Rockstar/Makita/Yoshimura Suzuki's Mat Mladin may have won the battle with a dominant win in the season finale but Ben Spies wins the war and the 2008 AMA Superbike title.
Thanks to the AMA's denial of Mat Mladin's appeal of his disqualification at VIR, today's Superbike finale at Laguna Seca was anticlimactic. Still, Mladin rode like he had a chip on his shoulder and blew away the field, grabbing his 73rd career Superbike victory in the process.
"It was a good race for us. We really wanted to try and win this last one - obviously there's some things that happened this year that we don't think were right, so it was nice to get out here and get a win," Mladin said.
Rockstar Makita Yoshimura Suzuki's Tommy Hayden grabbed the holeshot, but teammate Mladin would track him down before the end of Lap 1. 2008 AMA Superbike Champion Ben Spies got off to a bad start and by the time he worked his way around Hayden, Mladin was already too far gone. Spies would hold on for a second-place finish while Hayden would complete the Suzuki podium sweep.
"We made a lot of passes so it was pretty fun. I just didn't get off the line that great. By the time we got into second, I could see the pace he was running, and the gap we had -- I'm not superhuman so there is no way that was going to happen. We just made it out Sunday farewell cruise. It was a good race and I had a lot of thoughts. I actually had a lot of fun riding out there. I'm looking forward to everything that's coming up," Spies said.
In regards to what's in the future for Spies, the post-race SPEED Report said the three-time AMA Superbike Champion will join the Italian Yamaha factory World Superbike team in 2009. This comes as somewhat of a surprise as many speculated that Spies would make the jump to MotoGP, especially after riding for the Rizla Suzuki team three times this year as a wildcard with positive results.
Ben Spies takes his three-consecutive AMA Superbike titles and will head to World Superbike in search of international fame on the biggest Superbike stage of them all.
Back to today's race, Jordan Suzuki's Aaron Yates looked destined for a spot on the podium until a broken brake lever hampered his efforts. Hayden passed Yates for third with two laps to go, but the Jordan Suzuki rider held on to finish in fourth place.
American Honda's Neil Hodgson rounded out the top five. Monster Energy Kawasaki's substitute rider, Canadian Superbike Champion Jordan Szoke, squeezed by Team ESP's Chris Peris in the final corner to finish in a respectable ninth.
Who knows what the outcome would have been today if Mladin didn't get DQed at VIR. But with Spies making the move to World Superbike next season, one of the great rivalries in AMA Superbike drew to a sad finale today. Though the two riders didn't always see eye-to-eye, they still had a habit of bringing out the best in one another, and the intensity of their rivalry will be sorely missed.
2008 AMA Superbike Laguna Seca Results
1. Mat Mladin (Suzuki)
2. Ben Spies (Suzuki) +12.582
3. Tommy Hayden (Suzuki) +17.902
4. Aaron Yates (Suzuki) +21.236
5. Neil Hodgson (Honda) +28.558
6. Eric Bostrom (Yamaha) +37.099
7. Miguel DuHamel (Honda) +37.713
8. Jason DiSalvo (Yamaha) +50.212
9. Jordan Szoke (Kawasaki)
10. Chris Peris (Suzuki)
Formula Xtreme Results
Somebody forgot to tell Erion Honda's Jake Zemke and Josh Hayes that the AMA Formula Xtreme title was already won. The two battled it out like everything was on the line today in a thrilling 17-lap contest that saw Zemke claim the checkers.
Jake Zemke - 2008 AMA Formula Xtreme Champion
The victory is an exclamation point on J-Z's memorable season that includes his first-career title.
"I think that was the race a lot of people wanted to see all year long that for whatever reasons throughout the year... We should have had some great races like this but it wasn't working out," Zemke said.
But today's victory wasn't easy. Hayes made several passes on Zemke, but Jake would always have an answer and denied the Mississippian his fourth straight Formula Xtreme victory.
"I sure would have liked to have won this race but things didn't happen for me at the end. I don't know if I could have beaten Jake anyway but I sure would have given it a good shot. Congratulations -- the champ beat me today," Hayes said.
Formula Xtreme Results
1. 98 Jake P. Zemke Paso Robles, CA Honda CBR600RR 17 ---
2. 1 Joshua Hayes Gulfport, MS Honda CBR600RR 17 +1.119
3. 15 Steve Rapp Manhattan Beach, CA Kawasaki ZX-6R 17 +12.182
4. 36 Martin Cardenas Medellin, Suzuki GSX-R600 17 +12.566
5. 57 Chaz Davies Carlsbad, CA Kawasaki ZX-6R 17 +24.818
6. 72 Larry Pegram Pataskala, OH Ducati 848 17 +29.323
7. 60 Michael Beck Simi Valley, CA Yamaha YZF-R6 17 +30.327
8. 13 Cory West Eureka Springs, AR Suzuki GSX-R600 17 +30.601
9. 96 Aaron Gobert Murrieta, CA Honda CBR600RR 17 +30.958
10. 56 Tony Meiring Tracy, CA Yamaha YZF-R6 17 +59.161
2008 AMA Formula Xtreme Final Point Standings -
1. J. Zemke 336
2. J. Hayes 287
3. S. Rapp 278
4. L. Pegram 265
5. A.Gobert 224
6. C. Davies 224