Josh Herrin talks to SPEED.com about his graduation to AMA Pro Superbike this season and the 1000cc challenge that awaits him.
He won the Daytona 200 at 19 years old, won five races last year, and has racked up 16 total victories on 600cc Yamahas during his time as an AMA Pro.
But his most impressive accomplishment yet might have been how he handled himself in a difficult 2011. Herrin had a lot of obstacles to overcome this past season, beginning with a suspension for Infineon’s first race after his Daytona crash and some mechanical issues at Barber and Laguna Seca. His season could have gone pear-shaped at several junctures. Herrin has always been fast (he finished on the box as a 16-year-old in Utah at his second AMA Pro event) but he improved two vital areas of his game -- consistency and maturity -- this past season. Herrin came back strong each time adversity hit.
Most inside the paddock think Herrin is ready to move up to Superbike.
“I’m so happy to be riding a Superbike for Yamaha right now and I think they waited for the right time,” says Herrin. “I think it is the right time and I am ready to prove that I’m just as good as anyone else.”
SPEED.com: You’ve tested the Superbike twice and the lap times have been good with no dramas. How was Daytona? It can be a shock to get the big bike up on the banking the first time.
It’s kind of an intimidating track and then you get on the one thousand …it’s not scary but you can hit a wall or whatever and I was going a lot faster (than on a 600.)
When I tested the bike right before Daytona I had a good test.
The infield (at Daytona) was different because you take it in first gear on a Superbike. It was just about getting used to the track and the bike. I’m sure I’ll still be getting used to the bike all year because I’ve never ridden anything like that before. I was riding at a decent pace (on the first day) and luckily (teammate Josh) Hayes pulled me around for about two laps. With the lap time I did, that would have been good enough for about third on the grid for last year’s race. I was happy and ready to leave after that. I felt like I was on top of the world. The next day, I was able to beat it by a tenth by myself. It was the best the test could have possibly gone.
We’ve had two good tests without any accidents or anything so I am happy.
I’ve always been at the top of my game on a 600 as far as fitness goes, finishing a race or putting in my best lap on the last lap. Everything is good with my training routine. This year, on this bike, it’s going to be a side of me I’ve never seen before just because I am going to have to push to see how far I can go physically. I’m up to the challenge and it’s going to be something I have to change. One thing I am going to do with my program is to get stronger without bulking up too much. It seems like every time I lift weights, I get arm pump more.
We’re going to test some more and Daytona’s first, but it’s one of the easiest tracks we go to (to ride), so between now and April I’ll find the right routine that suits me for the Superbike.
SPEED.com: How surprised were you about the power and the electronics?
The thing was way fast; it was like a rocket ship. I’ve never ridden anything with that much power before. You barely touch the gas and it wheelies. It was a shock, to see how fast it was. The power is the difficult one. It was an eye opener. I got to ride with some 600s at Daytona and it was like they were stopped.
The electronics… I haven’t really gotten into that yet. The only button I’ve used is the pit lane limiter. We’re going to keep it simple. We did the same setup Josh Hayes has; we didn’t have any traction control on the bike. We did that at Buttonwillow and Daytona.
We’re going to try to keep things simple. For me, personally, to have no traction control and do good enough lap times is a confidence booster. It will be there if I need it but I don’t have to rely on it.
SPEED.com: Ever since Utah in ’06 it seemed like you were on the path to Superbike. Maybe it could have happened before. It seems like this last year on the R6 you made another leap and it’s time to make the jump.
I had a lot of years of learning on that bike. This year was my most consistent year. I made some mistakes that might have cost me the championship. I didn’t get all the extra points that were out there.
Yamaha’s had a plan for me. They didn’t see me as mature enough as a rider to get on a Superbike until this year. I had a good season and showed I had a race plan and didn’t ride over my head. I think I showed them I had matured as a person and as a rider to be consistent and do things the correct way, so my main goal this year is to be consistent and make steps. I won’t ride over my head and set the program back with mistakes throwing the thing on the ground. We have a whole year to learn every weekend and I know Yamaha expects me to do well.
I’m focused and know how to go into this season strong.
SPEED.com: Veteran mechanic Rick Hobbs will be your crew chief this year, which is a change.
It’s a crew that Keith (McCarty) thought would be a good Superbike crew. They have a lot of experience. Moving over from Chuck (Graves’) team, I had a good crew before, but going to the Superbike team at Yamaha is different. Everyone’s behind me and we have the same goals. I’m excited and really forward to working with these guys.
SPEED.com: What are your goals? What can we realistically expect from you this year?
I don’t ever undershoot myself on my goals. My goal every year is go at it and to win races and the championship. That’s what Yamaha hired me to do. I’m not aiming at anything lower than that. Hayes has proved we have the bike to win races and the championship. I’m capable of it. It’s got two wheels. It’s different but I am going to ride it as hard as anything I have before. It will be difficult but I don’t want to set any goals that aren’t high enough. I learn tracks and bikes pretty quick.