Yoshimura Suzuki’s Toni Elias stalked Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing’s Cameron Beaubier for 14 of the 17 laps at the Utah Motorsports Campus. Then he pounced, taking the lead with three laps to go and holding off the attacking Beaubier to win the Championship of Utah by .494 of a second on a hot sunny day on the outskirts of Salt Lake City.
Elias’ sixth win of the season was an historic one in that it marked Suzuki’s 200th victory in AMA Superbike racing. And it was an important one for Elias and the Yoshimura Suzuki crew in that it stopped Beaubier’s four-race win streak and showed that the team had fixed what ailed them in the previous two rounds at Road America and WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. It also moved the Spaniard to within a race of Beaubier in the championship as the defending MotoAmerica Superbike Champion now trails the two-time series champ by 24 points heading into tomorrow’s second Motul Superbike race at UMC.
The race at the front only featured Beaubier and Elias with Beaubier taking the lead from the Spaniard on the opening lap. He would hold that lead until the 14th lap before he was caught a little off-guard by Elias going into turn one. From there it was a dogfight, with Beaubier making a pass on Elias on the final lap that didn’t stick. The margin of victory at the flag: .494 of a second.
“It is nice to get that 200th victory for Suzuki,” Elias said. “We started off the weekend with a little Japanese-American barbecue, but at the end my team put the bike back together, so I could continue the plan. We worked well. We improved. We have the same situation that we had before. Good bike. We are comfortable that I can fight. But I found a tough guy (in Beaubier). He was fast. Very persistent. His pace was a little bit faster than mine. I was playing my cards at the end, and I found my moment. I could pass him. The last two, three corners, we had a little bit of trouble, but I could win the race. I am happy. My team deserves a lot of credit for this victory. We did it and now we have to continue like this. We will try to improve for tomorrow, and I will try to be more strong and more consistent.”
Beaubier admitted being surprised by Elias’ attack after leading so much of the race. The Californian starting from pole position after earning the spot during the Superpole qualifying session earlier in the day.
“I was pretty surprised when (Elias) came up the inside of me in turn one,” Beaubier said. “I wasn’t expecting that. The gap was kind of yo-yo-ing, but I thought I had just enough of a gap to be able to go into one on my own. It’s always frustrating to lead most of the race and come up short. But hats off to Toni, he was riding really, really good. I rode as hard as I could the whole race.
“On the last couple of laps, I tried to get creative, and figure something out. I was able to get by but I ran a little wide, and that was pretty much it from there. Like I said, hats off to this guy. Tomorrow, we get to try again. Big thanks to my Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha team. The R1 has been working flawless all weekend. That why it’s so frustrating because I think we had a little something on these guys, and I wasn’t able to get it done today.”
Third place went to Attack Performance/Herrin Compound Yamaha’s Josh Herrin, the 2013 AMA Superbike Champion fighting off the advances of Beaubier’s teammate and M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Jake Lewis to earn the spot. At the finish Herrin was .974 of a second clear of Gerloff, with the Texan getting faster as the race wore on to put himself in position to challenge late. Lewis, meanwhile, had mechanical issues that slowed him in the closing laps. He ended up fifth, his sixth fifth-place finish of the season.
“It’s been a crazy weekend,” Herrin said. “At Wisconsin and Laguna, I had the best bike I’ve ever had, and we showed up here and missed the whole first (qualifying practice) session, so that was a bummer. But the older I get, I get a little calmer. I kept calm in my head, kept my focus, and sat with (team owner and crew chief) Richard (Stanboli) to try to figure out what was going on with the bike. And I’ve just been off the pace a little bit. I crashed at Laguna and I crashed yesterday so I lost a little bit of confidence. Then, we had the three-grid-positions penalty, so that messed with my head a little bit.
“I just told myself that if I could fight for the podium, I’d be pumped. I know Roger (Hayden) crashed, so I didn’t feel like I really earned the podium. But, we did finish laps, and I was able to get on the podium. After the crash at Laguna, I’m super-pumped about it. I was able to up the pace a little bit by a few tenths, and it’s something that I’ve been working on. So, other than the points, that made me the happiest today, that I could do the pace by myself, finish the race, and get some points. I’m super happy about it, and we live to race another day. These guys rode their butts off and put on a good show. I was watching the big screen, and it was a lot of fun watching them. Hopefully, tomorrow we can be a little bit closer with them. Try to have fun and bring it home safe.”
Yamalube/Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz ended up sixth, well clear of SC-Project/KWR’s Kyle Wyman, who in turn was challenged from behind by Scheibe Racing BMW’s Danny Eslick. Genuine Broaster Chicken Honda’s Cameron Petersen and Omega Moto’s Geoff May rounded out the top 10 finishers.
Beaubier leads the title chase over Elias, 223-199, with Herrin third on 151 points. Scholz is now 12 points behind Herrin in fourth place with Gerloff holding down fifth, 28 points behind the South African.
Among the non-finishers were Yoshimura Suzuki’s Roger Hayden, who suffered his fourth race crash of the season; Bobby Fong, who pulled out of the race on his Quicksilver/LEXIN/Hudson Motorcycles Yamaha YZF-R1 early in the race; and Fly Street Racing’s David Anthony. Those three remained in ninth, 10th and 11th in the championship point standings as all of their points remained unchanged.