The following interview is from Monster...Monster Energy Graves Yamaha's won his second consecutive AMA Pro Road Racing Superbike Championship on the final lap of the final race of the season.Hayes showed up for the season finale at New Jersey Motorsports Park trailing Blake Young (Suzuki). Hayes handily won Saturday's race, his third win of the season, setting up a final race showdown for the title.Hayes had been there before. His mantelpiece holds four number one plates, 2003 Superstock and 2006 and '07 Formula Xtreme, and that experience would prove invaluable. Still, well into the final lap of the final race of the season Young was in position to steal the title away. Then came a critical riding error by Young, which elevated Hayes a spot to guarantee his title. Not content with third, Hayes made a final run at Young only to come up short by .055 sec."I feel like a wet rag that's been rung out," Hayes said. "That race took two years off my racing life."When the points were tallied up, Hayes had 263 to 258 for Young. Fourteen of those points had come as bonuses; Hayes earned an extra point for each of his seven of eight pole positions and for leading the most laps in seven of 13 races.We caught up Hayes as he was driving with his wife, fellow road racer Melissa Paris, to Atlantic City. The 36-year-old Mississippi native wasn't heading to the East Coast gambling mecca to gamble, he was on his way to the post-season banquet to celebrate his second consecutive AMA Pro Road Racing Superbike title with the rest of the Monster Energy Graves Yamaha team. First he had to find the hotel, then Melissa had to find a dress, and finally he could walk into the ballroom as the best of the best.This wasn't your first time racing for a championship, which much have been a big help.Absolutely. There were a lot of things that worked in my favor. I have been in this position a bunch of times and I've been successful in this position a bunch of times. Blake hasn't been in a championship run before. And we were coming to a track I had won every race we had raced here and he hadn't been on the podium. I have a job already for next year, so I wasn't racing for a job. There was a lot of things that were all right for me to have no pressure and just be able to go out and ride my best and not worry about it. Even one other thing was, it may sound kind of silly, I had already won the AMA Superbike championship. If I didn't win it this year, I got another shot at it next year and I've won it before, so I know I can. My name's in the record books as an AMA Superbike champion. It's not like, man, if I don't win it, I might never get that opportunity. I've done it, I made it and if I got a second one that was great. If I didn't, yeah, it stinks, because that's what we work real hard for, but I get to come back next year and try again.At Mid-Ohio Blake complained about your riding and you made the point that the pressure might be getting to him because he hadn't been in the lead until then. I didn't see much of Blake at Laguna. After that, we get to this position and I knew what my position was. I've been through it before, he hasn't. I'm pretty sure that was a long six weeks at home for him. I was pretty sure that was a long six weeks of thinking about how things could go down, were gonna go down, might go down, might not go down. And I was, quite honestly, really relaxed. I felt good about everything. I just wanted to make sure I showed up here feelinggood. I knew if I just went out there and went through the motions of what I do every single weekend, quite honestly it was Blake's championship to win or lose. It was either he was going to step up and take or if he floundered a little bit, sorry it was going to be mine, because I was going to go through the same motions that I do every weekend and that's exactly how it played out. He had a bad Saturday. The championship was won on Saturday.On the last lap of the season, when you were in fourth place in turn five and there were nine turns to go, and you were aware that you couldn't finish fourth, what was the plan?I was going to try to make something happen. I knew something was going to go down in turn six. Ben (Bostrom) was showing that he desperate to go up there. No one was going to leave him room, but he was going to take something anyway. And those guys, between Rog (Hayden) wanting to win real bad and Ben wanting to win real bad and Blake (Young) basically in the position of desperate to win - it's the only choice he really had - something exciting was going go down in turn six with everybody being that close. So I was going to put myself in the position to try to take advantage on the exit or if they gave me the opportunity on the entrance to put myself up a spot. Then I still had turns seven and eight and I felt pretty confident that I could make the move in turn eight on any of those guys. So I felt confident I could make a move in there and if I could just get myself through there smoothly and get to the run to the front straight, I felt pretty good. I wasn't sure I could beat anybody to the line from behind them, so I wanted to try to make it happen beforehand if I could.When Blake Young let off the brake in turn five and turned into Roger Lee Hayden's path, he basically set in motion the incident that let you move up to third and ultimately take the title. It's the way Blake's ridden all year. It's kind of the style of Blake, you get in there, you show him a wheel, he basically crowds you. He puts us all in danger doing it. Don't get me wrong; we're all professionals, so we recognize the signs and we go about doing what we have to as quickly as possible. And as soon as Blake saw Rog was there, Blake's idea of how to fix that is, ‘OK, let go of the brake lever, point the thing at the entrance and chop across his front wheel. He has two choices; he's either going to take me down or he's going to back off and I'm going to get through.' When Rog saw the position he was in, he's going up just trying to keep it upright on the brakes and ends up just kind of crossing Blake's back wheel, because he's in trouble. And he's got Ben outside of him looking at him and so they end up both running wide. Like I said, it was the excitement I expected in turn six happened in turn five. It all started when Blake stepped it out and botched his drive coming out of four pretty bad. And so he got a bad run up the hill and gave Rog an opportunity to get up there.So when Ben Bostrom ran off the track on the exit of turn five, that put you in third. Did you think he had come off the track behind you? I didn't even know he had run off the track. I thought he had just run wide and I had the opportunity to sneak past him. So I thought he was still right on my tail all the way throughout the rest of the last lap. I just didn't know where anybody was. As far as I knew I had a line of guys waiting to jump on me and keep shoving me backward. If I'm not moving forward, I'm going to be in trouble, so I just did my very best to attack Roger and put myself in a better position, where if somebody did beat me to the line hopefully it was one, not two, and I just still had a good shot at third in the championship.That made it difficult to pass Blake coming out of the last corner.. Once he's up on the top of the tire, his bike just keeps accelerating. I had the run of a lifetime at him coming to start-finish at that last lap. It was the first time I was far enough back off of him that I didn't have to check out of the throttle going through the last turn and I still couldn't do anything with him. It's the story of my life.How does this one compare to the 2010 title?This one felt quite a bit different on a personal level, the way everything played out with the season. For a long time not being sure what the last race was going to be. And then Virginia (International Raceway) getting taken out of the mix at the last second. With all of these things happening like that, my family, my little brother's getting married. My family couldn't make the plans ahead of time to come to the race, so this is the first time they haven't been here when I won a championship. Melisa's family didn't get make it because of other things they had going on. At the time it was time to plan all this stuff, we still weren't sure this was going to be the last race. Last year all my crew had their family there. This year there was so many other things going on. When was the last time I won and there wasn't even t-shirts at the podium ceremony? Not that they weren't thinking about, like the feel has been kind of an interesting feel. But I can tell you when the race was over it was just an incredible instant amount of relief. A big exhale that we were able to pull it off. Props to Blake he rode a fantastic season and he was the racer, I think, this year. Unfortunately they do pay points with qualifying and leading the most laps in the race. I tried to make sure that I was a force to be reckoned in every single session that we went on the track and I always somewhere close to the front and my bad days just weren't as bad as his.You didn't win as many races this championship season as you have in the past. For one, Blake just stepped up his game and actually raced really well. It's hard to take anything away from the fact that the the kid just rode well. He was aggressive. Put himself in the right place. He rode the races the right way. He used his machine's advantages well against me. And the way that the (Yamaha) R1 works it was very difficult to race against him. Something that we're going to have to improve for next year or else we're going to be talking about this same thing all over again, about why I didn't win more races. Because, quite honestly, I don't know what it is, but the acceleration of his bike, it's just really, really difficult to deal with. If I have some clean track I can go really fast. I mean, that's why we were on pole for all but one race this year and we were close on that one. That's why we were leading races, leading, sessions, leading laps, all those things. But whenever you throw him in the mix, he kind of stops my momentum and rhythm of being able to roll around the race track and that's when we see the race-long battles.How do you think next year's going to be different than this year?Right now it's going to be interesting to see how all the rides fall into place and who I'm racing against next year, first and foremost. I think that we have a game plan that works pretty good as far as the team goes and we're going to continue doing the things that have been successful for us. One thing I'm lucky about is that Yamaha is in it for the long haul and they continually try to improve the machine for me and I may be an old dog that's been around for a while, but I still have some ideas for some new tricks that I can come out better next year. I'm going to work at that, try to come out and improve next year and make it harder for those guys. 



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By Cycle News Staff

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