The American Superbike title could be decided this weekend when AMA Pro Road Racing returns to Heartland Park Topeka for the Tornado Nationals. The 2.5 mile long Kansas circuit will play host to national-level motorcycle racing for the first time since 1991. The race course and has recently been put through a full slate of modifications and safety improvements in anticipation of the ninth round of AMA Pro Racing, July 31 – August 2. Topeka should make for an exciting race weekend as nearly 130 motorcycle racers take to the untested circuit.
Mat Mladin (Makita Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000) has amassed a nearly unbreakable 126-point lead on the AMA Pro American Superbike title, 390 – 264, over Yoshimura Suzuki teammate and nearest challenger Tommy Hayden. The Australian has a record ten race wins so far this season (after claiming seven consecutively at the start of the season), and has also captured seven of eight pole positions. The most recent round at Mid-Ohio was the only event this year where Mladin failed to win a race or the pole, yet he still managed to finish third in the Saturday final despite struggling with setup problems.
The six-time AMA Pro American Superbike Champion left Ohio having only given up one point on his championship lead, which means that by every imaginable statistical scenario he will seal his record-extending seventh championship title if he maintains or builds on his current advantage by the end of the Tornado Nationals weekend.
Tommy Hayden is still winless in his American Superbike career but is second in the points standings based on the strength of seven podium finishes, including a third-place finish at the Sunday final at Mid-Ohio. Along with Hayden, the only other riders who have a very slim yet mathematical chance of catching Mladin are the remaining top five riders in the championship standings. Among those riders are Yamaha Factory’s third-placed Ben Bostrom and fourth-placed Josh Hayes.
The most recent round at Mid-Ohio saw Hayes take his first career Superbike “double”, which was also the first back-to back AMA Superbike race wins by a Yamaha rider since Colin Edwards did the deed in 1994. Hayes has taken three race victories this season, with the first being the Race 1 win at Infineon which ended Suzuki’s multi-year grip on the series. Bostrom also had a solid weekend in Ohio, scoring 4-2 finishes that gave him a total of 246 championship points and held third-place from Hayes by one point.
Larry Pegram sits fifth in the standings as the only other American Superbike race winner and potential title contender. The Pergram Racing Ducati rider out raced the rest of the field three races ago at Road America to notch his first win in ten years. The lone Ducati rider in American Superbike has finished in the top five in six of the last seven races in a competitive run that began with a third-place showing in the Saturday final at Infineon.
Blake Young (Mladin’s other Yoshimura Suzuki teammate) is sixth in the championship with 201 points following three second-place finishes this season. Young remains one of Mladin’s strongest challengers even after sustaining severe injuries to his left pinkie and ring finger earlier in the season at Barber Motorsports Park.
The two Michael Jordan Motorsports’ riders Geoff May and Aaron Yates rank seventh and eighth in the American Superbike standings, respectively. May’s had a string of third-place showings within the year’s first five races while Yates also has back-to-back third-place finishes as well as two second-place runs in Race 2 at Barber and Race 1 at Mid-Ohio. Yates was unharmed when his GSX-R1000 accidentally slipped out of gear and lowsided in Race 2 at Mid-Ohio.
Taylor Knapp debuted the Buell 1125RR to American Superbike at Mid-Ohio. Two more join the fray in Topeka.
Recent Buell 1125RR convert Taylor Knapp is ninth in the standings on the strength of consistent top ten finishes by the privateer. Knapp will be joined by two new Buell 1125RR riders at Mid-Ohio, veteran Buell rider Shawn Higbee (No. 11 Higbee-Racing.com) and Walt Sipp (No. 221 Walt Sipp Racing).
David Anthony remains 10th in the championship despite missing both Mid-Ohio races after a crash in Saturday’s final resulted in a fractured femur. The Suzuki GSX-R1000 rider will sit out the Heartland Park Topeka round as recovers from surgery.
Former World Superbike Champion Neil Hodgson has recovered from an early-season motocross training injury to score strong sixth-place finishes at Road America and Laguna Seca aboard the No. 100 Corona Extra Honda CMR1000RR.
With three rounds and six races remaining, the title battle in AMA Pro Daytona SportBike is closer than it has been all season. Heading into round nine at Heartland Park Topeka, Martin Cardenas leads with 285 points, followed by Danny Eslick with 275 and Jamie Hacking with 241.
Martin Cardenas crashed in Race 1 at Mid-Ohio but salvaged points in Race 2 with a third-place podium.
Just two events ago Cardenas had a 50-points championship advantage, but a distant 36th place finish at Laguna Seca and rare showing out of the top 10 in Race 1 at Mid-Ohio saw his lead dwindle. However, the Colombian managed to rally to third-place in Race 2 in Ohio, scoring a class-leading ninth podium for the season. With six wins to his credit this season, the Suzuki rider has one more than Buell’s Danny Eslick.
Eslick chipped away a sizable chuck of Cardenas’ championship lead when he swept the most recent round in Lexington, Ohio. The Oklahoma native also took back-to-back wins at Auto Club Speedway in March and the Race 2 win at Road Atlanta.
Also firmly in the mix is Monster Energy Attack Kawasaki’s Jamie Hacking, who narrowly lost out on his first win of the season to Eslick in Race 2 at Mid-Ohio.
“It seems like whenever we got our set-up working great, Danny (Eslick) is right there to challenge me,” said the frustrated Hacking. “We’ll get it. We have a good set-up right now and hopefully we will be able to continue in this direction. I’m usually pretty good at learning new tracks and I hope that will give me a good advantage. The settings on the bike are definitely better. We’ll see how it runs when we pull it off the truck in Kansas. Maybe we’ll get a little luck from Dorothy.”
The year’s only other race winners are Yamaha’s Ben Bostrom, who has taken wins in each of his two Daytona SportBike cameos, and Canadian rider Chris Peris (Erion Racing Honda CBR600RR). Peris won Race 1 in the rain at Road America and also has a third-place finish at Road Atlanta to his credit.
Hacking’s teammate Roger Hayden didn’t finish Race 1 at Mid-Ohio or the previous race, so he decided to try another tactic to improve his results. After shaving off his attention-getting mustache the youngest Hayden brother took a solid fifth in Race 2. Back to a more aerodynamic form he will look to replicate or improve on his second-place finishes at Road Atlanta and Road America.
Josh Herrin and Tommy Aquino continue to make progress for Yamaha’s Factory in Daytona SportBike. After taking runner-up showings at Daytona and Road Atlanta, Herrin claimed his third second-place finish of the season in Race 1 at Mid-Ohio. Aquino also took his first podium of the season when he finished third behind his teammate in the same race. Herrin is currently fourth in the championship standings with 211 points, while Aquino ranks tenth.
Cardenas’ teammate Jason DiSalvo rounds out the top five in the championship with 201 points. The Suzuki rider has five podium finishes and a series-leading four poles so far in 2009.
Chaz Davies (No. 57 Factory Aprilia Millennium Technologies Team Aprilia RSV1000R) is the main Aprilia threat and scored a season-high finish of second two races ago at Laguna Seca. His fifth-place finish on Saturday at Mid-Ohio was his fifth top-five result of the year.
Peris is teammates with veteran Honda rider Jake Zemke. The Enrion Honda rider took his only podium of the season with second in the Sunday final at Road America, while making a strong fourth-place finish in Race 1 at Mid-Ohio.
The action begins with practice, qualifying and Superpole qualifying on Friday, July 31, and continues straight into the weekend with three races each day on Saturday and Sunday. The SunTrust Moto-GT enduro kicks off the weekend’s races at 11 a.m. on Saturday, August 1, and will be followed that afternoon by the first finals for American Superbike at 3 p.m. and Daytona SportBike at 4 p.m. Sunday, August 2, will see Daytona SportBike roll off first at 2 p.m., SuperSport following at 3 p.m. and Superbike closing the weekend at 4 p.m. The Superbike and Daytona SportBike races are each 20 laps for 50 miles while the SuperSport race is a 16-lap distance for 40 miles.
The Tornado Nationals will be featured in a pair of same-day telecasts on SPEED. Saturday’s American Superbike and Daytona SportBike finals will be shown that night in a two-hour show at 10:30 p.m. ET (7:30 p.m. PT) while Sunday’s premier class races and other highlights will air in a two-hour show that evening at Midnight ET (9 p.m. PT).