Cameron Petersen (45) crosses the finish line ahead of his teammate Jake Gagne (1). Gagne now has a 20-point lead in the championship.
Photo by Brian J. Nelson

Leading 17 laps of a MotoAmerica Steel Commander Superbike race is tough enough. Leading 17 laps with three-time MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Jake Gagne breathing down your neck is flat out daunting. But Attack Performance/Progressive/Yamaha’s Cameron Petersen was able to focus on what was ahead and not what was behind to win Saturday’s first of three Superbike races at Barber Motorsports Park.

And in doing so, the South African never put a wheel wrong to top his teammate Gagne by .438 of a second after 20 laps. Since 20 minus 17 is three, who led those opening three laps? That would be Tytlers Cycle Racing’s Cameron Beaubier on his BMW M 1000 RR, but it didn’t last. Just when it was starting to look like the five-time series champion was going to romp away to victory, it all went horribly wrong on the fourth lap when Beaubier crashed out of the lead.

That left Petersen vs. Gagne with Petersen leading and Gagne giving chase, piling on the pressure to see if Petersen would falter. He didn’t. Instead, he was mostly perfect in earning his fourth MotoAmerica Superbike victory with three of those coming at Barber Motorsports Park.

Gagne ended up second, happy for his teammate while also knowing that he’d extended his championship points lead to 20 points over his title rival Beaubier, 65-45, after the first three races of the season.

Both Petersen and Gagne acknowledged that things would have been different if Beaubier hadn’t crashed.

Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati’s Josh Herrin came out on top of a three-rider scrap for the final podium spot. After moving past his teammate Loris Baz, Herrin disposed of impressive rookie Sean Dylan Kelly on the final lap to finish third.

TopPro Racing’s Kelly ended up .476 of a second behind Herrin and .502 of a second ahead of Baz. It was Kelly’s third top-five finish to start his rookie season of Superbike racing.

Spaniard Xavi Forés was sixth in his debut on the Vision Wheel M4 ECSTAR Suzuki, riding in place of the injured Richie Escalante. Forés was well back from Baz and .8 seconds ahead of seventh-placed JD Beach and his Tytlers Cycle Racing BMW M 1000 RR.

Real Steel Motorsports’ Hayden Gillim was eighth with Wrench Motorcycles’ Bobby Fong and Vision Wheel M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Brandon Paasch rounding out the top 10 finishers.

With three races in the books, Gagne leads Beaubier in the title chase, 65-45, with Petersen jumping up to third in the standings with 42 points. Kelly is fourth with 37 points, three clear of fifth-placed Herrin.

Sunday will be a busy day for the Steel Commander Superbike men with two races on the schedule.

Quotes

Cameron Petersen – Winner

“It feels good. I think this is three wins at this track. Got one in the dry, but honestly it feels so good. I know a lot of people know what I’ve gone through in the off-season and after the surgery. It’s been a tough off-season. The wrist is starting to feel really good on the bike. It just feels so good to get this monkey off my back. It’s been a questioning game, wondering if I did the right thing with the surgery. But it’s starting to pay off. Like Jake said, we had a really tough Friday. We were all kind of scratching our heads, and the boys did an incredible job. We definitely took a step forward today. We had a good race bike. We kind of got gifted that one a little bit. Cam had some incredible pace in the beginning there. He was starting to check out. For the rest of the race, I just tried to hit my marks. I knew if I do that and I was good on the brakes and didn’t make any mistakes, I kind of knew that I would have a good opportunity at it. So, just put my head down and did everything I could. With about five laps to go, I was just like, nobody is taking this thing from me. We’re too close to the end. I’ve led this whole thing. I just wanted it super bad. Congrats to the guys up here next to me. It’s always fun racing against them. Look forward to two races tomorrow.”

Jake Gagne – Second Place

“It was awesome. Cam (Petersen) rode a great race. He didn’t put a wheel wrong. I was sitting there kind of waiting for a mistake. He was good on the brakes everywhere, so there was not a whole lot I could do unless I really tried to stuff it in there. I was going to see if I could try to make a move somewhere on those last couple laps. Then it started sprinkling, so in the back it was getting dark. I just figured there was nothing I could do unless he made a mistake, and he didn’t. He wanted that one. Congrats to Cam. He earned it. Congrats to the team, to go one-two after our pretty rough day yesterday, actually. So, it was good to see the consistency there. Fun race, riding around with Cam. Obviously, my teammate and one of my great friends. So, congrats to him. But we got some work to do. See if we can improve some things tomorrow. (Cameron) Beaubier was unreal those first couple laps. I didn’t see what happened, but I hope he’s okay. Everybody is going to be going faster tomorrow, so we got to do our job.”

Josh Herrin – Third Place

“We kind of just went back to what we had on Friday and tried something small from that. We’ve been here three times now on this bike. We came here for the race last year, a track day earlier in the year, and then now. I’m just stuck at the time that I’m at. I just can’t do anything better. Having Baz here, it helped because for me, mentally knowing that it wasn’t just me, this is just a difficult track for us. The bike feels great, but I just can’t go any faster on it. It’s weird because I feel like I’m going really good, but then those guys are going quicker. So, I’ve just got to keep plugging away here and keep trying to get better, but just know that there’s better days ahead. We got Road America coming up next. It’s a hard pill to swallow, knowing that this is a three-race round. But the most important thing to me, as much as I love the guy, is to beat Baz. So, it was good motivation. I had a good battle with Sean at the end. It was just a really fun race. Huge thanks to my team for just the nonstop effort, trying to get it better. I don’t know if it’s something that we need to improve on the bike or if it’s just me not being comfortable. Historically, this is a good track for me, so it’s hard to understand. But, if you would have asked me yesterday or this morning, if I’d be happy with third, I’d be stoked. Especially after Atlanta. We had arguably the best race of my career, but it just didn’t look like it on paper. But catching those guys as much as I did and feeling as good as I did on the bike, I’ve got a really good head on my shoulders mentally going into the next couple of rounds. I’m happy and just hoping that tomorrow is better or maybe it rains, and then, maybe it helps us out. I don’t know.”

Superbike Race One

  1. Cameron Petersen (Yamaha)
  2. Jake Gagne (Yamaha)
  3. Josh Herrin (Ducati)
  4. Sean Dylan Kelly (BMW)
  5. Loris Baz (Ducati)
  6. Xavi Forés (Suzuki)
  7. JD Beach (BMW)
  8. Hayden Gillim (Honda)
  9. Bobby Fong (Yamaha)
  10. Brandon Paasch (Suzuki)
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