MotoAmerica Press Office
Today was all about JD Beach at VIRginia International Raceway as the two-time MotoAmerica Supersport Champion put a smile on everybody’s face when he earned his first career AMA Superbike victory with a 3.7-second win in the Championship of Virginia.
A week after winning his first career AMA Grand National Flat Track at the Super TT in Arizona, Beach went out and did it again, winning a race he’d been dreaming about since he was 16 years old. Beach’s day was made even more emotional for three reasons: Today marked the anniversary of his good friend Ethan Gillim’s passing 12 years ago; Beach became the first rider to win a Superbike National and a Flat Track National in the same season since his good friend and hero Nicky Hayden accomplished the feat in 2002; and his best friend and housemate Hayden Gillim also won the Supersport race earlier in the day.
Beach was impressive in a race that started in iffy conditions but ended in bright sunshine and on a dry racetrack. Once he got past early leader Kyle Wyman, who had fitted rain tires to his KWR Ducati in the hopes that the track wouldn’t dry, and his old Supersport rival Garrett Gerloff, Beach put his head down and opened a four-second gap. He maintained that lead to the finish, besting Gerloff by 3.759 seconds and riding a wave of emotion that will last him until Road America in four weeks.
“It just feels like the stars just aligned this whole week,” Beach said. “For me to get my first win last week, and to get this win today with Hayden (Gillim) winning the 600 class, it’s just amazing. These guys are so fast. I looked up to Toni (Elias). He’s won the Moto2 World Championship, and Garrett (Gerloff) has kicked my ass so many times. Even with how this track was today, I was having flashbacks because he (Gerloff) lapped me when we had rain tires here. So, to beat him here, it’s just amazing. I just got to thank my team, the whole Attack Estenson Racing team. They believed in me. They gave me a shot on this bike when nobody else would. It feels good to get the win, but it feels good to reward them too. We’ve still got a lot of races to go. These guys aren't going to let up. We’re going to keep fighting. We’ve got two dirt track races and then I’m going to Road America, so it will be fun.”
Beach compared the flat track win last week to the Superbike win this week.
“They’re both amazing,” he said. “The desire to win last weekend was like a childhood goal. It’s kind of like when you’re a kid you’re like, I want to be a firefighter or whatever. For me when I was a kid that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a dirt tracker. I wanted to win races, and I still do. To win this Superbike race is something I’ve looked forward to my whole adult life, since I was 16. So, they both feel amazing, but this has a little bit of a sweeter feel to it. To do it on the day that I did it and for the last person to do it (Nicky Hayden), it’s amazing.”
Gerloff was emotional in defeat and also fought back tears during the victory celebration as he was disappointed in the fact that this was one he thought he could have won.
“We all know we give our lives to this,” Gerloff said. “It just sucks to have a win slip through my fingers again. I felt good and was right there. I felt like I had the pace to win, but JD got back around me. I just made one mistake after the next, after the next. It’s my own fault. It’s nobody else’s fault. The bike was really good. I felt like I had good pace, like I said. That’s really what got me. My guys work so hard to give us the best bike possible, me and Cameron (Beaubier). So, when another Yamaha wins it just really sucks, for me at least. But seriously, congrats to JD. He was riding super good. I was hoping we could be battling at the end like the old days, but congrats to him. I know it’s an important day for the whole Gillim family and for JD also. So that’s awesome that he got that win. But I really want mine, so I’m going to fight until I get it. I just want to go straight to Road America. I just want to keep going. Looking forward to that.”
Third place went to Toni Elias, the Yoshimura Suzuki rider holding back three others to the finish to earn the final podium spot. It was also good for his championship aspirations as his closest rival Cameron Beaubier, who won yesterday’s EBC Brakes Superbike race at VIR, crashed his Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing YZF-R1 and didn’t score any points.
“We start to see that the track was coming dry,” Elias said in reference to choosing his tires for the race. “I said, ‘okay, let’s do slicks.’ But then with the wet setting, or with the dry setting. Dry setting, slicks, and let’s go. Was good. I felt good since the first corner, but honestly, I was not thinking to win this race. So, Cameron (Beaubier) was there. I just passed him… I stayed there and then if he pushed, I would push. If not, I would stay. So everything was good. Everything went in the right strategy. I tried to be smart, to stay on the bike, finish the race, take the points. Was not very important to finish third or fourth. Especially when I see Cam out. Congratulations to JD for his victory. I think P9 (his starting position) was no good, but after everything we must be very happy. My team is working amazing, so we are in a really good situation. Let’s see.”
Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz was fourth, the South African nipping at Elias’ heels in the closing laps but coming up just short at the finish. Right behind those two came M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Jake Lewis, the Kentuckian barely holding off Omega Moto’s Cameron Petersen. Petersen ran as high as fourth in what was essentially a four-rider battle for the final podium spot.
Yoshimura Suzuki’s Josh Herrin finished a disappointing weekend with a seventh place to go with his non-finish on Saturday. Thrashed Bike Racing’s Max Flinders, FLY Racing’s David Anthony and Wyman rounded out the top 10 with those three gambling on different variations of rain/slick tires.
As mentioned earlier, Beaubier crashed out of the battle for third and he now trails Elias by 24 points, 126-102. Beach is third in the series point standings with 78 points, six points clear of Gerloff. Lewis rounds out the top five with 62 points.