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MotoAmerica, Fantastic Fong Flies To Brainerd Steel Commander Superbike Victory

Bobby Fong Wins His First Superbike Race Of The Year In A Thriller at Brainerd International Raceway. Cameron Petersen led early before giving way to Fong.  

MotoAmerica:  Fantastic Fong Flies To Brainerd Steel Commander Superbike Victory

In what was easily the best MotoAmerica Steel Commander Superbike race of the season and one of the best in recent memory, three riders battled to the bitter end with Wrench Motorcycles’ Bobby Fong spending a lot of laps as the meat in the middle of the Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati sandwich of Josh Herrin and Loris Baz.
 
Fong, however, got the last laugh when Herrin made a mistake on the final lap that allowed Fong the space he needed to forge into the lead. It also kept Baz at bay since he wasn’t going to do anything that could jeopardize teammate Herrin’s race on the final lap.
 
The margin of victory? .419 of a second from Fong to Herrin and .619 from Fong to Baz.
 
The win was the fourth AMA Superbike victory of Fong’s career and his first since he won three races in 2020. It also propelled him to second in the 2024 Steel Commander Superbike Championship and established him as a serious title threat.
 
Attack Performance/Progressive/Yamaha Racing’s Cameron Petersen led the first seven laps at the start/finish line before Fong took over for two laps before giving way to Herrin. From there the top three – Herrin, Fong and Baz - pulled a gap from the Petersen and Sean Dylan Kelly battle when the top five hit traffic for the first time and Petersen and Kelly were badly baulked.
 
Herrin continued to lead until the final lap when he finally caved to the pressure being applied by Fong. Baz, meanwhile, wasn’t going to do anything silly and the three crossed the line as a trio.
 
EarlyHealthPlans.com/TopPro Racing’s Sean Dylan Kelly got the better of Petersen, who set the fastest lap of the race, in their battle for fourth, well clear of the fight for sixth.
 
That fight ultimately went to Vision Wheel M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Brandon Paasch by just .804 of a second over Tytlers Cycle Racing’s JD Beach.
 
Three-time and defending MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Jake Gagne finished eighth after yet another race-long struggle with arm-pump. The Attack Performance/Progressive/Yamaha Racing rider was some two seconds behind Beach and six seconds clear of Tytlers Cycle Racing’s Troy Herfoss, the three-time Australian Superbike Champion racing in the place of injured five-time champion Cameron Beaubier.
 
Thrashed Bike Racing’s Max Flinders rounded out the top 10 finishers.
 
Paasch’s teammate Xavi Forés pulled out of the race early with the pain from his Friday crash too much to handle.
 
Gagne continues to lead the championship point standings, but he now has Fong closing in as the pair are separated by just eight points, 121-113. Herrin jumps to third with 99 points with Kelly fourth on 96. Beaubier, who is hoping to return to action at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, falls to fifth, but only 27 points out of the lead. Baz (88), Beach (69), Paasch (54) and Gillim (45) round out the top 10 heading into tomorrow’s race two at BIR.

Josh Herrin (left), Bobby Fong (center) and Loris Baz (right) celebrate after the Superbike race on Saturday


 
Superbike Race One

 

Quotes
 
Bobby Fong – Winner
 
“I wanted to keep it clean, but I was holding some stuff back a little bit. You never know with this guy. He’ll make a move. If you make a move, he’s going to counter. He’s so good on the brakes. There were sections where I felt like I could easily make this, where they wouldn’t expect it. But I knew he was going to counter because he’s so good on the brakes. So, it’s hard to fight. It’s hard to plan. Especially if you have a group behind you. You see plus zero on your board. You’re like, ‘hell, if I make this move and mess up, I’m going to lose a podium here.’ So, you’ve got to put it smart. I knew he was going to be strong at the end. Like I said, he had his advantages. I had mine. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was going to do something clever but try to keep it clean. It’s always a fight. Me and this dude (Josh Herrin) have been duking it out on and off the track since 2014. It’s kind of been a love-hate relationship through our whole friendship, career. We hate each other one minute and then we’re okay the next minute. At the end of the day, it’s racing and it’s a small community. It’s tough to walk around these pits. The parts are so small to hate somebody and stuff like that. One of these days, we’re going to have to put on the gloves and see what’s up. I know he’s a wrestler, so he might get me on the ground. But it’s all love. We rode a good race and I expect another battle tomorrow.”
 

Josh Herrin – Second Place
 
“I was just trying to put my head down and just put in as good of a lap as I could. Definitely bummed that I made that mistake because I don't think he would have gone under me there, because I was pretty good on the brakes there the whole race. But I was expecting a move in five. Possibly he’d try five coming out of the left into the right. If he didn’t get it there, I thought he might try in the last corner, coming out of the second-to-last corner out of the left to go tight to the right. So, I was planning on guarding those two spots because I knew I had the power on him coming out and I’m using first and he’s using second. So, I knew I’d have the torque. Just made a mistake. He was pressuring me the whole race. I knew he had the pace all weekend, so I was already riding nervous in front just because I wasn’t feeling super confident about leading here. But it’s really good for us in the championship and it was a good race. I had a lot of fun. Super happy, like Loris (Baz) said, to get both Ducatis on the podium. That’s the first time in a really long time there’s been two Ducatis on the podium in Superbike. I don't know the last time, maybe early 2000s or something. So, I think that’s a really big deal. Like I said, I want a first, but I’m happy with this. Hats off to the entire team, especially KATO. They’ve been a supporter of us for a long time and I always forget to mention them on the podium. I want to thank them.”
 

Loris Baz – Third Place
 
“Yeah, we’ve been strong all weekend and I think that’s the first time of the season. I was strong in Barber, but I never felt comfortable on the bike. I never felt I had the chance to fight for a win or something. Here it’s really the first time I felt strong. The guys from the team back in Italy in Ducati from Warhorse, all the guys did a really good job improving the bike between the races. It’s the first time I come on the weekend with the bike I like in FP1. That makes all the difference because you can just focus on yourself, improve, building your confidence back. I was really confident going into the race. I had some battles in the early laps. When the grip was higher, Cam (Petersen) and SDK (Sean Dylan Kelly) were a bit faster and always coming back, but I managed at the end with old tires to pass them, come back on Bobby (Beaubier) and Josh. I was pretty confident to come back, but also not really sure where I could overtake. I was just strong in the change of direction. That’s where I got all the guys. But on the braking itself, we still need to improve a little bit my confidence on the bike to be able to overtake. I knew that before the race, but it’s super cool. I think it’s a good thing for the championship with both coming back. It’s the first double podium for the team. I’m just happy. I would have liked more, but I come from a really difficult beginning of season, so you need to build back the confidence as well when you’re riding. So, we’re just starting to feel a really good vibe in the team with the bike. There’s nothing I could have done to win in the last lap, so I don’t regret anything. Hats off to them. Josh (Hayes) could have got it, I think, but he was stressed going into the turn three closing the door. It was a nice battle and I hope we can put a nice show again tomorrow, so congrats to them and thanks for all the sponsors. I’m so happy and proud to be back racing again in the U.S.”

Photo courtesy MotoAmernica by Brian J. Nelson

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