Race report from Dainese sponsored racer Brad Puetz at Infineon
27 May 2009 | News
Infineon Raceway in Sonoma California provided the location for my second outing in the hotly contested AMA Superbike Class. Infineon Raceway has always been considered one of the most physical race tracks in the United States and with the addition of 100 degree heat on race day we had the makings of a tough weekend.
Friday morning brought perfect conditions with temperatures in the 80’s and the track in great shape. I was able to end out the morning practice with lap times quicker than my qualifying pace from the 2008 Superstock event so things were looking good.
The Superbike class would have two qualifying sessions, a basic qualifying on Friday afternoon and then final qualifying on saturday morning. The goal was to qualify safely on friday when the conditions would be slightly cooler and not have to go into saturday’s qualifier with the added pressure of still having to make the qualifying cut-off.
Friday afternoon the temperature started to creep up but the Dunlop tires felt good and I was able to drop my lap times by 1.5 seconds from the morning practice times. I was actually able to run a long string of low 1.43 lap times which had me locked in the grid with some time to spare. The lap times were coming down nicely but one of those qualifying laps almost had me in a world of hurt. On my second last lap of qualifying I decided to put the hammer down in the carousel to get a really good drive onto the fastest section of the track. I kept a slightly tighter line than normal exiting the carousel and as I whacked the throttle in 3rd gear at about 130mph the rear end decided it had about enough and decided to step out far enough I was almost able to give my tail section a little kiss. It must have been a photographers dream as they were about to capture what was surely going to be my impending doom. The monster slide had me out of the saddle and the bike had jumped about 2000 rpm instantly as the rear tire broke loose. I resisted the temptation to chop the throttle and was able to to ride it out, averting a disaster that would have have surely earned me my pilots wings had it successfully tossed me over the hi-side at that speed. This incident would haunt me the whole weekend and I found myself waiting just that extra half second before getting on the gas on that corner exit.
Saturday’s qualifying was fairly uneventful and I just threw down some laps trying to adjust some lines while not using too much energy before the saturday afternoon race because it was going to be hot!
I managed to forget how the new starting light system works for the AMA races and was caught sleeping off the line. The pace was very quick right from the start and about ten laps into the race the heat was already taking it’s toll. The track was getting the tires quite greasy and the heat was wearing me down more than I had expected. I tried to stay smooth and not make any mistakes and just brought it home in the top twenty to collect some points and not risk a crash because I was really surprised how much the heat was affecting me. My lap times in race one were over a second slower than my qualifying pace so I was not real happy with my performance.
I had a new game plan for Sunday and was eager to make up for the places I lost in saturday’s race. The plan was simple, get off to a much quicker start and stay with the group in front of me and use them as a carrot to chase. Looking at the time sheet from saturday’s race I could see everyone’s times had dropped off quite drastically at the end while mine were pretty consistent. If I could stay with the row in front of me I would have a good chance of picking them off at the end of the race.
Sunday was even hotter and the temperatures were over 100 degrees. I did a better job of keeping hydrated and made sure I stayed in the air conditioning until just before my race.
I got a much better launch off the line and made a few passes early to stay with the group in front of me. I was able to lap in the high 1.43’s early and was riding with more energy than on the previous day. I knew to finish in the top 20 for the weekend overall I was going to have to catch rider # 269 on the Yamaha and beat him to the finish.
I steadily closed in on the Yamaha and was feeling really good on the brakes. With three laps to go I made my move going into the final corner and took over 18th spot. Now it was time to put my head down and pull out three of the hardest laps I could manage at the end of the race. I was able to pull out a four second gap over the next few laps and actually managed to do my best lap time on lap 20 in extreme heat on severely greasy tires so I was happy with that.
Sunday’s race had turned out much better for me and was a good way to end my weekend. I finished in the top 20 overall in my second weekend in the Superbike class and came away with 5 points. It was a good step forward for me and I look forward to continued progress in the Superbike class
Thanks to my team for sweating it out in the heat throughout the weekend and thanks to Dainese and their W-Frame suit for keeping me cool and safe in some very extreme conditions!