AMA Pro Racing Road America Insider 2012

June 5, 2012
Bart Madson
By Bart Madson
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Bashing away at the MotoUSA keyboard for nine years now, Madson lends his scribbling and editorial input on everything from bike reviews to industry analysis and motorcycle racing reports.

The annual trek to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin’s Road America circuit saw the usual AMA Pro Racing suspects take control up front. Josh Hayes and Martin Cardenas consolidated their positions as title favorites during Round 5 of the 2012 AMA Pro Road Racing season, swept the American SuperBike and Daytona SportBike doubleheaders. The SuperSport series showcased a first-time winner, with the always entertaining Vance & Hines XR1200 series featuring its familiar three-rider rush for the checkers.

Josh Hayes won both AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike race at Road America.
Josh Hayes took pole position at Road America in record time, beating the lap record set by Mat Mladin in 2007.


Reigning ASB champion Hayes arrived at Road America the presumptive favorite, he leaves Wisconsin having demoralized the field with two dominating wins and a perfect points haul. The Graves Yamaha ace showed his speed in the first practice session, and Hayes only improved from there – taking pole position in record-setting fashion. The Gulfport, Mississippi native’s 2:11.333 lap bested Mat Mladin’s standing lap record, set in 2007 on the pre-SuperBike spec Yoshimura Suzuki.

The current Yoshimura ace, Blake Young, had no answer to Hayes’ blistering pace. The Yamaha pilot jumped to the early lead in both SuperBike races and was never challenged – extending his championship points lead to 20. Young, a Wisconsin native, did spent the RA weekend battling in close quarters with a Graves Yamaha, however, SuperBike rookie Josh Herrin.

“It’s obvious that they’ve made improvements on their bike,” said Young after Race 1. “Not saying that we haven’t either, I mean we’re working hard. We don’t go back to the shop and say ‘well, we won the last one, we can sit on our hands now.’ So we’re always continually working hard. But it’s pretty obvious right now. Josh’s [Herrin] first rookie year he’s doing pretty good, he’s riding with me. I mean I expect him to be up there towards the end of the year – but this early in the season, I don’t know. I think these guys got a really good bike right now. So I need to dig deep and get back up to the front and start fighting with Josh, make these races a little more interesting for the fans instead of a runaway.”

The Yoshimura camp faced a literal disaster at the beginning the first SuperBike race. A flash storm hit the track, dumping a brief rain with some fierce winds. The Yoshimura Suzuki pits, located at the farthest end of the paddock, bore the full brunt of the wind which vaulted the garage’s awning over the team transporter. Fortunately no one was injured by the incident.

Josh Hayes  center  took the win in Race 1  followed by Blake Young  left  in second and Josh Herrin  right  in third.
Josh Hayes (center) won both Race 1 and 2, followed by Blake Young (left) in second and Josh Herrin (right) in third.

The storm delayed the race, eventually shortening it to 12 laps. The race was further shortened when the red flag came out on the final lap, while Hayes enjoyed a comfortable lead. The arrival of rain at the end of the dry race made for some dicey moments on track.

“I was really watching the windscreen trying to see how much rain was falling, because I couldn’t really tell,” explained Hayes at the post-race press conference. “I was definitely nervous. On the last lap, coming to the white flag actually, I had a pretty good moment out of Canada Corner. I knew it was pretty slippery, so I came up the front straightaway and kind of gave them a wave.”

The red flag was shown as Hayes began the final lap, the Yamaha rider clearly slowing his pace as the rain started to fall. The leader said of the premature end to the racing action: “As much as I would like to see checkered flags instead of red flags, I was glad that they stopped the race. I think it was probably safer for everybody. If everybody had tried to race to the finish you’d have probably had a lot of motorcycles laying on the ground, so I think it was the right call.”

There was confusion over the decision to call the race wet, as the track had mostly dried. Officials met with riders to discuss the conditions. Hayes explained the situation later, saying: “I had a discussion with them, I said ‘listen, there’s no possible way to run a wet tire in these conditions, so you need to just call it a dry race.’ They had said that they, even though it was determined as a wet race – I don’t really understand why he decided to call it a wet race, I thought they should have been a dry race and stop it if it’s wet – but they said ‘oh, if it starts raining, we’re going to stop it – it’s up to you guys at the front.’ I don’t know.”

Young expressed frustration after the race over the wet/dry confusion. Pressed as to whether he agreed with the decision to bring out the red flag, Young replied: “Here’s the thing, if you’re going to call it a dry race that’s what you can do. If you’re going to call it a wet race conditions, you can’t wave your hand and say… because it’s wet, the track’s supposed to be wet. That’s why they called it and declared it a wet race. It’s simple.”

Steve Rapp busted a chain during Race 1 and was forced to pit.
Steve Rapp was on pace to score a top-five result in Race 1, then his chain broke and he was forced to pit.

Race 1 saw more than a few casualties, including Motorcycle-Superstore Attack Performance’s Steve Rapp. The team, which is currently developing a MotoGP CRT project to race at Laguna Seca and Indianapolis later this year, looked set for a top-five result in the first SuperBike race when Rapp slowed suddenly on the start-finish straight. The ZX-10R chain had busted loose – ending a promising performance.

Jordan Suzuki’s Roger Hayden also had troubles, ending Race 1 in the pits with electronic issues. Hayden’s second race went poorly as well, penalized for jumping the start and finishing 13th. It was a reversal of fortune for the Jordan Suzuki riders, as Ben Bostrom logged a pair of solid fourth-place finishes – the veteran rider within sniffing distance of the podium in Race 1.

The Erik Buell Racing duo of Danny Eslick and Geoff May rebounded from a tough Race 1 to score a 5-6 finish on Sunday. Eslick had a strange first race, the two-time Daytona SportBike champion opting for a rain tire and starting the race from pit lane – charging up through the ranks but later black-flagged when his EBR started smoking. The local Wisconsin crowd cheered enthusiastically for the EBR crew, with Erik Buell himself chatting up the locals in the pits. Techs from Hero shadowed the regular EBR crew, with the Indian juggernaut sponsoring the EBR team. Erik Buell was characteristically optimistic about the company’s future plans.

Another notable SuperBike performance was lodged by local rider Jason Farrell. The Kawasaki ZX-10R competitor contended for a top-five finish in Race 1, eventually claiming sixth behind Foremost BMW rider Larry Pegram.

Cardenas in the lead in SportBike Race 2.
Martin Cardenas ahead of Cameron Beaubier and the rest in Daytona SportBike Race 2 at Road America.


Cardenas collected his fifth and sixth wins of the 2012 season at Road America. The 2010 DSB champ now holds a secure 47-point advantage over rival Jason DiSalvo. The Colombian didn’t make things too easy for himself in Saturday’s race, however, having to charge up through the field after a couple wheelies sapped his momentum off the start.

“My start wasn’t great,” admitted Cardenas, “the first two corners were too many bikes in the same spot, so I tried to be cautious and that. At the end of the first lap I was like 10th and I worked my way up to Jason and Cameron, and Westby came with me.”

Cardenas moved steadily through the ranks, joining a four rider lead group that included eventual podium finishers Beaubier and DiSalvo, as well as fellow Suzuki pilot Dane Westby. The skies darkened with the rainclouds that would cause controversy in the following SuperBike contest, factoring into Cardenas strategy to push ahead for the lead position.

“I was seeing the sky and maybe thinking that it was going to rain soon, so I tried to move to the first spot as soon as I could. And try to stay up front, so if it maybe rain two laps to the end or three, I would end up winning. That was my plan.”
Beaubier and DiSalvo were vying for the front before Cardenas took the position. The Y.E.S. Graves Yamaha youngster led much of the contest, and was challenging Cardenas when a mistake with three to go spoiled hopes for a victory. Beaubier ran wide, dropping to fourth.

Cameron Beaubier ran wide in Race 2 on the final lap and fell to 20th place.
Cameron Beaubier would have scored two podiums at Road America if not for a late mistake in Race 2.

“I just got in there and out-braked myself and ran wide. I downshifted one too many times and it just kicked out,” said Beaubier, when asked about the incident. “I didn’t want to risk tucking the front right there, so I stood it up a little bit and turned when I could. I got in behind Dane [Westby] and DiSalvo. …Passed them as soon as I could. I was trying to catch Martin, but he already had a second and a half on me and he was going really fast. I matched his pace the last lap and got second – it’s better than third, like all my results this year.”

Beaubier fought for a win in Race 2 as well, but ran off-track on the final lap, managing to finish the race in 20th position. The 19-year-old sits 10th in the standings, with four podiums this season. Beaubier appears back to full fitness and assures the knee injured in a scooter accident earlier this season is no longer an issue. “My knee’s doing a lot better,” he said. “It’s getting a lot stronger and wasn’t holding me back in the race.”

And speaking of scooter accidents, DiSalvo sported a respectable scrape on his hand after the first DSB affair at Road America. The closest challenger to Cardenas in the points took a tumble on his pit bike earlier. DiSalvo has been on the pace ever since his disastrous Round 2 performances at Road Atlanta, and rumors that DiSalvo’s Team Latus team is falling apart seem to be behind him as the season approaches the halfway marker.

Westby holds third overall, unable to poach a rostrum visit in Wisconsin. Wolverine looked on the pace for the steps in Race 1, but fell to fourth with a sixth-place result in Race 2. Instead, JD Beach stormed up for an unexpected podium finish on the RoadRace Factory/Red Bull Yamaha. The Flat Track/SuperSport turned SuperBike competitor in 2011 scored the best finish of his first full season in DSB.

Former AMA champions of the 600 support classes, Jake Zemke and Tommy Hayden were unable to manage a persistent podium pace at RA. Zemke tallied a 6-5 result for the Ducshop Racing Ducati. Tommy Hayden rebounded from an underwhelming 12th in Race 1 to run a podium pace for Race 2 – the Graves Yamaha rider finishing just 0.009 off the box in fourth.


The SuperSport races saw Riders Dicount Vesrah Suzuki’s Jake Lewis and Yamaha’s Stefano Mesa split the wins. Usual SuperSport front-runner, James Rispoli (Celtic Racing/Orient Express), finished with a 3-6 result and remains atop the SuperSport West points standings.

Jake Lewis  85  ahead of Stefano Mesa  37  in SuperSport Race 2.
Jake Lewis (1) took the win in Race 1 but was unable to hold back 17-year-old Stefano Mesa (37) in Race 2.

Lewis took the Saturday victory charging away from his rivals after a red flag restart on Lap 5. The Suzuki rider edged out challengers Mesa and Rispoli, who rounded out the Race 1 podium. Team Latus rider Dustin Dominguez was also in the podium mix aboard his Daytona 675R, but Lewis was able to break away in the closing laps in part due to mistakes from Rispoli and Dominguez.

The second SuperSport race was a three-rider battle between Mesa, Rispoli and Lewis. The trio were racing tight heading into the final lap, where Rispoli lost his Suzuki and went down – later recovering to gain critical championship points in sixth. Lewis and Mesa were locked in for the final tussle to the checkers, where the 17-year-old Mesa proved the victor by a 0.024 second margin. National Guard Suzuki’s Corey Alexander took the final podium position, running nine seconds adrift of the lead group.

Road America was a SuperSport West round, with Rispoli losing minimal ground to his nearest rival Hayden Gillim. Rispoli holds a 26-point lead over his SuperSport West rival, with Elena Myers third overall – the SuzukiScoopFans rider getting a pair of seventh-place finishes at RA.

The XR1200 field at Road America.
Early in the XR1200 race; Kyle Wyman (33), Tyler O’Hara (29) and Michael Barnes (34) already out front.


The seven-lap Vance & Hines XR1200 race at Road America delivered the expected three-rider fight between Kyle Wyman, Michael Barnes and Tyler OHara. Wyman came out on top, nabbing his second win of the season and his first since the Daytona opener. Barnes got the better of his Bartel’s Harley-Davidson teammate Ohara, who rounded out the podium.

“I knew it was just going to be the three of us dicing it up,” said Wyman. “I figured out that I was pretty quick in the last few corners of the racetrack, but very weak in the carousel. So I figured if I could be out front at the end of the carousel I’d be alright to the finish. I knew I could get a good drive out of that last corner, so that’s what I wanted to do. I led that whole last lap, it worked out. That was my plan.”

The XR class utilized a larger 190/60 Dunlop rear tire at Road America. Despite the taller profile and newer construction, Wyman didn’t note any decreased performance, with teams having to modify setup somewhat to dial in performance.

Kyle Wyman coming across the finish in first.
The XR1200 checkers with Wyman in front, Barnes in second and O’Hara bringing up the rear in third-place.

Barnes placed runner-up to Wyman at Road America, for his fifth consecutive podium. The 43-year-old AMA veteran famously ended a 16-year winless streak at the Infineon XR race earlier in the season. Barnes pleaded at Road Atlanta for more support to finish out the season.

“Budget for me is really, really hurting. I did this whole weekend on one rear tire, and one set for the race,” said Barnes. “I’m just looking for a little support to finish out the season the way I’m supposed to, rather than penny pinching just to get to races.”

Ohara’s third-place finish is notable as the worst result of the season for the Petaluma, California rider. Ohara earned the most laps lead and pole position bonus at RA, and he retains the points lead heading into Barber. However, the points advantage will get wiped away with five rounds remaining owing to the XR Showdown format. This season the top 10 XR riders will get elevated to 1000 points, with a $60,000 purse up for grabs for the five concluding rounds – with $30,000 awarded to the XR Showdown points leader.

The AMA Pro Racing series takes a two-week hiatus before heading south for Round 6 at Alabama’s Barber Motorsports Park June 22-24.

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