Championship In Hand, Cardenas Pushes Hard For Win Only To Crash Late

NEW ORLEANS (Oct. 6) — With just two laps remaining in Saturday’s Big Kahuna New Orleans, newly-crowned GoPro Daytona SportBike champion Martin Cardenas had just one thought as he led the field around Turn 16 and onto the front straightaway — “Today I was not going to be second.”

Locked in a tight battle with Cameron Beaubier from mid-race on, Cardenas had just retaken the lead he held for the first 13 laps when he lost the front end of his GEICO Suzuki. The 29-year-old Colombian slid to a stop in a grassy run-off area and immediately jumped to his feet in an attempt to rejoin the race, but the damage to his bike was too much for him to continue and he was forced to resign from the contest.

“I got a little bit outside the line and just lost grip,” said Cardenas, a seven-time winner this season. “It happened very quickly. Cameron and I were having a great battle and I knew it would go down to the very end between us.

“Having the title already, I was able to take a chance. He had followed me for several laps and then took the lead. I went right back around the first chance that I had and was feeling comfortable again in the lead. We got through a few turns and were just going into 16 when it happened. No problem. I am fine. We try again tomorrow.”

A prerace concern about tire life on the brand-new racing surface proved to be a non-factor and Cardenas actually praised Dunlop for the racing tires he used.

“It was never an issue,” Cardenas said. “Just normal wear and tear. That’s not why I went down. We’ve had a slight problem the last few races with the rear end. It’s just sliding a little too much. Just barely off, but off. The tires were not a problem for me.”

The race was red-flagged in Lap 2 after a scary crash between Jake Gagne and Bobby Fong, who shared the front row with Cardenas and Beaubier. Fortunately, Cardenas had gotten the jump and already had a slight gap on the field when it happened so he wasn’t disrupted by the incident.

On the restart, Cardenas once again got a great start and gapped the field before Beaubier began tracking him down, eventually catching him with nine laps to go. An extremely tight fight between the two carried forward until the accident.

“I expect we’ll have another great race, just like today, when we line up tomorrow,” Cardenas said. “And once again I will try to win.”

Saturday’s race will air on SPEED TV, as will Sunday’s season finale, which begins at 2:15 p.m. at NOLA Motorsports Park.

Cardenas Wins Again, Surfs Away with Big Kahuna Title

BRASELTON, Ga. (April 22) — It wasn’t quite as easy as Saturday’s wire-to-wire job, but GEICO Suzuki rider Martin Cardenas still managed to win his second AMA Pro Daytona SportBike trophy of the weekend Sunday at Road Atlanta to sweep the Triumph Big Kahuna Nationals and claim the unique top prize — a brand new surfboard.

“I have to learn how to surf now,” Cardenas joked in the winner’s circle. “I have never tried, but I will head to the beach soon to see if I can do it.”

Surfing aside, there is no question that Cardenas knows how to ride his GSX-R600. He was dominant throughout the weekend, leading every qualifying session and riding to the top of the podium in both main events. In six Daytona SportBike starts at Road Atlanta, Cardenas has won five times. The other race was lost due to engine failure.

“This track suits me well, and thankfully so does the next one,” Cardenas said, with his eyes already on Infineon Raceway in Northern California’s wine country. “I feel very comfortable on this bike. It just feels very good and that makes it nice for me.”

Sunday’s race was a little more stressful for Cardenas, although he made it look fairly routine. He swapped the lead around with a couple of riders in the first lap and a half but then pulled ahead for good from there. Tommy Hayden was the only one to keep Cardenas honest, riding right behind him the entire race, but lapped traffic near the end allowed Cardenas to thwart any thoughts of a real challenge and the Colombian took the checkered flag by 1.220 seconds.

“It was harder because Tommy stayed right on my tail the whole way,” Cardenas said. “I knew I couldn’t make any mistakes or he would take the position. It was tiring to ride that focused for that long but this is what was required to win. Some back markers helped me at the end this time, so there was no late maneuvering and I was able to get the victory.

“The entire GEICO Suzuki team should get credit for this weekend. Everyone executed their jobs perfectly and the bike was in great form. I am happy for these two wins.”

Cardenas’ double-win weekend moved his total number of victories in the class to 18, a record amount. It also helped him build a sizable 20-point lead in the championship standings after just three races.

Up next is the Great Clips West Coast Moto Jam, which run May 4-6 at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.

Double-Up Road Atlanta Champion Cardenas Ready To Defend His Titles

ATLANTA (APRIL 18) — GEICO Suzuki rider Martin Cardenas has lots of good feelings heading into this weekend’s AMA Triumph Big Kahuna Nationals at Road Atlanta, and he’s hoping his positive outlook will produce another big outing at one of his favorites racetracks in the world.

The last time Cardenas and the AMA series visited Road Atlanta in 2010, the Team Hammer pro pulled off a double win in the ultra-competitive Daytona SportBike class, which ultimately propelled him to the championship. Now he returns having earned the pole at the season-opening Daytona 200 with a bike that can easily repeat the feat.

“I’ve liked this racetrack very much since the first time I rode here,” said Cardenas, a 29-year-old from Medellin, Colombia. “Obviously, we did as good as we could do the last time we raced here in 2010, winning both Saturday and Sunday’s races so my mind is excited when I think about racing here again.

“I enjoy the fans quite a bit in this area. They are very supportive of me and our program and you can always expect a lot of people to come and cheer us on. I am ready to race.”

Cardenas said the natural rolling terrain of Georgia and the more technical areas of the legendary 2.55-mile, 12-turn course of Road Atlanta give him a distinct advantage over many of his rivals, something he once again hopes to exploit this time through.

“There are some hard-braking corners and I believe one of my strengths is my ability to brake very late,” Cardenas said. “This is always something that can work to your favor during the course of a race.

“After Daytona we went to Homestead (Miami) to test and we found some other things we think will help us in Atlanta. Plus, I’ve been training hard at home, both in the gym and on a bike, so my conditioning is good. I think we are as prepared as possible.”

With 16 SportBike victories on his resume, Cardenas already is the most prolific rider in class history. Under this weekend’s schedule, he’ll get two chances to add to that total, with races slated for 2 p.m. Saturday and 2:15 p.m. Sunday.

“I like the weekend’s when we race twice; it gives you twice as many opportunities to win,” he said. “Plus, if you have an off day on Saturday, you only have to wait one day to redeem yourself. I love to race so I’d go every day if they would let me.”

Racing action at Road Atlanta runs from noon Friday to 5 p.m. Sunday.