A mad dash to the finish of Sunday’s Superbike race at the MotoAmerica Championship of Utah had competitors Toni Elias and Cameron Beaubier both trying to catch their breath just past the finish line of Utah Motorsports Campus’ East Course.
After all, the two championship combatants, along with third-place finisher Garrett Gerloff, had given each other all they could handle over the final 10 laps of the race, swapping positions seemingly at will. Eventually, Elias held on for his second win of the weekend at the Grantsville track, giving him five wins in 10 races this season and stretching his lead to 26 points over Beaubier in the season points standings.
“(Beaubier) did an amazing job,” said Elias, a Barcelona, Spain-based rider who competes for Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing. “He gives me a lot of difficulties I’ve never seen. Today is one of the days when I saw him (ride) really strong. There are other times, but today was maybe one of the strongest days. It’s really difficult. It’s good for the show, but (Gerloff) was there too. He’s there and all three can make a good show.”
Sunday marked the 30th victory of Elias’ MotoAmerica Superbike career, a number that ranks him fifth all-time. Beaubier, a Yamaha Factory Racing rider with 33 career victories, appeared well on his way to No. 34 on Sunday before a crash involving Mathew Scholtz caused the race to be red-flagged just past the halfway point — erasing a 2.5-second lead Beaubier had built after starting from the pole position.
“I just put my head down and pushed there at the beginning,” said Beaubier, of Roseville, California. “I had a two and a half second gap and I was pretty comfortable at that pace. I was really comfortable. So that was pretty frustrating to see the red flag come out. I knew it was just going to be a dog fight until the end with (Elias and Gerloff) … It’s frustrating coming in second, but that was an amazing battle.”
Gerloff picked up his second consecutive third-place finish of the weekend, coming in less than two tenths of a second behind his teammate, Beaubier. He currently sits third in the points standings in just his second season in the Superbike class.
“I felt like I had a good shot, but these guys went just a touch faster on the last lap,” said Gerloff, of Houston. “Where I felt like I was strong compared to them, they stepped it up on that last lap in those areas and I just wasn’t able to just put a wheel in there. I gave it everything I had.”
Josh Herrin finished fourth in Sunday’s race, followed by JD Beach.
Saturday’s race featured the top competitors packed close together for the first two-thirds of the 23-lap event. However, the tight racing took its toll on the riders, one by one. Beach crashed out of the race, while Herrin had a previous back injury that started giving him problems and Beaubier’s rear tire lost traction and he began to lose ground. That allowed Elias to pull away for a 1.969-second win over Scholtz, with Gerloff another 0.494 seconds back in third. Beaubier was fourth and Jake Lewis finished fifth.
“I was thinking to do a very calm pace for the first 10 laps, being in second position but I couldn’t,” Elias said. “Josh (Herrin) passed me. Garrett (Gerloff) passed me. JD (Beach) passed me like lightning. Mat (Scholtz) was attacking me like an animal in the jungle. So, I tried to stay on the bike calm, waiting. I was thinking, ‘if this continues, I’m done today. I have to accept they will go.’”
Scholtz, a Yamaha rider from Durban, South Africa, had a tough battle to pick up his second podium finish of the season. He and Herrin made contact at one point when everyone was bunched together.
“This track is really, really tight and to make passes here you’re against some pretty big guys,” Scholtz said. “Herrin’s a hard rider. I’m a hard rider. All the guys are exceptional riders. I think it’s just part of the game. It’s one of those things.”
Gerloff lamented that he wasn’t able to stay closer to Elias and Scholtz as he dealt with some issues with his bike.
“I just had a little bit of a technical issue in the middle of the race and had to figure out how to ride around it, but once I was able to, the bike still felt good and everything,” he said. “So, I was able to come back. I wish I could have stayed closer to these guys when I was dealing with that because I felt like I had good pace at the end of the race.”
MotoAmerica’s 2019 season continues July 12-14 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California. Other events on the schedule will take place in Sonoma, California (Aug. 10-11); Wampum, Pennsylvania (Aug. 23-25); Millville, New Jersey (Sept. 7-8); and Birmingham, Alabama (Sept. 20-22).