HOMESTEAD, Fla. (Sept. 22) — GEICO Suzuki pro Martin Cardenas put a virtual stranglehold on the 2012 GoPro Daytona SportBike championship Saturday with a strong second-place finish in the first of two GEICO Motorcycle AMA Pro Road Racing races this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The 29-year-old Cardenas, who won the Daytona SportBike class in 2010, finishes the day 83 points ahead of Dane Westby, the only rider left with a mathematical chance of winning it all. Saturday’s winner, Cameron Beaubier, was officially eliminated from championship contention.
“I had a great start, got the holeshot, and led the first two laps,” Cardenas said. “Cameron got around me and just pulled a gap. He was very good, especially early in the race. I tried to keep on his pace but I just couldn’t.
“I began focusing on the guys behind me. Bobby and Dane were both on my rear wheel at various times. My pit board seemed to say 0.0 (gap) every time I went by so I knew I needed to ride perfect laps. I think maybe once or twice I made small mistakes but it didn’t hurt me.
“Towards the end I put my head down and increased the pace a little. I picked up a small gap, maybe one second or so on Bobby, and just concentrated on finishing strong in this race.”
The main goal of the day was to finish ahead of Westby, Cardenas’ teammate at Team Hammer. Westby started the day 76 behind Cardenas and lost seven more points with his fourth-place result. The maximum number of points that a single rider could earn this year is 94.
“We wanted to increase the points lead today, if possible, to get us closer to the championship,” Cardenas said. “We didn’t expect to clinch it this race because of the points difference but maybe tomorrow. The main thing is that we improve a little on today’s performance and try to give Cameron a challenge.”
Cardenas has a class-leading seven victories and 12 podium finishes this season.
The second race of the Triumph Big Kahuna Miami is scheduled for 2:15 p.m., Sunday. SPEED TV will air all of Saturday and Sunday’s action.