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Old 11-25-2015, 01:16 AM   #1
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Superprestigio Of The Americas: Road Racers Play In The Dirt

Road racers play in the dirt with AMA Pro Flat Track racers at the inaugural Superprestigio of the Americas at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Racing’s fun, but what about a “fun race?” Last Sunday a bunch of road racers got the chance to go up against who are arguably the best flat trackers in the world on an indoor short track at the at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. After a series of heats, the four top all-star racers would challenge the four best AMA Pro Flat Track racers. It was an exhibition race – no purse money, just bragging rights.

In the end racers are racers. Leaving without those bragging rights – kind of not so fun. So even if you put on a good showing, it’s not the same.

“It’s a competition,” Roger Hayden said. “What do they call it, ‘a race for fun?’ If it’s a race for fun then you don’t score first, second, third, fourth and fifth, etc. I didn’t take it as a race for fun. I took it serious. I’ve worked too much for this. It was fun, but I wanted to come here and do well. If I didn’t make the main I would’ve been bummed.”

The 2007 AMA Supersport champ with dirt track roots made the main and put in a good effort as well, laying down fast times and running with the front guys.

“I’ve been riding a lot the last couple of months getting ready for this race,” Hayden said. “I’m kind of glad it paid off in the main. I know how fast those leaders are, so I really just can’t believe how close I was there after the race got going.”

Ultimately it was a case of close but no cigar for Hayden as he went down battling with dirt track veteran Kenny Coolbeth.

“It was just a short track move,” Hayden explained. “I didn’t want to give an inch and he wanted to take it. I would’ve done the same thing to him. There are no hard feelings. I’m a little disappointed, but really stoked how I rode there in the beginning. It was fun. It was cool. I got to learn a lot from those pro guys.”

And this is dirt track... Kenny Coolbeth (2) makes the move to take third on Roger Hayden (95).

Four-time AMA Superbike Champion Josh Hayes enjoyed the backyard-racing feel of the event, but it was hard to not meet his expectations of being at the top. Hayes was unable to make it past the All Star LCQ.

“It was a really cool event, and having such a small, tight track, it was kind of like burning laps in the backyard with all your buddies,” Hayes said. “It was fun, but sometimes us racers are, I hate to say unrealistic, but we just put some pretty hard goals on ourselves and expect a lot of ourselves. So I’m disappointed with how early I had to pack our bike up and go home, but overall was a fun event.”

But again Hayes being a racer and a multi-time champion, can he really just have a “fun race?” Hayes was kind of on the same page as Hayden.

“Not if everybody’s watching it on national television; I don’t think,” Hayes said. “You start putting egos on the line and it just doesn't quite work like that. It was a fun race. There was no purse money and my mortgage doesn’t depend on it and things like that, so that’s good. But nobody wants to read he got his kicked on the Internet anywhere. That part of it is always a hard pill to swallow, but that’s what happens when you put yourself out there.”

Four-time AMA Superbike Champion Josh Hayes (41) didn't make it to the main, but is looking to learn and come back.

Then again, sometimes taking a fun race too seriously can hold you back. The newly-crowned MotoAmerica Superstock 600 Champion Joe Roberts found himself doing better once he took it less seriously and enjoyed it.

“I was thinking a lot about this race before I came here. I started seeing everybody taking it really seriously, and was like man, ‘maybe I should take this super seriously because it’d probably look good if I won,’” the 18-year old said. “The first day I was actually getting kind of nervous for this race, and I don’t normally get that nervous at races, even road races. It was weird, I was getting nervous and wanted to do really well. I think that actually didn’t help me in the heat races, I kept messing up, not being consistent. Those last two races, I was on the outside and it was, ‘let’s see what happens.’ There wasn’t any pressure, I could just go out and have fun. And I actually went fast.”

Having a quick think on it, Roberts said with a laugh: “Maybe I should do that from now on, not take things so seriously.”

The fight to make it into the main was fierce. Although Jake Gagne (32) won most of his heats, a crash had him out of the running. Hayden (95) and Joe Roberts (27) made it through.

Superbike veteran Larry Pegram also embraced the concept of fun while going back to his flat track roots.

“It’s always fun racing,” Pegram said. “When you get in a battle with somebody, that’s always fun, but there’s nothing more fun than winning; you know what I mean. You can have a fun race, but it can never be a really fun race unless you win. For me it was one of those deals where I wanted to come here and have a good time and then I started to get serious, and then I reminded myself just have fun dude.”

Having fun served him well, as he won the All-Star Final and ended up finishing the Superprestigio Main as the top non-flat tracker, or in his words “First non-flat track guy so to speak, I’m kind of a flat track guy, but not for a long time.”

Pegram wished that maybe he would have put more time into it before the weekend, but said as a whole it was like the proverbial “riding a bike.”

“It doesn’t take long to fall right back into it,” Pegram said. “Same group of guys. A lot of them have same last names, and new first names on a bunch of them. I’m racing their kids, like [Davis] Fisher… I used to race Rex Fisher, now I’m racing with his kid. It definitely shows me where I’m at, but it also makes me feel pretty proud too to be out racing with these kids. I had a good time and I didn’t embarrass myself. I had fun, that’s what it was about.”

Larry Pegram (72) enjoyed getting back to his roots and showing those kids how it was done.

Former Superbike racer Blake Young also enjoyed the event, but had perhaps the least amount of prep being on the sidelines from racing for over a year now. He got a last minute call from Superprestigio Grand Marshall Kevin Schwantz and jumped on it.

“I jumped at the opportunity, jumped in my truck literally, loaded my dirt track bike and went down to Austin, Texas,” Young said. “We cut a track in the middle of the X Games track’s front-straight away and then started riding as much as I could; but literally that was probably six days ago. Up until then, as far as doing any dirt track it was none and the last time I competed competitively was probably 16.”

Like all racers, not racing at the front was not fun, but it was great to get back to racing.

“I obviously didn’t get the result that I wanted. I’m never happy until I’m at the front,” Young said. “But you know, I just sat back… with the little bit of preparation that I had, hey I’m just glad to be here and I’m honored that they decided to call me and invite me to this. It was a rush. It felt really good. It was an awesome experience to be back in the saddle.”

The road racers may not have won, but they are all geared up to come back for another shot at the title.

Part of the fun of racing is not just racing – it’s dangling that carrot in front of you; that motivation to get better. So in spite of ultimately coming short of who are arguably some of the top dirt trackers in the world in the final – Three-time AMA Grand National Champion Jared Mees, 2013 AMA Grand National Champion Brad Baker and multi-time Grand National Champion Coolbeth – many of the road racers were motivated to do their homework and comeback.

“I’ve seen them ride, so always I’ve had a pretty good appreciation for them,” Hayes said. “I think this is the toughest race track I’ve ever ridden in and to watch what those guys were doing on a race track that I had just immediately came off of and to see how they rode it, you just go ‘oh man I’ve got a long way to go.’

Always trying to learn and figure it out, Hayes added what he thought he was lacking.

“I don’t think I know how to be aggressive in the way that they are without just putting myself in the grandstands,” he explained. “The same thing would happen if they got on a road race bike, they wouldn't quite know where to channel their aggression. The first qualifying session I went out kind of with the mind set I do on a road race bike, and go out there and put it to these guys – it was the worst session that I road all weekend. So it’s just figuring it out. A lot of the things that are just natural for me to do on a motorcycle are not the way to do it on a dirt track bike. I still have to go home and be a student and work on that a little bit.”

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