tandem of Toni Elias and Roger Hayden by just .005 of a second and .153 of a second, respectively in the closest race of the season. On Sunday, Elias beat Hayden by just .131 of a second in a race cut short when oil was dropped on the racing line, with Beaubier less than a second adrift. So, both races were decided by a combined .136 of a second and the top three in race one could have been covered with a cocktail napkin.

Road America took place just 12 days after the death of Nicky Hayden and it was with heavy hearts that the racing fraternity got back to action, especially so for Roger Hayden. But the Yoshimura Suzuki rider put on a brave face, showed up with the #69 shaved into the side of his new haircut, raced with a replica of his brother’s helmet, and went out and did his business as usual, finishing third and second in the two races. It was a gritty performance.

“Nicky and my family are well liked and loved by a lot of people in the sport,” Roger Hayden said in early June. “I was worried coming into the weekend, not knowing how I would be, but I was able to block everything out on the track and put in a good run.”

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(Right) Cameron Beaubier won the first of two Motul Superbike races at Road America with Toni Elias (center) winning the second.

Beaubier’s race-one victory came on a pass in the final corner, an area where he’d been sizing up his two rivals. And his Yamaha had enough steam to get him up the hill and to the finish line first. But only just. Elias’ win, while also close, was a bit anticlimactic as the race ended on a red flag when Josh Herrin’s Yamaha imploded in turn one and left oil on the racing surface.

After four rounds (and eight races), Elias led Beaubier by 14 points and Hayden by 20. It was game on in the Motul Superbike class.

M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Jake Lewis won Saturday’s Bazzaz Superstock 1000 class while finishing fifth in the Superbike class, his second class victory of the season coming by half a second over Quicksilver Latus Motors Kawasaki’s Bobby Fong.

On Sunday, Yamalube/Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz took the Bazzaz Superstock 1000 win over TOBC Racing’s Danny Eslick. With his crash on the opening lap taking him out of the race, Fong also lost the points lead to Scholtz, albeit it by just six points.

Monster Energy/Yamalube/Y.E.S./Graves Motorsports’ Garrett Gerloff won his third Supersport race of the season on Saturday, topping his teammate and championship rival JD Beach by 3.3 seconds. A whopping margin at Road America, especially in Supersport. On Sunday, however, Beach turned the tables to beat Gerloff and close to within four points in the title chase.

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Garrett Gerloff (1) won the first of two Supersport races on Saturday, but JD Beach (95) turned the tables on his teammate in race two.

The Superstock 600 class continued to produce different winners while also continuing to have that new winner run the table and do the double. This time it was Excel Machine Racing’s Connor Blevins doing the winning on both Saturday and Sunday, taking full advantage of injuries to Road Atlanta winner Nick McFadden and VIR winner Michael Gilbert. McFadden suffered a broken collarbone on Saturday morning and Gilbert crashed out on the first lap of Saturday’s race, took a smack to the head and that also kept him out of Sunday’s race.

Blevins left Wisconsin with a 10-point lead over Gilbert with Jason Aguilar third, 11 points behind, as his season was starting to get rolling.

The first of two KTM RC Cup races on Saturday had the look of being a close race, but it actually wasn’t. Although he battled for nearly the duration with his Quarterley Racing/On Track Development teammate Jackson Blackmon, Benjamin Smith ended up cruising to victory with Blackmon getting nailed for not only jumping the start but also violating the pit-lane speed limit. Blackmon would end up ninth with a bunch of lessons learned. Instead, second place went to Anthony Racing’s Gavin Anthony, the 14-year-old earning his first-career KTM RC Cup podium finish.

Blackmon made up for his snafu on Saturday by beating Cory Ventura to the win on Sunday by just .296 of a second. Smith as a close third, .316 of a second from victory. Smith left America’s Dairyland with a 13-point lead over Draik Beauchamp

Cory Ventura leads Jackson Blackmon and Benjamin Smith in the second KTM RC Cup race at Road America. Blackmon took the win.

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