Call it what you will: Lucky 13 or a baker’s dozen. It matters not. What matters is that Fresh N’ Lean Attack Performance Yamaha’s Jake Gagne continued his complete and utter domination of the 2021 MotoAmerica HONOS Superbike Series with his 13th successive win today at Pittsburgh International Race Complex.
But this one was closer. After besting his teammate-for-the-weekend Toni Elias on Saturday by 11.3 seconds, things got a bit tighter on Sunday for Gagne as Westby Racing’s Mathew Scholtz cut that gap in half, ending up 5.7 seconds behind the runaway championship leader.
“Yesterday, I know there was a lot of drama behind me, and I got through a lot faster than I should have compared to the pace that these guys had,” Gagne said after win number 13. “I knew it was going to be closer today. I got off to another good start. Put my head down for a couple laps. I think it was when Mat (Scholtz) finally got into second place, there were two laps or three laps where my pit board was dropping. I was like, ‘Oh, man. He’s pushing me. I got to go.’ I had to drop the times back and drop off a couple 10ths. When I had two or three seconds, it’s still enough to where I can’t do anything crazy, can’t make any mistakes, just hit my marks. I had fun. I love this track, so I’m happy we came out of here with some great results. I had a lot of fun. We had a good turnout. These boys don’t make it easy. We have a little bit of a cushion, and it looks easy, but it’s not easy. One little mishap and we could be off, and these boys could be right there with us. I know we’ve only got two rounds left, six races, so it will be battle royale. I know these guys want to win. I know we want to win, too. So, I’m looking forward to battling it out. I know we’ve been really fortunate this year to have a lot of wins. It’s pretty surreal. It will be a hard-fought last six races and these guys know. I know they’re ready for the fight. I think we’re all looking forward to it.”
Scholtz, who had made some tweaks to his Yamaha after Saturday’s third-place finish, started strong and was behind Elias until making a pass on the Spaniard and then doing his best to set off after the always fast-starting Gagne.
“We made a decent TC change and just one or two torque changes to try to get it out of the corner better,” Scholtz said. “Yesterday, I was just spinning up way too much, so we kind of just softened it slightly and made one or two TC changes to try to let it hook up better. I felt like it definitely was. It felt pretty cool doing mid 41s during the morning warmup. I kind of knew that I had a decent pace but sliding off. We were doing 40s, which was a little bit of a surprise to me. I kind of followed Toni (Elias) for a couple laps, got past him and Jake (Gagne) was only maybe three or four seconds up. I put in a couple heater laps and I closed in on Jake slightly, but then he obviously noticed that the gap on his board was getting smaller and he turned it back up. So, kudos to him. Overall, really happy just to kind of ride my own pace, my own rhythm and show that we can be up there challenging. We just need to try to get with Jake for those first couple laps and we might be able to do something at the end, but right now Jake is riding incredibly well. Well done to Bob (Fong). I feel like both of us should have been winning this year, but it seems like things weren’t really working out for us. It seems like we’re kind of finding our way back to where we should be. So, overall, I’m just happy to be back up here. I’ve got to give a huge thanks to the Westby Racing team. There’s a three-week break now. I get to go and see my wife who I haven’t seen in six or seven months, so I’m really happy about that. It’s going to really make me feel better going to Jersey and to Barber having that time with your special person. It’s kind of been a difficult year staying by myself with no family and stuff.”
Third place went to M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Bobby Fong, the three-time HONOS Superbike winner a year ago earning just his third podium of what has been a difficult season for the Californian.
“It was weird in the beginning,” Fong said. “I haven’t gone that fast all weekend in the beginning of the race, and this morning I didn’t put on new tires. I had a few heat-cycled tires on the rear, and I just wanted to work on electronics at the end of the race. So, at the beginning of the race I’m like, ‘We’re going fast!’ I could actually open the throttle. I felt like I was actually losing a lot in the beginning of the race, but then as soon as the tire went off, I’m like, ‘Okay. I know the feel now.’ I just kind of sat behind Toni (Elias) and Mat (Scholtz) most of the race. I was just kind of sizing them up. There were places where Mat was stronger than me, and there were some places where I could get him. The last two laps, I felt like I was starting to gain on him, so I was trying to give it more throttle, which on these Superbikes you can’t do. You just spin in one spot. The electronics gets way too active. It just doesn’t work that way. So, I’ve got to work on being a little smoother at the end of the race. But, again, I’m happy to be back up here. Looking forward to New Jersey. Hopefully, it’s dry because we definitely should not go there if it’s raining.”
After finishing second in his Yamaha debut on Saturday, Elias slipped to fourth on Sunday, capping off a highly successful weekend in just his second weekend of racing in 2021. Elias ended up some nine seconds behind Fong and five seconds in front of Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati New York’s Loris Baz, the Frenchman rebounding from a crash in Saturday’s race to finish fifth.
M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Cameron Petersen was a lonely sixth, well clear of Scheibe Racing BMW’s Hector Barbera with the Spaniard beating Panera Bread Ducati’s Kyle Wyman on the last lap dash to the flag by just .117 of a second.
Altus Motorsports’ Jake Lewis was ninth and the first of the Superbike Cup riders, the Kentuckian beating his neighbor Hayden Gillim by two seconds with Gillim rounding out the top 10 in his first Stock 1000 race of the year.
Gagne’s 13th career HONOS Superbike victory puts him in a tie for 15th on the all-time AMA Superbike win list with Blake Young and Doug Polen. The win also gives him a 93-point lead over Scholtz in the championship point standings, 325-232. Petersen is third with 184 points, 19 ahead of his teammate Fong. Baz rounds out the top five with 149, just four points more than the absent Josh Herrin.
Superbike Race 2
- Jake Gagne (Yamaha)
- Mathew Scholtz (Yamaha)
- Bobby Fong (Suzuki)
- Toni Elias (Yamaha)
- Loris Baz (Ducati)
- Cameron Petersen (Suzuki)
- Hector Barbera (BMW)
- Kyle Wyman (Ducati)
- Jake Lewis (Suzuki)
- Hayden Gillim (Suzuki)