Beaubier Over Gagne And Fong In Road Atlanta Superbike Thriller

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Beaubier Over Gagne And Fong In Road Atlanta Superbike Thriller
In a titanic battle that began with as many as seven riders fighting at the front and ended with three, Tytlers Cycle Racing’s Cameron Beaubier came out on top with a pass on Attack Performance Yamaha’s Jake Gagne with two laps to go in a thrilling Steel Commander Superbike season-opening race at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta on Saturday.

The win was the 60th Superbike victory of Beaubier’s career and it came with the five-time MotoAmerica Superbike Champion biding his time and sitting behind Gagne and Wrench Motorcycles’ Bobby Fong for the last third of the race. Beaubier planned to make his move with three laps to go, but instead had to wait until the penultimate lap. He made the move and made it stick, beating three-time MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Gagne to the line by .240 of a second in what was his comeback race from the injuries he suffered last year at Pittsburgh International Race Complex.

For many, Fong was the surprise of the weekend with the Wrench Motorcycles Yamaha YZF-R1-mounted Fong earning pole position in the morning Q2 session, then running at the front for the duration and ending up third and just .332 of a second from race-winner Beaubier.

TopPro Racing Team’s Sean Dylan Kelly was an impressive fourth in his MotoAmerica Superbike debut. The Floridian was quick from the get-go and didn’t put a foot wrong – even as he battled in the heated pack at the front in the first portion of the race. Kelly was just 3.5 seconds behind Beaubier and .7 of a second ahead of Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati’s Josh Herrin.

Herrin was at the front of the Superbike pack early in the race, battling primarily with Fong for the top spot as the others hooked in behind the lead duo. Fong made a pass on the inside of Herrin early in the race, but it was the second time that he made the same move in the final corner that ended up going horribly wrong for Herrin. With the door open enough for his Yamaha to fit through, Fong made the move in the final corner and the result was Herrin running off the track on the exit.

Beaubier Over Gagne And Fong In Road Atlanta Superbike Thriller
The battle for the Superbike win came down to Gagne (10) vs. Fong (5) and Beaubier (60)
Photo by Brian J. Nelson

By the time he rejoined the racetrack, Herrin was well back and forced to do an admirable job of moving forward again with passes on Vision Wheel M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Richie Escalante, Tytlers Cycle Racing’s JD Beach, and Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati’s Loris Baz.

Herrin ended up fifth with Baz sixth, Beach seventh and Escalante eighth with the top eight separated by under six seconds. Real Steel Motorsports’ Hayden Gillim and Thrashed Bike Racing’s Max Flinders rounded out the top 10.

After crossing the finish line just .6 of a second apart, Baz and Escalante were involved in a big crash together at the end of the front straight after both crossed the finish line.

Two of the series stars had bad days with Brandon Paasch crashing his Vision Wheel M4 ECSTAR Suzuki out of the race after just two laps and Attack Performance Yamaha’s Cameron Petersen crashing, remounting, and finishing 15th to at least salvage a championship point. Petersen was running near the front when he was penalized two spots for passing under a waving yellow flag. After doing so, Petersen crashed but was able to remount and finish the race.

Quotes

Cameron Beaubier – Winner

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t pretty over motorcycles after Pittsburgh. Sitting at home hurt, but all of us share this passion. Got motorcycles in our blood. A couple months go by and then you start getting hungry. The team posted the date for the first test and then you got something to work towards. Then after that, I was just itching to go racing. We got a couple good tests under our belt. Felt really good at the test. Made some good progress with the bike, with the Tytlers guys. Big hats off to them. They worked their butts off all off-season to elevate our game. Yesterday didn’t necessarily start out great, throwing the bike down the road in the second practice. But today was awesome. We didn’t make it easy, Jake (Gagne) either, on ourselves, starting on the second row of the grid, just with how stacked the field is right now. Like Jake said, it’s pretty awesome to race with all these guys. I was only two or three tenths off, and I was back in fifth in qualifying. That hasn’t been the case so much in the past years in MotoAmerica Superbike. So, it’s pretty cool. Just happy to be back and happy to feel healthy. Jake was setting a good pace up there in front. I think we were all kind of in management mode. The track was pretty greasy. We were sliding around. I feel like it would have been pretty risky to go any faster. I was just trying to bide my time. Bobby (Fong) was making it really difficult because he was so late on the brakes. I kept catching him on the back straightaway and had to roll out a little bit. I would catch him at the worst spot, going into the kink, and then he would brake super deep down into 10. So, I was kind of stuck there. I was just biding my time until the last few laps. I was able to make a couple good passes. Jake and I went back and forth that last lap and was able to bring it home. It’s a good feeling.”

Jake Gagne – Second Place

“Yeah, definitely. It was cool. Going into the race, starting second row, having fast guys in front, fast guys behind, it’s a whole different story than last couple years. I keep saying it, but there’s so much speed in this Superbike class now. It’s pretty cool to be a part of. It was one of those days. All I wanted to do was get a clean start, but you never really know what kind of pace guys are going to have, especially that second half. I was actually kind of surprised. I wasn’t sure. Bob (Fong) passed (Josh) Herrin. He went off and then Bob ran a little wide and then I was in the lead. I wasn’t sure who was behind me, honestly. I knew Bobby was there. I figured Cam (Beaubier) was there. But I think it was pretty slick out there. The Dunlops held up well with the heat of the track. This place gets really greasy. I’m happy. The bike was working really, really good. Kind of like last year, I was just struggling with such bad arm pump half the race. I just felt like a sitting duck. Just shows you how good this Yamaha is working. It was a fun race. I knew somebody was going to try to pass me. Second-to-last lap, Cam came up the inside somewhere. We went back and forth a couple of times. It was a good race and a good way to start the year.”

Beaubier Over Gagne And Fong In Road Atlanta Superbike Thriller
Cameron Beaubier took victory on Saturday at Road Atlanta for his 60th career AMA Superbike victory. Photo by Brian J. Nelson

Superbike Race One

  1. Cameron Beaubier (BMW)
  2. Jake Gagne (Yamaha)
  3. Bobby Fong (Yamaha)
  4. Sean Dylan Kelly (Yamaha)
  5. Josh Herrin (Ducati)
  6. Loris Baz (Ducati)
  7. JD Beach (BMW)
  8. Richie Escalante (Suzuki)
  9. Hayden Gillim (Honda)
  10. Max Flinders (Yamaha)

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