MotoAmerica Press Office
Roger Hayden made it through three starts to earn his third win of the 2017 MotoAmerica Superbike Championship, the Yoshimura Suzuki rider holding off the advances of Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing’s Josh Herrin to win by 0.700 of a second in the Honda Championship of Alabama presented by Broaster Genuine Chicken at Barber Motorsports Park.
After earning his seventh pole position of the season earlier in the day during Superpole, Hayden nailed the holeshot to lead the first part of the race, only to see a red flag on the second lap when Sylvain Barrier and Josh Hayes crashed in separate incidents.
Hayden grabbed the holeshot again on the restart, but was again shown the red flag when David Anthony crashed in turn one with his Fly Racing/Motul/ADR Motorsports Kawasaki and the Airfence catching fire.
The third time was the charm, however, and Hayden was never headed in recording his third victory of the season.
“It’s a little difficult to stay focused when we have multiple restarts like we did today,” said Hayden. “After the first red flag it seemed like the tires took a drop, which they seemed to do after each restart. It was really slick and easy to make a mistake out there, especially with Josh (Herrin) pushing me. There were a few wet spots and it’s always difficult to be the guy in the lead pushing the pace when it gets like that. Everything has been working well on the bike and I feel comfortable leading the race now.”
Herrin, who is filling in on the factory Yamaha for the injured Cameron Beaubier, piled the pressure on Hayden for the duration, surviving a near crash with two laps to go to finish second.
“I can’t thank the guys on the team enough as they’ve been working above and beyond to get me comfortable on the bike,” said Herrin. “I could tell as soon as we pulled the bike out of the truck yesterday that it was going to work a lot better for me. We’ve been constantly changing things in between sessions. The race was pretty crazy today with the red flags and it made it difficult putting the tires through so many heat cycles. I was able to get a decent jump on the third start and drove around the outside of Toni (Elias) and was able to open a little bit of a gap on him. Roger (Hayden) pulled out on us with five laps to go and then I had a surge and was able to reel him back in. I had a big moment in the final laps by tucking the front and was really lucky to save that from a crash.”
Third place went to Yamalube/Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz, the South African earning his first Motul Superbike podium of the season while also winning his ninth Bazzaz Superstock 1000 win of the year. Scholtz wrapped up the Bazzaz Superstock 1000 Championship last weekend with a victory at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
“It definitely helps to not think about the championship and just focus on riding my own pace,” said Scholtz. “I was able to hang onto the Superbike guys for about 10 laps today, but maybe I can improve my consistency some towards the end of the race. Bobby (Fong) showed it’s possible to get on the podium with the Superbike guys earlier in the season and I’m just really happy to be up here.”
A day after destroying his Genuine Broaster Chicken Honda, Jake Gagne bounced back to finish fourth in the race. Gagne held off the constant barrage of attacks by TOBC Racing’s Danny Eslick to beat the Oklahoman by .286 of a second after his crew pulled an all nighter to get the CBR1000RR repaired.
Not far behind Eslick came Cycle World Suzuki’s Hayden Gillim with Gillim winning the Suzuki battle with fellow Kentuckian Jake Lewis on the M4 ECSTAR Suzuki. Team WD-40/Scheibe Racing’s Jason DiSalvo, Hudson Motorcycles/Helmet Sounds’ Bryce Prince and Quicksilver Latus Motors Kawasaki’s Bobby Fong rounded out the top 10.
In addition to Barrier, Hayes and Anthony, newly crowned MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Toni Elias was also a crasher, the Spaniard losing the front of his Yoshimura Suzuki on the eighth lap while running third behind Hayden and Herrin.
The top three in the championship are secure, but there is a chance that Scholtz would stake fourth in the Motul Superbike Championship from Hayes in Sunday’s race. Hayes currently leads Scholtz by 16 points.
Garrett Gerloff wrapped up his second successive MotoAmerica Supersport Championship on a sunny Saturday at Barber Motorsports Park, but not before a little self-proclaimed “brain fade” forced him into an off-track excursion that left him in 16th place.
Gerloff didn’t have to do much to claim the title, but he still put his head down and fought through the pack to finish third – and that was plenty to take the crown. It was the Monster Energy/Yamalube/Y.E.S./Graves Yamaha rider’s 16th podium of the season, including his 10 wins, and he’s the champion with Sunday’s race left to run.
“The nice thing about coming into this weekend was I had no pressure except to need to finish the races,” said Gerloff. “I came close to not finishing when I ran off of the track, but made the most of it. I really wanted to win the race today, not just the championship. I pushed as hard as I could once I got going because finishing off of the podium when you win the championship is not how you want to do it. I’m looking forward to the race tomorrow and after that we’ll take a little break and enjoy some time off. It was nice to walk away with what we came here for and that is to win the championship.”
JD Beach, meanwhile, took victory, his fifth of the season and it ended an eight-race winless streak for the 2015 MotoAmerica Supersport Champion. Beach dominated this one, winning by 9.8 seconds.
“It’s never easy to win a race when you’re racing against these guys,” said Beach, “I knew that Garrett (Gerloff) was going deep when he went for the pass on me and I wasn’t sure if he crashed or not. With the way he’s been riding this year, I knew that there was a chance he could catch back up and I just focused on lap times and kept pushing forward. I’m looking forward to the race tomorrow and finishing the season out strong.”
Second place went to M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Valentin Debise, the Frenchman’s 13th podium of the season, with Gerloff third, some 11 seconds behind after passing Team H35 Honda’s Benny Solis in the closing laps.
The Superstock 600 race was won by Riderz Law/Aguilar Racing’s Jason Aguilar and his fifth win of the season couldn’t have come at a better time. With Aguilar’s championship rival Michael Gilbert finishing fifth, Aguilar will take a 17-point lead into tomorrow’ season finale.
M4 medAge Suzuki’s Nick McFadden finished second to Aguilar with Tuned Racing’s Braeden Ortt rounding out the podium finishers.
Excel Machine Racing’s Connor Blevins ended up fourth with Gilbert and his Team MG55 Yamaha rounding out the top five.
KTM RC Cup
With the battle for the 2017 MotoAmerica KTM RC Cup Championship going down the wire at Barber Motorsports Park, the battle for the title is truly winner take all. And in part one of the two-part saga, the big winner was CSVMoto’s Cory Ventura.
Ventura came out on top of an incredible battle for victory, the Californian beating Savage Racing’s Sean Ungvarsky in a photo finish. More importantly for Ventura was the fact that Quarterley Racing/On Trace Development’s Benjamin Smith finished third. With Ventura and Smith coming into race one tied on points, Ventura now goes to Sunday’s race two with a nine-point lead. Still, nothing is settled and Smith was just .190 of a second behind Ventura at the finish line.
Smith’s teammates Draik Beauchamp and Gavin Anthony rounded out the top five finishers.
The most important non-finisher in terms of the championship was JP43 Junior Team’s Alex Dumas, the French Canadian crashing out of the lead group on the eighth of 11 laps. Dumas came into race one just a point behind Ventura and Smith, but he’s now 26 points behind with only 25 points up for grabs. Thus, he’s been eliminated from title contention. Ditto for Jackson Blackmon, who also crashed out of the race in his effort to get to the front after starting 16th on the grid.
With his fourth win of the season, Ventura leads Smith going into tomorrow’s finale, 249-240. Dumas is third with 223 points.
“It’s really all on the line this weekend with the championship going down to the wire,” said Ventura. “I just have to make sure I try my best again tomorrow. It was a crazy race, I honestly didn’t think I had the win today. The finish was so close I couldn’t really tell if I beat him (Sean Ungvarsky) until I looked up and saw the board.”