Josh Hayes on Pole At Road Atlanta

Henny Ray Abrams | April 21, 2012

BRASELTON, GA, APR 21 – In conditions that were less than ideal, Monster Yamaha Graves Yamaha’s Josh Hayes didn’t improve on his Friday qualifying time, but he didn’t have to. Yoshimura Suzuki’s Blake Young, the only rider with a reasonable shot at toppling Hayes from the pole, also didn’t go faster, so Hayes added another point to his championship tally ahead of this afternoon’s first of two Superbike races on the return of AMA road racing to Road Atlanta.

Hayes finished Friday beaten up and with a pair of damaged motorcycles after a rare day of two crashes, both of which were his own fault, he admitted. Today he managed to stay on two wheels throughout qualifying, but only came within about half a second of his Friday time. Still, it was that Friday time that held up to give him his second pole of the year.

“Yeah, everything went pretty smooth,” the banged up national champion said. “Conditions today were definitely not as good as yesterday. And we just kinda were going to see how it went. I wanted to go out and see how the knees were feeling and felt surprisingly not too bad. And came up with a pretty ingenious way to bandage it up in there, so it’s not rubbing too bad on the suit or anything.

“With the conditions, it was hard to tell after a few laps you got so much moisture on the screen and I was breathing and I had built up moisture inside the shield, that it was hard to tell if conditions were getting worse, better, how much they were changing.” With uncertain grip, Hayes said “you don’t want to overstep your bounds with that either. I did a couple of fast laps and then I kinda took a deep breath and backed everything off and said, OK, What can I do without pushing?”

As the session went on, and the majority of times weren’t improving, he and the team decided to not throw in a soft tire. “If (Young) he gets it, then good job on him. It’s going to be a pretty tough order today and I knew he was capable of it. I didn’t know if it would happen.”

Young came closer to bettering his Friday time on a day he didn’t feel at his best. His Saturday best of 1:25.595 mins. was only .088 sec. slower than he’d gone on Friday. But that, coupled with the .127 sec. gap he’d brought into the session meant that he’d start this weekend’s races second on the grid.

“I really feel like, you know, I’m not riding as great as I possibly could,” he said. “I feel like the guys are working hard. The bike’s there. I’m just not connecting everything.”

Monster Energy Graves Yamaha’s Josh Herrin did improve his time and his position. Fourth on Friday, the Superbike rookie will start third on the grid in his second Superbike race.

“I think my lap came in with like four laps to go in the session,” Herrin, who lives in Georgia and expects 50 friends and family to attend, said. “I was pretty excited about it.

“Yesterday we made a gearing change to kinda make it a little bit easier to ride in the esses and it helped out a lot. And made a couple of other little changes. Felt a big improvement right away.

“In the beginning of the session I was able to match my best time from yesterday riding by myself. And, you know, the lap seemed to me not to come easy but it wasn’t as hard as it was yesterday and I was real happy if they were going to be able to put in another flying 25 lap. So to be able to two 25’s at least at the end made me pretty happy.”

National Guard Jordan Suzuki’s Roger Lee Hayden also moved up the grid. Sixth on Friday, Hayden’s lap of 1:26.091 mins. earned him the spot at the end of the front row.

“Today was definitely a little bit better,” he said. “Made some changes to the bike that made me a little bit more comfortable.” The discomfort came from the slightly damp conditions on the unforgiving 2.55-mile road course.

“You know yesterday I wasn’t riding that good either, so I couldn’t blame yesterday’s performance all on the bike, so it was 50-50, I guess. But I felt pretty good,” he said.

The rider just behind him is hometown favorite Geoff May. The Team Amsoil/Hero Racing Buell 1190RS rider lives in nearby Gainesville, Ga. He too nearly a quarter second off his Friday time.

Ben Bostrom put the second Jordan Suzuki in sixth place on a crowded second row. Next came Foremost Insurance Pegram Racing’s Larry Pegram and Yoshimura Suzuki’s Chris Clark. The quartet was covered by .280 sec.

AMA Pro Road Racing Superbike Qualifying

1. Josh Hayes (Yamaha) 1:25.380
2. Blake Young (Suzuki) 1:25.507
3. Josh Herrin (Yamaha) 1:25.830
4. Roger Hayden (Suzuki) 1:26.091
5. Geoff May (EBR) 1:26.301
6. Ben Bostrom (Suzuki) 1:26.425
7. Larry Pegram (BMW) 1:26.498
8. Chris Clark (Suzuki) 1:26.581
9. Steve Rapp (Kawasaki) 1:26.661
10. David Anthony (Suzuki) 1:26.854

Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.