Going into the 2022 MotoAmerica Medallia Superbike Championship, not many would have placed money on Fresh N Lean Progressive Yamaha Racing’s Jake Gagne not winning until the fourth race of the season. But that’s how it played out with the defending MotoAmerica Superbike Champion finally notching his first victory of the 2022 season on Sunday at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
Thus far in 2020, Gagne’s record looks like this: DNF (mechanical), third, DNF (crash), victory. Gagne’s start to his title defense was dismal: Saturday’s crash, combined with Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati NYC rider Danilo Petrucci’s third-straight win, left Gagne 59 points behind the Italian.
But Gagne is Gagne and the ever-eternal positivity never wavered. Today he came out and did what he needed to do. He dominated from start to finish, despite two red flags (one for Jeremy Coffey’s crash on the opening lap and again when the TV truck lost power, forcing the race to be stopped) and ended up winning by 14.028 seconds over his teammate Cameron Petersen, the South African also bouncing back from a Saturday crash to bring smiles back to the Yamaha camp.
To make things even better for Gagne, the two riders at the top of the point standings both failed to finish. Petrucci’s Ducati Panigale V4 R blew up on the opening lap of the second restart and Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz crashed, remounted, pitted, and finally gave up on the 11th lap.
So, with his first win of the year and the 18th of his MotoAmerica Superbike career, Gagne now finds himself 34 points behind Petrucci and 26 behind Scholtz with the VIRginia International Raceway round a month away.
Third place today went to Tytlers Cycle Racing’s Kyle Wyman, who was riding the team’s BMW M 1000 RR as a replacement rider for PJ Jacobsen. Jacobsen failed a COVID-19 test on Thursday and Wyman, who was at Road Atlanta to ride his factory Harley-Davidson in the Mission King Of The Baggers race, was called on to replace his fellow New Yorker. He said yes and a few days later he had given the team its first-ever MotoAmerica Medallia Superbike podium.
Wyman’s teammate for the weekend Hector Barbera was fourth and Vision Wheel M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Richie Escalante fifth with those three fighting it out for the final podium spot for the duration of the race.
Tytlers Cycle/RideHVMC Racing’s Corey Alexander came out on top of a battle with Aftercare Hayes Scheibe Racing’s Ashton Yates, and the two were separated by half a second at the finish. Alexander’s teammate Travis Wyman ended up eighth with ADR Motorsports’ David Anthony ninth and Vision Wheel/Discount Tire/KWS’s Geoff May rounding out the top 10 finishers.
After two rounds and four races, Petrucci leads Scholtz by 15 points, 75-60. Petersen is third with 49 points, three better than Barbera’s 46. Escalante is fifth with 42 points, and Gagne is a point behind him and 34 points behind Petrucci.
Jake Gagne – Winner
(When asked if panic was setting in) No. Quite the opposite. Especially after yesterday, we got a good start. I felt really good and really smooth running that pace, but just a little mistake, a surprising mistake. I was down before I even knew it. So, we went back. Like Cam (Petersen) said, the goal was we need to bring this bike home, no matter what. But at the same time, I knew even that pace we were at yesterday was comfortable for me. I just had to avoid a little brain fart like that. But I got off to really great starts today, really, really good. That was good. Felt kind of like last year. To me, I’m comfortable. Like Cam said, I feel good right out of the gate, so I want to try to push the pace right away and at least thin the herd if possible, and whoever wants to come with, come with. I knew there was drama. We even saw the Ducati, (Danilo) Petrucci smoking a little bit on the sighting lap. So, that was in my mind. Like, I wonder if that thing is going to finish? It’s been a rough year, man. A really rough year so far. I know we’re only four races in, but it’s been a rough year. I feel like luck kind of got on our side today. I was able to get a win, and not only just get a win but kind of get some points with those guys DNF’ing today, which was unfortunate for them. But that’s racing. We’ve still got 16 races to go in this championship. There’s a long way to go.”
Cameron Petersen – Second
I tried in the beginning, especially in the first start before the red flag. Danilo (Petrucci) came past me. I kind of latched onto him for a lap. I felt like I could run the pace and then after the red flag came out, Jake’s (Gagne) first lap is just on another level. It’s going to take me some time to figure that out. Once Matty (Scholtz) came past me, I think he kind of saw Jake riding away from me and kind of got a little bit desperate. He had some pace for sure. I was pretty late on the brakes into 10. He lunged up my inside and, unfortunately, I knew he was carrying so much speed going in there. I knew he was either going to run off or something was going to happen. We were both hot into there. So, once Matty crashed trying to pass me, I honestly just backed it off so much. I kind of got the gap up to about 10 or 11 seconds and I just started cruising around doing mid-25s, 26s the whole race. I knew it was super important to bring these bikes home for the team after the weekend we’ve had. It’s been a rough couple weekends. COTA wasn’t the greatest either. Honestly, at the end of the day, I’m not too happy with the way I rode, but I’ll take it. It’s a second. The team finished one and two. It’s not fun riding around all timid and scared the whole time. It was just one of those things. We’re going to go back to work, and I think Virginia is going to be a different story. Once I build up that confidence again, I think I’ll be good.
“Congrats to these two guys next to me. Honestly, it’s awesome seeing Kyle (Wyman) up here. That’s pretty badass for him to come here and beat his teammate, Hector, and get the first podium for the team. And to my boy JG (Gagne), this is where he belongs. Like I said, it’s been a tough few rounds, so to see him back up on the box in P1 is pretty cool, and to be there right next to him is even better. Massive shout-out to the whole Fresh N Lean, Progressive, Attack Yamaha team. I can’t thank them enough for all the work they’ve done. I’ve got a lot of work to do. Looking forward to the rest of the season.”
Kyle Wyman – Third
(When asked if he was surprised to finish third) “That’s an understatement. 14th on the grid. Got a wicked start. The launch control on the BMW is amazing. I think I passed two rows every time we started. We had two starts today. It’s been kind of a whirlwind. I had to work for that one. We definitely had some attrition in that race. That obviously plays into this podium result, but I definitely had to work for it, too. My teammate Hector (Barbera) and Richie (Escalante), were right there. I had to bridge a gap to those guys the first half of the race. They were a couple seconds up the road. I kind of sat there for a couple laps. Felt like I had pace to lead it. I don’t remember where I passed the guys, honestly. But I picked them off one lap and then the next lap. Pretty much held a .3 to .5 (second) gap the rest of the race. The bike was working way better today than yesterday. Scotty (Jensen) made some great changes for me. Peter, the electronics guy, is amazing. The bike is really good; it’s really fast. Feels great to get the team’s first podium. It’s a young team and this is a real boost for them.”