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Common Tread

Domination: If Beaubier wraps up MotoAmerica Superbike title, what's next?

Oct 08, 2020

Dominant adj. 1. exercising influence; ruling; prevailing 2. see Cameron Beaubier's 2020 MotoAmerica HONOS Superbike season.

With six races remaining — two first-ever tripleheader weekends — in MotoAmerica HONOS Superbike racing, the biggest suspense is how many records Cameron Beaubier will break. And what could happen next year.

Cameron Beaubier leads the Superbike field at Road America
This has been the typical scene in MotoAmerica HONOS Superbike racing in 2020: Cameron Beaubier out front by five seconds, with the rest of the field in his wake. Photo by Brian J. Nelson.

He has won 13 of 14 races this year, his record marred only by a DNF when he hit a bump that unsettled the front and he crashed at the second race of the second round at Road America. And naturally he was leading that race when he crashed. He has been on the pole for every race this year but one and he has set new track records at Road America, New Jersey Motorsports Park and Barber Motorsports Park.

Even 13 wins in 14 races understates his control over the series. He has led 210 of the 220 laps of Superbike racing this season, meaning he's been out front 95 percent of the time. And if you take away the race in which he crashed, he's led 207 of 208 laps. Races have followed a typical pattern: Beaubier steadily pulls away to a five-second to eight-second lead and cruises to the win.

Cameron Beaubier on the podium with trophy
Familiar sight: Cameron Beaubier with another first-place trophy. Beaubier has a 103-point lead with a maximum of 150 points still available. Photo by Brian J. Nelson.
Beaubier has now won 51 AMA Superbike races, ranking him third behind his former teammate Josh Hayes, with 61 victories, and the all-time leader, Mat Mladin, with 82. He is tied with Hayes with four championships and behind only Mladin's seven. Perhaps most impressive is that Beaubier won those 51 races in just 106 Superbike starts, giving him a win rate of almost 50 percent.

He's no overnight success. Beaubier is a 2007 Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup graduate and was teammate in the Grand Prix 125 class on the Red Bull KTM team with none other than Marc Márquez in 2009. Beaubier has won four MotoAmerica titles in the last five years, with just one interruption by Toni Elias, and last year he fought back from a 59-point deficit to edge Elias for the title.

For 2020, Yamaha switched its HONOS Superbike class effort to the Monster Energy Attack Performance Yamaha team run by team owner and tuner Richard Stanboli, who is also serving as Beaubier's crew chief. To say the partnership has been a success is understating it by a mile.

Richard Stanboli and Cam Beaubier
The most successful pairing in the paddock: Attack Performance owner Richard Stanboli is also Beaubier's crew chief. Beaubier credits Stanboli for his persistent pursuit of improvement and Stanboli has praised Beaubier for his professional approach and the quality of feedback he gives the team. Photo by Brian J. Nelson.

"Richard, you couldn't find a better guy for the job," Beaubier said in a recent video version of the regular MotoAmerica podcast. "He is constantly figuring out what we can do better. Even in some cases when we have a little time on people in practice and qualifying, he still wants more.

"Richard is a tuner."

Actually, Beaubier admits that constant quest for more might have led to the only hiccup in the season. After three straight wins at Road America in the first two rounds, the team made some last-minute changes in tire choice and rear shock for the second race of the second weekend. Could those changes be the reason he crashed when he ran over that well known bump in turn one? Beaubier admits it's possible.

If not for that bump at Road America, we'd be talking about the possibility of Beaubier recording a perfect season, winning all 20 races. Nobody has ever had a perfect season in AMA Superbike, though Ricky Carmichael did it twice in AMA Motocross, winning 24 of 24 motos in 2002 and 2004. The record Beaubier is on track to break is Hayes' mark of 16 wins in a season. To make up for the cancellation of the two Superbike races that were supposed to take place alongside the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas MotoGP race, MotoAmerica is running three HONOS Superbike races at Indy and Laguna Seca, to maintain a 20-race season. Four wins in the last six races would give Beaubier that record, too. Four out of six sounds like a huge challenge most years. In 2020, given Beaubier's performance, it almost seems a certainty.

Attack Performance team celebrates a Beaubier win
Switching to a new team for 2020 didn't slow down Beaubier. In fact, he accelerated. Here, the Monster Energy Attack Performance Yamaha team celebrates another win at New Jersey Motorsports Park. Photo by Brian J. Nelson.

The inevitable question: Why not WSBK?

It's a question that's been addressed before but can't be avoided. Some fans inevitably ask, if he's so good, why doesn't he go to World Superbike? Some even get cruder about it and basically suggest he's afraid to test himself against the best. Similar grumbling was heard when Mladin won seven AMA Superbike titles from 1999 through 2009. It's a frustrating situation for riders, who can't just make a phone call and get a ride on a top WSBK team as easily as you or I could go down to a dealer and buy a Yamaha YZF-R1.

"Find me a ride, man. Find me a ride," Beaubier said in the podcast, summing up his response to such criticisms.

"It's tough," Beaubier said. "All the people on social media, you try not to read the stuff but it's too easy to open up the comments and it's just frustrating, because people have no idea."

The reasons Beaubier is still in MotoAmerica instead of the Superbike World Championship are similar to Mladin's reasons more than a decade earlier. He gets paid a good salary to ride the best race bike in the paddock and work with a top team. He's winning races and championships. If the alternative is to take a non-paying ride on a poorly funded team in World Superbike and know he has scant chance of winning a race, then what's the incentive to do it?

Beaubier leading the Superbike race at Road Atlanta
Cameron Beaubier leading the field at Road Atlanta. Photo by Brian J. Nelson.

On the other hand, what if a truly top ride came open? That has now happened, as Michael van der Mark has announced he's leaving the Pata Yamaha team at the end of this year to ride for BMW in 2021. Could Beaubier be a candidate for that seat? It still seems like a long shot, but not impossible.

"If I got that Pata opportunity, I would jump all over it," Beaubier said. "That would be incredible... I want to go over there, too. I just want it to be the right opportunity. I'm just lucky for what I have here, but I feel like if I had the opportunity and I didn't jump on it, I would kick myself when I'm done racing."

Will he get the opportunity? It gets less likely every year. Beaubier is 27 and team owners generally prefer to sign a young rider and hope for a long-term, successful relationship. Plus, U.S. riders aren't usually at the top of the shopping list for most Europe-based teams, a fact that motivated the MotoAmerica founders to start their organization and try to improve prospects for U.S. talent. On the plus side, Beaubier's former teammate, Garrett Gerloff, has drawn some attention in his rookie year in World Superbike on the GRT Yamaha WorldSBK Junior Team. It has been an up-and-down season, but Gerloff has already made one podium appearance and was dicing for the lead in the top three when he crashed out in the rain at the recent Pirelli French Round.

No tight championship battles in other classes, either

It's actually possible that all of the MotoAmerica classes will be decided before the series moves to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca for the Superbike Speedfest at Monterey on October 23 through 25. In Supersport, HONOS Racing's Richie Escalante has a 40-point lead over M4 ECSTAR Suzuki's Sean Dylan Kelly going into Indianapolis. If Escalante wins both races at Indy — and he's already won 11 of 14 races so far this year — he will clinch the title, even if Kelly finishes second both times, because he'll have a 50-point lead going to Laguna Seca. Escalante's points advantage understates his dominance, actually. He has one DNF due to a first-turn crash that was no fault of his own that took him out of the race at The Ridge in Washington.

Richie Escalante, Sean Dylan Kelly and Branden Paasch racing
Three riders have been at the front in MotoAmerica Supersport all season: Honos Racing's Richie Escalante (54), M4 ECSTAR Suzuki's Sean Dylan Kelly (40) and Celtic HSBK Racing's Branden Paasch (21). But the episodes of close racing have almost always resolved with Escalante pulling away in the final laps to a solid win. Photo by Brian J. Nelson.

One championship has already been decided. In Liqui Moly Junior Cup, the 2019 champ, Rocco Landers, finished second in the first three races to Dominic Doyle — he lost the first two at Road America by a combined total of less than a tenth of a second — but has won 13 straight races since then, usually without drama and has clinched the title with four races remaining.

Landers is also racing in Twins Cup, where he has a six-race win streak and is close to clinching the title over Kaleb De Keyrel. Privateer Hayden Schultz is in third place in the standings despite missing the round in Washington state. Landers' plan is to wrap up the Twins Cup title at Indianapolis and skip the last round so he can go back to Europe for the next Red Bull Rookies Cup race.

The closest race is in Stock 1000, where Altus Motorsports' Cameron Petersen has a 31-point lead over Ride HVMC Racing's Corey Alexander, but Petersen is one of the hottest riders in MotoAmerica right now, having won six straight Stock 1000 races and beating several Superbike riders in the HONOS Superbike class on his Stock 1000-spec Suzuki GSX-R1000.

Racing resumes this weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the first time motorcycles have raced at the Brickyard since the last MotoGP appearance in 2015.

MotoAmerica HONOS Superbike standings
Rider Motorcycle Points Wins
Cameron Beaubier Yamaha 325 13
Jake Gagne Yamaha 222 0
Mathew Scholtz Yamaha 221 0
Bobby Fong Suzuki 164 1
Toni Elias Suzuki 142 0
Kyle Wyman Ducati 127 0
Josh Herrin BMW 122 0
David Anthony Suzuki 96 0