DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Last weekend's GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing round at New Jersey Motorsports Park was an awesome finale weekend for the riders in the AMA Pro Motorcycle-Superstore.com SuperSport division. The class for up-and-coming talent and fast local riders wrapped up the year with a dual East/West combined doubleheader round, and the fast and furious action made for a befitting finale to a fantastic season that produced five different winners and plenty of unpredictable racing.
Hayden Gillim and Tomas Puerta each won races at New Jersey but it was Corey Alexander who took home the AMA Pro Motorcycle-Superstore.com SuperSport East championship on Sunday.
Alexander, the National Guard/Celtic Racing pilot from New York racing at what he called his "home track," came into the event with a slim lead over Team 95's Gillim after the season's hard-fought battles. Alexander was consistent and shined brightest at earlier in the season at Road America, where he doubled. Gillim had been building momentum as the season wore on to get back in the title fight and was the hot hand heading into the weekend. Motosport.com RSRacecraft's Stefano Mesa came into New Jersey third in points, still very much alive in the championship.
Joining the trio was recently crowned 2013 Motorcycle-Superstore.com SuperSport West and Overall Champion Tomas Puerta. Puerta locked up those titles after Round 6 at Miller Motorsports Park and was looking to pad his impressive season with another win or two for the RoadRace Factory/Red Bull Yamaha squad.
What fans got was a thrilling pair of races with ups and downs for all of the riders involved in the bid for glory in New Jersey.
Alexander won pole for the race and the bonus point expanded his lead in the standings to 10 temporarily. When the races began, it became clear that the only way for a rider to claim the East was to finish as high as possible in the four-rider pack for the win.
The first race shaped up as a back-and-forth affair. Gillim motored away to a four-second lead in the opening laps, but Alexander found his pace and started carving into the lead. He quickly ran down Gillim and made a pass in traffic, but Gillim returned the favor a short time later.
After a red flag stoppage, a six-lap shootout saw Gllim, Alexander, Puerta and Mesa form a pack and dice for the lead. Gillim managed a win over Alexander by just 0.07 of a second, with Puerta and Alexander right there behind him. With the win, Gillim had cut Alexander's points lead to four points.
"I had a pretty good pace and I was actually really surprised; I knew I had the pace to run with them but I didn't think I had the pace to really go at the beginning," said Gillim. "I was able to get a good start and put my head down and get a pretty good gap. I saw Corey was coming back and I was just waiting for him to go past. But once he got up to me I thought, 'okay, let's race -- this is what it's about.' And then the red flag came out and we went back at it. It was just back and forth, back and forth. I'm really glad I was able to get the win and close up a little bit on the championship."
Alexander said, "I didn't really get the start I wanted. I let Hayden get away a bit more than I would have wanted to for sure. I thought I was going to be in second place and ride that out for what it was, but then he started coming back and I thought maybe I'd have a shot at it. He came back a little faster than I was anticipating and then the red flag came out. I knew I had the pace to win it if I had the opportunity, but for some reason after the red flag I couldn't break him. He rode a great race and made it real hard for me. I thought maybe I could pull it out at the line there. I gave Hayden a little bit of room to try to get a run up on him but I gave him too much room so he got it."
Puerta's close third was his ninth podium of the year. "After the red flag I just tried to focus on my own race and tried for the win with two laps to go but these guys rode awesome," said Puerta. "On the last lap, they didn't give me any space to make a clean pass and I didn't want to be aggressive and maybe hit them or do something to interfere with their championship."
On Sunday, the race was another four-rider battle with jockeying for the lead throughout. Puerta was able to make a dash to the front and took the checkered flag for his third win of the year. Gillim, who had put a tough pass on Alexander, needed to win the race to take the title, but came up a tenth of a second short of his former teammate at the end.
Alexander had dropped behind Mesa, but was able to get past the other Colombian at the line to take third -- and the title -- by just 0.013 of a second.
"Today I really wanted to win the race," said Puerta. "I wanted to win my last SuperSport race and end on a high note. I want to say congratulations to both Corey and Hayden, they rode really hard. Hopefully we can see each other in the races next year."
Alexander won the points by a single tally, and winning the bonus point for most laps led on Sunday proved to be his margin. After receiving his Motorcycle-Superstore.com SuperSport East Division number one plate, Alexander said, "I think that's probably the hardest race I've ever ridden. Right off the bat I knew I was going to have to work for it. I put my head down but couldn't get down to the times I was able to do yesterday to try to gap these guys. I could feel the pace slowing down at the end so I knew I could be a little faster if I needed to, but my bike was spinning a lot and it was hot out there. I didn't know where I would end up and who was where, or anything for that matter. These guys rode a great race and that last lap was a little nerve-wracking. I led a little bit of it and Tomas led and I found myself in fourth place going into that last section. I was a little scared for a second -- I wasn't sure if Hayden was going to be able to draft by into first. Fortunately, he didn't. I really wanted that lap leader point, so every lap I made sure I crossed the line first."
Alexander's championship season saw him win two races and finish on the podium six times. The New Yorker was consistent in the East races and showed serious growth as a rider in 2013.
Gillim's valiant effort nearly won him the title but in the end he finished second in the points for the third year in a row. "Oh man -- I knew it was going to be like that," he said. "We were all riding so hard and just going after it. It's a bummer to lose the title but I'd rather go out like this than crashing or something else. One point... One point is all it took, but that's how it should be. I can't thank my team enough. I just think with a bigger team, instead of doing it out of my garage, I could win a championship. I think I'm ready to take a step up."
Mesa's weekend didn't end with a title, but the Colombian can take pride in fighting hard and being close in a tough race with his rivals.
Second place in the West was also up for grabs in New Jersey. Jeffrey Tigert (Baby Appleseen CM Motorsports) didn't have his best weekend in New Jersey, but was able to hold on over hard-charging Wyatt Farris (Jon Block Group/Meen Motorsports).
Mark Miller, Jr. (Mar Del Auto Wholesalers) had a good weekend, earning fifth and eighth to cap the season. Sebastiao Ferreira of BP Racing earned two sevenths and moved up to fourth in the final SuperSport West points, tied with Farris but losing out in the tie-breaker. EYK's Erick Sanchez also scored two top tens on the weekend.
Miles Thornton (CTR Racing) took a fifth place in New Jersey and earned fourth in the East standings.
Hackettstown, NJ's Alex Shaw scored two tenth-place finishes on a Mob Racing entry.
Also making appearances in the top ten were CJ Weaver (BP Racing) and Devon McDonough (Motorcycle-Superstore.com).
With a fantastic year in the books, the AMA Pro Motorcycle-Superstore.com SuperSport class once again proved to be great entertainment as well as a great series for rising stars to showcase their talent.
The 2013 GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing season will resume in less than two weeks' time as the series travels to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. for the ninth and final round on September 27-29. For tickets and additional information, please visit www.amaproracing.com/rr/.
Stay connected with GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing on social media at www.amaproracing.com/rr/. and www.amaproracing.com/rr/.
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/.