HOMESTEAD, FL, SEPT 22 – Monster Energy Graves Yamaha’s Josh Hayes will have to wait another day to clinch his third consecutive AMA Superbike title, but he’s OK with it. The runaway leader of the championship crashed, remounted and finished 12th in the race on Saturday, keeping alive the fading hopes of Yoshimura Suzuki’s Blake Young, who had a perfect opportunity to capitalize on the rare Hayes’ mistake. Instead he got into an emotional battle with Team Hero’s Danny Eslick, but for second place. And he didn’t win that one either.
National Guard Jordan Suzuki’s Roger Hayden was at a loss for words after winning his first AMA Superbike race, and first race win of any kind in five years. Hayden was in front of Hayes when the Yamaha rider crashed in Homestead’s turn six, Hayden having taken the lead from Young on the second lap. With Hayes out of the picture, the two Suzuki riders swapped the lead until the fifth lap when Hayden tightened his grip on it.
Within two laps he had nearly a two second lead that would continue to grow, blossoming to 7.709 seconds on the 17th of 23 laps before he backed off to win by 5.070 seconds.
“Well, no, I definitely didn’t expect it,” Hayden said of the gap. “I never won a Superbike race before so to (get a lead of) eight seconds was a little bit of a shock.”
Hayden has been introspective lately, knowing that he’s riding for his job and knowing how precious that job is. Before today at Homestead, the Jordan Suzuki team hasn’t had an AMA Superbike win since Jake Zemke won both Daytona races in 2010, narrowly beating Roger’s old brother, Tommy, in both races. The team lost Aaron Yates to a severe leg injury in the next race at Auto Club Speedway and never fully recovered. Hayden and Ben Bostrom were signed for the 2011 and 2012 seasons with only a handful of podiums between them over the past two seasons. Now, though, Hayden has the confidence to be competitive. And Hayes said he expected a fight had he not crashed.
“It’s awesome, his first win and I hope he’s proud of it, he earned it,” Hayes said. “I’m sure even if I had been able to be up there, I think him having to race, he could’ve upped his pace, and it would’ve been a long race. I have no doubt it would’ve been a long race.”
It’s been a long career for Hayden, whose last win came in the Supersport race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in 2007.
“It feels real good,” Hayden said of his Homestead AMA Superbike win. “It’s been a long time since I won. It’s just, so many things going through my head right now. And, like, I just want to go back to the truck and set there by myself and let it all sink in.” After pausing for what seemed like an eternity, he continued. “It’s been long, lot of work back. Lot of injuries. Lot of people stuck in there with me, my family mainly. My sisters, my brothers always trying to help me, my parents were always right there. You have a lot of friends when you’re winning, but when you’re laid up in a hospital back with a broken back, broken pelvis, there’s not a lot of people calling you. My family stayed there thick and thin. Just about everybody else gave up on me. So, I guess I’m going to dedicate this win to my family for everything they’ve done for me, no matter what.
“I’ve got to thank my team, Michael Jordan Motorsports, National Guard, because last year nobody really wanted to give me a chance. They thought I was used goods. And I think today I made it look like they made the right choice. For myself, I put a lot of work into it and finally won.
“And I put my head down right away today and was ready for the fight. And these guys came by me and we had some good passes and I just tried to put my head down and get a gap and try to maintain. I thought my lap board was missing laps, because I thought, ‘God, I know we did more than just one lap.’ And just seemed like it took forever. But I got a win, you know, I’m happy. I got to thank Kaitlin too, we’ve been through a lot too. Just everybody at home, it’s not just the track. I’m glad to finally win again.”
Hayden attributed part of his win at Homestead to his tire choice. He was one of four riders to use Dunlop’s intermediate DOT rear in the 7704 spec for the AMA Superbike race, which is being phased out. Most of the riders used the newer Dunlop 7712 Buffalo slick.
“The first time I put it on my bike was for the race,” Hayden, who’d tested at Homestead twice prior to the AMA Superbike race, said. “Even for the race I rode a set-up that I never rode before because I wanted to try it this morning. So it’s a little bit of a gamble at this point in the season. You really have nothing to lose.
“I felt like I was sliding around a lot, but it was the same from the beginning to the end.”
Another factor in his AMA Superbike victory at Homestead was the Young-Eslick spat. Eslick was able to put the more nimble EBR 1190RS wherever he wanted it, while Young had more trouble hitting the apex. And once the battle was engaged, Young was more physical and deliberate in his movements, his head moving like a bobble head doll. It wasn’t uncommon for the pair to pass and re-pass each other three or four times a lap. Young’s bike had the end down the back straight, where his electronics would give him a better drive over the EBR, which has no electronics. But Young often squandered his lead by overshooting the next left, where Eslick would pass him on the inside.
“It’s always an advantage when you can stick the thing in where you can make some moves,” Eslick said. “This place is not necessarily tough to pass, but hard to do it and keep your speed up, keep a group going. On that side of it me and Blake were slowing each other down when we were doing that stuff and Geoff (May) reeled us back in there.”
Eslick beat Young to the line by 0.090 seconds to take second in the Homestead AMA superbike race with May a quarter second back in fourth.
“You know, running that last lap through my head, I don’t know if I would’ve did anything different, because I did what I thought was right and ended up third today,” Young said. “He obviously didn’t show me everything he had until the lap. I thought I wasn’t showing him everything I had until the last lap. He got me today. You know, I definitely don’t want to work that hard for third place, so hopefully we can do this for tomorrow but it’ll be for the win and I’ll end up on the topside of it. But it was good, it was fun; put some fun back into racing.”
May was fourth, then Bostrom alone in fifth.
Neither of the Yamahas finished Saturday’s AMA Superbike race in the points. Josh Herrin had grip problems that took him out of the mix in the first half of the race. On the 18th of 23 laps he overshot the second turn at Homestead, ran through the mud, and tipped over. He circulated to a 19th place finish, seven spots behind Hayes.
“I actually hit the curb,” Hayes said of his crash on the second lap of the AMA Superbike race at Homestead. “According to the team I couldn’t tell if it was the footpeg or engine cases, but it was something hard. The lap before I had come out of there kind of a wheel on the left side of Rog’s rear and gotten a run and as we went back to the left Rog had kinda waited before he went to the throttle so I ended up getting pinched really bad. Had to get out of the gas. And it ruined my opportunity to take a run at him into six. So that lap, as we rolled off into the right, my idea was to hook that thing a little bit tighter towards him so I could get my wheel on the right side, just classic racing, right? Outside inside kinda move. So I was trying to just hook it to get my wheel on the right so that when we went back to the left, when we got down the straightaway, I’d give myself an opportunity for a pass down into six. And I just, you know, probably trying to make that little hook move, I leaned it over a little too hard, the curb is very tall down there. I hadn’t hit it yet this weekend, but I found out where it is now.”
AMA Pro Homestead Superbike Saturday results:
1. Roger Hayden (Suzuki)
2. Danny Eslick (EBR)
3. Blake Young (Suzuki)
4. Geoff May (EBR)
5. Ben Bostrom (Suzuki)
6. Chris Ulrich (Suzuki)
7. David Anthony (Suzuki)
8. Larry Pegram (BMW)
9. Taylor Knapp (Suzuki)
10. Aaron Yates (BMW)