Points gap closes in Superbike title chase
Story and photos by Michael Marino
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — On Aug. 24, M4 ECSTAR Suzuki rider Bobby Fong endured one of the worst crashes of his pro road racing career, suffering a concussion and leg injury. Despite having to use crutches most days since the crash, Fong has competed in four MotoAmerica Supersport races and celebrated winning his first AMA National No. 1 plate on Saturday.
The 30-year-old from Stockton, Calif., got the holeshot aboard his Suzuki and led every lap en route to winning Saturday’s Supersport race at Barber Motorsports Park to claim the class title.
Fong started the weekend 10 points ahead of FIM World Supersport veteran P.J. Jacobson in the points standings. Jacobson qualified seventh and struggled in the race, falling as far back as 11th place before finishing the race in seventh.
“I’ve never been under so much pressure, and I was feeling nauseous before the race,” Fong said. “I knew I had the bike underneath me to do it.”
Fong turned pro in 2006 and scored two MotoAmerica Superbike podium finishes while competing in the Superstock 1000 Class in 2017. He credited his coach, Josh Hayes, with helping him deal with the pressure to win the title and was happy to get the championship wrapped up before the last race of the season on Sunday.
Though he hasn’t missed a race since his crash, Fong hasn’t fully recovered . He said he’s still having to use crutches and had been taking pain medication to continue his championship chase.
“I’ll be without the crutches all day, then I’ll wake up the next day and need the crutches,” Fong said. “My heel is pretty messed up, my tib[ia] and fib[ula] are killing me, and the side of my knee is killing me.”
Fong was followed over the finish line by Tuned Racing rider Bryce Prince and 2 Wheel Legal – Hudson Motorcycles rider Richie Escalante.
While the Supersport class was the star of the show Saturday, the day’s EBC Superbike race set up a championship showdown on Sunday between the past two Superbike Champions.
Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing rider and 2017 MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Toni Elias still leads the points standings, but that lead was cut from 16 points to 7 when Monster Energy/Yamalube/Yamaha Factory Racing rider and three-time MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Cameron Beaubier claimed a Superbike race victory Saturday.
Beaubier grabbed the holeshot, but a battle ensued at the front of the field between Beaubier, Yamaha’s second factory rider Garrett Gerloff and Yoshimura’s second rider Josh Herrin.
After several laps of bar-banging action, Gerloff got in front of the group and built a lead of more than two seconds over teammate Beaubier. Elias, who qualified fifth, recovered from a poor start, catching up to and passing Herrin on Lap 6. Beaubier steadily closed the gap to Gerloff, making the pass for the lead on the last corner of Lap 17. Beaubier took the win by 0.183 seconds over Geloff. Elias rounded out the podium, beating Herrin to the line by 0.033 seconds.
MotoAmerica’s Liqui Moly Junior Cup and Stock 1000 classes also raced Saturday, with both races being won by riders who claimed championships at the previous round aboard Kawasakis.
In the Junior Cup race, 2019 class champion Rocco Landers made a last-lap pass on Dominic Doyle to claim his 13th victory of the season. The 14 year old Landers, who is MotoAmerica’s youngest-ever class champion, has won all but two Junior Cup races in 2019.
The Stock 1000 Class race was won by two-time class champion Andrew Lee. The rider from Clovis, Calif., finished 3.362 seconds ahead of runner-up Michael Gilbert and 5.032 second ahead of third place Stefano Mesa.