In a race that ranked among the best in series history, Cameron Beaubier beat Josh Herrin by just .002 of a second in the Dunlop Championship at Road America after a dramatic last lap that saw Motul Superbike Championship points leader Toni Elias crash out of the race with just a handful of corners to go.
Those three fought for the duration and it wasn’t always clean with the trio being called to race direction after the race. It started in turn one on the final lap with Elias running his Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000 into Beaubier’s Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing YZF-R1 and forcing the two-time MotoAmerica Superbike Champion wide. With a bit of red mist, Beaubier fought back and went for an inside pass at Canada Corner on Elias, who was closing the door on the inside line. The two hit and Elias went down, the Spaniard sliding into the gravel trap. Herrin was suddenly in the catbird seat, took over at the front and led Beaubier as the two came up the hill on the long front straight. Beaubier, however, got the perfect draft and slid past Herrin’s Attack Performance/Herrin Compound Yamaha at the checkered flag.
The win was Beaubier’s first of the season and the 25th of his Superbike career. It also came at a time when he needed it most as Elias came into Wisconsin holding down a 35-point lead in the title chase. With Beaubier’s victory and Elias’ non-finish, that gap closes to just 10 points with race two at Road America set for tomorrow. Elias now leads Beaubier, 138-128, after seven races.
“I saw Josh (Herrin) and Toni (Elias) earlier passing back and forth,” Beaubier said. “It seemed like Josh had really good pace and he would almost open up a gap on Toni, mainly in the middle part of the track. It kind of left me a little desperate trying to look for a way around Toni, but he was making up all his time on Herrin on the brakes. I couldn’t really do anything. I was kind of stuck in this spot. I knew as the laps were winding down I needed to get aggressive if I wanted to win the thing. I made a couple aggressive moves, but I felt like they were clean. Then, coming into the last lap, I think there’s a difference between aggression and plain out kind of dirty. I felt like he probably might have got sucked in a little deep into one. Bounced off me and I got angry. I gave it everything I had on the last lap just to do something. I lined him up going into Canada. I went in there not thinking we were going to hit or anything. I didn’t even realize he went down until I came around the next lap and his bike was sitting by the air fence. I’m not saying it’s my fault or his fault, maybe it was a racing incident. I still wanted him to finish the race, so that was a bummer. My bike felt really, really good as soon as we rolled it off the truck yesterday. I just felt like I couldn’t make any passes early. I felt like I had a little bit more pace, but I just needed to get a little more aggressive.”
Herrin was impressive in finishing second, the privateer leading nine of the 13 laps and coming up oh-so close at the finish.
“It was exciting, I think,” Herrin said. “I’m always thinking, what’s the race like for the fans? For some reason that’s always in the back of my head in the middle of the race. I’m always looking at the big screen when I’m on the track. It was exciting, but it’s frustrating. I don’t know if it’s two different riding styles or if it’s Toni (Elias) riding a certain way. It’s frustrating having him go by you on the straightaway or dive on the brakes as hard as he can, blow the apex of the corner and then just squirt off the corner and us not being able to do anything with it. Then he’s tapping on his tail like, ‘follow me,’ but it’s impossible to ride with his riding style.”
Herrin had a bird’s-eye of the Beaubier/Elias incident.
“Once I got up to those guys and I saw Toni go under Cam into turn one, I was like, ‘that was pretty dirty.’ Then I passed Toni into the chicane and went to the left, and then kind of squirted out to the right and had the pass on him. Then he just closes the door and leaves nowhere to go, so you just run out of space. That’s exactly what he did to Cam into Canada Corner. Goes on the brakes, Cam’s got the pass… He released the brakes, closes the door and you’re thinking, ‘Screw the guy behind me. I don’t care about him.’ And then when you hit him, he cries about it. It’s really dangerous. Nobody’s going to say anything about it, but I am. It’s kind of annoying because you touch him, and he freaks out about it. It makes it not fun to ride because then you’re always kind of nervous to hit him because he’s going to make a big commotion about it. Give it right back because at the end of the day, friends are for dinner. When we’re on the track… but as soon as the race is over it’s like, whatever. But it seems like everybody’s like that. You get mad at each other on the track, but when it’s over it’s not a big deal. But when we’re on the track, he’s one of the ones that talks about safety all the time and I saw him almost make Cam crash twice in one lap. For sure it’s sketch, but it made for an exciting race for sure.”
For Elias, it was a day of disappointment after a tough battle left him in the gravel trap and without any championship points.
“I do not have to say anything, the image speaks for itself,” Elias said of the video replay of the contact between him and Beaubier, resulting in Elias’ crash. “I don’t agree of the decision of MotoAmerica (not to penalize Beaubier), but I have to respect the decision and that’s it. They are trying to do the best for this championship and this result and what happened is really bad for me but is good for the championship. I think that’s why the decision was made like this.”
Beaubier’s teammate Garrett Gerloff ended up third, his third podium finish in his rookie season of Superbike racing. After a moment early in the race, the Texan settled into fourth place and took advantage of Yamalube/Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz’ crash to put his R1 on the podium.
“It started good with a weird start but somehow I ended up in second place, so that wasn’t bad,” Gerloff said. “Then riding a lap behind Toni, he does ride a lot different than I would say Josh (Herrin), Cameron (Beaubier) and I and Mathew (Scholtz). It looked like he was kind of just trying to go slow and just wait until the last part of the race to actually go fast. While I was doing that, Josh (Herrin) got around me and then Cameron (Beaubier). I felt pretty good just sitting right there. Here with four guys, three guys in front of you, going into the braking zone off the straightaway, you have a lot of air pushing you into the corner. The first part of the race I was aware of it. I was just braking early trying to not get sucked into the corner, but then I would just lose a little bit of ground. After a couple of laps of that I was like, ‘I’m going to try to go to where they go.’ Then I ended up running wide in five and kind of went off the track. Then Mathew and Jake (Lewis) got around me. Then I was stuck in a battle behind me. I’m pretty disappointed because I felt like I had the pace to be right there. I just got to figure out how to race at a track like this with a bunch of straightaways and a bunch of drafting and stuff like that.”
Fifth place ended up being a battle of Kentucky with M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Jake Lewis besting his neighbor Roger Hayden and his Yoshimura Suzuki by just .004 of a second. Then came a big gap back to Scheibe Racing’s Danny Eslick in the Oklahoman’s best finish of the season thus far.
Quicksilver/LEXIN/Hudson Motorcycles’ Bobby Fong finished seventh after starting the race from pit road, the Californian some five seconds clear of Excelsus Print Solutions/KWR’s Kyle Wyman. Genuine Broaster Chicken Honda’s Cameron Petersen and Fly Street Racing’s David Anthony rounded out the top 10 finishers.
After seven races, Elias leads Beaubier, 138-128, with Scholtz third on 105. Herrin is fourth with 95 points, 27 points ahead of Lewis.
Supersport: The Return Of Debise
Today’s Supersport race was a bit of a French Revolution as M4 ECSTAR Suzuki rider Valentin Debise, who was injured in a crash while racing in the Daytona 200 prior to the start of the MotoAmerica season, returned to the series this weekend, promptly won the pole in Saturday morning’s final qualifying session and won Supersport race one after a fierce battle with Monster Energy/Yamaha Extended Service/Graves/Yamaha rider JD Beach, who finished second.
Rickdiculous Racing/Yamaha’s Hayden Gillim didn’t get a great start, but he made up for it in short fashion, caught up to Beach and Debise, and was in the mix for a win until he faded slightly towards the end of the race, but still crossed the finish line in third.
“For sure, I’m even more than happy,” Debise said. “I went to this race just going like, ‘Okay, I need to enjoy myself and just try to be good on my riding.’ That was my main goal. I can feel that my speed was okay, not as fast as I want, but I’m here. It was a great battle. I enjoyed so much passing JD and Hayden (Gillim). Then they raced me really hard during the whole race. It gave me a great feeling. I can’t wait to make some more battles with those guys.”
When asked how confident he felt about being able to return to racing at the front of the field, Debise said: “I didn’t tell myself, you will be here, it’s fine, or whatever. I just go into the race and into this race weekend saying, ‘just ride how you feel the bike.’ That was my main goal. I just went out and didn’t even look at my lap time. I tried to do the best I can do. Tried to give some good information to my team. Just do my job, but without looking at really where I was. Now, I still have some work to do to get back to where I was this winter, and everything will be fine.”
Liqui Moly Junior Cup: Dumas Again!
In the Liqui Moly Junior Cup Series, additional balancing measures were mandated by MotoAmerica prior to the weekend, and Saturday’s race one results indicate that parity has been achieved with the top-four finishers aboard three different brands in the new class.
KTM Orange Brigade/JP43 Training’s Alex Dumas notched his fourth victory out of five races thus far with Kawasaki-mounted Ashton Yates finishing second. KTM Orange Brigade/Ghilliman Racing’s Sean Ungvarsky also stood on the podium in third. Attack Performance/Herrin Compound/Yamaha rider Gavin Anthony was fourth, and MP13 Racing/Yamaha’s Cory Ventura rounded out the top five.
“Ashton (Yates) didn’t do the qualifying this morning and he crashed on Friday,” Dumas said. “So, for sure, I had more track time. I felt like I had better pace than him even though he wanted to try to slow me down in the race. I’m happy with today’s race and I hope to do the same tomorrow. Every race this year, I kind of start slow a little bit in the beginning and, after, I just continue doing my points on the track, and I just keep my pace fast.”
Twins Cup: Madama Gets His First
After two races and two wins by Suzuki SV650 riders in the Twins Cup Series, a Yamaha FZ/MT-07 rider prevailed in Saturday’s race. Altus Motorsports/Yamaha’s Jason Madama notched the victory after race leader Chris Parrish ran wide and almost crashed on the final lap. Parrish recovered quickly and rode his Ghetto Customs Suzuki across the finish line in second. Third-place finisher was Dustin Dominguez aboard his Dustin Dominguez Racing/Suzuki, the Oklahoman making his return to professional road racing at Road America.
Madama provided some insights into his race strategy after the podium celebration.
“The plan was just suck into the bubble and wait it out,” Madama said. “I’ve never really been here (at Road America). I’ve only raced an electric bike here last year, and it was very limited practice because the e-bikes run out of juice. I kind of had a strategy to stay in the bubble and wait until a straightaway where I could muscle around him, but obviously it wasn’t working out very good because he was able to suck in my draft and pass me down the straightaway. It ended up being a really good battle. If it wasn’t for his mistake, it would have been a lot tougher. So he made it easier on me. It was a great race. I’m super-pumped to be up here. First MotoAmerica win. No complaints.”