Hodgson's troubled season closes with a top five finish at New Jersey Motorsports Park

2009-09-06 09:56
Corona Extra Honda's Neil Hodgson finished the 2009 AMA Pro Road series with his strongest finish since taking second place in the season opener at Daytona International Raceway.

Hodgson arrived at New Jersey Motorsports Park in the best health since the motocross accident that derailed his season following the Daytona race. There was renewed strength in his shoulder, though it was far from 100%. Physical limitations aside, Hodgson had difficulty concentrating in Saturday's race and even pulled in at one point, but rejoined the race and finished 13th.

Overnight both he and the Corona Honda Extra Honda CBR1000RR were transformed. His focus was improved and the team revised a number of settings on his Superbike. Immediately he was faster than he'd been all weekend and looking forward to the race for the first time in months.

When the field was green-lit, before a packed house in the inaugural race at the facility near Atlantic City, New Jersey, Hodgson sped to a secure fifth place, leading four other riders who were all putting pressure on the 2003 World Superbike Champion. Hodgson controlled the pace until the 18th of 23 laps when Larry Pegram (Ducati) made a clean pass. From there to the end Hodgson tried to regain the position, but never found the opening.

Still, he finished fifth and only 4.9s behind the race winner Josh Hayes (Yamaha), the closest he's been to the winner since Daytona.

Hodgson will fly immediately back to his home on the Isle of Man before returning in three weeks for an operation on the rotator cuff in his shoulder. Following a two or three month recovery, he expects to be at full strength for the start of the winter testing season.

Both races this weekend were won by Yamaha's Hayes, who finished second in the championship to Mat Mladin (Suzuki), the Australian who clinched his seventh title in the previous race at Virginia International Raceway. Mladin finished second on Sunday, after teammate Tommy Hayden had taken second place on Saturday. Aaron Yates (Suzuki) finished third both days.

Neil Hodgson 13th, 5th

I've never pulled in ever in a race and actually came into pit lane at one stage and then rode back onto the track and thought, 'You can't quit.' So I just finished yesterday and got that out of the way. Today we changed loads on the bike and I changed my approach. Yesterday I couldn't concentrate on the race. I was taking a new supplement and I couldn't concentrate. I've been taking it for about a week. I found it really difficult and then I tensed up. It was a nightmare. I threw it in the bin when I got back after the race.

So then this morning I was on the pace, like I've been all weekend pretty much, and I was battling where I thought I'd be in the race. I just couldn't go that little bit faster. I was just on the edge everywhere. I'm still riding with one arm and two legs, really. My left side is so weak. I'm left-handed, so this has always been my dominant side. Thankfully I've got an operation in three weeks to repair the rotator cuff. The rotator cuff's still got a hole in it. My doctor said until that's fixed, the shoulder won't work properly. Normally that hole alone is enough to put you out for three months, so I've got to get that fixed. It's going to be Christmas before I'm fit. If I can just come back 100% fit and enjoy my racing again I'll be really, really happy.

This was the closest to the winner I've been in a long time and I'm really pleased, but disappointed for the whole Corona Honda team. They've given me a good bike every weekend, but I've not been able to do the business. I've not enjoyed the season, as you can imagine. A good way to finish. Have a few beers tonight, Coronas.

Tim Saunders, Team Principal
It was good to end the season on an up note after what Neil's been through this year. For a champion like Neil, it can't be easy to race week in and week out at less than 100%. But he's been a trooper and we know that he's tried as hard as he can. Now he can take the time to get the shoulder fixed and come back ready for an assault on the 2010 title.

Sunday Superbike:
1. Josh Hayes (Yamaha)
2. Mat Mladin (Suzuki)
3. Aaron Yates (Suzuki)
4. Larry Pegram (Ducati)
5. Neil Hodgson (Honda)
6. Jake Holden (Honda)
7. Cory West (Buell)
8. Damian Cudlin (Suzuki)
9. Blake Young (Suzuki)
10. Geoff May (Suzuki)

Saturday Superbike:
1. Josh Hayes (Yamaha)
2. Tommy Hayden (Suzuki)
3. Aaron Yates (Suzuki)
4. Ben Bostrom (Yamaha)
5. Larry Pegram (Ducati)
6. Taylor Knapp (Buell)
7. Blake Young (Suzuki)
8. Cory West (Buell)
9. Damian Cudlin (Suzuki)
10. Geoff May (Suzuki)
13. Neil Hodgson (Honda)

Championship Standings:
1. Mat Mladin (Suzuki) 453
2. Josh Hayes (Yamaha) 406
3. Tommy Hayden (Suzuki) 373
4. Larry Pegram (Ducati) 347
5. Ben Bostrom (Yamaha) 333
6. Blake Young (Suzuki) 290
Aaron Yates (Suzuki) 290
8. Geoff May (Suzuki) 234
9. Taylor Knapp (Suzuki) 207
10. Jake Holden (Honda) 195
11. Neil Hodgson (Honda) 167

Source: Honda Pro Image

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