MILLVILLE — New Jersey Motorsports Park boldly held its biggest race of the season on the same weekend as the Philadelphia Eagles’ season opener and Wildwood’s Roar at the Shore bike rally.
Thousands of spectators proved Sunday that it didn’t matter.
One of the biggest crowds in NJMP’s five-year history watched Josh Hayes win his series-record 13th Superbike race of the season, also extending his record win streak to 10.
“I was blown away by (the crowd),” NJMP General Manager Brad Scott said. “The paddock was full.”
Only a handful of people could be seen keeping track of the Eagles’ game during the races.
Frank Christmas of Riverton said he watches some football but not much. He had a radio on at the track, but it was tuned to the race coverage rather than football.
“If I was at home watching TV, I’d be watching (the races),” Christmas said.
David Rivera of Millville, on the other hand, had the Eagles game blaring from his pickup truck’s radio. He also had a TV inside his trailer tuned to the game.
Rivera said he panicked when he realized the Eagles’ opener and the AMA races at NJMP fell on the same weekend.
“I thought, ‘Holy (bleep), I already made plans with my friends in May,’ ” said Rivera, owner of Calico Construction.
But Rivera’s friend Dan Savaro, of Blue Bell, Pa., told him they just needed a radio.
“The AMA comes around once a year here,” Savaro said. “The Eagles are on every weekend.”
So today, they had the game on while they watched a dramatic crash about 20 yards in front of them late in the Supersport race.
“It’s the best of both worlds,” Rivera said. “A spill right in front, and the Eagles are on. You’ve got to watch this because you can always listen to the radio for the Eagles.”
You don’t always get to see record-setting performances in AMA, but Hayes provided quite a few of them over the weekend. He broke Mat Mladin’s consecutive wins record Saturday and surpassed Mladin’s single-season wins record Sunday.
“I had a great weekend,” Hayes said. “Things have gone well right from the start. Fortunately every time I’ve been here, this is my fourth year at this racetrack and the bike improves every year.”
Hayes still has a way to go for Mladin’s career wins record, though: Hayes is third all time with 30, while Mladin won 82.
“It’s pretty far off,” Hayes said with a laugh. “I think it would be ridiculous for me to expect that it’s going to go like this forever.”
The AMA came to NJMP on Labor Day weekend the previous three years. Scott said the NFL and the Wildwood rally were “concerns,” but the bigger issue was IndyCar’s Baltimore Grand Prix on Labor Day weekend, which he said hurt their attendance last year.
While NJMP does not release attendance figures, the AMA has been the park’s biggest draw all four years it has come here, and Scott said this year’s numbers were up from last year.
“This is always a really good event for us,” AMA director of communications Gene Crouch said. “The fans here … they know the sport. They know the players. And they come out, and they’re engaging with our riders. And our riders love it.”
Several riders raved about the crowds. Josh Herrin, who finished second in the Superbike race, threw pieces of his equipment to fans, just as he did last year after winning the Daytona Sportbike race.
“I just get so pumped that I start giving stuff away,” Herrin said.
Notes: Martin Cardenas won the Daytona Sportbike race, edging Dane Westby and Bobby Fong. … Dustin Dominguez beat James Rispoli by .013 seconds in the Supersport race.
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