Every time Miguel Duhamel leaned his 300-pound Honda RC51 superbike into the ninth turn at Colonel's Brainerd International Raceway with the lead in the AMA Chevy Trucks Superbike final on Sunday, several of the fans lining the fence and sitting in the bleachers would cheer.
Duhamel, a Canadian who hasn't raced at CBIR since 1997 when he won the superbike final, did not let them down. He took the lead for good on the 14th lap of the 21-lap race to win his 23rd career superbike final and become the all-time winningest superbike racer. He also won his third superbike final at CBIR to tie Wayne Rainey.
Duhamel also set a track record in average speed, 110.422 mph. His average lap time was 1 minute, 37.807 seconds, and margin of victory over series points leader, Mat Mladin of Australia, was .067 seconds.
"I want to thank all my fans for not quitting on me," Duhamel said. "I dedicate (this win) for all my fans out there who are cheering for me."
Miguel Duhamel smiled as he received a hug and a kiss from his girlfriend after he won the Superbike final at the American Motorcyclist Association Chevy Trucks Superbike Championship at the Colonel's Brainerd International Raceway on Sunday. (Dispatch Photo by Clint Wood)
Duhamel's last superbike win was at the Daytona 200 last year. Later that year, his season was cut short by a crash at Road Atlanta. In 1998, he suffered a season-ending injury during qualifying at New Hampshire.
In the final lap on Sunday, Duhamel started seventh and raced into a situation that could have caused another injury.
Racing into the first turn, Randall Mennenga's bike blew its motor and a huge blue smoke cloud could be seen from the start/finish line.
"That scared the bejesus out of me and I'm sure Mat (Mladin who was running second) was too," Duhamel said.
Mennenga had already pulled off the track but Duhamel said he couldn't see that.
On the final lap, Mladin also said he was planning to attempt to overtake Duhamel, but he got behind a racer on the ninth turn who was a lap down.
"As soon as I saw this racer coming down the straight, I started thinking about the championship a little bit and Miguel pulled away from me just too much and I couldn't make a run where I planned on passing him," Mladin said.
There were several lead changes. Duhamel, Mladin and Vance and Hines Ducati's John Kocinski of California all led.
Duhamel led for 12 laps, Mladin for four and pole-sitter Kocinski, who set the track record of 1 minute, 35.625 seconds at 112.941 mph in qualifying on Saturday, led the first three laps and the fifth and sixth. On the seventh lap, his bike's rear tire was shredded and he had to pit.
Mladin's second place also was his third consecutive second-place finish at CBIR and his eighth podium finish (first through third) this season, Jamie Hacking on a Yamaha finished third, his best superbike finish at CBIR and his second podium finish this season.
With Mladin's second-place finish he also increased his points lead over Team Honda's Nicky Hayden by 12 points. Kentuckyian Hayden, who has won three superbike finals this season, finished fourth.
Mladin and Duhamel battled it out during the later stages of the race, consistently passing each other. Duhamel did pass Kocinski once to lead the fourth lap.
"With John and Mat, I led a few times and I thought I could break away but when I did that the tires seemed to get really hot and greasy," Duhamel said. "So I'd rather not lead."
He said Mladin's bike was running good but "his bike was too slow down the front straight so I would just go by him and he did a good job to hang with me."
Mladin, who said he was disappointed, thought he could have won.
"I could get off second place if I had 5 mph like those two guys there in front awhile had and then Miguel in the end," he said. "Anyway, from turn one to the last turn, I think I had control of everybody. It's unfortunate today but the bike wasn't running quite as well as what we wanted."
Mladin added that he could easily pass Duhamel out of the second turn into the third turn.
"He was doing a great job, don't get me wrong," Mladin said. "I could easily pass him there. I could take half track and still get by him there."
Duhamel said when Mladin did pass him on the third turn, he "kind of moved over on him. He said this move might have pushed him off the track.
"That was my only big concern," Duhamel said, "(that he would) lose a brain cell and decide to take me out or something like that, which you know that's not really fair to Mat. But that is one thing I was keeping in the back of my mind because obviously his bike didn't have the speed."
-- Craig Connell of Australia in his AMA racing debut on his Ducati won the Buell Pro Thunder Series final on Sunday. After early leaders Shawn Higbee and Mike Smith fell back with bike problems, Connell motored to a convincing 13-second victory over defending champ Shawn Conrad. Jeff Nash was third and now leads Conrad by 29 points.
-- Rich Oliver won the MBNA 250 Grand Prix final on Sunday to collect his fifth 250GP race of the year and 47th of his career.
-- Kawasaki's Eric Bostrom took his second Pro Honda Oils 600 SuperSport win of the season in a thriller over Kurtis Roberts, on the Erion Honda and Yamaha rider Jamie Hacking.
--Grant Lopez won his second Lockhart Phillips USA 750 SuperSport race of the season on Saturday.
-- Kurtis Roberts had several things go wrong in Saturday's eSportbike.com Formula Xtreme final but wound up winning.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.