As the motorcycling world continues to say its goodbyes to Nicky Hayden, the late Kentucky Kid’s cousin Hayden Gillim paid his own tribute, winning the American Flat Track Singles race at the Springfield TT and dedicating the win to Nicky as well as to his brother Ethan, who died in a racing incident in 2007.
Gillim’s win was especially notable as it came 15 years after Nicky Hayden and his brothers Tommy Hayden and Roger Hayden swept the podium at the Springfield TT in 2002.
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Springfield TT Perfection For Hayden Gillim
Hayden Gillim registered a virtuoso performance on Saturday night at the Illinois State Fairgrounds as the AFT Singles headlined the opening half of this Memorial Day weekend’s American Flat Track doubleheader with the Springfield TT.
The entire day’s activities served as one extended TT masterclass session from national champion road racer Hayden. The Kentucky native clocked the fastest time in qualifying, won his heat, owned his semi, and then continued his domination right to the checkered flag in the Main Event.
In the Main, Hayden won the crucial battle for positioning entering the first turn aboard his No. 95 Cycle World Suzuki RM-Z450 and ripped open an advantage of more than a second before the conclusion of the opening lap. He then proceeded to pad that lead to nearly two seconds over the next few circulations and managed the gap from there for the remainder of the 15-lap contest.
While there was little outward drama to his victory, Gillim actually controlled the race from the front despite the added difficulty of a loose front brake lever.
The win is Gillim’s second AFT Singles triumph, backing up last year’s victory in the Peoria TT.
“Tonight’s been an awesome night,” Gillim said. “My Suzuki 450 was working great all night; I don’t think I touched anything since we pulled it out of the van. I probably should have tightened up the front brake lever… As soon as I went out on track (for the Main), my front brake lever went loose, and it just dropped straight down. I was having to hold it up with my thumb all race. Somehow I was able to manage it although there were a couple of close moments. I don’t know how I was able to do it without these guys passing me.”
It’s well known to racing fans that Gillim is closely related to racing royalty. It seems only fitting that Gillim stood atop of the podium for the Springfield TT 15 years after his cousins Nicky, Tommy, and Roger Hayden swept the podium in the historic race, particularly in the wake of Nicky’s tragic passing earlier this week.
Gillim dedicated his victory to both Nicky and his late brother Ethan, who passed away in a racing incident in 2007: “Seeing Nicky, Tommy, and Roger put it up on the podium, all three in one night, that’s always made me want to get here and get this win. Team 95… this one is for my little brother, and it’s for Nicky too. This is for them.”
Fellow TT ace Jesse Janisch kept Gillim honest throughout the contest aboard the No. 132 West Bend Harley-Davidson-backed Yamaha YZ450F. Janisch lost out in the early shuffle, and by the time he fought his way into second Gillim already boasted a commanding lead. The invisible rubber band connecting the two stretched and contracted lap after lap, but there was just no reeling in Gillim on this night.
Runner-up Janisch said, “It was a good ride. I actually had the holeshot, but Hayden had the inside. We all went in there pretty deep, and I ended up going all the way to the top of the track. It was a little bit of a struggle (getting back into second). I could catch Hayden a little and then I’d lose it, catch him and then lose it. It was a seesaw battle, but I never got close enough to even show him a wheel or anything like that.”
Viewed from a macro perspective, Kolby Carlile (No. 36 Parkinson Brothers Racing Honda CRF450R) may have been the biggest winner on the evening. The versatile Carlile continued his season-long run of finishes of seventh or better with a second podium finish in 2017.
By finishing third, Carlile overtook Shayna Texter (No. 52 Richie Morris Racing Honda CRF450R) for the AFT Singles points lead by a single point (88-87).
“I’ve never been in the points lead before, so this is pretty cool,” Carlile said. “That race was long. I kept seeing shadows, and I kept pushing. We do a lot of training down in Kentucky with the Team 95 crew, and if it wasn’t for that, there’s no way I would have been able to stick through that Main. Smart, smooth race the entire way – it was great.”
Texter knew she was facing an uphill climb in the Springfield TT, and that proved to be the case. She was unable to advance past the LCQ, and the title fight tightened up considerably as a result.
Not only did Carlile surpass her, but the four riders ranked immediately behind her in the AFT Singles championship battle also collected top-10 points hauls in Springfield; 3rd-ranked Brandon Price (No. 92 DPC Racing/Don’s Kawasaki KX450F) finished sixth, 4th-ranked Ben Lowe (No. 20 Bruce Lowe Excavating Honda CRF450R) was eighth, 5th-ranked Cameron Smith (No. 44 Carroll Motor Fuels Honda CRF450R) was fourth, and 6th-ranked Wyatt Anderson (No. 120 Waters Autobody Racing KTM 450 SX-F) was tenth.
Fortunately for Texter, she’ll have another go Sunday as she’ll take part in the AFT Twins presented by Vance & Hines class for the Springfield Mile I on the big track where her particular skillset is significantly more proven.
The Springfield TT will air on NBCSN on Thursday, August 10, at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT. To watch the highlight video, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-HvXohrs5U8&feature=youtu.be
Tomorrow will see the AFT Twins presented by Vance & Hines complete the Memorial Day weekend doubleheader with the highly anticipated Harley-Davidson Springfield Mile I. Live coverage can be viewed on FansChoice.tv beginning on Sunday at 11:00 a.m. ET (8:00 a.m. PT).
Tickets are on sale and can be purchased at https://www.springfieldmile.org. Fans can also keep up-to-date with race day action by following American Flat Track on Facebook (American Flat Track), Twitter (@AmericanFlatTrk) and Instagram (@AmericanFlatTrack).