Josh Hayes (1) arrives at Road Atlanta with a three-point lead over Blake Young (79) in the American SuperBike series.
The expected battle between Hayes and Young promises close racing for the ASB doubleheader. Opening his campaign for a third consecutive ASB title, Hayes appeared the stronger rider at Daytona. The Graves Yamaha pilot seems to have found some extra speed on the R1 in the offseason, tallying a convincing victory in the first Daytona race and losing Race 2 to Young in a photo finish. Hayes was in control throughout most of the second race and appeared to have just miscalculated his finish line draft.
Young rebounded for the Race 2 win at Daytona, acknowledging he’d been off the pace the day prior. The Yoshimura Suzuki ace may have evened the 2012 win total, but remains down in the title fight owing to Hayes sweeping the pole position and most laps led bonus – bonus points behind the title difference in his breakout 2011 campaign. To Young’s advantage, Road Atlanta was the site of another breakout for the Wisconsin rider, logging a double victory performance there in 2010.
The Jordan Suzuki squad should run strong at Road Atlanta. Roger Hayden secured a third-place double podium finish at Daytona, one of the best performances ever for the Jordan team. Teammate Ben Bostrom fared worse at Daytona, with run-offs and crashes spoiling the opener with a disappointing 13-15 byline – a result that should improve dramatically in Georgia.
The top riders at Graves and Yoshimura have a pair of young teammates on the prowl at RA. Graves ASB rookie Josh Herrin impressed in his debut. The 21-year-old had a strong Race 1 start foiled by a mechanical DNF, but pounced back with a fourth-place finish in Race 2 – giving Hayden fits for the final rostrum position. As for 20-year-old Chris Clark, the Las Vegas native managed a 9-7 result in his debut on the coveted Yoshimura seat.
Motorcycle USA test rider Steve Rapp showed top-five pace at Daytona. Riding the Black Ops ZX-10R – sponsored by Attack Performance, Motorcycle-Superstore.com, LeoVince and M1 Big Kahuna – Rapp raced to a 5-6 result at the opener. Rapp and Attack team owner Richard Stanboli are contesting select rounds of the 2012 schedule, including Road Atlanta, and are also prepping for a CRT MotoGP wild card effort. At RA the two will try to vault up from top-five to podium pace – with Rapp having won at the circuit back in his 750 days.
BMW rider Larry Pegram poached a position from Rapp in both ASB Daytona races right at the finish line. The S1000RR rider rests fourth in the series and will hunt for the first ASB victory for the German marque. Jake Holden also campaigned the Beemer to solid results in Round 1 – the EvanSteelPerformance prepped BMW finishing 7-8 and looking for improvement in Georgia.
Also fixing to bump up the ASB rankings is the Erik Buell Racing duo of Geoff May and Danny Eslick. The two riders flipped top-10 finishes and a poor result. Eslick, the two-time DSB champ (the first with Buell), pulled in during Race 1 with bike issues, but rebounded with a ninth-place Race 2 finish. May impressed with a sixth-place result in Race 1 and a forgettable 20th in the second contest. A top-five from any EBR1190 rider will be a memorable milestone for the American firm.
Joey Pascarella will race at Road Atlanta on a Yamaha thanks to a last-minute deal after his Daytona 200-winning Project 1 Atlanta ride couldn’t secure funding.
The Daytona SportBike class saw a critical personnel change in the run-up to Round 2. The 2012 Daytona 200 winner, Joey Pascarella, appeared out in the cold after the Project 1 Atlanta squad was unable to secure season-long funding. But AMA Pro Racing reports the Californian will continue his title fight after all on a Yamaha sponsored by The Jon Block Group, SGA/Katra Racing and Yamaha Champion Riding School (YCRS).
The welcome news means Pascarella will defend his six-point title advantage against D200 runner-up Jason DiSalvo. The Team Latus Triumph rider will be a leading challenger along with Geico Suzuki’s Martin Cardenas. The Colombian finished fourth at Daytona, but the pole position D200 starter was amongst the four front-runners with a shot of the checkers on the final start-finish charge. Cardenas has past DSB success at RA, taking both wins at the circuit during his 2010 title-winning campaign.
Pascarella’s deal is a spot of good news for Yamaha, as two top R6 riders are out of commission. The tuning fork brand’s top squad, YES Graves, lost Garret Gerloff to a broken leg at Daytona and later D200 podium finisher, Cameron Beaubier, smashed up his leg in a scooter accident. Tommy Hayden parachuted in to fill Gerloff’s seat for a seventh-place finish at Daytona, and the eldest of the Hayden clan will be the lone Graves R6 rider at RA. Hayden is no stranger to success the 600 series, having won consecutive Supersport titles (2004, 2005).
Another AMA veteran and former champ battling with Hayden at Daytona, Jake Zemke’s DucShop Racing debut ended with a sixth-place result. Expect the 848 pilot to be hustling up front with his younger rivals this weekend, the Road Atlanta circuit a home race for the Georgia-based Ducati team.
Lost in some of the Daytona shuffle, Dane Westby recovered from a couple poor pit stops to finish fifth. Having led the D200 at times, the M4 Broaster Chicken Suzuki rider will look gain lost points during Round 2. Another Gixxer rider to watch is Vesrah Suzuki’s Cory West, with multiple DSB podiums under his belt and a 10th-place D200 finish to make up for.
The DSB roster is flush with extra Yamaha talent too. One R6 pilot that should battle for the podium is RoadRace Factor/Red Bull rider JD Beach, who claimed the SuperSport double victory at RA in 2010. Beach’s teammate, Jake Gagne, is another R6 to watch. As for SGA Racing/YCRS rider Tommy Aquino, after a ninth-place D200 finish he’s bolting overseas to race Moto2 in the Spanish CEV series.
Road Atlanta will be the first East Division round in the SuperSport series, but West riders James Rispoli (1) and Elena Myers (21) will contest the two SS races following up on their Daytona victories.
The rising stars of AMA Pro Racing will be hard-pressed to deliver the same thrills they managed during the Daytona opener. Both races featured a mad dash to the finish, with Celtic Racing/Orient Express Suzuki’s James Rispoli and SuzukiScoop rider Elena Myers splitting wins. The massive 49-rider field that qualified for the SuperSport mains at Daytona whittles down some for Road Atlanta, with RA the first East Division only round (Daytona points counted for both the East and West Divisions of the SS series).
Despite the SS roster paring down, key West Division will still be battling for the RA wins. The group of West riders is headlined by Daytona winners Rispoli and Myers. RoadRace Factory Yamaha’s Hayden Gillim is another strong candidate from the Western fold looking to horn in on the East Division points.
As for the East Division contenders, National Guard Suzuki rider Corey Alexander leads the points. The pole position rider at Daytona scored a 5-2 result, and will look to extend his seven-point advantage over Yamaha rider Stefano Mesa. RoadRace Factory/American Supercamp Yamaha rider Tomas Puerta just skirted an SS podium at the opening round, the Colombian a constant podium threat.
One rider that could jump ahead of all the point leaders is SuperSport rookie Jake Lewis. The Vesrah Suzuki rider placed second in Race 1 and was battling toward the front in Race 2 when a mechanical DNF dropped him to fourth in the East Division points 17 behind the leader. Lewis could easily vault back into title contention with an impressive showing this weekend.