The Year That Was: 2017 Pittsburgh International Race Complex

Brian J Nelson

MotoAmerica Press Office

Cameron Beaubier came into the Championship of Pittsburgh in desperation mode. The two-time MotoAmerica Superbike Champion arrived at the Pittsburgh International Race Complex with the hot hand after having won both races in dominating fashion at Sonoma Raceway in Northern California. Still, he was well behind Toni Elias in the championship and all he could do was try to win races and hope for the best.

On Saturday, in the first-ever MotoAmerica Motul Superbike race held at the picturesque racetrack on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, Beaubier did what he needed to do on his Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing YZF750-R1. He won his third race in a row and this was a come-from-behind effort as he bested Elias, the Yoshimura Suzuki rider leading most of the laps but losing out to Beaubier by 1.4 seconds.

“It was a really good race for me today,” Beaubier said after race one. “I felt that I was a little slow to get going compared to these guys, just struggling with grip, but as the race wore on I was able to pick it up. The team and I went backwards with some changes in practice this morning and we ended up putting yesterday’s settings back in for the race today. It was an awesome race, a good battle, and the pack was so big coming down the front stretch that I couldn’t even see my pit board. This track requires you to be precise and I’m really happy to be racing here in Pittsburgh.”

With his 14th podium of the season, Elias had a massive gap of 65 points over Beaubier with five races and 125 points still on the table.

The race was a thriller in front of an enthusiastic crowd, with seven riders in the lead pack for most of it. Beaubier didn’t take the lead until the 16th of 18 laps. Third place went to Elias’ teammate Roger Hayden with Genuine Broaster Chicken Honda’s Jake Gagne nipping at his heels in his most impressive ride of the year to date.

Fifth place went to Quicksilver/Latus Motors Kawasaki’s Bobby Fong, which also earned him victory in the Bazzaz Superstock 1000 class – his sixth of the season. Fong put together an impressive last lap that put him past both of his rivals, Mathew Scholtz and Jake Lewis.

Sunday’s Motul Superbike race was an emotional one. When the teams were testing at Pittsburgh International Race Complex in May, Roger Hayden found out about his brother Nicky’s tragic bicycle accident in Italy. A few days after that, Nicky Hayden passed away. Somehow, Roger Hayden put all that behind him and won Sunday’s race, dedicating the win to his late brother and his grieving family.

“I really wanted a win bad and this was one of the toughest weekends for me since my brother’s accident happened while I was testing here a few months back,” Hayden said on Sunday afternoon. “I had a lot on my mind, but we’re professionals and there was no way that I was going to let the win slip away at the end today.”

Hayden beat Elias in the red-flag interrupted race by just .263 of a second, but again Elias came out of the weekend smelling like a rose as his fiercest rival was knocked out of action.

That rival was Beaubier, Saturday’s winner and the rider with the hot hand coming into Pittsburgh. Beaubier saved a near crash right after passing Elias for second place, but it came with dire consequences as he suffered a separated shoulder in the incident and forced him out of the race. Not only that, but Beaubier’s injury would require surgery that would end his season prematurely.

So, Elias left Pittsburgh with a massive 79-point lead on Hayden.

Third place in race two went to Beaubier’s Yamaha teammate Josh Hayes, the four-time Superbike Champion just .194 of a second behind Elias as the top three raced to the flag together.

Fourth went to Scholtz and his Yamalube/Westby Racing Yamaha, the South African taking his seventh Bazzaz Superstock 1000 win in the process and extending his points lead to 64. Fong, who won Saturday’s Superstock race, was second with Lewis third again on the M4 ECSTAR Suzuki.

Garrett Gerloff won both Supersport races in dominating fashion as the Monster Energy/Yamalube/Y.E.S./Graves Yamaha rider tallied his eighth win of the season and his fifth in a row. On Saturday, Gerloff won by 19.1 seconds over M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Valentin Debise; Sunday, he beat Debise by 8.3 seconds. JD Beach was third both times out and he left Pennsylvania trailing his teammate Gerloff by 32 points.

The two Superstock 600 races were won by Anthony Mazziotto III, in his first Superstock 6000 class victory, and championship points leader Jason Aguilar.

On Saturday, Canadian Alex Dumas won his first-career KTM RC Cup race. Turns out he liked it so much he decided to do it again on Sunday. Jackson Blackmon finished second in both races – losing by just .045 of a second on Saturday and .239 of a second on Sunday.

Championship leader Benjamin Smith crashed out of Saturday’s race but finished a close third on Sunday. Smith now led Cory Ventura by 24 points in the championship chase.