DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – With the 2013 GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing season set to commence this week at the legendary Daytona International Speedway, there is one pressing question in the premier AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike class: Can anyone stop reigning champ Josh Hayes?
Despite Hayes’ overwhelming dominance during the ’12 season, the unique characteristics of the Speedway could provide for some less predictable racing. Even small off-season gains can become large ones on track when the draft is introduced and speeds approach and even exceed 200mph. As a result, an advantage measured by tenths of a second per lap in qualifying can vanish with the difference at the checkered flag measured by a photo.
Defeating Hayes won’t prove easy, however. The Monster Energy Graves Yamaha star is not only coming off his third consecutive AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike title-winning season, he’s fresh off the most statistically impressive season in the series’ 37-year history. In 2012, Hayes notched up seven perfect weekends (pole, led the most laps in both races, and won both races), while establishing new single-season records for most wins in a season (16), most wins in a row (10), and equaled the mark for most poles (10).
Hayes, who is entering just his fifth season as a factory SuperBike hero, is now a heavy favourite to do what no rider, including Mladin, has ever done before: win a fourth consecutive AMA Pro SuperBike championship.
Arguably three of the biggest thorns in Hayes’ side during his three-year title run — Blake Young, Tommy Hayden, and Ben Bostrom — are no longer in the field. But perhaps their absence will present additional opportunities for others to step forward and provide Hayes with a renewed test in 2013.
National Guard Jordan Suzuki’s Roger Hayden showed flashes that he can do just that last season. The Kentuckian took another step forward following his breakthrough ’11 effort and showed the talent, speed, and mettle to harry Hayes at Mid-Ohio and then emerged victorious from pole in Miami to claim his first premier-class win.
Another rider Hayes needs to keep an eye on is his Monster Energy Graves Yamaha teammate, Josh Herrin. Herrin impressed as a rookie last season with 10 podium finishes to his credit. Herrin is back on equally-matched machinery in 2013, but he is no longer a rookie.
While Young, Hayes’ biggest rival in recent seasons, is no longer with Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing, the paddock powerhouse is gunning for a return to their glory days prior to Hayes’ ascension with the signing of two-time AMA Pro Daytona SportBike king Martin Cardenas. The Colombian was a revelation during his maiden SuperBike campaign in 2011, scooping up a rare rookie win, and once again dominated the SportBike class in his return in 2012.
Team Hero’s Geoff May was the pleasant surprise of the season last year on the emerging EBR 1190RS. With a podium finish and a fifth-overall ranking in ’12, no one will be shocked to see the Georgian running up front in 2013. May will be joined by a new stable mate this season, as former SuperBike championship runner-up and multi-time race winner Aaron Yates makes a welcome full-time return to the series on the Team AMSOIL/Hero EBR.
May’s former teammate, Danny Eslick, meanwhile, could prove to be a title threat himself. Eslick parlayed a similarly impressive season, which included a pair of podium results, into a seat on the #23 Jordan Suzuki.
Multi-time class race winner Larry Pegram is yet another front runner sporting new equipment in 2013. Pegram Racing will field Yamaha YZF-R1s this season as the Ohio-native looks to fight fire with fire.
Despite an injury-plagued season, the all-effort riding of KTM/HMC Racing’s Chris Fillmore did not go unnoticed by fans and his fellow competitors in 2013. The squad will look to take the next step forward in the development of its improving RC8R race bike this season, which would also benefit Taylor Knapp, who has finally earned his big break with a factory team.
Qualifying for National Guard SuperBike grid positions will take place in two sessions, Thursday afternoon at 2:45 p.m. and Friday morning at 10:35 a.m. The first 15-lap round of the weekend’s National Guard SuperBike doubleheader will close out Friday’s on-track activity at 4:00 p.m. local time, followed by National Guard SuperBike Race 2 on Saturday morning at 11:00 a.m. local time.
The most historic motorcycle race in America has constantly evolved over the years, beginning as a race held on public roads and the beach to a contest held on the famed high banks of Daytona International Speedway. The machinery has changed over the years and the AMA Pro GoPro Daytona Sport Bikes have delivered close and exciting battles in recent seasons.
With reigning champ Cardenas moving to AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike this season, the face of the series has changed. As a two-time champ, Cardenas could always be counted on to fight near the front.
The class has plenty of up-and-comers vying for glory along with a nice mix of veteran riders. The preseason favourites to replace Cardenas at the top include Cameron Beaubier of Yamaha Extended Service/Graves/Yamaha and Dane Westby of GEICO Honda.
Last year’s winner, Joey Pascarella, returns to the scene on a Triumph. The Californian will attempt to defend his win on the Riders Discount Racing Triumph Daytona 675. Last year, Pascarella rode a masterful race, showing good form to stay at or near the front before crossing the line and winning the biggest race of the year.
Another star from last year’s race is Jason DiSalvo. The veteran put on a spirited charge after issues early in the race and nearly won. DiSalvo will once again race for Latus Motors Triumph. The English brand last won the 200 in 1967 with Gary Nixon and this year has arguably been their best hope since then.
Among the veterans looking to make his mark is former Daytona 200 winner Jake Zemke who will be riding the Desmo Veloce Ducati. Zemke won the race in 2006 and will fill in for the injured Garrett Willis.
First practice for the race is scheduled to begin at noon on Thursday, with qualifying scheduled for Friday. The 57-lap 72nd running of the DAYTONA 200 will begin at 1:00 p.m. local time on Saturday.
The AMA Pro Motorcycle-SuperStore.com SuperSport class should produce a competitive race at Daytona, with 60 riders pre-entered in the class for young riders and fast local club talent.
The look of the series should be changing this season, with two-time championship winner James Rispoli moving to the AMA GoPro Pro Daytona SportBike class this year. Additionally, the other winner in the 2012 Daytona races, Elena Myers, has joined that class, too.
One rider who has already made his mark is Stefano Mesa. After winning last season, Mesa is one of the contenders to take the overall title this season. The Boca Raton, FL resident will once again race a Yamaha in SuperSport.
Mesa’s longtime rival Tomas Puerta returns to SuperSport with the RoadRace Factory team. Puerta has won at Daytona before and the Colombian lists the circuit as his favourite track.
Hayden Gillim is another racer with title aspirations. Gillim finished second to Rispoli last season.
Qualifying for the two 10-lap finals happens on Thursday and Friday, with races on Friday and Saturday.
History — and common sense — suggest that this weekend’s AMA Pro Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Series season opener at Daytona International Speedway will be nothing short of a multi-rider dogfight to the checkered flag.
Michael Barnes is back with the number one plate in 2013, riding a Rossmeyers Harley-Davidson backed by Bikers Choice. Tyler O’Hara (Eco Fuel Saver, Scrubblade, Bartel’s Harley-Davidson) and Kyle Wyman (Revolution Performance, Millennium Technologies) return as well, as the three men will look to reignite their three-way rivalry for class dominance.
Steve Crevier (Motorsports Plus) is one of the other names that could easily prove to be a factor up front in what’s virtually guaranteed to be a hard-fought AMA Pro Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson opener.
Qualifying for Vance & Hines Harley -Davidson Series grid positions will take place in two sessions, Thursday afternoon at 5:30 p.m. and Friday morning at 9:40 a.m. The seven-lap contest will kick off the 2013 GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing season’s race action on Friday at 2:15 p.m. local time.
Live Timing & Scoring of all on-track sessions will be available at http://live.amaproracing.com/rr/. Between the races, stay connected with AMA Pro Road Racing at www.twitter.com/AMAProSBK and www.facebook.com/AMAProRoadRacing; keep up with Daytona International Speedway via Twitter (www.twitter.com/DISupdates) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/DaytonaInternationalSpeedway).
–From AMA Pro Racing