Video: How GEICO Suzuki’s Martin Cardenas Won The 2012 AMA Pro Daytona SportBike Championship


GEICO Suzuki’s Martin Cardenas built a big points lead and maintained it until he clinched the 2012 AMA Pro Daytona SportBike Championship during the penultimate race weekend of the series, at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Then Cardenas went to the season finale at NOLA Motorsports Park and won the last race of the series.

Cardenas has now won 24 races since the Daytona SportBike class was established, with seven wins in 2009, nine wins and the championship in 2010 and eight wins and the championship in 2012. (In 2011 he won one Superbike race, giving him a grand total of 25 AMA Pro National race wins.)

Cardenas Ends Championship-Winning Season With Thrilling Victory on GEICO Suzuki

NEW ORLEANS (Oct. 7) — Martin Cardenas capped his second championship season Sunday with a thrilling victory over hard-charging Cameron Beaubier at NOLA Motorsports Park to push his 2012 total to eight wins and the all-time class record to 24.

In a repeat of Saturday’s slugfest between the two, Cardenas got the early lead and help it for 14 laps until Beaubier finally caught up and made a pass for the lead. The two swapped the No. 1 spot back and forth a few times down the stretch and were pushing each other and their motorcycles to the absolute limit. Slipping and sliding their way through the final lap, the two appeared to get together in the final turn with Cardenas coming out on top and crossing the finish line first.

“I wanted this win very much,” Cardenas said. “Cameron has been so good and won a lot of races lately but today I pushed with everything I had to get this win. It is a great way to end this incredible season. I know I have the best team in the sport and having GEICO on board has been wonderful. The big bosses are here today so it’s nice to give them a big show.

“I don’t know if we touched or not. It was very close. I had passed him in the same spot he passed me earlier and I knew he would try something at the end. He wanted to win as much as we did. It’s really been a remarkable year racing with Cameron and the others. It made the championship so much better knowing we beat such great riders to get it.”

Cardenas captured the 2010 title in the GoPro Daytona SportBike category on the strength of nine wins. He then switched to Superbike in 2011 before returning to Daytona SportBike this season.

Although he was asked about a possible return to Superbike in 2013, Cardenas said that’s something he’ll worry about later.

“Right now, I want to enjoy this time with my teammates and friends,” Cardenas said. “Lots of things have been discussed and I’m sure we’ll figure something out soon. I can tell you the competition is just as tough here as in Superbike. The skill level of the top riders in this class is exceptional, as we all saw today.”

The GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing awards banquet competes the year Monday night at the Hyatt Regency in New Orleans.

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.

New Champ Cardenas Will Hold Nothing Back at Season Finale

NEW ORLEANS (Oct. 3) — Clinching the 2012 AMA GoPro Daytona SportBike title with room to spare has given two-time class champion Martin Cardenas plenty of reasons to look forward to this weekend’s season-ending Triumph Big Kahuna New Orleans at NOLA Motorsports Park.

“I can come to NOLA and just ride my GEICO Suzuki without any pressure,” said the 29-year-old Colombian rider, who donned the ’12 crown two weeks ago in Miami. “It will be just like riding when you are young and all you think about is trying to get on the podium. There are no expectations. We can just have some fun with the team and celebrate what we’ve accomplished this year.”

Cardenas and his Frank Aragaki-led crew will be looking to add to their stellar 2012 resume that already features seven victories, four runner-up results and one third-place finish in 17 races. The group has helped Cardenas start from the pole position seven times and lead the most laps in a race on nine occasions.

“The team has been exceptional,” said Cardenas, who also won the 2010 Daytona SportBike championship. “From John and Chris Ulrich, to Frank and the crew, Aaron Henry, Nathan Raptis, Rick Kress, Tim Anderson, Scott Crawford and James Siddall, everyone has contributed to this championship.”

NOLA Motorsports Park, a 2.75-mile, 16-turn track south of downtown New Orleans, is hosting its first GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing event, although riders got a chance to test at the facility in late June.

“It’s a very nice racetrack, lots of turns and areas for passing,” Cardenas said. “We ran pretty well there in the test but of course it will be different this time as the weather will be a bit cooler maybe and the track will have a few more months of seasoning.

“There are two races left and they both happen this weekend so we’re going to do all we can to win. As I said, we have no pressure, no need to protect our position or anything like that, so we can be aggressive and ride to win.”

Racing starts with a practice session at noon, Friday, followed by the first qualifying session at 3 p.m. Qualifying resumes with a second and final session at 8:50 a.m., Saturday, which will set the field for both races. Race 1 takes place at 2 p.m., Saturday, with Race 2 slated for 2:15 p.m., Sunday. SPEED TV will carry all the action.