BRASELTON, Ga. (April 20, 2012) – Defending champion Josh Hayes watched the final ten minutes of Friday’s AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike qualifying session tick off from pitlane alongside a pair of crashed No. 1-plated Monster Energy Graves Yamaha YZF-R1s.
Despite encountering a lot more drama than he might have hoped for, Hayes ultimately walked away from the opening day of action for the Triumph Big Kahuna Atlanta presented by Dunlop Tire and LeoVince with the provisional pole after turning a lap time of 1:25.380 around Road Atlanta’s 2.55-mile natural road course.
Hayes also crashed out of the day’s free practice, but in each session no rider proved capable of taking advantage of Hayes’ absence and bettering the mark he had previously set.
“It’s been a rough day,” Hayes admitted. “I had another good (lap) going before I made my second big mistake of the day. It’s been a while since we’ve seen the place, but I have a lot of laps around Road Atlanta. This is, I think, the 18th year that I’ve raced here. Every year I seem to get some laps in here, except for last year. Still feels like home and I still remember my way around pretty well. All in all, things have gone pretty well except for a couple of miscues.”
The champ promised that he’ll be fully ready to fight on Saturday. “I’m a little beat up but overall everything works. I’m running out of suits and helmets. Other than that, I have a few abrasions on my knee but nothing that will keep me from performing well.”
It came as little surprise that Hayes’ title rival, Blake Young, was the man who came closest to knocking him off the top spot in qualifying. The Yoshimura Racing Suzuki pilot threw down a 1:25.508 to put a scare into Hayes whose fast lap had previously appeared to be unassailable.
Local favorite Geoff May, who hails from nearby Gainesville, Georgia, put in an outstanding effort for the Team Amsoil/Hero EBR squad on Friday. May’s 1:26.551 put him third overall, trailing only the superstar duo of Hayes and Young.
May is no stranger to success at Road Atlanta, of course, having won the Superstock race at the venue in 2008, and then finishing on the podium twice in the premier SuperBike class a year later.
Hayes’ rookie teammate, Josh Herrin, also considers Road Atlanta to be his home circuit. And the Dublin, Georgia native was also quick, rounding out the provisional front row on his Monster Energy Graves Yamaha on the provisional front row at 1:26.572.
The provisional second row was an all-Suzuki affair, led by Yoshimura Racing Suzuki’s Chris Clark. Teammates Roger Hayden (National Guard Jordan Suzuki) and Ben Bostrom (Jordan Suzuki) were next, followed by an impressive David Anthony on the Kneedraggers.com/Motul/Fly Racing Suzuki GSX-R1000.
Steve Rapp headed the provisional third row on the Attack Performance Kawasaki ZX-10R, with Larry Pegram (Foremost Insurance/Pegram Racing BMW), Jake Holden (EvanSteelPeformance.com BMW), and Chris Fillmore (KTM/HMC Racing) in line behind.
Hayes will look to add to his burgeoning bonus point tally in final qualifying on Saturday morning before the SuperBike stars turn their attention to the day’s 20-lap final.
AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike
Martin Cardenas (GEICO Suzuki) earned provisional pole in the AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike division with a lap time of 1:28.938.
After earning only one pole in his AMA Pro career, the former series champion won pole last month at Daytona before setting the provisional best time today. Has there been a change in his approach? “No,” Cardenas said, “I think this bike suits me very well and gives me a good feeling so I can push harder. So far it’s been good.”
Jason DiSalvo (Latus Motors Racing) led the morning practice and finished second in qualifying, ahead of fellow veteran Jake Zemke (DucShop Racing.) Dane Westby (M4 Broaster Chicken Suzuki) produced a strong session to finish on the overnight front row. Daytona 200 winner Joey Pascarella (SGA Yamaha) was fifth quickest. He was joined on the provisional second row by Cory West (Riders Discount Vesrah Suzuki), Huntley Nash (LTD Racing) and Tommy Hayden (Yamaha Extended Services Graves Yamaha.)
AMA Pro Motorcycle-Superstore.com SuperSport
In AMA Pro Motorcycle-Superstore.com SuperSport, the battle for provisional pole went to reigning series champ James Rispoli (Orient Express Celtic Racing) who set a Motorcycle-Superstore.com SuperSport track record with a lap time of 1:30.337, besting Jake Lewis (Riders Discount Vesrah Suzuki) and Dustin Dominguez (Castrol Triumph) in the process. This trio were the only riders in the 1:30 bracket on the challenging Georgia circuit. Hayden Gillim (Red Bull/RoadRace Factory) closed out the front row.