By Michael Gougis
WERA officials said Monday that they are "handling" an incident involving contact between racers Benny Solis Jr. and Joey Pascarella during the C Superstock Expert race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Sunday, February 12.
Pascarella and Solis, who dueled hard at the opening WERA West round at Auto Club Speedway in January, once again found themselves at the front of the 600cc classes at Vegas.
In the C Superstock race, Solis put his Suzuki GSX-R600 on the inside of Pascarella's Yamaha YZF-R6 in the final tight right-hander leading out onto the start-finish straight of the 1.8-mile circuit. Pascarella immediately passed Solis back, but watched over his left shoulder as Solis went back by on the outside and took the lead back heading into Turn One.
Onboard footage shows that going into the second turn, Pascarella goes to the inside and then collides with Solis. The two go through Turn Two virtually leaning on each other, then make contact once more at the corner exit. Solis runs wide off the track, rejoins and finishes second; Pascarella managed to turn a flying sub-1:16-second lap on the final lap on his way to the win.
Afterward, a near-altercation ensued in the pits as Solis' father Ben Sr. approached race officials to complain about what had happened on the track and Pascarella's father yelled obscenities at Solis and challenged him to a fight, according to witnesses.
Reached by phone today, Joey Pascarella called the on-track contact "a racing incident" and said he knew nothing of what happened in the pits.
"We were just racing. I don't know what the big deal's all about," Pascarella said. "It wasn't like anyone was trying to hurt anyone. I did talk to WERA officials to tell them I was sorry for whatever happened. But we were just racing, that was all."
But Pascarella posted on Facebook, "Yeap (sic) had a great weekend at lvms. Broke the track recored (sic) for a 600 took care of buisness (sic) while being sick and showed some people not to mess with me. Haahaha."
Pascarella also posted on Facebook, in response to a post regarding what a video of the incident (seen below) shows, "Dose (sic) it show were (sic) benny (sic) completly (sic) moved over off the starts of both races?? Maybe there was a reason why he had somthing (sic) coming."
Reached by phone, Benny Solis said, "I think it was 100% intentional but I don't care because I don't think he's a professional racer. He ran me off the track because he didn't want to have to race me for the win."
In a reply to an e-mailed inquiry by Roadracing World, Sean Clarke of WERA wrote, "We are handling the situations that occurred on and off track, but have no comment other than that."
The video below shows the beginning of the C Superstock Expert WERA West race February 12, 2012, at Las Vegas Motor Speedway's Classic Course as recorded through the lens of an on-board camera on the RidersDiscount Vesrah Suzuki GSX-R600 ridden by Benny Solis Jr. (35). The other rider seen in the video is JonBlockGroup.com's Joey Pascarella.
More, from a press release issued by The Jon Block Group:
Pascarella Defies Sin City Odds with Double Wins in Las Vegas
February 12, 2012, Las Vegas, NV - After experiencing a high-speed crash Saturday afternoon during the WERA West MW Solo Expert race, Joey Pascarella knew it was time to take the bull-by-the-horns, regroup, and put together a winning strategy for Sunday's races"¦ the strategy paid off.
Starting from the pole position on his Jon Block Group / Addiction Motors / CT Racing-Pirelli-shod Yamaha YZF R6, Joey dominated the C Superbike Expert class with a 5.899 gap at the finish line. "After my off-track excursion during the Saturday Solo race, it was clear our bike would need considerable TLC to have it ready for Sunday. My body was beat up as well. Thank God we had a solid back up plan. Against all odds, our team, led by my dad, worked relentlessly overnight to get our bike back together. Sunday morning had me questioning my physical capabilities, due to injuries I sustained in Saturday's crash - my legs were very sore with little flexibility. However, after a few sessions of physical therapy and several practice laps, I was feeling much better. It worked! I really can't thank my team enough, they're amazing."
In the C Superstock Expert race, Joey had his sights on another win. He immediately governed the pace at the front and concluded the race with a blistering 1:15.938 on the final lap to take the win.
"Many thanks to my sponsors who make my racing program possible, including The Jon Block Group, Addiction Motors, CT Racing / Pirelli, Cortech, FMF, Shoei, Ken Hill Coaching, Mach 1 Motorsports, Yamaha School of Champions, Zero Gravity, GPR, CRG, Galfer, FBW, Spider Grips, BG Racing, Full Specturm Batteries."
More, from a statement issued by The Jon Block Group:
Thank you for your inquiry earlier today regarding the pit incident that occurred at the WERA West races yesterday in Las Vegas. Please note I was NOT in attendance, therefore I'm unable to provide first-hand specificity. I do want to comment that I am a fan of both riders. It's the talent these kids posses that keep us reaching into our sponsorship wallets.
I've spoken with several individuals who observed the discussion between Ben Solis, Sr. and Mike Pascarella. They stated they observed a lively discussion between Ben and Mike after Ben and 2 other gentlemen approached Mike complaining about Joey's racing strategy. It became emotionally charged once Ben started yelling profanities about Joey. This led to profanities voiced by Mike. Both individuals had a brief moment of shoulder butting/shoving before deciding to walk their separate ways. Apparently, Mike apologized to WERA later on and Ben lodged a formal complaint.
I believe much of this unfavorable "parent" behavior the WERA fans witnessed yesterday was caused by pent-up frustration from two parents that are very passionate about their sons' pathway to success. I personally observed the aggressive riding styles of both Benny and Joey during the opening round at Fontana. From a distance, I saw many moves that I would deem questionable, especially the one that caused Wyatt Farris and Austin DeHaven to go down. No finger pointing on my behalf - in an all out race situation, you are bound to have some very close maneuvers that result in off-track adventures. However, I don't believe any of them should result in near fisticuffs between anyone, let alone parents.
Moving forward, we plan to take additional steps to avoid any future invitation to engage in this type of unflattering behavior.
The Jon Block Group
A reader--and former racer--comments:
As I lifelong road racing fan I am shocked and dismayed after having watched a video of the interaction between Joey Pascarella and Benny Solis that occurred yesterday in Las Vegas at the WERA event. Our wonderful sport faces enough challenges during a difficult economic period without the thuggery displayed by Pascarella. It was nothing short of outrageous.
The motorcycle racing community and the powers that govern racing organizations CANNOT let this type of behavior continue. After recently losing a rider like Marco Simoncelli we were again reminded of the inherent dangers that exist on the track. To see Pascarella's deliberate attempt to cause a situation that could have had disastrous consequences is inexcusable.
Pacific Palisades, California