AVONDALE, LA, – Josh Hayes made the 90-minute drive from his hometown of Gulfport, Mississippi to New Orleans to finish what’s been a remarkable AMA Superbike season.
The Monster Energy Graves Yamaha rider had wrapped up his third consecutive title two weeks ago at Homestead-Miami Speedway in south Florida. All that’s left are the records, two of which he tied and a third that he extended with his 15th win of the season in the first AMA Superbike race at NOLA Motorsports Park just across the Mississippi River from New Orleans.
Earlier on a warm Saturday afternoon, Hayes took his tenth pole position, tying Mat Mladin’s mark from 2005, when the seven-time champion took the pole in all ten races. From the pole Hayes admitted botching the start, but no one took advantage, which left him to do what he’s done all year, sail into the distance.
Adding a second and more in the early laps, he increased his lead every lap but the last, when he lost a tenth from the cushion but still won by 10.213 seconds. Yoshimura Suzuki’s Blake Young was second and Roger Lee Hayden recovered from an eventful start to finish third.
In addition to extending his single season AMA Superbike wins record to 15 at New Orleans, Hayes tied Honda’s Miguel Duhamel for second on the all-time Superbike wins list with 32. A win tomorrow will put him a distant second by himself to Mladin.
Monster Energy Graves Yamaha's...
Monster Energy Graves Yamaha's Josh Hayes took the lead at the start and began to build it at almost a second a lap in Saturday's AMA Superbike race at New Orleans.
“I had a great race,” Hayes said. “The most drama I had was I did a little pop-a-wheelie on the start and it took me a second to get it down and get going again. It seemed like everybody was sleeping on the light a little bit today, because I just felt like I went like normal and then I didn’t have anybody in my peripheral and I was kinda surprised, since I felt like I had botched it just a little.
“You know, the first lap everything just went kinda clean. I didn’t even really protect any areas of the racetrack, I just kinda said, OK, put your head down, put in a good smooth lap and, you know, there’s been a couple of sections of the track that I’ve kinda owned through the weekend and so I just tried to hit my marks on those areas of the race track. Got myself a gap pretty early.
“And then I had to play a little battle within myself. I’d look around to see where people were. I’d see the gap on the pit board and I’d get back into Turn 4 and 5 and start looking over my shoulder to see what that really looked like, you know, so I’d have a better idea what the distance was. And then I’d kinda lose focus a little bit and I’d have to pull myself back together and get back to work a little bit.
“But for the most part it was a pretty uneventful race. I didn’t have a single slip or slide out there and I was just pretty comfortable. Having a lot of fun and I had so many people come out this weekend I just wanted to do well for them, so I was glad I was able to win the race.”
The drama before the New Orleans AMA Superbike race was about tires. The hardest of the control Dunlop fronts, the UP102s, were tearing and there was a fear they wouldn’t last the race. For Hayes it was never a concern.
“Honestly, for me in the race it was non-issue,” he said. “You’d have to ask the crew what they looked like. On my end, I never had any issues. They performed as expected. If I’m pushed to have to go a bit harder, it could get sketchy pretty quick, possibly. But at what I was doing, I never had a problem.”
Young had a similar view, saying, “No, my tires were good. Dunlop’s been working hard. Looked like the first session we were going to have some dramas, but the track came around. I enjoy the track a lot and I’m glad that some rubber got laid down and our tire issues kinda went away. So for the race, you know maybe tomorrow, maybe for the race I didn’t push on the front as much as I’d like to. Maybe tomorrow that’s what I’ll do.”
Hayden didn’t have a problem with his tires—he chose the hardest one and might go soft on Sunday—but had other issues. He got a bad start in Saturday's AMA Superbike race, ran off the track once and got punted off the track a second time at New Orleans. He was 11th as late as the sixth of 18 laps. Then he worked his way through a couple of skirmishes and was in fourth when teammate Ben Bostrom retired with a technical issue on lap 15. That was a gift third that moved him into third in the points ahead of the absent Josh Herrin (Monster Energy Graves Yamaha). Herrin was forced to miss the race after injuring his shoulder in a training accident. Herrin suffered a third-degree separation of the AC joint in his shoulder while riding a dirt tracker the weekend prior to the race. He wasn’t replaced.
Hayden had two riders on his tail and his team was giving him a plus-0 on his board, but it was a false warning. The riders he was in with had both been given five second penalties for crossing a white line out of the final Turn 16. But Hayden didn’t know it and felt he had to beat them on track, which he did.
Team KTM/HMC Racing’s Chris Fillmore finished a season best fourth at New Orleans and Team Venezuela’s Robertino Pietri (Suzuki) was an AMA Superbike season best fifth.
Foremost Insurance/Pegram Racing’s Larry Pegram (BMW) beat Taylor Knapp (Riders Discount/K&L Supply Suzuki) to the line to take sixth.
MotorcycleSuperstore.com/Attack Performance’s Steve Rapp (Kaw) was fourth on the eighth lap before dropping to eighth. He was able to just hold off Kneedraggers.com’s David Anthony (Suz), the Australian who finished ninth. Aaron Yates came tenth in his second ride on the EvanSteelPerformance.com BMW.
AMA Superbike New Orleans Saturday race results:
1. Josh Hayes (Yamaha)
2. Blake Young (Suzuki)
3. Roger Hayden (Suzuki)
4. Chris Fillmore (KTM)
5. Robertino Pietri (Suzuki)
6. Larry Pegram (BMW)
7. Taylor Knapp (Suzuki)
8. Steve Rapp (Kawasaki)
9. David Anthony (Suzuki)
10. Aaron Yates (Suzuki)