Rain forecast for the San Francisco Bay Area did, in fact, arrive on Saturday night, soaking Infineon Raceway and its rolling, 12-turn, 2.32-mile road course. Despite the heavy-at-times precipitation and cool, windy conditions, all three scheduled races—SuperSport, Daytona SportBike and American SuperBike—were completed in full.
Was it a miracle, a sign from the heavens? Just before the start of the American SuperBike race, I ran into AMA Pro Racing COO David Atlas on the grid. I pointed toward the suddenly blue sky and bright, shining sun. “I’ll let you in on a secret,” he smiled. “We’re on a mission from God.”
Tommy Hayden didn’t need divine intervention to win the final race of the weekend and the sixth SuperBike victory of his career. First, however, he had to deal with a Lap 2 red flag caused by Martin Cardenas, who fell in Turn 6. His M4 Suzuki teammate, Chris Ulrich, crashed spectacularly moments earlier when he ran into the back of Team Cycle World Attack Performance Kawasaki rider JD Beach. Then, on the re-start, Beach was clipped by another rider in Turn 2, fell and was run over—twice. Neither Beach nor the other two riders involved in the incident, Jordan Burgess and Tony Kasper, were seriously injured. Ulrich suffered a concussion.
After changing into his street clothes, Beach hobbled down to the Attack Performance pit, where his crew was packing up. “How’s the bike?” deadpanned crew chief Richard Stanboli. “Did it tumble?” Beach laughed, “I don’t think so. But I saw some pieces lying around. I’m never starting on the last row again!”
Hayden was credited with leading the first three laps of the race. Hayes then shoved his way past Hayden and attempted to split, laying down two quick laps and opening a half-second gap. Hayden, known for his silky-smooth riding style, gave chase with uncharacteristically visible aggression.
“I made some changes [to the bike] for the race,” he said, “so it took me a couple laps to be 100 percent confident with what I had. When Josh came by, we started going a little faster. It was tough for a few laps, but as the race went on, my bike kept working better and I was getting more comfortable. With about 10 to go, I felt that if I could get in front of him, I could go faster.” That’s exactly what happened. Margin of victory was 1.9 seconds.
Hayden has raced most of this season—three out of four events—with a Penske shock. “Penske provides the parts free of charge,” said engineer Peter Doyle, “and we are doing the development for free.” Teammate Blake Young has also tested the Penske part, but stuck with Öhlins front and rear at Infineon. It was Penske’s first victory in the class.
Both Hayden and Hayes chose the same soft-compound Dunlop slicks front and rear. “I’ve had some problems in the past with tires heat cycling,” said Hayes, “so I think the red flag hurt me a little bit. Before the red flag, things felt pretty good. On the re-start, right in the beginning, I had a couple of ‘big ones,’ and I thought, ‘Man, I been this route before.’
“I didn’t feel totally sharp on the bike. I was out of the seat quite a lot, feet off the pegs. I felt a little sloppy out there. I was pretty disappointed when I saw the lap times because I was trying to put together some pretty good ones. I didn’t know if [Tommy] was in the same boat. When he finally came under me, I wanted to put it back underneath him, but I didn’t have the grip to do it.”
Young was a lonely third, bettering Saturday’s fourth-place performance by one spot. “We made a few changes going into today’s race,” he said. “The bike was different—a little better set up and it felt better. After the re-start, I looked down at my lap time and thought, ‘The times aren’t all that quick.’ When they stepped up the pace, I wasn’t ready for it. Around here, where you don’t get a break to rest, it’s pretty hard to ride by yourself. I caught myself wandering every now and then. I was a little behind this weekend, and I’ve got to work hard for the next round to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
Steve Rapp finished fourth on the work-in-progress San Diego BMW S1000RR ahead of Larry Pegram, also on a BMW, and Jordan Suzuki teammates Ben Bostrom and Roger Hayden. Cardenas, who was able to re-start, was eighth. Chris Peris and Chris Clark rounded out the top 10.
Daytona SportBike was also red-flagged, but due to rain, not a crash. Roberson Motorsports’ Jake Holden wiped out on his Ducati 848 while leading and was unable to re-start. After the weather cleared, Latus Ducati’s Jason DiSalvo, Richie Morris Racing’s Danny Eslick and Monster Energy Graves Yamaha rider Josh Herrin—making his return to competition after a one-race suspension—battled hammer-and-tong for the victory. In the end, DiSalvo was able to pull ahead and win his third-consecutive race, a first for the veteran.
As for the much-talked-about on-track rivalry between Herrin and Eslick, both riders appear to have to set their differences aside. “Last year was last year,” said Herrin. “I’ve put it behind me.” Added Eslick, “At the end of the day, we’re all here for the same reason: to race motorcycles and have fun and be safe doing it.”
Honda-mounted Benny Solis went two-for-two in SuperSport, topping the Yamahas of Tomas Puerta and Travis Ohge on Sunday.