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.