DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (August 3, 2012) - Martin Cardenas won six of the first eight AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike races of the year and the GEICO Suzuki GSX-R600 pilot's championship run quickly outdistanced the competition well before last weekend's GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing action at the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Early in 2012, Cardenas wasn't necessarily winning the races by a mile (often he faced tough competition, notably from Jason DiSalvo and Cameron Beaubier) but he was winning and he certainly looked a cut above the competition.
With a big points lead, Cardenas spent the two previous events at Barber Motorsports Park and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course scoring solid finishes while Beaubier (Y.E.S./Graves/Yamaha YZF-R6) and Dane Westby (M4 Suzuki GSX-R600) took the spotlight at the front.
Cardenas had a bike issue in one of the Barber races and ran strong at Ohio but the slightest of errors meant Beaubier was able to pass him late and win on Sunday. Beaubier has made great strides this year and to top Cardenas in a straight fight even once is a significant achievement.
That set the stage for another battle at the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Laguna Seca, with the usual gang of GoPro Daytona SportBike gladiators looking to usurp glory from Cardenas and Beaubier.
The conditions were tough and the track time minimal after the Monterey fog played havoc with the schedule but Cardenas won pole with a lap of 1:25.575 and was joined by Tommy Hayden (Y.E.S./Graves/Yamaha YZF-R6) and Beaubier on the three-rider front row. Those three riders got away first of the start and then Dane Westby (M4 Suzuki GSX-R600) saw his string of first or second place finishes end at four when he highsided his bike on lap one. He was able to remount and continue the race, which meant Westby would continue to hold second place in the Daytona SportBike points.
Beaubier had a good view of two fast veterans for much of the race. Cardenas led but Hayden, who won the AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike race at Laguna Seca in 2011, was quicker in some spots and looked content to follow until the end.
By lap six, Bobby Fong (Meen Motorsports Yamaha YZF-R6) was able to join the leading trio. Through the middle of the race, there weren't many moves attempted at the front, but there were a lot of looks. At halfway, Beaubier decided to make a move on Hayden, getting a good run up the hill and making the move entering the Corkscrew.
Jake Zemke (Ducshop Ducati 848) closed in with seven to go and was just off the leading four.
"Hammer Time" came with four to go, the same time the leaders hit some lapped traffic. Beaubier tried to make a move around the outside in turn four and five, but Cardenas was having none of it. Seconds later, Fong crashed in turn six to end his run. Beaubier was right on the tail of the 36 bike but Cardenas had all the obvious passing areas covered. It was going to take a move similar to the one Beaubier made at Mid-Ohio; a move in a spot that Cardenas wasn't expecting.
It happened in turn two on the last lap. Beaubier got a good run out of the final corner and continued down the straight, but was able to get his Yamaha slowed and positioned on the inside for the second part of turn two. Cardenas hit the corner hot and left the slightest of gaps. It left just enough room for Beaubier to take the lead.
Like at Mid-Ohio, Beaubier was able to cut a really hot lap at the end, having held a little something in reserve for that final time around just like Cardenas does. No one could close on the Yamaha rider and Beaubier was able to win by 0.093 over Cardenas and Hayden.
"Martin made a little mistake coming out of the last corner and I was able to pass him into two," said Beaubier. "I was riding a little impatient in the middle of the race, trying to get around Tommy and showing Martin a wheel here and there. I felt like I could get in there pretty good but to tell the truth I did not plan that move. I saw the opportunity."
Cardenas didn't win but now leads the points by 64. "Cameron made a good move to pass me," Cardenas said. "I was expecting him to try something in turn five and I had an idea of how to shut the door, but he surprised me in turn two and made the pass. I wanted to try to get back around him because I felt the race was ours, but I also didn't want to give anything more away. He had just enough cushion that he was able to hold the position. Aside from that, it was a perfect race for us and we are happy."
Hayden had the fastest lap of the race but somehow didn't quite get the finish he wanted.
"The race went pretty smooth and I was in a position I wanted to be in," said Hayden. "I was pretty confident that if I got with the leaders, I could run the pace to win. Some places, I was a little faster than Martin, others he was quicker than me. The areas I was faster were the areas where you couldn't pass. I was a little disappointed because halfway through the race I thought I had a better chance of winning than I did at the end. I'm not completely satisfied."
Zemke earned fourth place and took another fine finish for the Ducshop Ducati team just a shade over three seconds back. It's the fourth time this season Zemke has finished fourth.
Jake Gagne (RoadRace Factory/Red Bull Yamaha YZF-R6) was fifth in another crazy race for the luckless Californian. Westby banged him hard on lap one when he crashed and Gagne then had another moment one corner later. After the race, the 132 bike was battered and Gagne's ankle swollen but he had a top five finish to show for it.
The battle for sixth was pretty wild. Cory West earned the spot for Riders Discount Vesrah Suzuki crew over Benny Solis (Kneedraggers.com Yamaha) Joey Pascarella (Riders Discount Vesrah Suzuki) and J.D. Beach (RoadRace Factory/Red Bull) all dive-bombing into the last corner trying to get sixth.
Venezuela's Fernando Amantini (Team Amantini) earned tenth place.
With a month off before the series renews the hostilities at New Jersey Motorsports Park, it is time for the GoPro Daytona SportBike regulars to gear up for the 2012 stretch run.
GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike Race Results
1 Cameron Beaubier 20 Laps
2 Martin Cardenas 0.092
3 Tommy Hayden 0.518
4 Jake Zemke 3.074
5 Jake Gagne 24.659
6 Cory West 33.139
7 Benny Solis 33.759
8 Joey Pascarella 33.762
9 JD Beach 34.032 10 Fernando Amantini 36.563
11 Tyler OHara 40.912
12 David Gaviria 44.713
13 Aaron Gobert 51.149
14 Michael Beck 52.892
15 Ben Young 56.733
16 Huntley Nash 56.912
17 Tommy Aquino 56.97
18 Dane Westby 01:02.8
19 Josh Galster 01:27.1
20 Ted Rich 19 Laps
21 Chris Duran 3.949
22 Melissa Paris 4.557
23 Bobby Fong 16 Laps
24 Matthew Presting 11 Laps
25 Bryce Prince 1 Lap
26 Nahun Alvarez DNS
27 Brian Pinkstaff DNS
Point Standings (After Round 8)
1 Martin Cardenas 314
2 Dane Westby 250
3 Cameron Beaubier 234
4 Tommy Hayden 234
5 Jason DiSalvo 194
6 Jake Zemke 184
7 JD Beach 178
8 Bobby Fong 162
9 Cory West 158
10 Joey Pascarella 154
Source: AMA Pro Racing