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Photo finish brings excitement to Red Bull AMA U.S. Rookies Cup race

Photo finish brings excitement to Red Bull AMA U.S. Rookies Cup race

A seven-lap shootout at Elkhart Lake for the Red Bull AMA Rookies Cup was settled by a photo finish.

Leandro Mercado of Argentina won the seven-lap Red Bull AMA U.S. Rookies Cup race from Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, beating Jake Gagne of Ramona, Calif., by 0.0019 seconds according to the AMA´s photo finish system. Emerson Connor of Burlington, Ontario, Canada charged through the field to finish third.

The race was delayed until the end of the day due to weather conditions, but those at the track who waited were treated to one of the best races in the U.S. this year. The race-long battle for the lead featured numerous lead changes between the two riders and came down to the final run to the checkers, one that left both riders wondering if they had earned the victory. Gagne was credited with leading five laps and Mercado two.

Mercado was able to get by Gagne at the flag and took the win by inches. `The last lap was the longest lap ever for me. Much longer than four miles!´ said Mercado, 16 years old. `I was hoping in the last corner to get in Jake's draft. After Infineon, I did not want to make a mistake and lose out on points. I did not have a strategy in particular but I wanted to keep up with Jake coming out of the corners because I knew he was very quick in practice and I did not want him to get away from me. This is the best race and the closest one I have ever had!´

Gagne´s third-ever road race nearly netted him a victory. `We couldn't go more than a couple of corners without the lead changing hands,´ said Gagne, 14 years old. `I couldn't tell who won the race and it was really close. I think he had the corner speed on me but I was good down the straights and I think I was able to brake a little later in a couple of the corners. We changed position about three or four times so it was fun. Every time I´m on the bike I get a little faster.´

Connor charged to third and got stronger as the race continued. He put a gap of nearly eight seconds on fourth place in the closing laps. `It was just late braking and trying not to make any mistakes,´ said Connor of his best finish of the year. `I'm really happy with how I did today. I didn´t score points at Barber and this makes up for it. I had a lot of fun out there and I am really excited!´

Huntley Nash of Marietta, Ga., finished fourth. He topped a four-rider pack along with Toriano Wilson of Bermuda, Joey Pascarella of Vacaville, Calif., and Tomas Puerta of Colombia. All crossed the line within 0.7 seconds of each other.

Cameron Gish of Shingle Springs, Calif., was eighth. Two New Yorkers, Corey Alexander of Ossining and Corey Rech of Liverpool, rounded out the top ten. Jake Cunningham of Kimberly, Wis., was 13th.

Series points leader Benny Solis, Jr., from North Hollywood, Calif., had a difficult day, finishing 19th. Solis jumped the start and later crashed and remounted. Hayden Gillim also had a tough race, crashing out of the lead on lap one but remounted. Garet Tomlinson from Aledo, Tex., crashed out of the race.

The next Red Bull AMA U.S. Rookies Cup race is July 20 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

MotoGP, 2008

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