The Year That Was: 2017 NJMP

Brian J Nelson

MotoAmerica Press Office

On a sunny Saturday in September at New Jersey Motorsports Park, Toni Elias completed the task he set out to do when he was rescued from his couch by a phone call from Yoshimura Suzuki 18 months earlier: He wrapped up the 2017 MotoAmerica Motul Superbike Championship.

And he did so in Elias style, by winning the first of two races in the Championship of New Jersey, presented by K&N, culminating a dream season for the Spaniard in which he wrapped up the title three races early by never finishing worse than second, except for a crash that was no fault of his own.

The win in race one at NJMP was Elias’ ninth of the season and it gave him an insurmountable 84-point lead over his Yoshimura Suzuki teammate Roger Hayden. Elias’ title also ended a drought for Suzuki by giving the brand its first AMA Superbike Championship since Mat Mladin won on a Yoshimura Suzuki in 2009. Prior to Elias’ title, Yamaha had dominated the series, taking the title seven seasons in a row with Josh Hayes, Josh Herrin and Cameron Beaubier.

“It is an amazing feeling for me (and) for all this group,” Elias said after wrapping up the title. “I’m so happy and proud of these people, so for me it’s not only a championship, it’s more than that. It’s coming from s%$t, because I was in a big s&%t. I decide to quit between five or six hundred days ago, and look at how the situation can change, no? Just a phone call (from Yoshimura Suzuki), come here, I start to get good results. This time, being here, winning, and being champion is amazing for me. I did some mistakes in the past, and this has been a big lesson I will remember for the rest of my life. I will continue doing my best. I will enjoy this moment, and congratulations to my rivals, Josh (Hayes), Roger (Hayden), Cameron (Beaubier), they have been so strong. We’ve had big battles. We enjoy, we suffer and they did an incredible job. They pushed me hard and, in the end, we finish perfectly. I’m so happy.”

Hayden finished a close second to Elias, fighting his way past Hayes and the Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing YZF-R1 late in the race and then making a run at Elias. At the finish he was just .039 of a second from making his teammate wait another day for the title.

Hayes ended up third ahead of his “teammate” Josh Herrin, with Herrin taking over the injured Cameron Beaubier’s factory R1 for NJMP and the series finale at Barber Motorsports Park. Genuine Broaster Chicken Honda’s Jake Gagne was fifth.

The Bazzaz Superstock 1000 victory went to TOBC Racing’s Danny Eslick, the Oklahoman some two seconds clear of M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Jake Lewis. Championship points leader Mathew Scholtz was third on the Yamalube/Westby Racing Yamaha.

On Sunday, Elias won again, taking his 10th win of the season a day after wrapping up the championship. This one was tougher on him as he came from as far back as seventh. His teammate Hayden, meanwhile, was busy trying to hold off Kyle Wyman, the YCRS/Camber/KWR Yamaha team owner/racer having the race of his life and battling for the lead.

It came down to the final lap with Elias stuffing his way past Hayden in turn one on the final lap, a move that pushed Hayden wide and off track. That allowed Wyman to pass and finish second – a career best MotoAmerica Motul Superbike finish.

“Obviously, I’m just super elated,” Wyman said. “This has been a very, very long road from racing Harleys and racing 600s, and not really having any success on 600s. I found the (Yamaha) R1 that I’ve fallen in love with now, and me and the team are all just working well together. Today was my day, and now I know I can do it. Hopefully, we can push hard from here and get one step further (for a win).”

Hayden got back on track to finish third with Gagne matching his best effort of the season with a fourth-place finish.

Then came Yamalube/Westby Yamaha’s Mathew Scholtz, the South African not only taking victory in the Bazzaz Superstock 1000 class but taking the 2017 title in the process in his first full season with the team.

“After the 2015 season back home (in South Africa) I nearly hung up my boots because it was just costing my family too much money (to race),” Scholtz said. “In 2016, we took one more final dig at it and I won the championship back home, and then came over here. Fortunately, we ended up winning the championship and I couldn’t be happier. It’s like a dream come true for me.”

Garrett Gerloff won his sixth and seventh Supersport wins in a row, the Texan riding his Monster Energy/Yamalube/Y.E.S./Graves Yamaha to two victories at NJMP. Gerloff beat M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Valentin Debise on Saturday and then beat his teammate JD Beach on Sunday, the Kentucky resident closer in race two than race one despite being baulked by lap traffic late in the race.

Gerloff would head to Alabama on the cusp of wrapping up the Supersport title. He left with a 46-point lead over Beach with just the two Barber races remaining.

In the Superstock 600 class, Michael Gilbert and Anthony Mazziotto III split wins and Gilbert would go to Alabama trailing Jason Aguilar by just three points in the title chase.

Three riders would go to Barber separated by just one point in the KTM RC Cup Series. French Canadian Alex Dumas won both races at NJMP to pull within a point of the championship leaders Benjamin Smith and Cory Ventura and it would all be decided a week later in Alabama.