HOMESTEAD, FL, SEPT 23 – Monster Energy Graves Yamaha’s Josh Hayes won his third consecutive AMA Superbike championship on Sunday the hard way, by winning the race. He didn’t have to. Not after his only title rival, Yoshimura Suzuki’s Blake Young, opted not to ride on the wet but drying Homestead-Miami Speedway road course. As soon as Young made the decision to sit out, Hayes was the champion.
But Hayes likes winning, as he’s proven repeatedly this year. And he also didn’t want to take unnecessary risks, which could have been an issue on the Homestead track that was forming a drying line. So he took it easy for a few laps before dropping the hammer, from 16 seconds back, and jetting into the lead on the 15 of 23 laps. Then he kept going, building his lead to 8.629 seconds before backing off to win his record 14th AMA Superbike race in one season by 4.788 seconds.
And in doing so became the fifth rider to win three consecutive AMA Superbike titles and sixth to win three at all, and with no signs of slowing down.
“It’s a pretty incredible year,” he said after beating Attack Performance’s Steve Rapp, a season best second, and Jordan Suzuki’s Ben Bostrom, for the win at Homestead. “Especially after last year the way things have gone this year. This is the way you hope I can push things to, you know what I mean?”
Last year the AMA Superbike championship went down to the final lap of the final race before Hayes was able to pull it off. This year he arrived at Homestead more or less the championship winner, unless he fell, which he did in Saturday’s race. But Young didn’t capitalize by winning, then ceded the title by not riding. It was a decision Yoshimura Suzuki’s Don Sakakura had left up to Young, who didn’t feel the track was safe. The end result is that Hayes has 517 points to 401 for Young with the two races remaining at New Orleans Motorsports Park.
“I don’t feel at a loss for motivation,” Hayes continued. “I want to win races. Jason Pridmore and I talked a little bit earlier about how championships are cool and sometimes when you get a gap like I had it sometimes feel somewhat anticlimactic, but I still live for the individual victories. Every single race win feels so good and you go for everyone of those and if you get those the way that you want to then the championship kinda takes care of itself. Fortunately I’ve been able to do that, and again, we’ll continue as far as we can into the future doing that.”
Today’s AMA Superbike race was decided partly by tire choice. The optimal set-up at Homestead was Dunlop’s 7704 intermediate rear and 6838 front. That’s what Hayes chose. Others, including Team Amsoil Hero’s Geoff May went with the 7704 rear, but a wet front. He wasn’t the only one and everyone suffered equally. May led most of the first 12 laps before his front tire made it impossible to continue. Roger Lee Hayden, the National Guard Jordan Suzuki rider who won Saturday’s race, pitted to change his front after wearing it by the 14th of 23 laps. Teammate Ben Bostrom then briefly took over the lead before Hayes came past.
Bostrom also admitted making the wrong tire choice-the rain front and the intermediate rear-and he paid the price by having to give way to Rapp, who’d make the right choice. That put Rapp on the podium for the first time this year and Bostrom for the second time.
Josh Herrin, Hayes’ teammate, also had the rain front and intermediate rear. “Should’ve done full intermediates. I just wanted to be safe,” he said after finishing fourth, but 30 seconds behind Hayes.
May landed in fifth with Robertino Pietri sixth, and the final rider on the lead lap, on the Team Venezuela Suzuki.
Following his third title, Hayes was asked which one was the best.
“I mean, it’s the kind of year that you envision,” he said after his clinching AMA Superbike victory at Homestead. “I like racing to the last race. This one was a lot easier on your ticker, I’ll tell you that. But I felt the same anxiety every single weekend that we’ve shown up. Some weekends you feel like they’re within half a second a lap of me. I’m starting to panic because how many times have I had pace on somebody like where I can do half a second a lap faster than the field and I should be running away with it and Josh Herrin and Blake Young can get in there and match what I can do when they’re following me.
“I never feel save, never ever. The closest I ever came to feeling safe was Road America because I just had a huge gap and it was going to be so easy to make a mistake trying to hold that mistake. Barber when it was slippery was a little bit easier for me, because I knew Josh’s chances were good of making a mistake, trying to maintain such a high pace on such a dodgy kinda scenario.
“But for the most part, every week’s tough. I enjoy when Rog (Hayden) is in there really close at Ohio. I thought that was fantastic. This weekend I didn’t feel the pressure of the championship, things like that. So I was thinking, ‘You know what? I’m OK with that.’ It’s records that I never thought would fall in my lifetime anyway and I’m excited to get in there and race with these guys, but we need some more winners. I’m not going to give it to ‘em, but if it happens it’s good for our sport, we need more guys up there.”
AMA Homestead Sunday Superbike race results:
1. Josh Hayes (Yamaha)
2. Steve Rapp (Kawasaki)
3. Ben Bostrom (Suzuki)
4. Josh Herrin (Yamaha)
5. Geoff May (EBR)
6. Robertino Pietri (Suzuki)
7. Bruno Silva (Kawasaki)
8. Chris Ulrich (Suzuki)
9. Sean Dwyer (Suzuki)
10. Roger Hayden (Suzuki)