Josh Hayes stages a spectacular comeback in MotoAmerica

Josh Hayes just proved that age is but a number, by stunning the MotoAmerica Supersport field this weekend with a win on Saturday and a tight second on Sunday at VIRginia Intl. Raceway. This after a fourth place finish in the legendary Daytona 200 back in March, all of these against riders half or more of his age, which by the way is 47. The adage, “old age and treachery beats youth and exuberance” has certainly held true for Hayes.

A poster hangs by the side door of the Road Dirt garage, depicting the 4-time AMA Pro Superbike Champion Hayes with the motorcycles and four plates from his premier class winning seasons. Hayes cemented himself as an American road racing legend with his dominance in the Superbike class across those years, and his prior ascension through the North American pro road racing ranks since the mid-1990s, from his 1999 Daytona 750 SuperSport title, 2003 AMA 750 Superstock, and 2006-07 Formula Xtreme Championships. Hayes has left an indelible mark on the sport, no doubt.

Enshrined in the Road Dirt Moto Cave.

Alas age, advancements in the sport, and the 2015 MotoAmerica acquisition of AMA Pro Road Racing seeing new rising stars like Cameron Beaubier, Toni Elias, and Jake Gagne to name but a few, it looked like the sun was setting on Josh Hayes’ career in the saddle. Hayes finished close behind his young Yamaha teammate Beaubier in 2015 and ’16, then fourth overall in 2017. Hayes then stepped into a rider coaching role with Yamaha, with Garrett Gerloff, Bobby Fong and young upstart Rocco Landers among the students in his new J4orce Training Camp. Hayes and wife Melissa Paris, herself a fantastic racer and rider coach, even appeared in the now iconic motorcycling movie “Why We Ride”, establishing them both as American motorcycle racing royalty.

Josh Hayes leading the way in MotoAm Supersport race 1, and giving chase in race 2, at VIR.

Now Josh is back in the saddle. And winning.

After his Saturday win at VIR, his 84th AMA career, Hayes quipped in the press conference, “I was laughing on the podium. I said, ‘Hunting was good today.’ These guys are riding incredible and really, at the beginning of the race, it was almost like panic, like, ‘This is my station in life.’ Talking before the race, I said the second half of the race will be the key, and it came true. It’s going to take a while to wipe the smile off my face.”

Sunday brought a pitched battle with another former teammate Josh Herrin, with whom Hayes swapped the lead and occasionally some paint over 20 times in the 19-lap race. They finished a mere .032 apart, with Herrin edging out the old legend to the checkered flag. It was quite the race to behold.

Josh Hayes, 2017, when we met and chatted in the paddock.

I first met Josh Hayes in 2017 while writing for Born To Ride magazine. I was wandering the paddock late Friday after a day of practice and qualifying at Road Atlanta, and stopping near the Attack Yamaha tent and truck I must have looked lost, as Hayes appeared, smiled at me, offered a handshake and asked, “Can I help you with something?” I’d been a big fan for a number of years, so was initially taken aback at his friendliness. We talked for a few minutes, he welcomed me snapping a shot, then he got back to his tasks, and I walked away grinning, reflecting, “I just chatted with Josh Hayes. How cool is that?”

Now here he is, reviving his racing chops, and besting the young guns in the Supersport class (which the Daytona 200 is as well). It is a true thrill to see Hayes back on the track, contending for podiums and defying the age odds. Here’s hoping he can continue to add to his already storied racing career, and keep notching wins/podiums for as long as he chooses and is able to keep competing. All of us middle age old farts are cheering him on. Old guys can still rock.

Rob

*info and photos by MotoAmerica/Brian J. Nelson Photography

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