It's hard to believe that it's been nine years since a 16-year-old Josh Herrin showed up at Miller Motorsports Park and landed on the podium in just his second-ever professional AMA road race.
Now, almost a decade later, Herrin comes to Utah trailing JD Beach by 10 points in their epic battle for the 2015 MotoAmerica Supersport Championship with the two races in Utah, June 26-28, certain to play an important role in the outcome of that series.
In between his Miller debut and first-ever podium finish in 2006 and this year's return to the popular venue on the outskirts of Salt Lake City, Herrin has met success and failure. Head-on. After three top-three finishes in the Daytona SportBike Championship (now Supersport) in 2009, 2010 and 2011, Herrin made the move up to the Superbike class in 2012 and finished fourth on his factory Yamaha R1.
The following year he went out and won the Superbike title after a season-long battle with his teammate at the time, four-time Superbike Champion Josh Hayes. And during that championship season one of Herrin's four Superbike wins came at, Miller Motorsports Park.
That Superbike title led Herrin to the World Championship in 2014 for what turned out to be a rather dismal Moto2 debut, a season of racing that the Georgian has since put in his rearview mirror. Now he's back in the U.S. and chasing the Supersport title on his Wheels In Motion/Motosport.com/Meen Yamaha R6 with vigor in the MotoAmerica AMA/FIM North American Road Racing Series.
"Miller is a special place for sure," said 25-year-old Herrin. "A lot of people have places, like Daytona, that are special places for them to go to. But, for me, going to Miller is special just because there was so much anticipation to go there.
"My first test with AMA was there, and my first podium was there, in my second race, and it just made it somewhere that I'm always excited to go to - even if it's just going there to watch my brother in a WERA race. It always ended up that my brother would have a WERA race one weekend and then the next weekend we'd have an AMA race, so we always spent a week in between there hanging out.
"It's a cool place for me. Getting my first podium there was really exciting and it was also the first place I got a heads-up win in Superbike without anybody making any mistakes or anything. It's always been a special place for me for sure."
The Supersport class is one of five MotoAmerica classes slated to compete on the 3.048-mile Miller Motorsports Park, along with the headline Superbike class, Superstock 1000 (which runs with Superbike, but is scored separately), Superstock 600 and the KTM RC 390 Cup. Races will be held on both Saturday and Sunday, June 27-28, with both Superbike/Superstock 1000 events to run on Sunday.
The last time the Superbike Series visited Miller, the two races were won by Herrin and Yoshimura Suzuki's Martin Cardenas, the Colombian who is no longer racing in the U.S. This year, the series comes to Utah with Monster Energy/Graves Motorsports Yamaha teammates Cameron Beaubier and Josh Hayes separated by just six points after five rounds and 10 races. Those two have split all 10 race wins in 2015, with five victories apiece.
Behind those two come the two factory Yoshimura Suzuki pilots - Superbike rookie Jake Lewis and veteran Roger Hayden. Hayden has clawed back boatloads of points since his two non-finishes in round two at Road Atlanta, the Kentuckian finishing second three times in the last six races (with two thirds and a fourth) to close to within eight points of his teammate Lewis. Lewis has five podiums in his debut Superbike season.
With the Superstock 1000s running on the track at the same time as the Superbikes, one of those Superstock riders has proven to be a thorn in the side of the Superbikes - Jake Gagne. The Roadrace factory Yamaha R1-mounted Californian has won eight Superstock 1000 races, including the last five. His win in race one at Barber Motorsports Park two weeks ago would have netted him third in the Superbike class. Impressive.
Gagne leads TOBC Racing's Taylor Knapp by 46 points coming into Miller's round six, the Michigander finishing on the podium in seven of the 10 races with his lone victory coming in race one at Virginia International Raceway. Brit Mark Heckles is now third in the series standings, the Liverpool man scoring points in each and every race thus far.
The aforementioned Supersport class ventures west with Beach leading Herrin by 10 with Beach's five race wins to Herrin's three. Beach's Yamalube/Y.E.S./Graves Motorsports teammate Garrett Gerloff is the other rider in the series to have tasted victory with his lone win coming at Road Atlanta. Gerloff is third in the title chase, 40 points behind teammate Beach.
Herrin's Wheels in Motion/Motosport.com/Meen Motorsports teammate Joe Roberts is the man with the hot hand in the Bazzaz Superstock 600 class, the just-turned 18 year old winning the last three races in a row to bring his win total to six in the eight races held thus far. Tizayuca, Mexico's Richie Escalante is now 20 points behind Roberts in the title chase with Travis Wyman a further 17 points adrift. Escalante and Wyman are the only other riders besides Roberts to win a Superstock 600 race in 2015.
Tuned Racing's Bryce Prince and Jason Aguilar got themselves noticed at the last round at Barber Motorsports Park with Prince getting second in race two with Prince third in race one - the pair earning their first podium finishes of the season.
The KTM RC 390 Cup is only two rounds (four races) into its five-round-long season, but Gage McAllister has thus far proven himself the man to beat. McAllister has three wins in four starts and leads Hayden Schultz in the title chase by 43 points, 91-48. The battle for second is a tight one with Schultz, Jody Barry and the only other rider to win a race besides McAllister, Anthony Mazziotto III separated by just three points. And young Canadian Braeden Ortt is just three more points behind in fifth.
All five classes will be streamed live and can be accessed through MotoAmerica Live.
The MotoAmerica Supersport class has been close all year with JD Beach (95), Josh Herrin (2) and Garrett Gerloff (31) battling for the title.
Brian J. Nelson.