AMA Pro

AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike Heads to Barber Motorsports Park this weekend

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The fast-evolving 2013 AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike title fight picks back up this weekend as GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing travels to Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, for the Triumph SuperBike Classic presented by America's First Federal Credit Union.

Leading the way into Round 3 with 105 points on the strength of a victory and three runner-up finishes is Martin Cardenas (No. 36 Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing Suzuki GSX-R1000).

The reigning AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike king backed up his spectacular Daytona opener with what may have been an even more impressive showing at Road America; the Colombian demonstrated his ability to not just reap the rewards when defending triple champ Josh Hayes (No. 1 Monster Energy Graves Yamaha YZF-R1) has struggles, but challenge him outright.

Cardenas returns to the scene of his breakthrough first-career National Guard SuperBike victory this weekend, as he won in inclement conditions at Barber Motorsports Park as a class rookie in 2011. Martin has also starred at the circuit on the undercard, doubling BMP in both 2009 and 2010 in the GoPro Daytona SportBike class.

Meanwhile, Josh Herrin (No. 2 Monster Energy Graves Yamaha YZF-R1), the points leader coming out of the opener, should enter this weekend's showdown full of confidence despite somewhat of a mixed outing in Wisconsin.

Herrin enjoyed perhaps his best weekend as a rookie in Birmingham a year ago, pushing Hayes for the win deep in Saturday's Race 1 before accepting a runner-up finish. With an additional year's worth of National Guard SuperBike experience working in his favor, Herrin should pose an even bigger threat this weekend.

Speaking of Hayes, his disastrous Daytona double DNF set the stage for a tense, year-long championship battle, in which every race weekend takes on the sort of feel normally reserved for critical late-season meetings. Hayes ripped 14 points out of his early-season deficit with a perfect points haul at Road America and is now 34 points removed from the lead.

Another perfect performance (of which Hayes also took at BMP a year ago) would see Hayes reel that gap back in 13 points more at minimum this weekend. However, Herrin's pace at the track a year ago and Cardenas' emerging form and Barber track record suggest that another Hayes sweep is unlikely to come easily.

Furthermore, Hayes' twin wins in Alabama a year ago were actually his first in the premier class at the meticulously maintained venue. It would be overstating things to call the champ vulnerable this weekend but history does make a case for a more leveled playing field than usual.

Slotted in between Hayes and the leading duo of Cardenas and Herrin in the standings is Larry Pegram (No. 72 Pegram Racing Yamaha YZF-R1). The Ohioan backed up his Daytona double podium with a fourth and a sixth at Road America.

A number of riders who found themselves at a disadvantage at the horsepower-hungry Wisconsin track could be in line for some payback this weekend at Barber, which demands a well-balanced and sweet handling machine as opposed to prodigious top speed and acceleration.

In particular, the pilots of the EBR 1190RS and KTMRC8R racebikes could find themselves very much in the mix this weekend.

Geoff May (No. 99 Team Hero EBR 1190RS) was a factor at the track a year ago, qualifying second provisionally and then racing to a pair of four-place finishes. May has gone on record claiming that the 1190RS is the best handling bike in the field and he'll have a chance to prove that this weekend.

The same is true of his Eric Buell Racing teammate, Aaron Yates (No. 20 Team AMSOIL/Hero EBR 1190RS), who is something of a BMP legend. Yates earned the very first National Guard SuperBike race win at the track in 2003 and took three straight SuperStock wins in Alabama from 2006-2008. The undulating nature of the track is perfectly suited not just to the bike's strengths, but the big Georgian's physical riding style as well.

Chris Fillmore (No. 11 KTM/HMC Racing KTM RC8R) and his crew had Barber Motorsports Park circled on their calendar a year ago; however, a crash and subsequent broken hand on Friday forced him to miss both races. If anyone is seeking redemption this year, it's Fillmore.

Taylor Knapp (No. 44 KTM/HMC Racing KTM RC8R), Cory West (No. 13 Team RSRacecraft EBR 1190RS), and Dustin Dominguez (No. 68 Team RSRacecraft EBR 1190RS) are riders to keep an eye on as well for the aforementioned reasons.

Roger Hayden (No. 54 National Guard Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000) took a pair of top fives year at Barber Motorsports Park, but a repeat of his pair of fifths is unlikely to satisfy the Kentuckian this weekend, as he's looking to boost his performance and prove that he's a legitimate title threat.

Hayden has something of a love-hate relationship with the track. He earned his first-ever AMA Pro win at BMP in breath-taking fashion with a 0.030-second last-corner acing of older brother Tommy in the Supersport race in 2004. He also won there in Motorcycle-Superstore.com SuperSport in 2006 only to break his tibia and fibula in the subsequent National Guard SuperBike contest.

In 2008 Hayden was hit by another rider during Superbike qualifying at BMP, a vicious incident in which he broke his back and pelvis and lost his left pinky. In 2011, Hayden first flashed his ability to run up front in the premier-class, tracking down the leaders before crashing out of the race.

Hayden is currently sixth in the points, one spot behind new teammate Danny Eslick (No. 23 Jordan Suzuki GSX-R1000). Eslick has been steady if not overly flashy in his opening four races with the Michael Jordan Motorsports outfit as he's acclimated with the team and his racebike. Perhaps the Oklahoman's trademark spectacular style and front-running form will return in a full force this weekend at a track he won at in the GoPro Daytona SportBike class two years ago.

Chris Clark (No. 6 Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing Suzuki GSX-R1000) is in need of a bounce back weekend after a down weekend at Road America.

Meanwhile, Chris Ulrich (No. 18 M4 Broaster Chicken Racing Honda CBR1000RR) should be well poised for a strong outing after making significant gains aboard his developing CBR1000RR two weeks ago, and Australia's David Anthony (No. 25 Motosport.com Motul Fly Racing Suzuki GSX-R1000) can always be counted on to fight inside the top ten.

Top Image: AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike Heads to Barber Motorsports Park for GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing Round Three
Credit: AMA Pro Racing/Brian J. Nelson

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