June 22, 2008
ASRA Pro Series kicked off its 8th Annual Festival of Speed at VIRginia International Raceway under partly cloudy skies with what turned into a great battle from the start in the ASRA Pro SuperStock class. The top three riders, Jeff Wood on the Bettencourt's Suzuki 1000 and Robert Jensen aboard the Butler Machinery were joined Taylor Knapp on the on the Ray C's Extreme Suzuki 1000 in a run away from the rest of the field after the second of nine laps scheduled. While Jensen and Knapp traded second position several times a lap, Wood snuck away to finish the race in first by 3.367 seconds over Jensen in second while setting a new track and class record of 1:26.540. Knapp had to settle for third a scant .182 seconds behind Jensen. All three wore big grins on the podium with thoughts of ASRA Factory Pro SportBike and ASRA SuperBike events still to come and a rematch for certain. Jensen's point lead in the class is now just 25 points over Wood with four rounds to go.
From the green flag in ASRA Pro SuperBike it looked like Taylor Knapp had gone to school on Jeff Wood's lines from SuperStock as the Lapper, MI rider pulled past the record holder at the end of lap one. That was all the incentive Wood needed to push the Bettencourt's Yamaha R-6 back to front. With a class record lap of 1:27.773, Wood gapped the Ray C's Extreme Kawasaki of Knapp and held on to win by 2.296 seconds. The third place struggle between Garrett Carter on the Matsushima Suzuki and Robert Jensen's Butler Machine Yamaha was historic as the two competitors ran side by side for nearly the entire nine laps. Carter was able to pass Jensen on lap 5, but Jensen regained the position until the final lap where a unanimous line call by the officials gave the third position to Carter by the smallest of margins. Wood now enjoys a 41 point lead over Jensen in the quest for his fourth consecutive ASRA Pro SuperBike title.
A small but competitive ThunderBike field came to the grid with all riders focused on the Morton's BMW of Richard Cooper on the pole. The Nottingham, England rider returned to the US for this event and quickly set pole position, giving the ASRA regulars an early wake up call on Saturday. As the race started, Cooper jumped out in front, closely followed by BMWExplorer.com rider Nate Kern in second and Dave Estok on the Deeley Buell in third. On the second lap Estok, riding a machine he borrowed from the SoundWaves.com team, lowered the five-year old race record, then in lap three it was Kern's turn at the record. Then on lap 4, Cooper showed the Americans the way with a 1:32.023, leading until lap six where a coil popped off and dropped him to third behind Kern and Estok. Kern, with a clear track ahead of him, blistered the track record with a 1:31.912 on lap seven and never looked back. At the checkered flag, it was Kern by 6.377 seconds, followed Estok and Cooper to round out the podium. Kern stretched his lead in the ASRA Pro ThunderBike point standings to 23 points now, trying hard to give BMW its first ThunderBike title. (Also, Nate Kern donated his ASRA Contingency winnings to the Roadracing World Action Fund in memory of the late Paul Farrell, former CCS and Formula USA official, who passed away in 2002. Thanks Nate!)
With the emergence of Knapp and Carter, and by adding Josh Hayes into the mix on the Paris Racing Honda, the Factory Pro SportBike final looked to be a real dog fight to end the day. Garrett Carter took the holeshot but his lead was short lived as the juggernaut of Jeff Wood and Josh Hayes quickly overtook the Royal Oak, MI rider coming out of the first turn. Hayes, aboard the Paris Racing Honda, tucked in behind Wood to move up into second and then from there to the end of the race Hayes pushed the Bettencourt Yamaha below the track record for the class, which Wood set on lap six at 1:28.004. While Wood and Hayes pulled away from the third place skirmish, Robert Jensen and Taylor Knapp put on a terrific show trying for the final podium position, never more than a few hundredths of a second apart over the next 18 miles. At the final flag, it was Wood for his third win, followed by Hayes 3.041 seconds later and Jensen was able to get his Butler Machine Yamaha past Knapp to finish third. Wood opens a 6 point lead over Jensen in the ASRA Factory Pro SportBike championship, looking for his fourth SportBike crown.
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Next round for the ASRA Pro Series is Road America July 4-5-6, 2008 in conjunction with the Championship Cup Series and the 25th Annual Buell Homecoming. Join us there for all the action.