Gillim, Dominguez tighten up SuperSport title chase at Barber Motorsports Park
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - For most of the AMA Pro SuperSport field, the Barber Motorsports Park rounds of the series were about catching points leader Corey Alexander. The New Yorker had won three out of four races to kick off the year. The one race in which he didn't put his Celtic/HVMC Racing Suzuki on the top spot of the podium, he took second to TOBC Racing's Hayden Gillim.
Even a shoulder injury requiring surgery didn't slow Alexander down much. Last year's East champion dominated the first two rounds of the series and looked to be a cut above the competition.
In Alabama, however, some of his rivals returned the favor. Gillim and Houston Superbikes' Dustin Dominguez earned wins in Birmingham while Alexander struggled.
Gillim's one-two weekend put him in a tie with Alexander leaving Alabama and Dominguez is third after reversing GIllim's results. He is 12 points back with four races to go.
All of the weekend's races can be viewed in their entirety on AMA Pro's YouTube channel. Photos from Saturday's on-track action can be seen here and pictures of Sunday's race can be seen here.
Dominguez and Gillim have a solid history in the class, so followers of AMA Pro SuperSport had to figure these two would be able to turn the tables on Alexander at some point in 2014. After all, this duo was responsible for 11 class wins before the stop at Barber.
Gillim had a tough season opener at Daytona but had been gathering steam since then. In Race 2 in Wisconsin, he finally got a win but it took what he called a "miracle" to pass Alexander at the line for it.
The Kentuckian came into Barber motivated to perform in the heat and in the new two-day format. Gillim got a great start in Race 1 and moved away to take a quick lead. He worked clean laps while the group behind him struggled to break the 1:30 mark with their times.
Like he had done before at other races in Utah and New Orleans in previous years, Gillim was able to get away and run clean laps to earn a win.
"I got a great start from second on the grid and led into turn one," said Gillim. "From there I put my head down and focused on staying consistent and making little to no mistakes. The first time around track I had already opened up a second gap over second place and it only got bigger. There isn't much to say about Race 1, other than the fact that the bike and I were feeling it. I ended up taking a comfortable victory."
Dominguez was riding out a string of tough luck in 2014. He had shown speed and had been eighth or better each time out, but the Texan always seemed to be facing something that kept him from victory. In Wisconsin, he had to charge up from last after a red flag to earn eighth.
Dominguez was ready as the weekend began and won pole for the race. Saturday's contest saw him 5.987 seconds behind Gillim.
Dominguez wasn't able to take advantage of his pole and got away third. It took him two laps to move past Alexander, and by that time, Gillim had a three second lead - one that turned out to be insurmountable after the abuse Dominguez's tire took early on.
Kaleb De Keyrel caught Dominguez and passed him, but the more experienced pilot grabbed second back on the last lap with a snazzy move at the end of the back straight.
On Sunday, Dominguez, Gillim and De Keyrel jockeyed for position through the first part of the race. On lap four, they crossed the line three-wide. Dominguez looked the strongest, though, and by the time the trio hit lapped traffic, he had pulled away by a slight margin. He won the race by 1.178 seconds.
"I can't thank the team and the sponsors enough for giving me a bike that could win," said Dominguez. "It's the first time I nailed the start all year and that's what I needed. I do a lot of club racing and endurance racing so I knew I had to get around (the lapped riders) to get a little gap."
Barber marked Kaleb De Keyrel's arrival at the front. The 17-year-old De Keyrel Racing pilot had done well in his first calendar year on the tour, but at Barber he was able to race extensively with Alexander, Dominguez and Gillim. The valuable learning experience was as notable as the accolades that come from a double podium.
"I was thinking if I could get with the front group that broke away I could stay there," said De Keyrel, confident after his performances. "This team is a real family effort. Two thirds is really good going into Laguna where I will race DSB."
Alexander crashed in Charlotte's Web on Saturday while duking it out with De Keyrel, but re-mounted and finished 13th. He took fourth on Sunday to remain tied atop the points. In the end, the twisty nature of Barber Motorsports Park was tougher on his injured shoulder than the expanses of Road America.
"This weekend definitely didn't go as planned," said Alexander. "We made the most out of some bad luck, and the Celtic/HVMC Suzuki team worked so hard to make the bike better, but I couldn't get the job done. Unfortunately we lost our lead in the championship and it's all tied up but I'm confident we can get back to the front and do what we have to do as a team to take home this championship."
Miles Thornton bounced back strong in Alabama. The D&D Cycles Triumph pilot earned fourth and seventh in the race and is now back in the top ten in points.
Fourth place points man Wyatt Farris struggled to get up to pace during the trip to Alabama, but took solid finishes of seventh and 12th.
"For one reason or another, I struggled a great deal this weekend," said the Californian. "The entire Celtic/HVMC Suzuki crew worked their butts off for me, and we were making steps in the right direction. I made a mistake in Sunday's race that allowed five or six riders to get by me with just a handful of laps to go. I'm happy to get this weekend behind me, it's time to turn our focus to Ohio and get back to where we belong at the front."
TOBC Racing's Curtis Murray had a good weekend. The North Carolinian earned the top five for the first time and backed it up with eighth.
Mexico's Richie Escalante of Escalante Racing returned to action in Alabama. The weekend saw him earn sixth and ninth.
Tuned Industries' Jason Aguilar couldn't repeat his podium performance of Road America but he did earn two tenth place results.
Fighting through the heat and the 41-rider grid was a tough challenge, and earning a top ten result was a strong accomplishment. House of Paint Designs pilot J.C. Camacho, Erick Sanchez of EYK Racing, Yamaha-mounted Andre Ochs and Med Age's Tim Hunt all managed to add top tens to their credit.
With no SuperSport action at Laguna Seca, the season has shaped up for an exciting championship run beginning at Mid-Ohio next month. Alexander will certainly be looking to stem the momentum Gillim has built. Dominguez has made it a three-man battle and will no doubt be looking to put together a string of win to top them both.
The stars of AMA Pro Road Racing will share the spotlight with world-class company as the GEICO Motorcycle U.S. Round of the FIM Superbike World Championship at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is up next. The joint AMA Pro-FIM event will take place on July 11-13 in Monterey, California.
How to Watch
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About AMA Pro Road Racing:
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 series is comprised of four production-based classes: AMA Pro SuperBike, AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike, AMA Pro SuperSport and the AMA Pro Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Series. Learn more about AMA Pro Road Racing at www.amaproracing.com/rr/.