The Heat Is On As MotoAmerica Superbikes Head To Road America

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The Heat Is On As Motoamerica Superbikes Head To Road AmericaThe Steel Commander Superbike Championship Ready To Attack Popular Road America, May 31-June 2.

The cream of the MotoAmerica Steel Commander Superbike crop generally makes one, possibly two race mistakes a year. Tytlers Cycle Racing’s Cameron Beaubier has made his, yet he leads the championship by 13 points as the championship moves to inarguably its most popular round – Road America – after two rounds and five races. Predictable? Not entirely. Race fans with short memories? Definitely.

When Beaubier crashed out of the lead at Barber Motorsports Park a bit over two weeks ago in race one, there was plenty of groaning as it handed Attack Performance/Progressive/Yamaha Racing’s Jake Gagne a 20-point lead over the BMW M 1000 RR-mounted Beaubier. The championship was over, blah, blah, blah.

A day later and Beaubier was on the top step of the podium twice after winning both races on Sunday while Gagne struggled mightily with arm pump that left him eighth and seventh in the two races.

Thus, Beaubier will start the first of two Steel Commander Superbike races at Road America, May 31-June 2, with a 13-point lead after two. But if we learned anything from the three-race Barber round it’s that bad days by the cream of the crop no longer result in podium finishes. Instead, a stacked field of Superbikes can mean that a bad result is now seventh or eighth. Or worse.

Which brings us to the age-old Yogi Berra quote of “it ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” This is far from over.

Beaubier was the fastest rider at Barber. Everyone knew it, including race-one winner Cameron Petersen and his teammate and defending series champion Gagne, both of whom took advantage of Beaubier’s miscue to take the top two spots in race one.

Fortunately for Beaubier, and unfortunately for the rest, Barber was one of two rounds (WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca is the other) that will feature three Steel Commander Superbike races. So, although Beaubier started Sunday 20 points behind, he was able to end it with two wins and a 13-point lead heading to Road America.

Gagne’s plight as the series heads to Wisconsin will revolve around his forearms. Arm pump slows the best of them, and Gagne is battling with it now. The long straightaways of Road America should be easier on him than the previous two rounds.

But this championship isn’t just about Beaubier vs. Gagne.

TopPro Racing’s Sean Dylan Kelly has already proven to be a factor in his rookie season of Superbike racing and he’s only going to get better. Kelly earned the first two Superbike podiums of his debut season on Sunday at Barber with a second in race two and a third in race three. Kelly sits third in the championship, 22 points behind Beaubier and just nine behind Gagne, with the Floridian finishing all five races so far with two fourths and a fifth to go with his two podiums.

Wrench Motorcycles’ Bobby Fong is another who has shown speed in the opening races of the season and he arrives in Wisconsin 13 points behind Kelly and two in front of Petersen. Fong earned a podium in the series opener at Road Atlanta and another in the third race at Barber when he finished second to Gagne.

Petersen is the other rider in the field to win a race in 2024 as he joined Beaubier and his teammate Gagne as Superbike race winners when he held off Gagne to win race one at Barber after Beaubier’s third-lap crash. Petersen is just two points behind Fong.

Although the season has had a few bumps in the road so far for Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati’s Josh Herrin and his French teammate Loris Baz, counting them out of any race would be a mistake. Especially, at Road America where the pair will be able to take full advantage of their very fast Ducati Panigale V4 Rs. Herrin has one podium finish so far (third in race on at Barber), but his points total suffered with a crash in race two in Alabama. However, he’s a proven race winner and will be looking to chase bags of points on the fast four-mile Road America.

Also, remember that Herrin was on pole for last year’s races at Road America and he finished third in race one prior to winning race two.

Baz is just two points behind Herrin in the championship after a consistent start to the season. Baz’s big however came in race three at Barber when he was hit from behind by a lapped rider and crashed. Baz should also find solace in the fact that the Ducatis work well at Road America.

Real Steel Motorsports’ Hayden Gillim, meanwhile, is tied with Baz for seventh after five consistent races on his Superstock-spec Honda CBR1000RR-R SP.

Beaubier’s Tytlers Cycle Racing teammate JD Beach had a Barber round that he would like to permanently erase from his memory banks as he scored just nine points from the three races after two crashes. Beach will get a fresh start at Road America this weekend.

Another who expected way more to the start of his season is Vision Wheel M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Brandon Paasch. Paasch is 10th in the title chase with a best finish of sixth thus far as he tries to make up ground from a miserable opening round at Road Atlanta where he failed to score a point.

Paasch will be joined again at Road America by Spaniard Xavi Forés, who is replacing the injured Richie Escalante. Forés was sixth in two of the three races in his debut with the team at Barber, but race two in Alabama was a DNF for the non-defending 2023 MotoAmerica Supersport Champion.

Just seven points separate Paasch in 10th from BPR Racing’s Bryce Prince, who sits 14th. Between the two are FLO4LAW Racing’s Benjamin Smith and Thrashed Bike Racing’s Max Flinders. Jones Honda’s Ashton Yates and Visit Indiana/Tom Wood Powersports’ Nolan Lamkin are tied for 15th in the series standings.

Pre-Race Road America Notes…

Last year’s two Superbike races at Road America were won by Cameron Beaubier and Josh Herrin. Beaubier beat his Tytlers Cycle Racing teammate PJ Jacobsen by 2.7 seconds with Herrin third in race one. In race two, Herrin took the win by a tick over two seconds over Jacobsen with Jake Gagne third. Oddly enough, Gagne had a DNF in race one and his championship rival Beaubier failed to finish race two.

Ducati Panigale V4 R-mounted Josh Herrin earned pole position last year with his lap of 2:09.111 of the four-mile-long Road America. Herrin was joined on the front row by the BMW M1000 RRs of Cameron Beaubier and PJ Jacobsen. The fastest lap of the two races was Herrin’s 2:09.025, which is the Superbike race lap record at Road America.

Five-time MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Cameron Beaubier has won 11 Superbike races at Road America. That’s two more than Australian Mat Mladin and three more than Josh Hayes.

Active MotoAmerica racers with Superbike wins at Road America other than Beaubier include Josh Herrin, Jake Gagne, Cameron Petersen, Bobby Fong and Mathew Scholtz, who is now racing in the Supersport class.

With his three MotoAmerica Steel Commander Superbike victories this year, Beaubier now has 63 AMA Superbike wins – 19 wins behind all-time AMA Superbike win leader Mat Mladin and his 82 victories.

Yamaha continues to lead the way in manufacturer Superbike wins at Road America with 26 victories. Suzuki is second with 18 Superbike race wins at the venue in Elkhart Lake, followed by Honda with 12, Ducati with nine and Kawasaki with four. Cameron Beaubier’s race-one victory was the first Superbike win for BMW at Road America.

Three-time World Champion Freddie Spencer won the first-ever AMA Superbike race at Road America in 1980.

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