Photography by Larry Lawrence
DAYTONA BEACH, FL, MAR. 14 – Monster Energy Graves Yamaha’s Josh Hayes fired the first salvo of the AMA Superbike season by earning provisional pole position for tomorrow’s opening round of the series, the three-time and defending AMA Superbike Champion dominating the session from start to finish on a brisk day at the Speedway.
As he’d done in the morning practice session, Hayes led from the start and stayed there, dropping his lap times along the way. His first good lap was a 1:38.048, which was actually better than anyone else ended up going the entire session. Then, with 14 minutes to go he dropped it to a 1:37.865. With 10 and a half minutes remaining, Hayes clicked off a 1:37.787. The came a 1:37.746. That was enough as he led second place at the time by a whopping 1.484 seconds.
The field would close on him slightly as a battle ensued for the second spot. Hayes teammate Josh Herrin initially grabbed second with two and a half minutes to go, but then Yoshimura Suzuki’s Martin Cardenas stole it back just a few seconds later. But finally it was National Guard Suzuki’s Roger Lee Hayden who nailed down the spot for good on the final lap with his 1:38.805 putting him 1.059 seconds behind Hayes.
Hayes is only .283 of a second off his pole time from last year with Hayden .673 off his best from last year – a time that put him third on the grid behind Hayes and Blake Young, who Yoshimura let go at the end of last year and replaced him with Cardenas.
Herrin ended up third with his 1:38.960 – just fractions ahead of Cardenas.
Michael Jordan Motorsports’ Danny Eslick had his turn in second, but he slipped to fifth at the end of the session.
Sixth fastest went to Foremost Insurance Yamaha’s Larry Pegram, but it was an expensive sixth as the veteran wadded his new R1 in the chicane with just second remaining in the session. He got up unscathed, but the same couldn’t be said for his Yamaha.
Yoshimura Suzuki’s Chris Clark, EBR’s Geoff May, Motosport.com’s David Anthony and EBR’s Aaron Yates rounded out the top 10.
“Last year on the first day I only went 38.6,” Hayes said. “I think in the race I was 37.4 and I think Blake [Young] went 37.3. I think we can get under that. If not in qualifying, possibly in the race. My goal is to get in the 36s. I’d like to see a 36.9 – that’s what I’m hoping for. I didn’t make any changes today because of the conditions. Not a single thing. I have a few ideas of some things I want to try, but I just didn’t think we get the gains today I was looking for. Today the bigger issues was driving onto the back straight with that big crosswind – it was a bit of a handful. Silly little things like that. The tri-oval looks so dirty from the Supercross and it’s really hard to get yourself to push it off into turn one when it looks that dirty.”
Superbike Qualifying 1
1. Josh Hayes (Yamaha) 1:37.746
2. Roger Lee Hayden (Suzuki) 1:38.805
3. Josh Herrin (Yamaha) 1:38.960
4. Martin Cardenas (Suzuki) 1:39.001
5. Danny Eslick (Suzuki) 1:39.121
6. Larry Pegram (Yamaha) 1:39.308
7. Chris Clark (Suzuki) 1:40.154
8. Geoff May (EBR) 1:40.415
9. David Anthony (Suzuki) 1:40.424
10. Aaron Yates (EBR) 1:40.769