First, Josh Hayes did what he had to do.
Then Roger Hayden came up 0.044 seconds of doing what he's been trying to do all year.
But what mattered most in the end is that Cameron Beaubier did what he had to do, riding two smart and error-free races at New Jersey Motorsports Park on Sunday to become the first MotoAmerica Superbike champion. Beaubier survived a tricky first Superbike race that was red-flagged twice, then cruised comfortably in the afternoon race to finish the season four points ahead of his Monster Energy Graves Yamaha teammate Hayes.
And his thoughts when he crossed the finish line?
"The best feeling ever, man," said Beaubier. "I've been working really hard for this."
For Beaubier, more than half the battle was surviving a disjointed, unpredictable first race. Beaubier was in second place, behind Hayes, when a few drops of rain began falling. On lap nine, Hayden's Yoshimura Suzuki teammate, Jake Lewis, suffered a nasty high-side crash and the race was stopped. Lewis was taken to the hospital with a likely shoulder injury.
The sun came out during the red-flag delay and dried the track, but the race was stopped for good a few laps after the restart when light rain returned. Finishing order: Hayes, Beaubier, Hayden.
The MotoAmerica scoring system and the absence of Lewis made Beaubier's job much easier in race two. Though Superbikes and Superstock 1000s run together, they are scored separately, and none of the privateer Superbikes have been close to Beaubier all season. In the second race, he could not only let Hayes and Hayden disappear in their own battle, but he could also let the Superstock riders past him without losing any points.
"I was riding so timid. I was doing everything I could not to even think about risking crashing," Beaubier said. He briefly considered trying to follow Hayes and Hayden, both of whom were only interested in winning, but he quickly abandoned that strategy.
"I started making a couple of mistakes and got nervous and I thought, nope, I'm not going to follow them," Beaubier said. "I just didn't want to risk anything out there. I don't know how Josh won four of these things. They're pretty stressful."
Hayes finished the season with 10 wins, to Beaubier's eight, but a crash at Road Atlanta and a late-season string of wins by Beaubier made the difference.
"My bad days were just a little worse than his bad days," Hayes said. "A couple too many third-place finishes there at the end of the season. And that crash at Atlanta where I got a zero. Those things, over a season, really hurt you. And Cam just didn't make mistakes like that."
"I'm happy for him. I'm proud of him," Hayes said of his young teammate.
While Beaubier cruised home more than 20 seconds behind, Hayes and Hayden engaged in another epic battle between veterans that Hayden again lost in an eye blink. Hayden lost four of the last five races by less than a tenth of a second, this time losing out by 0.044 seconds.
"The last lap was fun, even though I came up a little short," said Hayden, who is looking forward to a revised Suzuki GSX-R1000 for 2016.
"That was one of the hardest races I've ever had," Hayes added.
Almost any kind of finish at all at NJMP would have wrapped up the Superstock 1000 for Jake Gagne, but he finished the season in style with a double win in the class.
The Supersport race was decided among a tight pack of four yellow Yamaha YZF-R6s, making the announcers' jobs difficult. In the end, Josh Herrin got the win, followed by Joe Roberts, Garrett Gerloff and class champion J.D. Beach. Yamaha's dominance of the first year of MotoAmerica was complete, sweeping all four classes.
The Superstock 600 podium was notable for redemption. All three riders — Bryce Prince, Travis Wyman and Wyatt Farris — came back from crashes on Saturday.
More than bragging rights were at stake for the young KTM RC390 Cup racers. The top five finishers for the season get an expenses-paid trip to race at Silverstone in Great Britain against the best RC390 Cup racers from other countries in Europe and the Americas. The top five were: Gage McAllister, Braeden Ortt, Anthony Mazziotto III, Justin McWilliams and Hayden Schultz. Names to watch for in the future.