After completing eight rounds, 16 races, 246 laps and 659.948 miles in the 2022 MotoAmerica Medallia Superbike Championship, just one point separates Fresh N Lean Progressive Yamaha Racing’s Jake Gagne from Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati NYC’s Danilo Petrucci as the series makes its way to New Jersey Motorsports Park, September 9-11.
One measly point.
The two have arrived at this point in totally different ways. Gagne has won 10 races but has blundered in two of them with crashes that resulted in zero points. Petrucci, meanwhile, hasn’t had the pure pace that Gagne has had at most races, but he’s been there to pick up the pieces when his rival has faltered. The Italian has won four races. Two of those came with two dominating performances at the Circuit of The Americas in round one, the other two after Gagne deposited his YZF-R1 in the gravel trap at Road Atlanta and then destroyed a second Yamaha at Brainerd International Raceway. In total, Petrucci has 14 podium finishes in 16 races and podiums in 11 straight races heading to NJMP.
Both have had seasons worthy of championships, but only one will get it and it’s a battle that should keep us entertained until the final lap at Barber Motorsports Park, September 23-25. A September to remember, it seems.
While this has mostly been the Gagne/Petrucci show, let’s not forget the other two riders who have won races in 2022 – Gagne’s teammate Cameron Petersen and Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz. Both of their wins came midseason at Road America with Scholtz excelling early in the season while Petersen has had his best races in the second half. Petersen has 10 podiums while Scholtz has eight.
That puts Petersen ahead of his fellow South African by 22 points with the two rounds and four races left on the schedule. Those two have also proven to be fast enough that a bad day for either Gagne or Petrucci doesn’t mean an automatic second place, it potentially means a fourth-place finish. Thus, the two Yamaha riders could play a role in the outcome of the championship.
“We are basically the second funded Yamaha team,” Scholtz said after finishing second to Gagne in race two at Pitt Race. “They definitely help us out but, at the end of the day, Westby pay my salary. Westby are the guys that hand me the contract offer every single year, so I just want to do the best I can for them. But if I can help Yamaha, I definitely will. I would love to see myself first and Jake (Gagne) second. That would be the most ideal situation.”
While the “Big Four” are solidified at the top of the standings, the battle for fifth in the championship will likely go to the bitter end.
Hector Barbera currently leads his Tytlers Cycle Racing teammate PJ Jacobsen by 20 points in the fight for fifth. While Jacobsen has more podiums (two to one), Barbera has fewer DNFs with the Spaniard missing out on points in just two races with Jacobsen has five non-scores in his column.
Behind them comes a throng of racers fighting inside the top 10. They are led by Vision Wheel M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Richie Escalante in seventh with the Superbike rookie leading his teammate Jake Lewis by just five points. Eight points behind Lewis is Aftercare Hayes Scheibe Racing’s Ashton Yates, who in turn leads Disrupt Racing’s Hayden Gillim by five points with the Kentuckian rounding out the top 10.
Tytlers Cycle/RideHVMC Racing teammates Corey Alexander and Travis Wyman are on the outside looking in and trail Gillim by 20 and 22 points, respectively.
NJMP Superbike Notes…
With his two victories last year at New Jersey Motorsports Park, Jake Gagne became the eighth different rider to win an AMA Superbike race in the 13-year history of the series in the Garden State. The winningest rider in AMA Superbike history at NJMP is far and away Josh Hayes with his 11 Superbike victories at the facility, including the first two AMA Superbike races held at the track in Millville in 2009. Fittingly, Hayes is entered to race at NJMP this year on a Squid Hunter Yamaha YZF-R6 in the Supersport class.
The MotoAmerica Superbike Championship featured three races during its weekend at NJMP in 2021 to make up for the cancellation of its round at the Circuit of The Americas.
Jake Gagne was dominant in the three races a year ago. On Saturday he beat Mathew Scholtz and Toni Elias in race one and he followed that up with two victories on Sunday – over Scholtz and Josh Herrin.
In addition to the clean sweep of the three races, Gagne also qualified on pole position on his Fresh N Lean Attack Performance Yamaha Racing YZF-R1 (now the Fresh N Lean Progressive Yamaha Racing team). Gagne lapped at 1:20.355 with Scholtz and Loris Baz joining him on the front row. Gagne’s best wasn’t a lap record, however, as that is still held by Cameron Beaubier – with his 1:19.806 coming during Superpole in 2020.
Although he’s not the lap record holder, Gagne is the race lap record holder with his 1:20.076 coming in race two last year on the 2.250-mile racetrack.
What a difference a really good year makes. Last year at NJMP, Gagne left Jersey with 16 career AMA Superbike victories, which tied him with MotoAmerica President and three-time 500cc World Champion Wayne Rainey for ninth on the all-time win list. A year later and Gagne has 27 victories and is just one behind former AMA and World Superbike Champion Ben Spies for sixth on the all-time list.
It’s a tradition that we have to bring up every year: Roger Hayden, who won twice at NJMP during his Superbike career, finished second there five times. Included in those five runner-up finishes were a .044 of a second loss to Josh Hayes in 2015, a .156 of a second loss to Toni Elias in 2016 and a .039 of a second loss to Elias in 2017. Hayden is always a winner to MotoAmerica and its fans, however, as he provides color commentary of MotoAmerica’s races on MotoAmerica Live+, the series’ live streaming and on-demand platform.