DAYTONA BEACH, FL, MAR. 15 - So far it seems that Josh Hayes is up to his old tricks. Go to the top of qualifying early and stay there.
Such was the case in the first official qualifying session of the 2012 AMA Superbike Championship, as the Monster Energy Graves Yamaha rider shot to the top of the time sheets and stayed there to earn provisional pole for tomorrow's first of two Superbike races at Daytona International Speedway.
Hayes said his Yamaha R1 was faster than last year, enabling him to go quicker in the final section. Both he and teammate Josh Herrin had trap speeds of over 200 mph.
"I'm not even honestly sure which lap it was," Hayes said. "When the first red flag happened, I came in, put on a fresh tire, and I ended up keeping it after the red flag and finishing the session with it. So it was a really good run at first. We were able to get race distance in the 38s, which is something that the rest of the guys had not been able to do yet, but it's still early days. We're honestly about where we were last year, I think, at this time. We're pretty close, where we were putting together good laps and things like that. If track conditions continue to improve another step, I feel confident we'll be in the 37s.
"I'm really happy. The Monster Energy Graves Yamaha crew has obviously done a lot of good work. We find ourselves a lot further up in the last segment, in the trap speeds. I've worked pretty hard in the off-season; I feel really good on the bike. I'm doing lots of laps. I'm comfortable. I'm having a lot of fun riding the motorcycle. We haven't gotten to ride very much in the off-season. I think I've only tested four days since riding that GP bike in November. So all in all, I'm really happy. I'm just glad to be here. It's sunny, the weather's perfect. We're in Daytona Beach, Florida riding motorcycles.
Hayes said it's hard to change a strategy that works so he will sticks with what got him here - going fast in every session.
"It would be hard to change that strategy," he said. "That strategy was the reason I won the championship. I want to, every time I get on the motorcycle I want to be the best guy riding around the race track. If you strive for that I think success kinda comes along with it, so I'm going to keep doing that. It's just what works for me and my crew likes it. And those guys spend a lot of time working hard, so we're not going to give any sessions away. Every session, every practice, every qualifying. Morning warm-up, maybe I'll take it easy, but probably not. That's where we're at."
Hayes did a 1:38.896 early in the session, then bettered it with a 1:38.385 - a time that held for the duration of the red-flag interrupted session.
The man who hopes to stop Hayes from earning championship points in qualifying is Yoshimura Suzuki's Blake Young, but the Wisconsinite couldn't get it done today, though he came tantalizingly close - .194 of a second. Still, it's tomorrow that counts and Young will get another shot at pole.
Roger Lee Hayden ended up third in this afternoon's session, held a sunny and warm afternoon in Florida. Hayden rode the National Guard-backed Michael Jordan Suzuki to a 1:38.948 late in the session to move past Monster Energy Graves Yamaha rookie Josh Herrin. Herrin ended up with a 1:39.011 - just .626 of a second behind his veteran teammate in his first-ever AMA Superbike qualifying session.
Ben Bostrom ended the session fifth, the Michael Jordan Motorsports Suzuki rider holding down third at the midway point before getting passed by his teammate Hayden and Herrin.
Chris Clark made a late run to sixth on the second Yoshimura Superbike, the 20-year-old Nevadan holding back motorcycle-superstore.com/Attack Racing's Steve Rapp by just .005 of a second.
Then came Foremost Insurance/Pegram Racing's Larry Pegram, the veteran besting Jake Holden for eighth. Erik Buell Racing's Geoff May rounded out the top 10 - three spots better than his new teammate Danny Eslick, the Oklahoman in his debut on the EBR 1190 RS.
Superbike Qualifying 1:
1. Josh Hayes (Yamaha) 1:38.385
2. Blake Young (Suzuki) 1:38.579
3. Roger Lee Hayden (Suzuki) 1:38.948
4. Josh Herrin (Yamaha) 1:39.011
5. Ben Bostrom (Suzuki) 1:39.318
6. Chris Clark (Suzuki) 1:40.013
7. Steve Rapp (Kawasaki) 1:40.048
8. Larry Pegram (BMW) 1:40.271
9. Jake Holden (BMW) 1:40.314
10. Geoff May (EBR) 1:40.354