Ben Spies beat up on the best Superbike riders in the world Sunday. Twice. It was a homecoming that became the Massacre at Miller Motorsports Park.
The unassuming Texan swept the doubleheader in the World Superbike Championship by a country mile. Spies won the opening race by 9.394 seconds over Spain's Carlos Checa and the second by 9.080 over Italy's Michel Fabrizio. He led all 21 laps in both races after starting from pole, which was his series' record-setting seventh straight.
Spies has won seven of the 14 races in his first season in the series, which reached its halfway point at MMP. He sliced 35 points off the lead of Ducati's Noriyuki Haga and now trails, 265-212.
"It was the weekend we needed," Spies said. "We did everything we hoped to do. We did what we could do to get back into it (championship)."
Spies had won five of six races at MMP when he was riding to the American Motorcylist Association's Superbike title the past three years, but returning for the only world round in the United States this year came with a heavier burden. Spies didn't want to fail the American fans.
"The nerves were there," Spies said. "It was a tough weekend with all the fans rooting me on. At least I didn't let the American fans down by getting my butt kicked."
Spies had one of the best weekends -- perhaps the best ever -- for an American in a World Superbike race on American soil. He became the third to do it, joining Doug Polen and John Kocinski. Polen did it at Brainerd, Minn., in 1991 and Kocinski at Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif., in 1997. Both went on to win the World Championship in those seasons.
"It's (weekend) pretty good," Spies said. "It's the middle of the season and it's not a championship, but this was good. Yeah, I'm happy. Riding with Jake (Zemke) and Jamie (Hacking) again, I smiled a lot and seeing you (American media) it's been a blast. It's been awesome."
Zemke, of Paso Robles, Calif., and Hacking, of Charlotte, N.C., are both regulars on the AMA tour and close friends of Spies. Hacking, riding for the injured Makoto Tamada on a Kawasaki, finished seventh in the first race and 19th in the second. Zemke, riding for the injured John Hopkins on a Honda, was 18th in the first race and 15th in the second.
Spies, riding for Yamaha's Italian-based team, bolted away at the start of the first race. He had a two-second lead at the end of two laps on the 3.048-mile course and it was up to four seconds after five laps.
The race was red flagged for crashes by Shinya Nakano and Karl Muggeridge on the sixth lap.
"I was pretty upset and then they told me the race would be on aggregate time," Spies said. "That's the way it should be, but I wanted to win the real race."
The motorcycles lined up in the order they had been running at the end of five laps and had 16 to run, but the standing restart was again from rows of four.
Honda's Ryuichi Kiyonari took the lead into the left-handed first corner, but Spies passed him a couple of turns later and steadily pulled away. He had a four-second lead that he didn't need.
"The feeling (on the motorcycle) was good and the bike setup was perfect," Spies said.
Spies led into the first turn in the second race, with Ducati's Fabrizio tucking in behind him.
Fabrizio kept it interesting, 1.5 seconds behind at 13 laps. Spies began pulling away rapidly and led by 3.8 seconds four laps later. Spies added a second a lap over the final four laps.
"The (second) race was so good, I almost feel like I robbed it from Michel," Spies said.
Spies' double win has put him in contention to become America's sixth champion in World Superbike and first since Colin Edwards in 2002. The performance in his home race at the magnificent facility in Tooele, Utah, 30 miles west of Salt Lake City, may be the catalyst that carries him to it.