Photo: Brian J. Nelson
Even though reigning AMA Pro Superbike champ Josh Herrin has left the series to try his hand in the Moto2 series, the Superbike field is still filled deep with talent heading into this weekend’s series opening round at Daytona. Here are just a few names to keep an eye on this weekend.
We start, of course, with three-time champ Josh Hayes, who has to be considered the favorite this season with Herrin’s departure. The Mississippian concluded last season’s opening SuperBike doubleheader with a pair of DNFs, twice suffering mechanical issues while leading the race. As a result, he left Daytona in 18th position, 48 points out of first.
The Yamaha man regrouped and battled his way back to the front of the pack on the strength of eight victories (two more than the rest of the field combined) and a season sweep of pole positions. However, that early misfortune left him precious little room for error and ultimately played an overwhelming role in preventing him from securing a record-breaking fourth consecutive title.
With Herrin out of the picture, expect the 38-year-old to evenly dole out an offseason of frustration on the entire field as he looks to cement his position as the premier class’ dominant figure.
Expect Hayes to have stiff competition from the Yoshimura Suzuki squad, namely Martin Cardenas and the newest member of the team, Roger Hayden. Colombian Cardenas is a proven champion, having earned a pair of AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike crowns to go along with his earlier Spanish and Latin American Supersport championships. Hayden, a former AMA Pro Supersport king and SuperBike race winner himself, the Kentuckian has made major strides in the premier class in each of the last three seasons. While Hayden’s 2013 campaign was littered with bad luck, his outright speed was obvious, frequently pushing into Hayes’ territory.
Another one to look out for is five-time SuperBike race winner Larry Pegram. Following recent tours on Ducati, BMW, and Yamaha-based SuperBike machinery, ‘the Worm’ will look to take his No. 72 EBR 1190RS to the front this season.
Hayes’ biggest challenge, however, might just come from the racing prodigy who is taking over for exiting champ Herrin on the second works Yamaha. Cameron Beaubier took the SportBike class by storm last season, powering to the title with 12 victories in 13 attempts.
The remainder of the field is loaded with talent and diversity. Eight different makes are represented in the field with a host of AMA Pro Road Racing race winners among them. They include Chris Fillmore (KTM RC8R), Cory West (EBR 1190RX), Jake Holden (Ducati 1198), Chris Ulrich (Honda CBR1000RR), Stefano Mesa (Kawasaki ZX-10R), Huntley Nash (Kawasaki ZX-10R), David Anthony (Suzuki GSX-R1000), and Taylor Knapp (Suzuki GSX-R1000).
First practice begins on Thursday and will be streamed on FansChoice.tv.