Photography by Andrea Wilson
DAYTONA BEACH, FL, MAR. 15 – So that’s why they race. Although most had given the victory in today’s season-opening AMA Superbike race to Josh Hayes before the flag even dropped, the race itself proved once again that to finish first you must first finish. And Hayes didn’t.
But Josh Herrin did. And he was there to pick up the pieces when Hayes lost his clutch on the sixth lap, the three-time AMA Superbike Champion slowing and ultimately pulling out of the race after completely dominating each and every practice and qualifying session prior to the start of the race.
But Herrin didn’t have it easy en route to the first AMA Superbike National win of his young career as he was challenged throughout by Yoshimura Suzuki’s Martin Cardenas, the Colombian coming up just .135 of a second short of the Monster Energy Graves Yamaha of Herrin.
In winning the race, the 22-year-old Herrin became the 53rd person to win an AMA Superbike National.
“I felt like I was tip-toeing through the chicane because I had been getting spanked by Josh [Hayes] the whole first part of the race,” Herrin said. “Coming out of there he was gapping me by 10 bikelengths and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I guess he’s just charging way harder than any of us. I thought for sure Martin [Cardenas] was going to get me on that last lap. I was trying to get him to pass me and it didn’t work. I don’t want to beat up on myself, but it almost feels like it wasn’t a win because Josh [Hayes] was out, Roger [Hayden] was out, [Danny] Eslick crashed [he actually didn’t crash… Editor]. It kind of sucks whenever I think about it, but it’s still a win and the Monster Energy Graves Yamaha R1 was working good and they’ve been putting in hours trying to get this thing working good, or better because it’s already good. I can’t really thank them enough and I’m really grateful that the thing was fast enough to keep Martin behind me on the last lap cause I know he was right there. Good job to these guys and we’ll come back tomorrow.”
Foremost Insurance-backed Larry Pegram rode his Yamaha R1 to a solid third-place finish, the Ohioan riding mostly alone in keeping the top two honest. He ended up 7.5 seconds behind them.
Danny Eslick also rode alone with his big moment coming with an off-track excursion when he caught the slowing Hayes. But he recovered to finish fourth in his debut with the Michael Jordan Motorsports team.
The race for fifth was a thriller with Yoshimura Suzuki’s Chris Clark holding off Robertino Pietro by .240 with Team Hero EBR’s Geoff May just .100 of a second behind Pietro in seventh.
Another battle went to the line for eight with KTM’s Taylor Knapp barely beating teammate Chris Fillmore to the line with Team AMSOIL/Hero EBR’s Aaron Yates a shadow 10th.
National Guard Suzuki’s Roger Lee Hayden, the third fastest qualifier, crashed out of the race on the opening lap. Hayden was unhurt, but couldn’t get the GSX-R1000 re-fired.
1. Josh Herrin (Yamaha)
2. Martin Cardenas (Suzuki)
3. Larry Pegram (Yamaha)
4. Danny Eslick (Suzuki)
5. Chris Clark (Suzuki)
6. Robertino Pietri (Kawasaki)
7. Geoff May (EBR)
8. Taylor Knapp (KTM)
9. Chris Fillmore (KTM)
10. Aaron Yates (EBR)