BRASELTON, GA, APR 21 - Geico Suzuki's Martin Cardenas took over the Daytona Sportbike championship lead with a dominant victory on a sunny afternoon at Road Atlanta.
"I didn't think it was going to be like this," he said. "I thought it was going to be a big battle like always in this class. I don't know why it ended up like this."
Starting from his second consecutive pole position, the 2010 DSB champion jetted into the lead. There was company for the first five of 20 laps but that company soon went away. Cardenas had a two second gap ending the seventh lap, after which he continued to grow the gap.
"The rhythm lap by lap was a bit stronger rhythm and it paid off," he added.
There was a brief period ending the 15th lap when the gap shrank by 1.5 secs., but Cardenas soon opened it back up. When he crossed the line with a stand-up wheelie at the end of the 20-lap, 51-mile race, his gap to second was 4.460 sec.
The win was his 17th in the DSB class and fourth in the past five races at Road Atlanta. His last AMA win came in June of 2011 at Barber Motorsports Park where he scored his only Superbike victory.
The perfect day-pole, laps led point, win-added 32 points to the 18 he'd earned for finishing fourth in Daytona. Cardenas now has 51 points to 44 for Daytona 200 winner Joey Pascarella, eighth today, with second place finisher Dane Westby of the M4 Broaster Chicken Suzuki team third at 41 points.
Westby started slowly-he was eighth on lap one-before coming through the pack to engage Benny Solis (Riders Discount Vesrah Suzuki) in a spirited battle for second. The fight nearly came to tears when Westby sawed off the front wheel of Solis with an aggressive move on the exit of the hard braking left hand turn 10A on the 11th lap. That proved to be a momentum killer for Solis and was the last time the two would be close. Westby soon separated himself en route to a secure second.
Solis was then left to the clutches of veteran Tommy Hayden. Riding the Y.E.S. Graves Yamaha, Hayden was in the mix of riders fighting for the final podium spot. He and Solis were together for much of the final ten laps. Then Solis made a critical mistake on lap 19, hitting the ground and handing the final podium spot to Hayden. Hayden sits third in the championship with 35 points.
Ducshop Racing's Jake Zemke, another veteran, patiently earned fourth place by putting Riders Discount Vesrah Suzuki's Cory West behind him in the later stages. Zemke is fourth in points with 33.
AMA Pro Road Race Daytona Sportbike Results:
1. Martin Cardenas (Suzuki)
2. Dane Westby (Suzuki)
3. Tommy Hayden (Yamaha)
4. Jake Zemke (Ducati)
5. Cory West (Suzuki)
6. Bobby Fong (Yamaha)
7. Huntley Nash (Yamaha)
8. Joey Pascarella (Yamaha)
9. JD Beach (Yamaha)
10. Michael Beck (Yamaha)