The championship has come down to two men on Yamahas. Will the veteran win yet another title, or will the relentless speed of his teammate be too much?
No, I'm not talking about MotoGP.
One of the two Monster Energy Graves Yamaha riders will become the first-ever MotoAmerica superbike champion this weekend as the season ends at New Jersey Motorsports Park. Josh Hayes has four domestic superbike titles. His 22-year-old teammate, Cameron Beaubier, is looking for his first, in his second year at the superbike level.
Each has won eight of the 16 races this year. Both have been on every podium, except for one race at Road Atlanta, where Hayes crashed.
Editor's note: Can't make it to NJMP? The MotoAmerica races stream live at Motor Trend On Demand. Check Common Tread this weekend for daily updates from New Jersey Motorsports Park on the title chase.
Beaubier has the advantage coming into the final two races on Saturday and Sunday with an 18-point lead over Hayes. He built that advantage with an impressive streak of three race wins and some crucial help from Yoshimura Suzuki rider Roger Hayden. The finishing order at the last three races has been the same: Beaubier, Hayden, Hayes. That has been frustrating for Hayden. In those three races, he finished a combined total of 0.139 seconds behind Beaubier, pipped at the line by feet each time. But it has been gratifying for Beaubier, not only because of the three wins, but also because Hayden stole points from Hayes by inserting himself between the two title contenders.
The dual wins at Indy gave Beaubier a little breathing space. Beaubier, Hayes, and Hayden have been the only three riders who seem capable of winning, so it's likely they'll fill the podium again at New Jersey, barring a DNF. That leads to some difficult math for Hayes, if he wants to keep his number-one plate.
If Hayes wins both races, Hayden finishes second, and Beaubier third, the two contenders will finish tied on points, but Hayes will be the champ with 10 race wins. Anything less than two wins and some help from Hayden, however, and Hayes will have to go back to using number four.
One more thing to consider: Beaubier crashed in both races at NJMP last year.
Hayes knows his young teammate has the points advantage, but he has the experience advantage.
"I think Cameron is going to feel a lot more pressure than me and I believe in Cameron enough that he's going to get the job done," says Hayes. "But I have no problem with tough love and if he opens that door, if he gets nervous, puts in a bad race, tips over or something like that, I will snatch it right out of his hands without thinking twice about it."
Though the field remains thin and one team has dominated, MotoAmerica in its first year has already turned around the attitude toward U.S. superbike racing. See you at NJMP?