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Victory Comes Early for Hayden

Motor sports: Honda rider wins Superbike championship race that is stopped with four laps remaining after accident.

April 08, 2002|SHAV GLICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Four laps from what was to be the end of a 28-lap AMA Chevy Trucks U.S. Superbike championship race Sunday at California Speedway, Jeffrey Purk went down and his Suzuki lay in the middle of the track at the exit of Turn 13. Officials waved the red flag, stopping riders.

Nothing unusual about that. It happens anywhere a racing accident becomes a danger to competitors.

Only this time the race was over. Nicky Hayden, who had his Honda in front by as many as eight seconds, did a wheelie, coasted to a stop and waved to a puzzled crowd. What about the last four laps?

Rule G5 of the American Motorcyclist Assn. explained it: "Should a race be stopped in which 80% or more of the total laps have been completed by the leader, the race will be considered complete and there will be no restart."

That's not something you'd find in a NASCAR rule book.

As it was, no one was going to catch Hayden, who won the Daytona 200 to start the season and finished third in Saturday's second round of the 16-race series.

"I was amazed how different I felt, and the bike felt this morning, compared to yesterday," Hayden said. "The guys on the crew worked last night and gave me a bike that felt a lot more comfortable.

"I think the weather helped me too. Today was warmer and the track was better. After we sat around nearly all day yesterday, I didn't feel much like racing. Today, on the warmup lap, I felt great."

Kawasaki's Eric Bostrom, defending series champion Mat Mladin, on a Suzuki, and old-timer Doug Chandler on a Ducati were waging a tense race for podium positions at the time and Mladin said that "if we had gone the full 28 laps, Chandler would probably have passed both of us."

Chandler, a 36-year-old Salinas rider who nearly retired this year, was six seconds back of Bostrom and the Mladin before closing the gap to less than a second in three laps just as the red flag halted proceedings.

"I feel pretty confident I would have got both of them," Chandler said. "I didn't expect to catch them so quickly and I decided to hold back and wait for the final lap. Eric and Mat began to battle between themselves so I thought I'd wait until they had nothing left and make my move. Unfortunately, we were shortchanged."

Hayden, 20, one of three racing brothers from Owensboro, Ky., led 19 of the 24 laps and once he got past Aaron Yates and Mladin, he was never seriously challenged on the 2.36-mile, 21-turn road course. He averaged 95.169 mph for the shortened race.

Tommy Hayden, Nicky's older brother, capped a big day for the family when he won the 17-lap Superstock, which had been postponed from Saturday.

Sunday's scene was quite a contrast to Saturday's stark surroundings when Australian Anthony Gobert won the Superbike feature on a Suzuki after a wild finish over Yates in cold, wet, miserable conditions.

In the 17-lap Supersport final, the results were reversed as Yates raced home 3.3 seconds ahead of Gobert.

In Sunday's Superbike race, Gobert got off the line fifth and raced near the leaders for 10 laps before a blistered tire caused him to drop off the pace. At the end, he was lapped by the leaders, but still finished eighth.

Robert Underwood, a Suzuki rider from Roseburg, Ore., went down on the third lap of the Superbike feature and was air-lifted to Loma Linda University Medical Center to be evaluated for a possible head injury.

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