Jake Gagne turned in a very Cameron Beaubier-esque performance today in the first of two MotoAmerica HONOS Superbike races at VIRginia International Raceway, the Fresh N’ Lean Attack Performance Yamaha rider leading from start to finish to earn his second win of the season and his second in a row.
Gagne, who broke five-time MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Beaubier’s lap record earlier in the day during final qualifying, shot from pole position to the lead and was never headed, topping Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz by 11.8 seconds.
“Everybody likes to get a win every now and again - Gagne said - I’m just thankful for the Fresh N’ Lean Attack Performance team. Having a year under you on the same bike with the same team coming back the next year, I just feel really comfortable. I worked a lot in the off-season on my riding and my thought process when I’m out there. Like I said, hats off to my team because these guys work so hard. They were up late swapping another motor last night. It seemed like one thing after another, but to make it and pull it off here today is awesome. Obviously, I wanted to get off to a good start. I’ve been struggling with my starts and I think that was one of my better starts. I was surprised that I didn’t see Mat (Scholtz) or Loris (Baz) or Josh (Herrin) or somebody come up the inside. I just wanted to get out front and try to throw down consistent laps. I knew this would be a long, hard race on these tires. These Dunlops are holding up well for how hot it is out there. Hats off to the team. Hats off to all these boys again. We’ve got a Yamaha and a sweep for Yamaha, so that’s really nice. We’ll go back and try to work on a couple little things. Try to make the bike a little easier to ride. I know Mat, Josh, the Suzukis, probably the Ducati, they’re all going to be on it tomorrow. So, hats off to the team and hats off to the fans for being out here. Let’s see what we can do tomorrow.”
Scholtz didn’t win, but he was the next best thing and it kept him at the top of the points table with his 65 points leading Gagne and his 50 points. Josh Herrin, third today, is third in the title chase with 48 points.
"Obviously, after winning in the first race we were confident that we should be at least challenging Jake (Gagne) all the way through until the final lap - Scholtz said - I just kind of feel like we have more to gain, and Jake is definitely stronger than us now. So, we just need to try and figure a couple things out. I was able to kind of follow him for the first four or five laps and already figured out where we could recover a couple of tenths and where I was catching him slightly. So, it’s not like we were miles off. We just have to fix one or two things and we should be challenging Jake. Overall, I’m happy to finish second and carry on as the championship leader. Everyone keeps talking about being championship leader, but it’s way too early on to be thinking about that. It’s always nice to be the one that you don’t have to risk everything at every single corner, every single lap. You can settle for those seconds sometimes. I know Jake is definitely coming. I know Josh Herrin, Cameron Petersen, (Loris) Baz, all those guys are picking up their pace. So just going to go back to where we were losing time and try to focus on getting a stronger pace towards the end and not worrying about being in front every single corner. I want to say thank you to my team. They’ve been great. Like I said, we need to maybe try and challenge Jake and get in front of him the first couple laps. He’s setting a really crazy pace, so just try to get it up the inside of him.”
Third place for the third race in a row was Herrin on the second Fresh N’ Easy Attack Performance Yamaha – 15.478 seconds behind his teammate. Although he was third again, Herrin was happier with this one than the previous two at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
“It feels better because we had a scrap, and I could at least see Mat (Scholtz) in second - Herrin said - I’m happy with it, but for sure, no matter who you ask it’s difficult being that far back from Jake (Gagne). I don't want to be finishing third every race, but we’re collecting solid points. I feel like every session I’m on the bike, I’m improving. I was hoping for a better race today. I thought I would have been closer to the front, but I just didn’t have the pace at the beginning. I thought I had it and Bobby (Fong) kept coming underneath me and I just couldn’t keep fighting to get around him. I was just wasting time. So, I let him lead and then I couldn’t even hang onto him. I don't know what was going on, but I just couldn’t hang. Like I said, I’m happy with the points. I’m happy overall, but we need to improve. Like I said, we’re improving every session. We got a lot of data from this and tomorrow will be better, hopefully.”
The battle for third was a good one with Herrin, Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati New York’s Loris Baz and M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Cameron Petersen swapping the spot for the majority of the race. It came down to the final laps with Baz pushing Petersen wide in turn one and Herrin ultimately taking full advantage. The trio crossed the line in formation and with just .8 of a second separating Herrin from Petersen with Petersen just .006 of a second behind Baz.
Scheibe Racing BMW’s Hector Barbera continued to show progress, the Spaniard having his best result of the young season with a sixth-place finish. Barbera led Panera Bread Ducati’s Kyle Wyman across the line by some five seconds.
FLY Racing ADR Motorsports’ Jayson Uribe, Altus Motorsports’ Jake Lewis and Travis Wyman Racing’s Travis Wyman rounded out the top-10 finishers. Lewis, who earlier won the Stock 1000 race, earned full Superbike Cup points for his top finish among those riding Stock 1000-spec motorcycles.
M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Bobby Fong, meanwhile, was knocked out of third place early on with a mechanical issue but managed to salvage 12th (and four championship points) at the conclusion of the 20-lap race.