On Guard: Zemke Wins Daytona Opener

Paul Carruthers | March 4, 2010

DAYTONA BEACH, FL, MAR. 4 – National Guard Suzuki’s Jake Zemke ended an almost four-year winless drought in AMA Superbike racing today at Daytona International Speedway, the Californian starting his first season in the Michael Jordan Motorsports fold with a narrow victory in an ultra-competitive American Superbike final.With the top five riders finishing within .307 of a second of each other, the post-Mat Mladin era in AMA Superbike got started with the opening round of the 2010 series turning into a thriller – even with three of the expected front runners hitting trouble early in the race.Still, the five who were there in the beginning were there at the end with Zemke beating Rockstar/Makita Suzuki’s Tommy Hayden by just .238 of a second. Then came Foremost Insurance Ducati’s Larry Pegram .259 of a second behind Zemke with Michael Jordan Motorsports’ Aaron Yates, the pole sitter, and Rockstar/Makita Suzuki’s Blake Young crossing the line in quick succession. All five took turns at the front of the pack, and when they crossed the line for the final time there was just .307 of a second from Zemke in first to Young in fifth.Zemke actually led into the chicane on the final lap and got a good enough drive out of it to hold off the pack of drafters behind him. The win was Zemke’s first since he won on a factory Honda CBR1000RR at Miller Motorsports Park in June of 2006 and it was the fourth AMA Superbike victory of his career.”The Suzuki is brand new to me and I didn’t really know what feel I was looking for and I still don’t; I’m still looking for it,” Zemke said. “In the beginning I just wanted to get out there and not let the leaders get away. I’ve been to Daytona before and you can not let the lead group get away. The number-one job for me was ‘Okay, the bike doesn’t feel too bad. I just want to hang with this lead pack and make sure I don’t get separated from them.’ I was there for awhile and about halfway I thought, ‘I think I can get to the front of this thing.’ The bike was working good and it was really fast and that always helps. The guys have done their homework over the off-season and they build a great motorcycle and the team came together and gave me a bike I could ride in the race. Luckily, it worked out.”Three of the other stars of the series ran into problems early on. M4 Monster Suzuki’s John Hopkins pulled his GSX-R1000 behind pit wall on the opening lap and both Graves Motorsports Yamaha’s Josh Hayes and Pat Clark Motorsports’ Ben Bostrom ran into issues early on. Those two were able to persevere, however, with Hayes finishing 13th with Bostrom 18th.That left the others to fill the void with M4 Monster Suzuki’s Chris Ulrich having his best-ever AMA Superbike effort to finish sixth, the Californian holding off Ridersdiscount.com’s Taylor Knapp by .1 of a second at the finish line. Those two were some 27 seconds behind the leading quintet.Buell-mounted Shawn Higbee ended up eight with Shane Narbone ninth and Barrett Long 10th.

Superbike Race One

1.                  Jake Zemke (Suzuki)

2.                  Tommy Hayden (Suzuki)

3.                  Larry Pegram (Ducati)

4.                  Aaron Yates (Suzuki)

5.                  Blake Young (Suzuki)

6.                  Chris Ulrich (Suzuki)

7.                  Taylor Knapp (Suzuki)

8.                  Shawn Higbee (Buell)

9.                  Shane Narbone (Suzuki)

10.                  Barrett Long (Suzuki)

Paul Carruthers | Editor

Paul Carruthers took over as the editor of Cycle News in 1993 after serving as associate editor since starting his career at the publication in 1985. Carruthers has covered every facet of the sport in his near-28-year tenure at America's Daily Motorcycle News Source.