Eric Bostrom (32) vs. Nicky Hayden (69) in 2002 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The two battled the entire weekend with Bostrom winning race one by just .034 of a second. Photo by Henny Ray Abrams

With MotoAmerica set to bring AMA Superbike racing back to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, August 16-18, we’re taking a closer look at past Superbike races at the iconic racetrack in Lexington, Ohio.

Kawasaki’s Eric Bostrom and American Honda’s Nicky Hayden emerged from the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course doubleheader weekend in 2002 with the two splitting wins and second-place finishes after two extremely hard-fought races. At the time, many were likening the pair’s battles to Rainey vs. Schwantz in 1987.

It also appeared that based on their seasons to date, Bostrom and Hayden would be going elsewhere in 2003.

When the dust had cleared on Sunday night in Ohio, Bostrom had scored 70 points with Hayden taking home 69 points as Bostrom earned two extra points for leading the most laps and Hayden taking an extra point for his pole position from qualifying.

The rest of the field simply couldn’t keep pace.

Hayden reversed the order in race two at Mid-Ohio, earning the 16th AMA Superbike win of his career. Photo by Henny Ray Abrams

Although the Hayden/Bostrom battle for the title wouldn’t end until the final round at Virginia International Raceway, it was going to be a difficult chore for Bostrom to take the title from Hayden as the young phenom led the title chase by 35 points over his rival.

The dominance of Hayden/Bostrom in 2002 was made clear by the fact that with just the one round (two races) remaining after Mid-Ohio, third-placed Miguel Duhamel was 104 points behind his teammate Hayden.

Race one was the better of the two with the pair fighting for the duration and Bostrom coming up just .034 of a second ahead of Hayden. On day two, it was Hayden’s turn to assert himself in the final few laps and he earned the victory by 1.5 seconds over Bostrom.

The race-two win was Hayden’s 16th career AMA Superbike win and it vaulted him to third on the all-time list, moving ahead of three-time World Champion Freddie Spencer and into a tie with three-time World Champion Wayne Rainey.

While no match for Bostrom and Hayden, the best of the rest over the course of the weekend was defending AMA Superbike Champion Mat Mladin with the Australian fifth on day one and third on day two.

Hayden and his corn rows celebrate after race two. Photo by Henny Ray Abrams

After whittling away at a lead Bostrom had stretched to 7.6 seconds, Hayden was on Bostrom on the run to the flag but came up just short.

“We certainly had a lot of trouble, you know,” Bostrom said post-race. “I don’t know it felt like the setup was good on the front but on the back, we were beating up the tire real bad in the beginning. It was just coming around a bit too soon. I really rode hard.”

“The last lap, last lap and a half, I got close to him, but there was just nowhere to really put a safe pass on him that I felt comfortable with,” Hayden said. “Eric was just riding really hard. I mean the last lap was probably about the hardest I’ve ever seen Eric ride, which is good. He was just going for it.”

After a red-flag stoppage to clear the track after Aaron Yates crashed out, Bostrom did his best to stay with Hayden in race two, but the Honda man wasn’t to be denied again.

“Basically, we weren’t fast enough,” Bostrom said. “I went out this morning in practice and wasn’t fast.” “It was a really nice win,” Hayden said. “I hated to see the red flag. The last few races Eric’s been beating us pretty good so it’s just real nice to beat him here today. I want to think about the championship, not do anything silly, but I wanted to go for it today and really ride hard and aggressive with him, and it was just nice to get a win. I’m pretty happy.”

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