DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 19, 2014) – Hayden Gillim emerged as AMA Pro SuperSport champion at the Kawasaki Devil’s Showdown at New Jersey Motorsports Park last weekend. Gillim, who had finished second in the points four straight years in his various AMA Pro attempts and three times in AMA Pro SuperSport, had his hands full with Dustin Dominguez, and the battle for the title in 2014 was a true showdown.
The racing was very close – typical of the AMA Pro SuperSport class. Gillim had a two-point lead coming into the event and left with the same margin after he and Dominguez split wins in the Garden State.
“The last three years I have finished short, and to finally to come out to battle for wins every weekend and battle with Dustin, Corey (Alexander) and Wyatt (Farris) and everybody is fantastic. I was finally able to get the No. 1 plate,” Gillim said.
The TOBC Racing pilot won on Saturday in a shortened wet race and set himself up for a scenario where he only needed to follow Dominguez and the Houston Superbikes entry on Sunday. Gillim gave it his best shot to shot at the win in the finale but his second was more than enough to take the crown.
On Saturday, Gillim got off to a solid start, trailing Mark Miller, Jr., on the Mar Del Racing machine. Dominguez was third early, but was cautious in the slightly damp conditions. The Oklahoman upped his pace and was the fastest man on the track as the contest approached the midpoint, but he needed to make up serious ground.
Gillim worked past Miller and pulled away. Dominguez made his way to second by lap eight. The conditions worsened throughout the race and as the leaders were working lap 10, the a red flag flew. Multiple riders, including several fighting inside the top ten, crashed as the rain picked up.
The race was called since the stoppage came after the halfway point. Gillim was the winner ahead of Dominguez and Miller.
“The first couple of laps felt really good,” said Gillim. “But (the rain) started getting thicker and thicker.”
On Sunday, polesitter Dominguez got away second behind Gillim and was able to run strong. Even though Gillim was much friskier than one might expect from a rider just needing to finish second, Dominguez was in a good position and put pressure on Gillim early.
Eventually Dominguez took the lead and seemed to have a little more than Gillim.
Unfortunately for Dominguez, no other rider could join the fray and Gillim stayed on two wheels. Dominguez won the 16-lapper but it was not enough and he ended up two points short in the title chase.
“This is probably the most depressing win I’ve ever had but it’s a win and that’s good. I was trying to push (Gillim) into making a mistake and he never did. He rode a great race. At the end I decided to pick it up a bit,” said Dominguez.
Gillim admitted the championship wasn’t the only thing on his mind.
“The strategy was to win. It always is,” said Gillim. “The first few laps, I was pushing as hard as I could. We were having a really good battle.”
Miller had a great weekend, earning third and fifth. The Maryland native has performed well in AMA Pro competition before, but led Race 1 extensively and was rewarded with his best weekend yet on the Mar Del Racing Yamaha.
“It was amazing to be on the podium with these guys, a dream come true,” said Miller.
Wyatt Farris also earned the podium the next day. Farris fought in the second group on Saturday on his way to fourth but upped his pace in the dry. Farris also finished a clear third in points in a season where he learned plenty.
Farris seemed to be involved in close battles all year, a great situation for the young Californian on the Celtic/HVMC Suzuki.
“It was kind of a crazy race, I didn’t spend too much time with the harder tire and by the time I came to grips with it, they had gotten away,” said Farris, who described his season as solid. “It’s good to finish the year on the box.”
The final championship picture emerged with the checkered flag on Sunday.
Reigning East champ Corey Alexander saw his season slip away late. A couple of tough rounds meant he was out of the title fight. The other Celtic/HVMC pilot won the first three races but was only 23rd and sixth in New Jersey. Alexander held off young ace Kaleb De Keyrel for fourth place by a single point.
De Keyrel and his De Keyrel Racing team rallied on Sunday to jump five spots to fourth place. The 17 year-old earned a podium in 2014 and made a big leap from his first year in class.
Jason Aguilar, another youngster, took sixth in the final points. The Tuned Industries pilot put together the solid season in his first year on the tour. Aguilar’s best moment was his third place at Road America.
Race Worx USA’s JC Camacho was solidly inside the top ten all year long and took seventh in points. The Texan earned seven top tens in 2014.
Three young riders filled the last spots in the point standings, with Cody Wyman (Harv’s Harley-Davidson) leading Excel Racing’s Conner Blevins and TOBC Racing’s Curtis Murray home.
Riders impressing in New Jersey included Justin Jones. The Showtime Inc., pilot was fifth on Saturday. Escalante Racing’s Richie Escalante, from Mexico, took sixth and seventh. Florida’s Tim Hunt earned another eighth place.
Gillim was a fitting champion in another exciting year for the class. Having given it a great shot in previous campaigns, Gillim’s conquest serves as a testament to perseverance and hard racing.
Source and Photo: AMA Pro Racing/Brian J. Nelson