The two protagonists in the 2015 MotoAmerica AMA/FIM North America Superbike Championship head to what is inarguably the most famous race place in the world this week tied on points in their battle for the title and ready to resume their fight on the big stage.
And the stage definitely doesn't get any bigger as the MotoAmerica Series brings three of its classes (Superbike/Superstock 1000 and Supersport) to the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway as part of the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix - round nine of the 18-round MotoGP World Championship. That's right back where MotoAmerica started from as it began its debut season with MotoGP at the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
The majority of the focus this weekend at Indy will be on the Monster Energy/Graves Motorsports Yamaha pairing of Josh Hayes and Cameron Beaubier, the duo arriving at the Brickyard with the exact same number of points - 286 - after seven rounds and 14 races in the 2015 season.
The Hayes/Beaubier twosome have been dominant in 2015. Case in point: Of the 14 MotoAmerica Superbike races held this season, the two factory Yamahas have won all 14. Though they came close to losing those bragging rights in the second of two races at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca when Yoshimura Suzuki's Roger Hayden came up just .084 of a second short of recording his first win of the season - a win that would have snapped the Yamaha streak.
The second-place finish at Laguna was Hayden's fourth runner-up finish of the season as he continues to try and win his first race of the year. In race one at Laguna, Hayden was third and that moved him ahead of his teammate Jake Lewis for third in the championship. With Hayden scoring even more points in race two, he now holds the spot with 208 points - 81 points shy of the two Yamaha men and eight points clear of fourth-placed Lewis.
This weekend will mark the first time that Superbikes have raced at the Brickyard and, oddly enough, it's not the 40-year-old Hayes who has the track experience at Indy. Instead it's his two younger rivals - Beaubier and Hayden. Beaubier raced in the 125cc Grand Prix (pre-Moto3) in 2009 and Hayden raced as a wild card in the Moto2 class in 2010.
In the Superstock 1000 class that runs with the Superbikes but is scored separately, Roadrace Factory's Jake Gagne continues to lead the points chase over TOBC Racing's Taylor Knapp, but that lead is just 20 points, 244-224. With his win in the second race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Gagne snapped a three-race streak in which he hadn't tasted victory. Prior to his non-finish in race one at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah in round six, Gagne had won five straight races. Even with his dry spell, Gagne has won nine of the 14 races coming into the Indy round.
Behind Gagne and Knapp comes Mark Heckles, the Brit winning his first race of the season in race one at Laguna. Heckles is a comfortable third in the series standings with a 45-point cushion over Tyler O'Hara. Westby Racing's Josh Day is fifth in the standings. Day has won three races thus far in 2015.
In addition to the Superbike/Superstock 1000 classes, MotoAmerica is bringing its premier 600c class to Indianapolis Motor Speedway - Supersport. And if Yamalube/Y.E.S./Graves Motorsports Yamaha's JD Beach wins what would be his seventh in a row and ninth overall, he will be crowned as the MotoAmerica Supersport Champion. Even if series runner-up Josh Herrin finishes second.
Wheels in Motion/Motosport.com/Meen Motorsports' Herrin is currently 49 points behind Beach and after the Indy round there will only be 50 points up for grabs in the series finale at New Jersey Motorsports Park (September 11-13). Herrin, meanwhile, has won three races this year and sits 17 points ahead of Beach's teammate Garrett Gerloff. M4 Suzuki/SportbikeTrackGear.com's David Anthony is fourth, 62 points behind Gerloff and nine points ahead of Roadrace Factory's Tomas Puerta.
While all eyes will be focused in on the championship battles in both Superbike and Supersport, there will also be a lot of interest at Indy in Joe Roberts, the 18-year-old Californian who wrapped up the Superstock 600 crown at Laguna Seca and now makes the move to the Supersport class as a wild card. Roberts will ride a Supersport-spec Yamaha R6 for his Wheels in Motion/Motosport.com/Meen Motorsports team and he's looking for big things.
"People keep coming up to me and calling me champ and everything so it's starting to set in," Roberts said of earning the Superstock 600 title. "I guess being a racer I'm just thinking, 'Cool I won this championship now I'll move on and win another.' I'm not really settling but it's cool. I'm digging winning the championship. It's something new for me and kinda cool.
"Now I don't have to worry about that championship. Now I just have to worry about beating Josh (Herrin) and JD (Beach) and Garrett (Gerloff)," Roberts added with a laugh. "This whole year I've been looking at it to see how close I'm getting to these guys (in lap times) so I can be competitive with them at Indy. I look at it as wanting to go out there and win. I think that's the goal. I'm a racer and we want to win every time we get on the track.
"But realistically I think if I can race with those guys that will impress a few people and show everybody that I put in a good season and I've been putting down a good pace. I think at Laguna I was only 1.4 seconds off Bobby Fong's (Supersport) pole time."
A moment of silence will be held prior to Sunday's Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix to honor Spanish road racers Bernat Martinez and Daniel Rivas. Martinez and Rivas tragically lost their lives in a racing accident at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on July 19.
Four-time AMA Superbike Champion Josh Hayes has 56 career AMA Superbike victories heading into the eighth round of the MotoAmerica AMA/FIM North American Road Racing Series at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, August 7-9.
With his six wins thus far in 2015, Cameron Beaubier now has nine career Superbike wins. That puts him in a tie for 17th on the all time list with Kevin Schwantz and Aaron Yates.
With this year's race marking the debut for the MotoAmerica series at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the majority of the riders have no experience at the Brickyard. The now defunct Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson class ran at Indy in 2011-2014 so some riders do have experience on the Indy road course. Tyler O'Hara and Chris Fillmore split wins in 2011; Kyle Wyman and O'Hara won in 2012; in 2013, the race wins went to Jeremy McWilliams and Hafizh Syahrin, neither of whom currently compete in MotoAmerica; last year's two races were won by McWilliams and Steve Rapp.
Some of the other MotoAmerica stars have track experience at Indy through MotoGP. Cameron Beaubier raced in the 125cc GP (pre-Moto3) at Indy in 2009; Roger Hayden raced a wild-card Moto2 entry in 2010; current Supersport rider Josh Herrin rode at Indy last year in his season of Moto2 racing.; Joe Roberts raced a Moriwaki at Indy back in 2010 as a 13 year old in the USGPRU race; and Jake Gagne won the Red Bull Rookies Cup race at Indy in 2008.
Hayes and Beaubier come to Indy tied atop the MotoAmerica Superbike point standings with 286 points. Hayes has won eight times this season with Beaubier winning six times. Both riders have crashed out of a race. Hayes' crash came in race two at Road Atlanta; Beaubier's race crash was in race one at Barber Motorsports Park.
Racing veteran Jake Zemke will race a Ducati in the two MotoAmerica Superbike races. Indy will mark Zemke's first race of the season and his first on a Ducati Panigale.
Roger Hayden will race a red and black Yoshimura Suzuki GSX-R1000 at Indy to commemorate the brand's 30-year anniversary of the GSX-R.
The MotoAmerica event at Indianapolis Motor Speedway will air on CBS Sports Network on Saturday, August 15 at 10:30 a.m. (Eastern)with a re-air on Wednesday, August 19 at 10 p.m. (Eastern).
All three classes at Indy will be streamed live and can be accessed through MotoAmerica Live
Top Image: Yoshimura Suzuki's Roger Hayden (95) comes to his home race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway searching for his first win of the season. He came close to winning at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca three weeks ago, splitting Yamaha teammates Cameron Beaubier (6) and Josh Hayes (1) in race two.
Credit: Brian J. Nelson.