DAYTONA BEACH, FL, MAR. 16 - Monster Energy Graves Yamaha's Josh Hayes fired the first shot of the AMA Superbike Championship today, the defending series champion earning pole position for this afternoon's first of two AMA Superbike races at Daytona International Speedway.
Hayes sat on pole position seven times last year and those points went a long way toward helping him win that title. Even though he doesn't like the system where you earn a point for winning pole, Blake Young knew that for 2012 he'd have to attack qualifying with a bit more gusto in order to get some of those points. So far, it's more of the same, however, as it was Hayes taking the point for the 13th time in his Superbike career.
Hayes will start on pole by virtue of his 1:37.463. The Yamaha man had been fast all session, throwing down a 1:38.119 to start things off. From there he lowered his best to 1:38.042, then 1:37.768, 1:37.507 and finally his 1:37.463. No one else led the session. It was all Hayes, all the time.
"I'm excited," Hayes said. "I can't think of a better way to start off a season than to steal the first point. I'm having a lot of fun riding the motorcycle. Since November we've only gotten to spend four days on the motorcycle and they were limited. It's been quite a wake-up call being on a couple of tracks where we actually ran Daytona gearing to work on some starts and stuff and I couldn't run out third gear. We come here and we're almost doing 200 mph around the banking. It's been getting my head up to speed quite a bit too. The track conditions were pretty rough yesterday. They are getting better. Some sections are getting way better than others, but there are still some sections of the racetrack where only the Superbike touches. There's just not enough bikes to put down enough rubber, so I still feel like we're struggling in some areas. But the lap times are coming around and I think that's a testament to how much work the boys put in at the shop."
Young gave it his best shot late, but the Yoshimura Suzuki rider came up .427 of a second short with his 1:37.890 coming late in the session.
The two championship rivals from a season ago were the only riders to crack the 1:38 barrier with National Guard Suzuki's Roger Lee Hayden just outside the mark at 1:38.132. Hayden, who started this race a season ago from third on the front row, will have Superbike rookie Josh Herrin next to him on the second Monster Energy Graves Yamaha R1.
Herrin turned a 1:38.342 to earn a front-row start in his first career Superbike race.
Row two will be headed by Michael Jordan Motorsports' BenBostrom, the Californian .864 of a second faster than the second Yoshimura Suzuki ridden by Chris Clark. Those two will be joined on the second row by motorcycle-superstore.com/Attack Racing's Steve Rapp and the BMW of Jake Holden.
Danny Eslick made huge gains today on the Erik Buell Racing EBR 1190 RS, jumping all the way to ninth to lead row three. Robertino Pietri, Larry Pegram and his teammate Geoff May will join him there.
The lone KTM in the field was ridden to 15th by Chris Fillmore.
1. Josh Hayes (Yamaha) 1:37.463
2. Blake Young (Suzuki) 1:37.890
3. Roger Lee Hayden (Suzuki) 1:38.132
4. Josh Herrin (Yamaha) 1:38.342
5. Ben Bostrom (Suzuki) 1:38.610
6. Chris Clark (Suzuki) 1:39.474
7. Steve Rapp (Kawasaki) 1:39.501
8. Jake Holden (BMW) 1:39.580
9. Danny Eslick (EBR) 1:39.677
10. Robertino Pietri (Suzuki) 1:39.698