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Oct 7, 2013

AMA Pro Racing Recaps The Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Race At Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson: Steve Rapp (5) leads Hayden Schultz (59) and Ben Carlson (45) at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Photo by Brian J. Nelson/AMA Pro Racing.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (October 7, 2013) - Aerostar Global/Suburban Harley-Davison's Steve Rapp notched up the crowning achievement of his decorated GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing career at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, at last securing his long-sought first-career championship victory.

The 41-year-old veteran closed out the AMA Pro Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Series in style, locking up the $60,000 XR Showdown with one final masterful run to the checkered flag.

Despite needing just a mid-pack finish to secure the title and its associated $25,000 prize, the Californian instead demonstrated his season-long superiority once again. He broke free from pole at the green light and stormed to a lopsided victory unchallenged, his sixth of the season.

For Rapp, it marked the triumphant conclusion of a 15-year quest to earn a #1 plate -- a feat he came within one lap of achieving during his rookie AMA Pro season. Back in 1998, Rapp was leading the 750 Supersport Championship points and seemingly on his way to taking the title before he was cruelly robbed by a mechanical DNF on the last lap of the season finale.

Since that time Rapp continued to build his legacy, racking up double-digit victories -- including a DAYTONA 200 win -- while finishing in the championship top five on seven occasions across five classes (750 Supersport/Superstock, Supersport, Formula Xtreme, AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike, and AMA Pro Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Series), including twice more as runner-up.

Rapp came excruciatingly close to retiring from racing without a title in order to focus on his new full-time profession as a commercial airline pilot before being convinced to give it another attempt by the Aerostar Global/Suburban Harley-Davison outfit prior to the 2013 season.

The end result is history.

"It's just a dream," Rapp said. "I didn't even think I'd be able to race with some new things in my life with work and what not. Thanks to the guys from Suburban Motors, they took me in and gave me an awesome bike and team... It's a culmination of 15 years of a lot of hard work and a lot of trials and tribulations and lot of things that go along with it. It's just great to finally do and do it here at home in front of a lot of friends and family."

And just as Rapp's breakaway victory at Laguna Seca was indicative of the '13 campaign, the fight behind him for second was also a reflection of the season as a whole.

A tremendous battle was waged at Laguna Seca to determine both second on track and in the championship standings.

Eco Fuel Saver/Scrubblade's Tyler O'Hara was the only XR Showdown competitor other than Rapp to claim a race win during the season. However, he entered the finale ranked third in the points and found himself saddled with an immediate disadvantage.

O'Hara's primary machine blew its motor on the warm-up lap. O'Hara hopped on the back of teammate Josh Chisum's XR1200 and got a lift back down to pitlane, where he swapped to his backup machine. However, the Californian was required to start from the back of the field as a result rather than from slot he earned alongside Rapp on the front row during qualifying.

Once underway, a very motivated O'Hara scythed through the field, slicing up to eighth on the first lap. He continued to blast past his opposition, finally taking over the runner-up spot with a remarkable three-rider pass entering the famed Corkscrew on lap 4 of 10.

Once in second, O'Hara defended the position, ultimately holding off Rapp's Suburban Harley-Davidson teammate, Ben Carlson, and 16-year-old rising star Hayden Schultz on the Kyle Wyman Racing machine.

After the race, O'Hara said, "I was pretty irritated in the beginning because I had to start at the back. It just kind of got me fired up and I was seeing red. It kind of took the best out of me and made me ride probably a little over my head at times, but I made it stick.

"Hats off to Steve -- he really kicked our (butts). I learned a lot and hopefully I'll get to race him again."

Final podium finisher Carlson said, "I got a good start; I think I was second or third off the start -- and I just hustled. I've had some races where I wasn't aggressive and we ended up getting fourth and just kind of came up short. So this race I was either going to go for it or not make it happen or maybe hit the ground -- I didn't really care at that point because I had been so close to the podium so many times.

"It was a great race. I stayed smooth and had fun riding with an extraordinary bunch of guys."

'12 champ Michael Barnes finished a close fifth on the Spyke's Harley-Davidson, while Folsom Harley-Davidson's Gage McAllister ran with that fleet pack contesting second early before fading to a solid sixth-place result.

Harv's Harley-Davidson's Travis Wyman came into Monterey as the championship runner-up, but his seventh-place finish in the series finale saw him surrender that honor to O'Hara in the final tally. Wyman finished out the season third, while Barnes ended up fourth in points, followed by Carlson in fifth.

Thrashed Bike Racing's David Estok, Ruthless Racing Inc.'s Darren James, and MOB Racing's Shane Narbonne completed the Laguna Seca race top ten.

Narbonne finished the season ranked sixth overall, followed by Estock. H&S Distributors' Nicholas Hansen, O'Hara's teammate Chisum, and Longevity Racing's Barrett Long rounded out the XR Showdown top ten.

Stay connected with GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing on social media at twitter.com/AMAProSBK and www.facebook.com/AMAProRoadRacing.

About GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing:
GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing is the premier motorcycle road racing series in North America and is universally regarded as one of the most competitive road racing organizations in the world. The 2013 schedule consists of nine rounds of competition on the country's finest road courses. The Series is comprised of four production-based classes: AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike, AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike, AMA Pro Motorcycle-Superstore.com SuperSport and the AMA Pro Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Series. Learn more about GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing at www.amaproracing.com/rr/.