LEEDS, ALABAMA, SEPT 24 – The American SuperBike title combatants took a back seat in Friday qualifying, with Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Blake Young proving he’s nearly back to form by taking the provisional pole position on a hot afternoon at Barber Motorsports Park.Young returned to the track where he broke his back in a testing accident about three and a half months ago. It was only three weeks ago that he returned to racing at New Jersey Motorsports Park, but he was riding with little strength. Since the accident his upper body had been restricted by a brace and he wasn’t able to do any core exercises. Now, after three weeks of training, he feels much more sound, though he admits he’s not at 100%. And the scorching sun-qualifying was run in 90 degree heat-didn’t help, nor will it if the race is run in similar conditions.Still, Young was happy to be back on top, where he felt he should have been all year, and especially after his early season doubleheader sweep at Road Atlanta.
Young finished the day with the the best lap time of 1:25.775 mins., just a tenth slower than Mat Mladin’s pole time from 2009. Mladin holds the lap record of 1:23.664 mins. from 2008.Teammate Tommy Hayden was second fastest and the only other rider in the 25’s. Hayden arrived in Alabama in a 22-point hole to Team Graves Yamaha’s Josh Hayes with two races to run and 63 points up for grabs. The deficit isn’t insurmountable, but Hayden will need to have a career weekend, as well as some luck, if he’s to run Suzuki’s Superbike title streak to eight.M4 Monster Energy Suzuki’s John Hopkins held the top spot late in the session before being taken down by the Rockstar Makita riders. Still, he was less than a tenth behind Hayden as he continues to get back to form after missing most of the season recovering from wrist surgery.
Hayes finished fourth, just under two-tenths behind Hayden and about .34 sec. behind Young.Jake Holden qualified a provisional fifth fastest on yet another different motorcycle. The Washingtonian began the season on his own Honda CBR1000RR, pinch hit for Hopkins on the Suzuki, and also race in the inaugural Vance & Hines XR1200 championship.He’s joined on the provisional second row by Foremost Insurance Pegram Racing’s Larry Pegram (Ducati), Taylor Knapp, on the RidersDiscount.com Suzuki, and National Guard Jordan Suzuki’s Jake Zemke.
Friday Superbike Qualifying:
1. Blake Young (Suzuki) 1:25.775
2. Tommy Hayden (Suzuki) 1:25.939
3. John Hopkins (Suzuki) 1:26.027
4. Josh Hayes (Yamaha) 1:26.126
5. Jake Holden (Yamaha) 1:26.278
6. Larry Pegram (Ducati) 1:26.613
7. Taylor Knapp (Suzuki) 1:26.624
8. Jake Zemke (Suzuki) 1:26.680
9. Eric Bostrom (Suzuki) 1:26.865
10. Brett McCormick (Suzuki) 1:26.891