Just two weeks prior to the penultimate round of the MotoAmerica Superbike Championship at New Jersey Motorsports Park, our beloved Man in a Van with a Plan, Hayden Gillim, was being driven back home to Kentucky with a very big headache. Gillim suffered one of the biggest crashes of the year at the Pittsburgh race, but he bounced back like a champ and had a solid outing at New Jersey.
Gillim admitted much of the time between Pittsburgh and New Jersey was spent taking it easy.
But while Gillim doing a lot of resting to get ready for New Jersey, the big crash at Pittsburgh destroyed the primary Cycle World Suzuki GSX-R1000, which meant crew chief Rick Matheny was burning the midnight oil getting the team’s secondary machine ready to race.
“A typical bike takes 100 hours,” Matheny explained. “There was probably 40 hours in the one sitting in my shop. So, I had to put some in the week before and I got really sick with a cold, but I kept going. We worked 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. at NCM (the track in Bowling Green, Kentucky) getting it finished and getting it here. Had a little bit of work to do when we got here, but it’s like a new bike.”
The crashed machine from the last round was a write off.
“That frame is demolished,” Matheny added. “It’s 22 millimeters shorter than it should be.”
The team did find time to shake down the newly-built Suzuki at NCM Motorsports Park, a track built by the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
“Last weekend we went to the Corvette track in Bowling Green with Chris Gardell from Flash Tune and Rick came down and we got the new bike put together and ready to go,” Gillim said. “Rick just took two days, got the bike ready to ride for the Sunday that we were going to ride. Chris worked on electronics stuff and worked on the computer. Whenever I got on Sunday, the thing felt really good. I was a little nervous to ride again. I haven’t hit my head like that before.”
Gillim didn’t consider the run in Bowling Green a true test session.
“It was mostly just to make sure the bike was okay and that I was okay,” Gillim admitted. “I felt really good. I was right off of my pace from last year there on the old bike, and there was water running across the track. I felt really good, so I was looking forward to coming into this weekend.”
Once at New Jersey Motorsports Park, Gillim and crew hit the ground running and just like that, the Pittsburgh crash was in the rearview mirror. After sorting through some setup issues, Gillim was up to speed and came agonizingly close to making Superpole.
“I ended up missing Superpole by 0.1 or 0 point something,” Gillim said. “It was a bummer, but I knew I was going to be starting 13th. Pretty much from there I just had to make sure I got a good start and try and go with the guys. I knew I had a good, long race distance pace.”
Gillim put himself in the hole a bit at the start of Saturday’s Race 1.
“At the beginning of race one I got bad start like I didn’t need to do,” Gillim explained. “I just put my head down and picked off a couple guys. Then there was a big gap up to Danny Eslick, Matthew Scholtz and Jake Lewis. Just pushed and pushed as hard as I could. Was just doing real consistent, decent lap times. Slowly they came back to me. Almost had a chance at Matthew on the last lap, but I just barely missed it.”
In the end Gillim came up a bike length short of passing Scholtz at the line and making the Superstock 1000 podium. The gap between them was 5-100ths of a second. Gillim was fourth in class and 10th overall in the combined Superbike/SSTK1000 results. It marked his eighth top-10 Superbike finish of the season.
Sunday at least started better, but one nagging injury from Pittsburgh came back to haunt Gillim late in the race.
“I got a little bit better start,” Gillim said. “I knew I my race pace was still going to be good. I just needed to get my initial pace—my all-out race speed—a lot faster. Went out and busted out a few mid-22’s. Again, I had a gap to make up, but I slowly got up to them and eventually got into third, I passed Danny (Eslick) and Jake (Lewis). Matthew (Scholtz) and Bobby (Fong) were way out front, so there was no getting them.
“But I got up there and my wrist from the crash has been hurting a little bit. A few pinched nerves here and there. Actually, I had a little moment coming out of turn five. Got off track and kind of jarred my wrist a little bit about halfway through. Once that happened I didn’t really have a whole lot of steam left. I lost the position back to Danny. Stuck around him and then missed a shift on the front straight and Anthony West was able to get by. The last few laps I just didn’t have anything left for him. My wrist was all swelled up and hurting. I tried to maybe just be right there for if they went at it. They did but I just wasn’t in the right place at the right time. I ended up fifth.
“Two top fives in front of some guys that I needed to be in front of, and right there with the guys I should be racing with,” Gillim said. “So, it was good. I’m looking forward to getting to Barber. I think it’s going to be a really good weekend for us. Get hopefully a little more healed up and have some fun down there.”
New Jersey Motorsports Park MVP Results Recap
|Race 1||10th overall, 4th in class||1:22.834|
|Race 2||11th overall, 5th in class||1:22.409|
|Current Superbike Standings||12th|