Injury-plagued rider stays healthy and wins his first AMA Championship PICKERINGTON, Ohio (Sept. 24, 2003) -- It's been a long and often painful road for Josh Hayes, but the 28-year-old Attack Suzuki rider from Gulfport, Miss., finally broke...
Injury-plagued rider stays healthy and wins his first AMA Championship
PICKERINGTON, Ohio (Sept. 24, 2003) -- It's been a long and often painful road for Josh Hayes, but the 28-year-old Attack Suzuki rider from Gulfport, Miss., finally broke through to win the 2003 AMA Genuine Suzuki Accessories Superstock title with a second-place finish at Barber Motorsports Park last Saturday. It was the first AMA Championship for Hayes, who has been a regular in AMA Pro Racing since 1999. Hayes' championship marked the continued domination in AMA Superstock racing for Suzuki and its GSX-R750. This year Kawasaki gave Suzuki a serious run for title with Tommy Hayden on the potent and nimble Kawasaki ZX636.
The battle for the AMA Superstock Championship was the closest of all road racing series this season and it came down to the final laps of Saturday's race at Barber. Hayes helped his cause by winning the pole and earning a championship point. The final was red-flagged on lap 13, which meant the championship would be decided in a five-lap restart sprint race. Hayes needed to finish third or better to win. In the restart he tucked in behind rival Hayden and rode safely home to second and the championship.
"The first three races were pretty rough," Hayes said, "but we put the rest of the season together pretty good. We've been on the podium a whole lot, and it all paid off at the end. This is a pretty big deal; we've been fighting for this for quite a while. This year Superstock has been such an awesome class. I couldn't have had more fun, and I couldn't have won it a better way -- started putting some race wins together late in the year. I feel like we really earned this as a team."
Hayes was considered one of the leading young riders on the circuit after he was the surprise winner of the Daytona Superstock race in 1999 on a Valvoline Suzuki. But then a series of injuries that lingered over the next few seasons saw Hayes miss a number of races. The injuries kept him from being a serious championship contender until this season. After a slow start to the 2003 campaign Hayes caught fire mid-season and earned six consecutive podium finishes, including wins at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
Hayden, who won five rounds this season, finished second in the series and Hooters Suzuki's Vincent Haskovec was third. In all there were five winners in Superstock this year - Tommy Hayden and Tony Meiring of Kawasaki, Haskovec, Steve Rapp of Valvoline EMGO Suzuki and Hayes.
"For Josh Hayes to beat that brand new Kawasaki in Superstock, a bike that's lighter, more nimble, and smaller, on all these tracks we race on here in America is quite an accomplishment," said Suzuki team advisor and former world champion Kevin Schwantz.
Hayes joins Jamie Hacking (Supersport) and Ben Spies (Formula Xtreme) as first-time AMA champions this year, coincidentally all on Suzukis.
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