Photography by Brian J. Nelson
Monster Graves Yamaha’s Josh Hayes is the face of Superbike racing in the U.S. Next weekend he will march into New Jersey Motorsports Park with a 40-point lead in the championship and, barring an unbelievable bout of bad luck, will emerge with a fourth AMA Superbike title. The 39-year-old Hayes turned professional in 1996 and won his first AMA Supersport race back in 1999. He is the second winningest rider in the AMA Superbike history with 47 wins to his credit. Guess you can say he’s been there, done that.
Now Hayes will race in 2015 in an AMA/FIM-sanctioned series that will be run by Wayne Rainey’s KRAVE Group. He’ll be the new series’ defending Superbike Champion in what will be the debut season of MotoAmerica.
So what did Hayes think when he heard the rumors months ago that Rainey was going to take over from the Daytona Motorsports Group (DMG)?
“Quite honestly every time somebody asked me about it, I told them, ‘Listen until I read a release, I don’t believe anything.’ The rumor was that it was supposed to come out a couple of weeks ago, then it was supposed to come out last week. It was just always supposed to happen and it kept getting pushed back so I just kinda stepped away from it and said, ‘Well, we’ll see when it happens.’ “
And now that it has happened… well, it’s hard for a veteran like Hayes not to look back to 2008 when the AMA series was sold to DMG.
“It’s probably very, very cautious optimism for me,” Hayes said. “We’ve kind of gone down this road before and it didn’t go well the last time. This is a good group of people and even if it’s the right group of people, we’re still about to go through a pretty major change. Need it or not, anytime there’s a major change it’s hard. Right now there’s not a lot of information out there about what it’s going to be. There’s an idea, but there’s not a lot of structure in place just yet. I have high hopes for it and hopefully it all goes smooth and well and the reputation and the names involved can bring together the right groups and the manufacturers can work together and we get some more involvement.”
So with 15 years of AMA racing under his belt, what would Hayes change if had Rainey’s ear.
“That’s a hard question,” Hayes said. “I just think the one thing that was missing was the promotion in general. There was the running of the races and that seemed to be a hard enough job, but spending money on promotion was really difficult. People have to know how and where to go watch motorcycle racing. I think we have one of the most exciting sports on the planet, but you still have to get it in people’s faces. Right now it’s not just getting new fans, but also reclaiming our hardcore fans so they will spread the word to the new fans about how cool it is.”