Interview with Josh Hayes
AMA Pro Road Racing Champion's 2010 AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike Champion

Josh Hayes and his Team Graves Yamaha Team captured this year’s closely fought AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike Championship at the final race of the season. AMA Pro talked to Hayes while he enjoys his off season before he begins preparation for his defense of his title in 2011.

After The 2009 Season That Saw You Win Your First And Eventually Seven Ama Pro Superbike Races, How Did You Feel Coming Into The 2010 Season?

Hayes: “I felt pretty confident that we would be able to do a good job, that we would be able to be racing for wins and if I did that job well, the title would definitely be a possibility for us.”

Had Off Season Testing Given You Any Indication What Was In Store For 2010?

Hayes: “No, we might have rested a little bit on what we had in 2009. We showed up at Daytona and we were strong for a couple of practices but when it came time for qualifying and such, we found ourselves pretty far down the list. We realized those other guys had improved their game so we had to start playing catch up. After Daytona, the team and Yamaha went to work on the motorcycle and came up with a machine that we were competitive with from the second event on and we started finishing on the podium on a regular basis.”

How Did That Affect The Start Of The Season For You?

Hayes: “Daytona was a disaster right from the git-go. In the first race, we ended up frying the clutch at the start and I also found myself going off and on the racetrack a couple of times and was dead last but I worked my way back to a 13th place position at the finish. In the second race at Daytona, I hadn’t qualified well so I started from a pretty tough starting position but got myself up into the show with the rest of the guys and found out for sure that we were struggling a bit on speed so I had to do my best to hang on and ended up not doing anything spectacular and came home sixth.”

How Did The Team Respond Going Into Round Two At Auto Club Speedway?

Hayes: “We really worked on the Yamaha throughout the rest of the season. The guys were pretty awesome how quickly they made it happen and when we showed up for the next race, the Yamaha was ready to go and we found ourselves racing for podium positions so we were pretty stoked about that. The Auto Club track is known to be a tough one for me so when we led both races and put it on the podium (2nd) for the second race we knew we were pretty good.”

With The Transition To Graves For 2010, How Much Did Your Team Change?

Hayes: “For me there wasn’t a huge change, for the most part a lot of my guys stayed and the core team stayed the same. But the people we gained from Graves helped on the suspension side and we were able to continue the suspension development direction we had already gone with the motorcycle.”

Your Next Race Was Road Atlanta, How Much Had The Team Changed For This Race?

Hayes: “It was all part of the process, we did show up with some new parts there, we had some new exhausts pipes that were really loud and Graves had gone to work to shed some weight off the machine. We had some new wheels too which helped save weight and improve acceleration. So the Yamaha was improving on a weekly basis with us continuing to develop the bike and the new pieces, it was an excellent race weekend.”

Road Atlanta Seemed Like A Turning Point For You On Many Levels, Was It?

Hayes: “Yes, Road Atlanta is a place that was close to home and a place where I had success in the past and it was also the beginning of a turnaround for me in 2009. I kind of felt positive coming in and we got up to speed quickly and we were able to cross the line first on Saturday. There was a little bit of a fiasco on the jumped start and so I got bumped back to sixth place but I was feeling pretty good because I knew that on-track, I had ridden as good as anybody and I had crossed the finish line a winner so I still had that in my bag. In race two on Sunday, Blake (Young) raised his game and he rode really well, I ended up following him around and finished second. I came out of there knowing we had the package to run well the rest of the season and I also knew that the team was continuing to develop the bike to make it even better every weekend.”

How Did You Feel About The Penalty Situation At Road Atlanta?

Hayes: “There were a lot of meetings and a lot of talk about maybe coming back and figuring it out later and quite honestly, Keith McCarty (Yamaha) and myself were both of the same mindset that we just wanted it over and done with, ‘you know what, just let me know where we are at and what kind of work I have left to do and lets just get on with the racing.’ I felt that everybody learned something from the experience including AMA Pro Racing on how to handle certain situations and I came away from it feeling that in the future, things like that would be dealt with as fairly as possible, that the essence of competition was most important.”

How Important Is A Positive Mindset To Your Riding?

Hayes: “I think you have to be positive to be successful, riders confidence is everything whether it is the machine and himself, they both really affect how he conducts himself on the racetrack. I believe that we had a machine and package that we could go out and beat anybody with. Quite honestly, I was a little frustrated at that point that I wasn’t running away with races but it never works out that easily, you just don’t run away with too many AMA Pro SuperBike races. I felt if I just continued to work hard, it would pay off for me.”

At The Next Race At Infineon Raceway, You Swept The Weekend, How Satisfying Was That?

Hayes: “That was a pretty interesting weekend. From the moment we unloaded off the track, things just kind of went in my direction. I was able to get up to speed so fast and it even surprised me that for 30 minutes of the first practice session, I had like four seconds on the field. Some guys got close but I knew I could do a lot of fast laps. I can’t put my finger on why the Yamaha is so good at getting around that racetrack but it showed with a commanding performance and two strong wins there.”

After That Kind Of Weekend Did You Start Thinking About The Championship?

Hayes: “I didn’t necessarily start thinking about it for quite a while until maybe Road America when it started coming up in the press conferences about the championship between Jake (Zemke), Tommy (Hayden) and myself. Jake had gotten a pretty substantial jump and we were trying to catch him and at mid-season it was the three of us. After that it seemed Tommy and I were more consistent and we kind of pushed Jake out of the limelight. I’d get into the press room and we started getting asked questions and then you start thinking about it as an afterthought. I knew consistency was going to be crucial and I felt pretty fortunate that I was racing for wins, not just the podium.”

You And Tommy Had Competed For A Championship In Super Stock, How Did That Affect The Battle This Year?

Hayes: “If anything it gave me a little confidence because in that battle, I came out on top. Tommy definitely improved his game this year from years past. This year Tommy upped his game and he didn’t have any mid-season slump, he rode strong for the entire season. So it was good, it was great to see Tommy up his game and get in there and mix it up and I had a lot of fun racing with him.”

How Important Has Your Wife Melissa Been To Your Success?

Hayes: “All I can tell you is from the time we have been together, I’ve won three AMA Pro National Championships and I finished second in the other two. She’s been a big part of helping me keep my head straight at times and to stay motivated at others. She is one of the most motivated people I’ve ever met and with her own racing program and how she goes about handling herself, she’s inspired me to go out and work harder and to remember why I’m doing this and how hard I’ve worked for it. It has been fantastic to have someone in the household who understands what I’m going through and what life is like doing this. She helps me see things from a different perspective and she kept my head straight and kept me motivated.”

Has Winning The Championship Sunk In?

Hayes: “I really don’t think so. I honestly don’t think it has. I think to myself ‘it was my job, it was what I was supposed to do.’ And it’s not just winning a championship but the AMA Pro SuperBike championship. When we get back on the circuit and the number one plate is on my bike, I think things will start to come back into perspective. I’ve been enjoying the off-season doing a lot of cycling and I also tried dirt track racing this past weekend. I played tennis in high school and I am back playing and having a lot of fun with that. Things are good and fortunately, the things I enjoy doing keep me fit so I feel confident I’m going to be ready to go when we show up for testing and start working on 2011.