Jake Gagne cast a lonely shadow on the front row of the grid for the second part of the red-flag-interrupted Medallia Superbike race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on Saturday as the other two front-row starters were nowhere to be seen.
A scary crash on the exit of turn two on the opening lap of the first start had taken out pole sitter Cameron Beaubier and Gagne’s teammate Cameron Petersen. Prior to the restart, Richie Escalante – the third fastest qualifier – had a brake issue and missed the sighting lap and was put to the back of the grid. Thus, a lonely Gagne was the only rider on the front row while the second row also lacked Petersen who, like Beaubier, was unable to make the restart.
But first things first. The crash. With Fresh N Lean Progressive Yamaha Racing’s Petersen nabbing the holeshot from the second row, he led the field through turn two and then highsided on the exit. Beaubier and the Tytlers Cycle Racing BMW M 1000 RR had nowhere to go, and he slammed into Petersen’s crashed Yamaha YZF-R1 and also went down. At that point the race was stopped.
On the restart, Gagne wasn’t challenged, and he led every one of the 19 laps, eventually crossing the finish line 5.3 seconds clear of second place. The victory was the fifth of the year for the championship points leader and his Fresh N Lean Progressive Yamaha YZF-R1 and the 34th of his career.
A battered and bruised Josh Herrin finished second on the Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati Panigale V4 R, besting a fast-closing PJ Jacobsen on the Tytlers Cycle Racing BMW M 1000 RR. The red flag cost Jacobsen any chance of a late-race attack on Herrin and he finished just .368 of a second behind the Ducati.
Considering he started from the back row of the grid, Vision Wheel M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Richie Escalante continued to show that he’s a top-tier Superbike racer as he carved his way through the field to latch on to the back of the Jacobsen/Mathew Scholtz battle for third. When Scholtz crashed out of the race with two laps to go, Escalante inherited fourth place just hours after earning the first Superbike front-row starting spot of his career in the second qualifying session on Saturday morning. Scholtz’s crash in Rainey Curve brought out a second red flag and the race was called complete.
Escalante’s Vision Wheel M4 ECSTAR Suzuki teammate Brandon Paasch finished an impressive fifth in his debut on the factory Suzuki GSX-R1000R. It was also Paasch’s comeback ride after he suffered a broken back in an off-season motocross crash.
Wrench Motorcycles’ Bobby Fong ended up sixth with Disrupt Racing’s Hayden Gillim seventh. Tytlers Cycle Racing’s Corey Alexander, Thrashed Bike Racing’s Max Flinders and Aftercare Scheibe Racing’s Ashton Yates completed the top 10.
Superbike Race One
- Jake Gagne (Yamaha)
- Josh Herrin (Ducati)
- PJ Jacobsen (BMW)
- Richie Escalante (Suzuki)
- Brandon Paasch (Suzuki)
- Bobby Fong (Yamaha)
- Hayden Gillim (Suzuki)
- Corey Alexander (BMW)
- Max Flinders (Yamaha)
- Ashton Yates (BMW)
Jake Gagne – Winner
“I had a feeling that it would be some carnage in today’s race, just because especially when Cam (Petersen) went down in the beginning I was shocked. Then both Cams (Petersen and Beaubier) are tumbling on the road. I kind of swerved, and I was just hoping nobody got… The worst thing to see is somebody sliding down the road in front of you. Obviously, I wasn’t surprised to get a red flag. I want to win races. I want to get points in the championship, but it sucks doing it like that. With Beaubier going out like that and Cam P., my teammate. So, I hope those guys are all right. Then after the restart. I just knew the wind is really chilly today. I knew from sitting on the grid before that crash even happened that the first couple laps, we had to be patient on those tires to get the heat in them. So, I was surprised, but I wasn’t surprised to see some of that carnage right in the beginning. We’re going to have to be patient on those tires with the cool breeze and sitting on the grid. So, I just tried to do that and build heat in these Dunlops. It seems like they get a little bit better after a couple laps. Just being patient. I was keeping an eye on my pit board. I knew Josh (Herrin) was behind me in the beginning. I could hear that Ducati roaring. I was just trying to be smooth. I think the big thing was trying to be easy on that front tire, because we’ve all been struggling with tearing a little bit on the front tire. It’s getting better throughout the weekend, but I tried to focus on just using different parts of the tire and I was happy with how that came in and happy with the team for helping me out and showing me what I need to do better, especially yesterday to today. So, good day and I’m looking forward to a good battle with those guys. Hopefully we can all keep it upright tomorrow and put in some good two races and put on a show for everyone.”
Josh Herrin – Second Place
“I think I ended up fourth and I was trying to go on the outside of Jake (Gagne) in, I call it one, but two, and then cross over to the inside right there where they went down. As I was starting to get on the throttle coming out of two, I decided I’m going to sneak back behind Jake because I wasn’t going to make it. I didn’t really see. I saw some movement, but I was focused a little bit further ahead on the track. As I was driving out of two picking it up to lean right a little bit, Jake just peeled off really quick to the left. Those guys were sliding right in front of me. I had nowhere to go. I kind of just checked up and got really lucky that they slid out of the way when they did. But it was pretty spooky because it’s like when you’re out on the freeway and somebody just peels off in front of you because there’s trash in the road and you’ve got nowhere to go. It was a really scary moment. I had a feeling they were going to red flag it. I was surprised that they waited as long as they did, just because it looks like they were in the middle of the track. It was a scary moment, for sure.”
PJ Jacobsen – Third Place
“It was a crazy race. It sucks for Cam P. and Cameron Beaubier, my teammate. Just that whole situation. Then after that it was weird. I was lining up on the grid and it was just so empty. So, it was kind of a strange race. I’m just a bit lucky to be up here. The other guys would have obviously been in this whole fight and stuff like that, but I guess at the end of the day it’s motorcycle racing. This morning, I completely totaled my bike. Destroyed it for the guys. So, I was really just disappointed in myself and for my side of the crew to put that back together. I was just going around not too happy this morning and it put me in a bad qualifying position for the race today. But the race was going pretty good. (Mathew) Scholtz passed me and at the end there I started to catch Josh (Herrin) and was trying to push with that two laps to go, or whatever. Unfortunately, the red flag came out because of Scholtz. I hope he’s okay. I’m just happy to be up here and be on the podium for the Tytlers Cycle Racing team.”