High Drama At The MotoAmerica Season Finale In Alabama


Jake Gagne defended his Superbike crown in style at Barber Motorsports Park over the weekend, capping off a thrilling season of racing not only in Superbike, but in every other race class as well. The now 2x National Superbike Champion snagged a race 1 win on Saturday in typical Jake fashion, i.e. got the jump on everyone at the start, then ran away from the pack. Race 2 shaped up differently, in a fashion that took many by surprise. This one will be talked about among road racing fans for quite some time, we’re guessing. What a finish to a memorable year.

Captured by legendary race photographers Geoff & Barb Nickless over the Barber weekend, here’s some reflections on an incredible season.

2X MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Jake Gagne, and the 2022 Championship helmet he was awarded. Photos by Geoff & Barb Nickless.

Jake won 17 races last season in commanding fashion, but took home five less this season at 12, although each of this year’s wins were pretty dominating as well. What made this weekend and in fact, this whole season rather unique was the presence of a seasoned, world-class MotoGP rider on the grid in Danilo Petrucci. The Italian crashed the MotoAmerica Superbike party by tearing off four early to mid-season wins and multiple podiums, while defending champion Gagne struggled in the early races before getting situated and finding his pace. Jake had to ride “catch-up” to get back in contention and keep his title from being snagged by the MotoGP interloper. Some recounted the similarities to MotoGP rider Toni Elias’ 2016 debut season in MotoAmerica.

The Superbike combatants- Defending champion Jake Gagne, and Italian challenger Danilo Petrucci. Photos by Geoff & Barb Nickless.

Cool-headed as the 2021 defending champ always is, Gagne put his head down and throttled back into title contention as the season progressed. By the finale at Barber, he had won 11 races and led Petrucci by 13 points. Interestingly, the heated on-track battles everyone expected between the American champion and the Italian superstar never fully materialized across the season. Jake in his wins would characteristically run away from the pack, while Danilo would get tied up in battles with the other top contenders. With 13 points between them, the season finale would come down to the last race.

MotoGP and Dakar racer Danilo Petrucci shook up the MotoAmerica grid in 2022, forcing everyone to raise their game. Photo by Geoff & Barb Nickless.

By the September round at Alabama, Jake and his Yamaha teammate, South African Cam Petersen, were giddy and ready to get it on, as were other podium contenders South African Mathew Scholtz, PJ Jacobsen and Spaniard Hector Barbera. Petrucci, however, appeared tired, hurting, and at times somewhat sullen in the paddock, according to some observers. It had been a hard year for the Italian racer, who suffered injuries in last year’s MotoGP season, in the Dakar Rally he competed in, and from his crashes this season in America. He’s a fierce competitor, and has always battled through the pain, but the toll on his body and spirit was evident by the Barber round. Nonetheless, even a wounded tiger can still be deadly. No one counted him out of title contention, not the least of which the reigning champion.

Jake had a steely-eyed determination all weekend to defend his coveted Superbike crown, and rode a pair of near-flawless races. Photo by Geoff & Barb Nickless.

Saturday’s Race 1 unfolded with Jake doing Jake- taking pole position, jumping out in front, getting the holeshot, then running away from the pack. Mathew Scholtz on his Westby Yamaha tried to give chase after Gagne’s teammate Petersen crashed, but could never close the 5+ seconds gap on the champ. Ducati’s Petrucci took third after a jump-start penalty he had incurred was overturned, bumping BMW rider Jacobsen to fourth.

I talked with Jake Sunday morning and he stated, “It’s not over yet. This is motorcycle racing, so anything can happen. Danilo can still take this, so I have to stay focused, get off to a good start, avoid any drama, and bring this thing home for the team.”

Fighters in formation- Cam Petersen and Jake Gagne flew out ahead of the pack, and never let anyone get close. Photos by Geoff & Barb Nickless.

By Sunday’s Race 2, all eyes were on two bikes and riders- Jake Gagne and Danilo Petrucci. The electricity was palpable, on and around the track. At the launch, Jake again got the lead, but then something unexpected happened. Within a lap or two, Yamaha teammate Cam Petersen was out front, with Gagne close in tow, the pair almost flying in formation like fighter pilots. Early in the race I leaned over to Barb and Geoff Nickless, in town to shoot the races for us, and whispered, “I’m making an observation and prediction: Those two are working a plan…”

Gagne and Petrucci embrace and congratulate each other at the end of a hard fought weekend, concluding a hard fought season. Photo by Geoff & Barb Nickless.

And that’s how the Yamaha boys ran the entire race- Cam out front and Jake running wingman, covering Cam’s 6 o’clock. Petersen got the win, Gagne clinched the title repeat, while Petrucci battled again with Jacobsen, this time trailing him to the line in 4th, but earning enough points to finish the season 2nd overall. Jake swore the race wasn’t preplanned, giving Petersen full credit for the win, but Cam quipped later in the press room that he felt like Jake gave him the win, yet was still overjoyed with it. These two are great teammates and friends, on and off the track.

Honorable mention to “the girl wonder” Kayla Yaakov, Junior Cup racer extraordinaire. Photos by Geoff & Barb Nickless.

So ended a fascinating season of Superbike racing in the MotoAmerica series. Every other class was filled with thrills and drama as well, As former Superbike rider Josh Herrin ran away with the 2022 Supersport championship by over 100 points, a fast girl named Kayla Yaakov finished the Junior Cup season in 3rd, the first female to ever do so in American motorcycle road racing, and Tyler O’Hara won both the King of the Baggers and the Super Hooligans titles, among so many other highlights.

For those highlights, as well as other great stories, photos and footage from the 2022 MotoAmerica season, go visit the American road racing series here:


*Photos by Geoff & Barb Nickless
Nickless Photos

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  1. Mark Hughes

    It was a fantastic weekend and as a flagger close to the action, it was clear all riders were giving it everything they had.

    • Rob Brooks

      Hi Mark! Thanks for the job you do. Very important. Appreciated!

  2. Serge

    Great coverage !
    Wish I were there.

    • Rob Brooks

      Wish you were too! A great slate of races, all weekend.

  3. dean phelps

    Great story and photos Rob, as always! Talk to you soon.

    • Rob Brooks

      Missed you, my friend!
      Hope to see ya next year,


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