BRASELTON, Georgia — Martin Cardenas (No. 36 Team M4 Suzuki GSX-R600) won his first major race in AMA Pro Road Racing competition at Road Atlanta Saturday after recovering from an accident and dislocated left shoulder in Friday's Superpole qualifying to give the established Team M4 Suzuki its first win in AMA Pro Daytona SportBike presented by AMSOIL competition.
Cardenas reported post race that he suffered no lingering pain from Friday's spill and proved it in the race. Forced to start 10th and last of the Superpole qualifiers, Cardenas was in sixth place by Lap 3 and cracked the top five on Lap 10. The quick Colombian then consecutively picked off a rider a lap until taking the lead on Lap 15, but he was under heavy pressure by the returning Roger Hayden (No. 95 Monster Energy Attack Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R).
"As soon as I got to the front, I broke up a little bit and I had a little bit of time, but I was looking back every lap and he was right there," said Cardenas about the youngest Hayden brother. "He was closing a little bit, especially on the back part of the track. I was feeling the pressure."
The pressure was short lived, however, as a red flag for dual incidents on track brought the race to an early close. Andres Londono (No. 204 Destiny Racing Yamaha YZF-R6) and Dylon Husband (No. 73 Team Pur Sang Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R) were each transferred to the Road Atlanta medical center where they were examined and released after separate incidents. Husband went off course at full racing speed at Turn 12 but the Air Fence placed at that high-impact location prevented a serious incident.
With the red flag displayed, Cardenas scored his maiden victory, Hayden finished second in his first start of the year and Danny Eslick (No. 9 Bruce Rossmeyer's Daytona Racing/RMR Buell 1125R) coupled a third place showing with his sweep of both Auto Club races last month.
"If the race wasn't stopped, I think the last lap would have been very interesting with passes and everything," Cardenas said. "The race was very tough, because I started from 10th and to pass here is very difficult. It worked out okay and the bike was working very good. I want to thank the team. The Suzuki was very good and M4, everybody, thank you very much."
Hayden made a strong return with Monster Energy Attack Kawasaki after sitting out the year's first two events and was competitive from the drop of the green flag. He started seventh but joined the top five by Lap 3 and was in contention the entire race. He passed race lap leader Jake Zemke (No. 1x Erion Racing Honda CBR600RR) for third on Lap 15, slipped by Eslick for second in Lap 16 and was closing on Cardenas when the red flag came out.
"I was a little bummed just because I was close enough," Hayden said. "I felt like, maybe my bike was a little faster than his, but I don't know. Nothing is guaranteed, but it was a good race for me, my first ride back. I'm pretty excited. That was a fun race. My guys worked really hard for me this weekend and really made me feel comfortable in my first week back. I'm excited."
Eslick led three laps and was on the podium for the third straight race. He passed Zemke on a Lap 10 restart after the race's only safety car period and the two riders swapped the lead several times before Cardenas took control.
"Before the pace car came out, Jake (Zemke) was gone," Eslick said. "I don't think anybody had anything for Jake that first little bit. The safety car came out and sucked him back in right there, so that was kind of nice for me. I got a big draft down the back straightaway and got by, and we went back and forth for a few laps. It's just good to be on the podium. I'll definitely take it, because the guys that are ahead of me in the points were behind me (in the race), so I'll take it."
The top six finishers represented six different manufacturers with the Suzuki, Kawasaki, Buell and Honda in the top four being joined the No. 57 Factory Aprilia Millennium Technologies Team Aprilia RSV1000R of Chaz Davies in fifth and Josh Herrin in sixth on the No. 8 Team Graves Yamaha YZF-R6.
Seventh place finisher Jamie Hacking (No. 88 Monster Energy Attack Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R) continues to lead the Daytona SportBike championship standings with 83 points but Cardenas has closed to within two points and Eslick is third with 78 points.
Zemke led nine laps, Eslick was up front for three and Cardenas led only the final two laps. The only other leader was pole-sitter Jason DiSalvo (No. 40 Team M4 Suzuki GSX-R600) who led the first two laps before going down in Turn 7. DiSalvo was uninjured and recovered to finish 19th.
The race was run under sunny conditions and more sunshine and even warmer temperatures are expected Sunday when AMA Pro Daytona SportBike Race 2 kicks off the day's racing a 1:30 p.m. local time.
Saturday SunTrust Moto-GT
Rodolfo Ramirez and Armando Ferrer and the No. 69 HurtByAccident.com Suzuki GSX-R600 slipped by the fuel stricken No. 4 Scooter Superstore Aprilia RSV of Hawk Mazzotta and Ryan Elleby on the last lap to take the overall win in the 2-Hour SunTrust Moto-GT race that closed Saturday's schedule for the Suzuki Superbike Showdown at Road Atlanta.
"We just kind of got lucky on the last lap," said Ramirez, who joined Ferrer in leading 43 of the race's 60 laps. "By luck, with one lap to go, I saw the Scooter team on the side of the road, so it was more like a lucky pass. I wouldn't say it was a pass."
The No. 41 Liberty Waves Racing Buell 1125R of Eric Pinson and Eric Haugo also slipped by the No. 4 Aprilia to take second and now leads the GT1 championship standings after placing third in the season opener in Daytona. The No. 41 riders led 10 laps while the No. 4 Aprilia team, which was classified third, led seven laps.
The No. 77 Touring Sport Ducati PS1000LE of Frank Shockley and Elleby - who pulled double duty in the SunTrust Moto-GT race in addition to racing in American Superbike this weekend - finished fourth overall and won the GT2 class. Shockley wasn't worried about his young teammate doubling up.
"I didn't think there would be any issues," Shockley said. "Ryan is a tough kid and I knew he was in great shape and it wouldn't be a problem for him. The only thing I was worried about was giving him a good position to start with. We got off in the race in third and, I guess, in about three laps, I was able to get it into the lead. Then, on about Lap 5, I ran off in Turn 10 and instantly went to fourth place. I had to work really hard to get back to second. During the caution period, the Cycle Dynamics team pitted, which put us back in the lead. We were able to hold onto it until we got Ryan on the bike. He went out, and of course, it was a real exciting match between them. I tell you, it had my heart pounding. It was a great run, and I really appreciate it."
The No. 34 Cycle Dynamics Kawasaki EX650 of Ted Cobb and Dustin Dominguez finished second and motorcycle racing legend Jay Springsteen and his young co-rider Nick Cummings took the final podium spot on the No. 9 Pair-A-Nines Kawasaki EX650.
AMA Pro Racing is the premier professional motorcycle racing organization in North America, operating a full schedule of events and championships for a variety of motorcycle disciplines. From its Daytona Beach headquarters, the organization operates and manages AMA Pro Road Racing, which includes AMA Pro American Superbike, AMA Pro Daytona SportBike, AMA Pro SuperSport and AMA Pro SunTrust Moto-GT. AMA Pro Racing also manages and works closely with the day-to-day operational organizations of the AMA Pro Flat Track Championship and the AMA Pro Supermoto Championship Series in addition to other two-wheel and ATV series. Learn more about AMA Pro Racing at www.amaproracing.com.