A happy Blake Young wheelies...
A happy Blake Young wheelies on his cool-down lap after taking a close win in Friday's American SuperBike race.
DAYTONA BEACH, FL, MARCH 11 – Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Blake Young and Tommy Hayden used a visible speed advantage to draft past Monster Energy Graves Yamaha’s Josh Hayes to take a one-two finish in the season-opening Superbike race late on a cool, sunny afternoon at Daytona International Speedway.
The script had been written in qualifying, when Hayes was shown to have a top speed deficit to the dominant Suzukis, and just about everyone else. Hayes’ best qualifying speed was 193.38 mph, a full 6.5 mph slower than Tommy Hayden’s 198.88 mph. The worry for Hayes was that he’d get drafted through the tri-oval, a fear that proved to be well founded.
The first attempt to start the race ended on the first lap with a red flag. Hayes had jumped the start-he knew it-and slowed to let several riders past.
Hayes led again on the re-start and for the first eight laps. The lead pack numbered five, Hayes, the Rockstar Makita Suzuki teammates, and Jordan Suzuki teammates Ben Bostrom and Roger Lee Hayden.
The lead pack as the laps...
The lead pack as the laps were winding down in the race consisted of Blake Young (79), Tommy Hayden (behind Young), Josh Hayes (1), Roger Lee Hayden (54), and Ben Bostrom (behind RL Hayden).
“I got to the front, I don’t know how much of a gap I ever had at any time; I just saw plus zero on my board,” the biggest gap was .660 seconds on the first lap, the smallest a mere .007 seconds on the eighth. “I never looked behind me. It’s just really hard to put together perfect laps, lap after lap after lap, and I knew if I didn’t do that, these guys all as a group were going to run me back down.”
Hayes was definitely better off pushing the air himself. When he was part of the five-rider pack on the aborted stat, he found that the bodywork on his YZF-R1 was flapping.
“The wind was just incredible,” he said. “The upper was probably moving two inches, side to side, bouncing around back there. So it’s quite a rough ride when you do get in the draft with quite a few bikes like that.”
By leading the first eight laps, Hayes earned the laps led point, to go along with the point he’d earned for the pole. But by now the Suzukis were ready to take over.
Soon the lead pack whittled...
Soon the lead pack whittled itself down to three, with Hayes leading Young and Hayden here coming out of the International Horseshoe.
Young took the lead for the first time ending the ninth lap, but there was no comfort in it. The pack was mostly together, though the Jordan bikes would soon fall off the back.
“I just really wanted to try to get a feel for how fast everybody’s motorcycle was around the banking,” Young said. “I didn’t know if Tommy was back there or not. I was having a tough time trying to find my board, but when he did come by, I think it was about five to go, and I just said, ‘Well, here we go, let’s see what he’s got and see if he was going to try to put his head down and go.’”
Young led again on the 10th and 11th before Hayes came back by to lead on the 12th. Then it went to Tommy Hayden for the first time on the 13th lap.
“The faster laps definitely came in the second half of the race,” Hayes said. “Even though I had grip in the beginning, it just didn’t seem like the lap times were happening like I thought they should. And I probably got a little complacent because I made it from the chicane to the start-finish line so many times.
Jordan Suzuki's Ben Bostrom...
Jordan Suzuki's Ben Bostrom (23) leads teammate Roger Lee Hayden on the National Guard Suzuki late in the race.
“When they caught up to me, I went uh-oh, and got a second wind under me and started riding a little better. It was the best race I could ride. I tried to put myself in the right positions. Any time I had followed those guys down from the chicane, I never was able to pass anybody before start-finish line. So I knew probably my best chance was if I could do it just right, maybe I could win it from the front like I’d made it from the chicane to start-finish a few times.”
Hayden was hoping to break his recent spell of two second place Daytona finishes by winning from the front. He led again on the 14th lap, confident that he had the speed to win the chicane to finish line battle.
But just after he’d cleared the apex of the International Horseshoe on the final lap, he bobbled and Hayes went by. Some thought it was intentional, but not Hayes, who was then back in the lead and committed to winning from the front.
“Everybody says don’t lead out of the chicane at Daytona, but I was relieved,” Hayes said. “It was the best shot that I had. I tried to put everything together right. My last run out of the chicane was not a very good one. I was standing on the pegs with the bike swapping ends both ways and trying to just tuck in and keep it pinned anyway. So I’m sure I lost a few tenths there.”
Young seemed to be in the best spot on the final lap, but he didn’t see it that way.
Young (center) draws first...
Young (center) draws first blood for the 2011 AMA Superbike title, while teammate Hayden (right) finishes runner-up at Daytona for a frustrating third time, with reigning AMA champion Hayes (left) third.
“I came out of the chicane there on the last lap, and I thought to myself, ‘Man I really lost this thing,’ because I thought Josh was just far enough out for Tommy to get a really good tow and I couldn’t get back around,” he said. “I think Tommy rode really, really good. I tried to come around, it was really surprising that I just lot of momentum. It took a lot of, a huge gust of air hitting the front of the bike really slowed my bike and I thought maybe I timed it wrong. But I gave way a little bit to get some distance between us seemed like the bike started going forward again. I ended up winning.”
Hayden was disappointed with another second place finish, but took the long view.
“It’s a lot better than starting on the ground or DNF or something like that,” he said. “But when you’re right there and you feel like you have a good chance, it’s frustrating to lose a close one.” He continued. “I was in a good position. It could’ve easily went either way. Try not to get too bummed out about it, because it’s just the nature of the track. It can go either way really quick here. I don’t know what I could’ve done different. Maybe I think different things, but you never know how it’s going to turn out when you come off NASCAR 4 there, you try to get in the best position and hope for the best.”
Hayes didn’t think it would’ve mattered where he was on the final lap.
“It’s hard to make up top speed,” he said. “I mean we have a good running bike. Last year, what I seem to remember was that our bike was pretty good once we got to sixth. It seems that the bike has gotten a little bit better. I’m able to some more acceleration. Maybe it’s just the simple fact that I’m 20 lbs. heavier than Blake and Tommy and probably a little broader in the shoulders than both of those guys, that I push a little more air than those guys do.
“They passed me fairly early on the banking. All I would have done is delay the inevitable. The crew’s done a good job, the Monster Energy Graves Yamaha’s a great bike. we’re up at the front. I’m happy about that. I think by what we were doing in the infield it shows that those guys are going to have a long season ahead of them.”
Ben Bostrom, who would clock the fastest top speed, an impressive 200.58 mph on the Jordan Suzuki, came back at the line to finish .425 secoonds behind Hayes. Teammate Roger Lee Hayden faded at the end; he was another two seconds back.
Martin Cardenas finished a respectable sixth in his Superbike debut on the M4 Suzuki. Cardenas had a moment in the International Horseshoe early in the race, but otherwise kept his nose clean and out of trouble. He rode by himself for most of the race, 12 seconds behind Roger Lee Hayden and 12 up on Larry Pegram in his debut on the Foremost Insurance BMW S 1000 RR.
AMA Pro Daytona American SuperBike Friday results:
1. Blake Young (Suzuki)
2. Tommy Hayden (Suzuki)
3. Josh Hayes (Yamaha)
4. Ben Bostrom (Suzuki)
5. Roger Hayden (Suzuki)
6. Martin Cardenas (Suzuki)
7. Larry Pegram (BMW)
8. Jeremy Toye (BMW)
9. Chris Ulrich (Suzuki)
10. David Anthony (Suzuki)