Three in a row for Hayes, ...
Three in a row for Hayes, #1 for Zemke
Erion Honda's Josh Hayes came out on top of a last-lap dogfight over his Erion Honda teammate, Jake Zemke, with a final-corner counterattack to score his third successive Formula Xtreme race win.
However, the bigger picture victory goes to Zemke. After finishing in the championship top five eleven times, the top three nine times, and top two five times, the Californian has finally secured his first-ever AMA crown.
Following disappointment at the season-opening Daytona 200, Zemke has been a dominating force in the class, picking up four wins, four seconds, and four poles.
Even though Zemke knew he only needed a second-place run to lock up that elusive championship triumph, he couldn't resist challenging his teammate for the win at the flag, diving up the inside as the two entered the Turn 10 chicane. He wasn't able to hold the position, however, as Hayes responded with a braking maneuver of his own in Turn 12, and the two crossed the stripe separated by a scant 0.043 seconds.
Even so, Zemke now boasts 299 points compared with the newly second ranked Hayes' 254 -- an insurmountable advantage as the series heads to the Laguna Seca season finale.
The new champ said, "I was content just to follow Josh around. Josh is a great rider, but I didn't even want to mix it up or get myself involved with anything. I'm happy to bring the championship home today, so I was content to sit there. Josh was setting a great pace, so I was just kind of back there biding my time, biding my time...
"On the last lap, I just wanted to keep Josh honest -- make sure he didn't think he was going to run away today... I came down the back straightaway and was like, 'hmm, should I do this or not? I should probably just stay here and be safe.' I was having a full conversation coming down the hill. It all happened in about two-tenths of a second, but I decided, 'oh, well nah, oh, well maybe, oh, well, I'd better just let off the brake because I'm already this far in.'
"I put it in there a little deep, and Josh was able to get back under me coming under the bridge, but mainly I was just happy to bring it home for the crew and the whole team. It's not just my guys, but it's Josh's guys as well. Everybody over there works so hard, and everybody does work as a team. You see a lot of teams that it's us versus them, but it doesn't really work that way over there. Everybody's kind of committed to the same goal, and that's to get both of us up front. Like I said on the podium, Josh has been a great teammate. We've been friends for a long time, and we've never I don't think actually been on the same team at the same time. I couldn't ask for a better teammate the whole year. I know he's had a tough year, but he's also turned it around here at the end of the season, so congratulations to him and to our team as well, for getting back up on the podium again."
Racer winner Hayes said, "It was a very entertaining race, I knew Jake had a lot to lose and I didn't. I can go for races wins, Jake's got to be a little more careful than that. If it came easy to him I'm sure he would take it, but fortunately, I was there to take it away from him and it was just a great race.
"Championship-wise, congratulations to Jake. It's his first one. He's been working at it for a long time and it's awesome that he's able to wrap it up a race early. I wish the early part of the season had gone a little different so that we would've had to do a knockdown-drag-out at the last race. I think it would have been really good for us and fun. So, now at least we get to go to Laguna and have a knockdown-drag-out anyway, because now we can both go for it."
The Mississippian humorously noted that he was filled with dread rather than joy after the checkered flag, afraid that his teammate had crashed as they contested the win in the final corner.
"I do got to say there was a moment of terror in my mind for just a second. After I came through and I accelerated past the finish line, I didn't shut off the gas too early just in case he was close by. And I sat up and I looked over my left shoulder and there was nothing there. And I went, 'oh my god', and I started to look to see if there was a dust cloud in the last turn and about that time I sat straight on the bike, shaking my head already going, 'you got to be kidding me,' Jake was right there on my right. Yeah, there was a moment there I was pretty terrified."
Team M4 EMGO Suzuki's Martin Cardenas continued his late-season run of success, scoring a third-straight FX podium with a narrow win for the position over Attack Kawasaki's Steve Rapp. The Colombian beat the Californian to the line by 0.114 to grab the final spot on the podium.
"It was a very good race for me," said Cardenas. "I battled the whole race with Steve Rapp. Two laps to go I passed him down the back straight in the braking zone. On the last lap he passed me again on the straight and I passed him back. I could maintain the position to the flag and I finished third."
Rapp's teammate, Chaz Davies, was a close fifth in the once red-flagged race, finishing 0.359 seconds in arrears of Rapp.
LeoVince Foremost Insurance Ducati's Larry Pegram outpaced Rockwall Honda's Aaron Gobert for sixth, while Graves-supported Michael Beck, Pirelli-backed Taylor Knapp, and Triumph-mounted Dane Westby rounded out the race's top ten.