Photography by Andrea Wilson
MONTEREY, CA, SEPT. 29 - Monster Energy Graves Yamaha’s Josh Herrin is the new AMA Superbike Champion, the 23-year-old finally coming of age to end the three-year reign of his teammate Josh Hayes to earn the first AMA Pro Championship of his career this morning at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Herrin did exactly what he needed to do to take the title today: He stayed out of harm’s way and resisted any urge to try and race with his dominant teammate. Hayes, meanwhile, knew his chances of a fourth successive AMA Superbike title wavered between slim and none so he did the only thing he knows how to do – he went out and dominated the race, leading from start to finish and besting Herrin by a comfortable 13.4 seconds.
“We were able to be real consistent on the year and at the beginning of the year I wasn’t thinking about a championship,” Herrin said. “After Daytona I knew that Josh [Hayes] would come back and he did. We didn't win the most races, but at the same time we were smart and real consistent. Overall, I really have to thank Pat Hoolihan for getting my butt into gear and getting me training in the middle of the year. That was really the turning point.
“This has been a lifelong dream of mine and it’s finally come true. I can’t even explain the emotions right now. Coming around that last lap, and I sound like a sissy right now, but I filled up with tears and I could barely see where I was going. I’ve never felt that kind of emotion before. It’s crazy how you feel when you finally achieve something you’ve wanted your whole life. I want to thank Josh [Hayes] because he’s really helped me over the past couple years adapting to the Superbike. He’s a great rider and he’s definitely the best, in my opinion, that’s ever been in AMA. I got lucky a lot this year and Josh really is an all-around great guy and one of the best competitors there’s ever been and he deserves to have a spot in a World Championship somewhere and I hope it happens for him someday.”
Though well behind Hayes in today's season finale, Herrin in turn was well clear of the battle for third, the spot going to Foremost Insurance Pegram Racing’s Larry Pegram after KTM’s Chris Fillmore suffered the heartbreak of running out of gas in the final corner on the last lap. Fillmore had third in the bag after a last-lap battle with Pegram, but the KTM died on the exit of turn 11 and he was forced to coast and ultimately push the bike across the finish line – in seventh place. Had the bike gone another 75 yards it would have been both the team and Fillmore’s best career Superbike finish.
Fillmore’s gift gave fourth place to Cory West, the Motorsport.com EBR-mounted West having by far his best result of the season. West was some three seconds ahead of Team Amsoil/EBR’s Aaron Yates, the veteran finishing fifth in the final race of his comeback season.
KTM’s Taylor Knapp was the final person to pass his pushing teammate Fillmore on the run to the checkered flag, the Michigander ending up sixth after battling with Yates and West earlier in the race. Following Fillmore across the line was Australian David Anthony on the Motorsport.com Suzuki GSX-R1000.
Trent Gibson was a lap down on Hayes, but in ninth place - one spot better than Kevin Pinkstaff, the Oregonian rounding out the top 10 on his Zlock Racing Kawasaki ZX-10R.
Only 16 riders qualified for the race and one of them – Team Hero EBR’s Geoff May – didn’t make the start after suffering a mechanical failure before it even got started.
Only 12 riders finished with both Yoshimura Suzukis crashing out of the race. Martin Cardenas was challenging Hayes at the front when he crashed in turn three on just the second lap; Chris Clark was battling for fifth when he ran off the track in Rainey Curve and was forced to lay the bike down before hitting the tire wall.
Though he refused to comment after the race, it’s well know that Herrin won’t be returning to the Graves Yamaha team in 2014 to defend his championship. An announcement is expected any day of Herrin’s eminent move to the Moto2 World Championship.
Newly crowned AMA Daytona SportBike Champion Cameron Beaubier will join Hayes on the Monster Energy Graves Motorsports Yamaha team for 2014.
AMA Superbike Results
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
September 29, 2013
1. Josh Hayes (Yamaha)
2. Josh Herrin (Yamaha)
3. Larry Pegram (Yamaha)
4. Cory West (EBR)
5. Aaron Yates (EBR)
6. Taylor Knapp (KTM)
7. Chris Fillmore (KTM)
8. David Anthony (Suzuki)
9. Trent Gibson (Suzuki)
10. Kevin Pinkstaff (Kawasaki)