Joe Roberts has been hyped as the next big thing in American road racing and today at New Jersey Motorsports Park he took a big step toward making everyone believe that hype.
The 18-year-old Californian won his first-ever Supersport race in his third attempt in the class, the Wheels In Motion/Motosport.com/Meen Motorsports Yamaha rider completely dominating the race that was held in a rainstorm.
Roberts, who has been the man to beat in the class at NJMP this weekend in both wet and dry conditons, qualified on pole position this morning for the race in the dry and then threw down the gauntlet in the wet race. Roberts led by as much as 17 seconds before slowing in the closing laps to win by an eventual 6.3 seconds in what was his third Supersport race after wrapping up the Superstock 600 Championship at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in July.
"I love this track," Roberts said. "It's like one of my favorite places to come. It really suits my style - it's fast and flowy. I really wasn't looking forward to riding in the rain because riding here last year in these conditions it was definitely a little sketchy. I came into the race knowing how the track was going to be.
"It seems like every track I come to now I just do way better and have a better feeling with this bike. When I saw my pit board and saw 10 seconds (his lead) I was a little surprised to see that big of a gap.
"The last few laps I just started counting down the laps and wanted to just stay on the bike. The rain was coming down even heavier and it was getting even more sketchy. It was a great race and I can't wait for tomorrow. Hopefully, it's dry and we can have a great battle for the lead."
A popular second in the Supersport race went to Cameron Petersen on the Roadracing Factory Yamaha R6, the 20-year-old South African showing his rain-riding prowess to hold off Yamalube/Y.E.S./Graves Motorsports' JD Beach, the newly crowned 2014 MotoAmerica Supersport Champion.
Australian David Anthony was right in the battle for second and third, the M4 Suzuki/SportbikeTrackGear.com rider less than half a second from second place. Roberts' teammate Josh Herrin completed the top five to gain a few points on Garrett Gerloff in their battle for second in the series standings. Gerloff now has 234 points to Herrin's 230. Beach, with the championship wrapped up, has 297 points.
The KTM RC 390 Cup Championship was decided on Saturday at New Jersey Motorsports Park with Gage McAllister taking the title in the best way imaginable - by winning the race.
McAllister was in a battle for the duration, however, though that tussle ended up whittling down to two riders by the end of the race. At that point it was McAllister vs. New Jersey's own Anthony Mazziotto III, with the former drafting past the latter at the finish line to take the victory by just .079 of a second. With McAllister's injured rival Braeden Ortt only able to finish sixth, the title was his with just Sunday's race remaining in the series.
"Going into the race, I knew that all I really had to do was finish ahead of Braeden Ortt and keep myself up on two wheels," McAllister said. "So going in I really wasn't anticipating going for the win, but after the first lap I found myself in the lead and from that point on I just tried to make sure I stayed up front, and until the last couple of laps I seemed to be able to stay in the lead.
"I knew if I could get a good drive, and give myself just enough space that I could creep up on him and get a good drive on to the straightaway, I could draft by him. That was the plan and I made it work."
Although Cameron Beaubier has been the Superbike-class pace-setter in dry conditions this weekend at NJMP, dry turned to wet for Superpole and the Superbike Championship points leader suffered in the iffy conditions, allowing his Monster Energy/Graves Motorsports Yamaha teammate Josh Hayes to take pole position. It was Hayes' fourth pole of the season and the 37th of his Superbike career.
It also gives the four-time Superbike Champion the upper hand going into Sunday's two races, though dry weather is expected for those. Hayes will be joined on the front row by Yoshimura Suzuki's Roger Hayden and Roadrace Factory's Jake Gagne, with Gagne riding his Superstock 1000 class Yamaha R1 to his second front-row start of the season.
Beaubier, meanwhile, will lead the second row of the grid where he will be joined by TOBC Racing's Taylor Knapp and Westby Racing's Josh Day. Row three will consist of GN Gonzales Racing's Shane Narbonne, GEICO Suzuki's Chris Ulrich and Aprilia HSBK Racing's Sheridan Morais.
Hayes goes into Sunday's two Superbike races trailing teammate Beaubier by 18 points in his quest for a fifth Superbike title.
"It could work in my favor (if it was raining tomorrow)," Hayes said. "I can imagine what Cam's (Beaubier) nerves would feel like if it started raining right before the race. It probably wouldn't do him any good. There's such small room for error and mistakes in a race like that. But, you know what, I don't really care how the race goes down. I want to win it and put in a good performance either way. We're going to keep plugging away and try to improve our dry settings.
"It's been a good racetrack for me, but I'm having a hard time so far this year (at NJMP) and we'll just see what we can come up with. I've been in a race here where I felt like the fastest guy and found myself with three laps to go in sixth or seventh place in a really tight race. A lot can happen and Cam is going to have his hands full starting from the second row and he hasn't been getting the best starts this year."
The Bazzaz Superstock 600 final was also held in iffy conditions and no one mastered them better than HB Racing's Michael Gilbert, the Yamaha R6-mounted rider earning his first victory of the year and the first of his pro career. Second place went to Ryan Jones, the 34-year-old having the best outing of his career on his Push Brewing Kawasaki after qualifying 15th when his ZX-6R was found to be underweight in qualifying. Jones was 1.8 seconds behind Gilbert at the finish.
"I was hoping it was going to rain because I knew the rain was really going to help me," Gilbert said. "You just have to ride smooth and consistent and that's what we did - lap after lap. We practice this a million times wherever - on the dirt track - so you keep riding smooth and put your laps together and bring it home."
Third place went to podium first-timer Nick McFadden, the R6-mounted privateer from Owensboro, Kentucky, having the best day of his pro career. McFadden ran second to early leader Richie Escalante before giving way to Gilbert and ultimately Jones.
With Joe Roberts having already secured second in the championship with his 245 points, Escalante holds on to second despite finishing 14th with an overheating motorcycle. He sits 23 points ahead of Travis Wyman, who crashed out of the race on the first lap.
Day two of racing action in the MotoAmerica Championship of New Jersey gets started Sunday with the second KTM RC 390 Cup race at 11:30 a.m. Practice sessions for all classes start prior to that with the Superstock 600 warm-up session starting at 8:30 a.m. The Dunlop Fan Walk will take place at 10:15 a.m.
SUPERBIKE QUALIFYING: 1. Josh Hayes (Yamaha) 1:39.440; 2. Roger Hayden (Suzuki) 1:39.898; 3. Jake Gagne (Yamaha) 1:39.925; 4. Cameron Beaubier (Yamaha) 1:40.143; 5. Taylor Knapp (Yamaha) 1:40.394; 6. Josh Day (Yamaha); 1:40.536; 7. Shane Narbonne (Yamaha) 1:41.030; 8. Chris Ulrich (Suzuki) 1:41.840; 9. Sheridan Morais (Aprilia) 1:42.354; 10. Mark Heckles (Yamaha) 1:42.441.
SUPERSPORT RACE 1:
1. Joe Roberts (Yamaha);
2. Cameron Petersen (Yamaha);
3. JD Beach (Yamaha);
4. David Anthony (Suzuki);
5. Josh Herrin (Yamaha);
6. Garrett Gerloff (Yamaha);
7. Hayden Gillim (MV Agusta);
8. Bobby Fong (Triumph);
9. Benny Solis Jr. (Honda);
10. Kaleb De Keyrel (Yamaha).
BAZZAZ SUPERSTOCK 600 RACE 1:
1. Michael Gilbert (Yamaha);
2. Ryan Jones (Kawasaki);
3. Nick McFadden (Yamaha);
4. Jayson Uribe (Yamaha);
5. Cody Wyman (Yamaha);
6. Andy DiBrino (Yamaha);
7. Conner Blevins (Kawasaki);
8. Chad Lewin (Yamaha);
9. Curtis Murray (Suzuki);
10. Caroline Olsen (Suzuki).
KTM RC 390 CUP RACE 1:
1. Gage McAllister;
2. Anthony Mazziotto III;
3. Justin McWilliams;
4. Benjamin Smith;
5. Brandon Paasch;
6. Braeden Ortt;
7. Brandon Altmeyer;
8. Eziah Davis;
9. Alejandro Gutierrez Mejia;
10. Mason De Keyrel.
Top Image: Joe Roberts took his first-career MotoAmerica Supersport victory on Saturday at New Jersey Motorsports Park in a driving rainstorm.
Credit: Brian J. Nelson.