There are close finishes. And then there are close finishes. On Saturday at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, Cory Alexander and his good friend Michael Gilbert almost finished in a dead tie for victory in the Yuasa Stock 1000 class. After the result was decided by photo finish, the margin of victory was a miniscule .001 of a second with the decision going to Tytlers Racing/RideHVMC Racing’s Alexander over Cycle World/Octane/Chuckwalla Raceway’s Gilbert.
And that was just one of the five races held at Road Atlanta on Saturday as the MotoAmerica Championship kicked off in earnest with all classes featured and all producing good racing. How’s this for good racing? The average margin of victory for the five races was just 1.07 seconds.
Yuasa Stock 1000 – Alexander, Barely
Saturday’s feature races got off to a rousing start with Corey Alexander winning from the pole in the weekend’s only Yuasa Stock 1000 race, but it certainly wasn’t easy. The Tytlers Cycle/RideHVMC Racing Kawasaki rider had his hands full from start to finish, first with veteran rider Geoff May, who crashed out, and then with Cycle World/Octane/Chuckwalla Racing’s Michael Gilbert. Alexander and Gilbert battled it out, particularly in the closing laps, and the pace increased, which made the final lap a barn burner. Looking for a way around Alexander and into the lead, Gilbert made a brave inside pass in the final turn and almost held on to take the checkers. Instead, Alexander prevailed in a photo finish and took the victory by .001 of a second.
“The pace, for sure, went up quite a bit,” Alexander said. “The track temp was high, and the track was a little bit greasy. We had tried a couple things going into the race trying to go faster than we did in qualifying. But, grip-wise, I was struggling. I was over-riding, honestly. The lines were a lot harder than they were this morning. I saw plus zero, plus zero, plus zero. Mikey never drafted me. I kind of knew that we probably had a pretty good bike on the back straightaway. So, basically, I got to a point like, I might as well see what he’s got. So, I let him by and kind of followed him for a lap just to see what was going on, where I was better, where he was better. Ultimately, on the the back straightaway, I just had to go around him, otherwise I would have hit him. I knew I could probably drop back down to point six if I had clear track, and I was trying to, but the lap traffic and the track was so one-lined. Just got into lapped traffic, and a couple sketchy little things happened. I think being able to push that lap to the end, if I didn’t break away at the end my plan was to try to break away with four laps to go or so. Either way, super, super happy. Every time I get on the podium, I’ve got to thank so many people, and I always forget. So, thanks to all my team. All the guys that are supporting us. I was lying in bed thinking, ‘I don’t know if I can keep racing.’ So, to be back up here is really exciting.”
Supersport – Herrin’s Home Win
Former Georgia resident Josh Herrin had the best kind of reunion with the Peach State on Saturday at Road Atlanta. The Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati NYC rider, who returned to the Supersport class after several years racing in Superbike, got his first win in the middleweight class since 2015. The polesitter got the holeshot in the 18-lap race and led from start to finish to notch the world’s first professional road racing win for the Panigale V2. Meanwhile, Vision Wheel M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Sam Lochoff, who is the first professional road racer to compete aboard the GSX-R750 under the FIM’s and MotoAmerica’s “Supersport Next Generation” rules, finished second. North East Cycle Outlet Racing Benjamin Smith completed the podium in third.
“It’s been 17 years now that I’ve been racing,” said Herrin. “So, after a while, no matter what anybody says or does, it turns into a job unless you really try to have fun. Not even try, unless there’s things around you that make you have fun. I wanted to race Supersport, but I didn’t know if there were any rides available. Bobby (Shek, team owner) said that they were going to be racing the V2 this year. I didn’t even ask any questions. I just said, ‘Yeah, I’ll take it. I just want to do it.’ I’m stoked that I did it. Like you said, the team’s first win on this bike. I’m super-happy about that. The team is happy. They’ve been putting in a lot of work. There’s so much that goes into that program. It’s unbelievable. It feels really good to get a win for them. I’m having a lot of fun. I’m happy to be here. I’m looking forward to the race tomorrow. I feel like, fitness-wise, I’m feeling really well. The race was shortened today, so that’s what I was counting on, feeling good at the end of the race, just because coming down from the Superbike, it’s a lot harder bike to ride. I feel like that’s something I have in my back pocket. I hope tomorrow we have a full race, and it plays out the way I hope it does. Big shout-out to the HSBK Warhorse Racing team and everybody who supports us. Thank you to all my crew. We put a lot of work in. I’m really happy to be up here. We go home tonight and celebrate.”
SportbikeTrackGear.com Junior Cup – Wyman!
In Saturday’s SportbikeTrackGear.com Junior Cup race one, Belgian rider Levi Badie, who is a rookie in the class, started on the pole in his very first MotoAmerica race. The BARTCON Racing rider didn’t get off to a good start and had to settle into third on the opening lap. Max Van got the holeshot and was in the lead, but Badie overtook him on the first lap, but then he crashed out on lap two. After that, the battle was on for who was going to take the win. The lead swapped hands several times during the 11-lap event, and Alpha Omega Kawasaki rider Cody Wyman emerged victorious, notching his second Junior Cup win in as many years. SportbikeTrackGear.com rider Van finished, while his teammate Joseph LiMandri Jr. rounded out the podium.
“I saw (brother) Kyle run across pit lane and give me a big gap (motioning with his hands),” said the youngest of the three Wyman brothers. “So, I knew I could try to put my head down and try to get away. I broke my hip in a couple spots and sustained a small fracture in my arm last August. Didn’t walk for 10 weeks. So, really, working this off-season to build this program to get strength back in my core. Really couldn’t ask for anything better to start for Saturday for round one.”
Roland Sands Design Super Hooligans – West Over DiBrino
Saddlemen/Lloyd’z Garage’s Cory West turned the tables on JLC Concrete/KTM/DiBrino Racing’s Andy DiBrino on Saturday at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta with the Indian-mounted West besting DiBrino after the KTM-mounted Oregonian had come out on top of a similar battle at Daytona.
Third place went to Roland Sands Design’s Tyler O’Hara, who was forced to start from the back row, with the Californian topping his Ulsterman Jeremy McWilliams.
“Yeah, it was a killer battle,” West said. “I got a good start. Andy (DiBrino) was showing me what he had for the first time. So, I kind of went to school on him there for a little while and got to see where the KTM was strong. There’s definitely some places that I get around this place pretty well. I’ve been running up front around this racetrack for years and years. So, I knew if I could just hang with him there it was going to be a good battle to the end. Luckily, that Indian FTR 1200 has got some legs on it. The Lloyd’s Garage guys build a hell of a tune. The thing was running really good down the back straight. Had to stop that heavy beast down into 10A a couple times. Andy definitely had some brakes on me there. It all worked out pretty good there at the end. I squared him up coming out of 10B and got a good run down into the last corner there with two to go. Put my head down, charged through the first segment, gave him a good, long lookback coming down the back straightaway to see what kind of gap I made the first segment, and it was not too shabby. So, I figured if I could do that one more time, I might be able to hold him off to the braking zone down in 10A. The plan worked out. We caught a couple little lappers there right in the last couple corners. Luckily, there was no drama there. Brought home the win for the team. Just super stoked. I’ve been finishing second for years and years, and it’s just nice to finally win one. Big shout out to Saddleman, Lloyd’s Garage in Charlotte, Mission foods for helping out the program so much, and Motul. Those guys are awesome.”