Day Summary: MotoAmerica NJMP 2017, Saturday

The day’s action stated just before noon with Superpole to determine the grid the weekend’s Motul Superbike and Bazzazz Superstock 1000 races. The session ended with Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing’s Roger Lee Hayden on the pole. Hayden set a blistering 1:20.378 on his flying lap to edge out Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing’s Josh Hayes by just over two-tenths of a second. Rounding out the front row was Hayden’s teammate and Superbike points leader Toni Elias. The Spaniard carried a 79-point championship lead into the weekend, and looked poised to wrap up the championship before MotoAmerica departed NJMP. Two other standouts in qualifying were Kyle Wyman and Matthew Scholtz. Wyman, who owns and runs his own privateer Superbike team was nipped off the first row by Elias in the closing minutes of Superpole, but still enjoyed his best qualifying of the year at a track he has spent an inordinate amount to time teaching at with the Yamaha Champions Riding School. Next to Wyman on the second row is pole-winner for the Bazzazz Superstock 1000 class Matthew Scholtz. The Yamalube Westby Racing rider continued his strong form from Pittsburgh, and beat Genunie Broaster Chicken Honda Superbike rider Jake Gagne for a top 5 qualifying performance. Among the disappointing surprises of Superpole was Josh Hayes’ teammate for the weekend, 2013 AMA Pro Superbike Champion Josh Herrin. According to Yamaha Press Officer Sean Bice, Herrin was struggling on one of the tire compounds for the first session on Friday and had been playing catch-up on set-up since then. Herrin finished Superpole in eighth, and would start from the third row of the grid. 

A couple hours later the day’s racing action began with the Supersport/Superstock 600 race. That race saw Monster Energy/Yamalube/Y.E.S./Graves Yamaha rider J.D. Beach take the holeshot. Beach has struggled this season since the introduction of the 180-section rear tire to the Supersport class, and has fallen behind both teammate Gerloff and M4 Suzuki’s Valentin Debise in the last few race results. Beach and Gerloff seemed poised for a two-way battle at the front, but a red flag came out before the end of lap 1 due to a crash in Turn 5. The race restarted as a shortened, 16-lap race instead the 20 laps slated for the day. Gerloff took the holeshot on the restart and never looked back, winning the race by over 10 seconds. Second place was not decided until the last corner. Debise had been following Beach for most of the race, as the two had had to deal with several packs of lapped traffic. Beach led Debise through all of the lapped traffic until the last corner, where Debise made an aggressive move and beat Beach to the line by seven-tenths of a second. Honda H35 rider Benny Solis brought his Honda CBR600RR home in fourth. After the race, all three of the podium finishers reported problems with lapped riders not adhering to the blue flags and remaining on the racing line. I asked Gerloff if he had made any set-up changes during the red flag. Gerloff indicated that he had thought about it, but decided not to because of a lack of warm-weather running this weekend.  

The Supersport action followed by a championship-deciding Motul Superbike/Bazzazz Superstock 1000 race. Graves Yamaha rider Josh Hayes grabbed the holeshot over polesitter Roger Lee Hayden, and lead the first third of the race. Championship leader Toni Elias slotted into second on the first lap and followed Hayes until lap 7, when he passed Hayes and assumed the race lead for the remainder of the race. Hayes fought hard for several laps after being passed to get back in front of Elias, but Hayes’ Yamaha R1 could be seen protesting the thrashing its rider was giving it in several corners. Hayes appeared to have used up most of his rear tire trying to stay with Elias, and was later passed by Elias’ Yoshimura Suzuki teammate Hayden. Hayden then unsuccessfully attempted to challenge Elias for the lead. Hayden was never able to show Elias a wheel, and Elias’ victory sealed the Rider’s Championship for him and the Yoshimura Suzuki squad. It was the team’s first MotoAmerica championship, and their first in top-class American professional road racing since 2009. It was Elias’ second championship of any kind, as he holds the 2010 Moto2 title as well. Talking with Elias after the race, he said this championship means more to him than his Moto2 title, in part of because of the lows he had to endure between the Moto2 title and now in order to win the MotoAmerica crown. 

The race also saw several other strong performances further back in the field. Josh Herrin finished fourth in his return to both the MotoAmerica Superbike grid. Herrin ran most of the race in fifth before a last-lap, last-corner pass on Broaster Chicken Honda’s Jake Gagne. In my estimation, the pass was aggressive and done at an unusual spot on track, but clean. After the race, Herrin reported to me that he talked with Gagne, who was not upset about the pass. Non-factory Superbike entry and Rochester, New York’s own Kyle Wyman came home in sixth place. Wyman had lead free practice 1 and reported he was feeling very comfortable on his privateer Yamaha R1. In the Bazzazz Superstock 1000 class, TOBC Racing’s Danny Eslick took his first in-class win of the season. Eslick finished ahead of ECSTAR Suzuki’s Jake Lewis, who pipped Bazzaz Superstock 1000 championship leader Matthew Scholtz for second in the closing laps of the race. Scholtz had been a strong runner all weekend, qualifying fifth on the overall grid. Despite fading to a ninth-place finish overall, Scholtz still leads the Bazzazz Superstock 1000 class by 60 points over the aforementioned Lewis, and could lock up the class title before the weekend is over. While not showing a strong performance in the race, Team WD-40/Schribe Racing’s Jason DiSalvo qualified his BMW S1000RR in seventh place for the weekend’s Motul Superbike races. After the race, DiSalvo reported the team was working to improve the bike’s handling in the early part of the race by trying a new fuel tank design, and has been successfully developing its Hayes braking system components throughout the year. The team looked good in its WD-40 attire, and it has been a big positive to see such an iconic and outside-the-industry brand enter the MotoAmerica paddock. 



Ride Report: Rochester, NY to Allentown, PA: September 7, 2017


Yesterday I rode my Ninja 500 from Rochester, New York to Allentown, Pennsylvania. I lived in Allentown 2013-2014, and wanted to see it again on my way to this weekend’s MotoAmerica action at New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville, New Jersey. It was the second ride on my little Ninja 500 loaded down with my full compliment of soft luggage (tank bag, tail bag, and saddlebags). Before the trip I had a new Kenda K-671 Cruiser tire installed on the rear. The previous rear was a Bridgestone Exedra that worn past the wear bars when I got home from Pittsburgh a couple weeks prior. I also had to play with the throttle cables as the throttle had too much play in it. They were still not perfect but I did not have enough time to perfect them before I left. While doing the throttle cable maintenance, I had the seat off and noticed that the Ziploc bags holding my sockets under my seat had been frayed and several of the sockets were missing. Off I went to Harbor Freight Tools to buy a new set of metric sockets before I shoved off. 


Since I wanted to avoid some tolls and take a more scenic route, I left Greater Rochester by heading south on I-390. There usually is not much traffic on I-390 and I enjoy its course through the Southern Tier foothills and mountains. I stopped for lunch at the Subway inside the Pilot Travel Center in Kanona, New York before continuing onto I-86 East to Binghamton. When I reached the nearly completely reconstructed “Kamazaie Curve” interchange, I headed south on I-81 to Clark’s Summit, Pennsylvania where I stopped at a Sheetz for lunch. I then took I-476 South (also known as the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike) to U.S. 22 on Allentown’s northwest side, where I got off the Northeast Extension and followed U.S. 22 to my accommodations off of Airport Road. 


Overall the weather was relatively cooperative. I hit two patches of light rain. One patch was in and around Corning, New York. The other patch was on I-81 as I was approaching Scranton. Both rain showers were relatively light and short-lived. As I was riding I often saw dark clouds on either side of my route and was fortunate to not hit more of those rain pockets. The temperature remained constantly cool all day. I was glad I was wearing my extra layer, and wish I had not forgotten my second long-sleeve shirt was in my saddlebag’s outside pocket. The higher elevations were noticeably colder and windier than the valleys and plains.  


Road conditions were overall good for the entire ride. There is still a good bit on construction in Binghamton on the section east of Kamakazie Curve, as well as the southern portion of I-390. That construction appears to be coming to a close for the season, but also appears poised to resume next season on the oldest section of I-390 (Wayland to Dansville). The section of U.S. 22 that runs through Allentown could use some attention too. The very northern section of I-476/Northeast Extension had just been repaved and was a joy to ride through with some gusto.  


Overall it was a positive travel experience. It was great to see some roads that I used to ride a lot for work or to head back to Rochester through the Poconos, as well as ride through another former hometown in Binghamton. The progress on the Kamakazie Curve interchange is impressive and I am looking forward to the day when I-86 extends from north of Erie to Binghamton uninterrupted. The bike did well for what it is, but I still really miss the FJR’s heated grips, more spacious ergos, and better wind protection. They would have made the ride more enjoyable. What this trip and the trip to Pittsburgh a couple weeks ago have shown me is that the Ninja 500 is a very capable sport tourer, but only for shorter trips and with some add-ons. A new seat and heated grips or gloves would make the bike more user-friendly in colder conditions. I also really miss the FJR’s hard luggage. When traveling long distances alone, having to fit all of the heavy tools needed for potential roadside repairs in soft saddlebags is far less than ideal. It is very doable, but not very ideal.