Higbee Puts Buell in Daytona 200 Top Five
NEWS March 11, 2009
Higbee, who arrived at Daytona earlier in the week with a sparse crew, a stock street bike and a crate engine, worked his way up near the top ten and benefitted from a strategic decision by his crew chief to pit during a mid-race caution.
"It worked out good, but if I had been better prepared, I think we had a package to win the race," said Higbee, who scrambled over the past month to assemble a bike and team after a deal to race with another team fell through. His team replaced the frame and engine of his motorcycle to prepare it for the long-distance race in between practice and qualifying sessions. "I'm so thankful to all the people who helped me."
The 57-lap race's first caution came out on lap 36 after an electrical fire caused a malfunction with the track's lighting system in the backfield chicane. While the field was under caution, a rider crashed, forcing the race to be red-flagged while AMA Pro officials fixed the lighting and reset the field for a restart. During the brief period between the caution and the red flag, Higbee pitted under yellow for a new rear tire and fuel and restarted in 12th position. As riders ahead of him pitted, Higbee moved up the field and held on for a fifth place finish in the final 10-lap sprint to the checkered flag.
"I ran a conservative first stint to save the front tire. I was rolling out of the throttle in a lot of corners to save gas," Higbee said. "It wasn't a flat-out run, and we had to use a lot of strategy."
While all six Buells entered in the 200 finished the race, Higbee's top-five finish blunted the disappointment of problems that plagued front-row starter Danny Eslick's Bruce Rossmeyer's Daytona Racing/RMR Buell. Eslick diced with the leaders for the first ten laps of the race, briefly leading, before being forced to pit to repair loose body work that dropped him far down the order. Eslick worked his way back through the field, aided by cautions and restarts, and was initially shown as finishing in 13th position. However, he was subsequently disqualified for passing under yellow during a caution period. Eslick's teammate Michael Barnes brought his Geico Powersports/RMR Buell home in 25th position, followed by Latus Motors H-D/Buell teammates Alan Schmidt and Josh Bryan in 34th and 36th, respectively, and Bryan Bemisderfer (H-D/Buell of Frederick) in 64th.
The Liberty Waves Racing Buell 1125R sponsored by Dairyland Insurance and Antelope Valley H-D/Buell and ridden by Eric Pinson and Eric Haugo finished in third place in the Moto-GT1 class and fourth overall in the season-opening two-hour SunTrust Moto-GT series race at Daytona International Speedway March 6 after a dramatic series of events that saw them relinquish an early lead and run out of gas on pit lane.
For most of the first 17 laps of the race, Haugo battled for the lead with the TeamHurtByAccident.com Suzuki GSX-R600 before breaking away to a build a lead of more than a minute over the rest of the field. On lap 37, problems with a rear tire change during a pit stop dropped the team to fourth in class.
Haugo battled back to third place until his bike ran out of gas on lap 55 coming out of the infield. After coasting along the banking, the bike died on pit lane and Haugo began pushing the Buell toward his pit stall. After a quick splash of fuel, Pinson remounted for the final two laps and a well-deserved spot on the podium. The race was won by the Wisconsin Racing Ducati 848.
"I didn't know it was going to be a foot race," said Haugo, who sprinting down half the pit lane with his bike until his crew was able to assist him.
"It was intense, and a lot of emotions were flying," Pinson said. "We didn't come here expecting to run up front, but the Buell was great. I've really got to thank the Kellerman family and Antelope Valley Harley-Davidson/Buell for all their help putting together this bike for us."
The James Gang/Hoban Brothers Racing Buell team sponsored by H-D/Buell of Appleton fought through adversity as lead rider Paul James crashed the team's "A" bike during the afternoon warm-up and the team had to revert to its back-up bike for the race. On lap 17, the bike lost a piece of bodywork that damaged the cooling system and caused the team to retire in 7th place.
Founded by visionary motorcycle designer and former privateer racer Erik Buell in 1983, Buell Motorcycle Company, a subsidiary of Harley-Davidson, Inc., produces sport motorcycles, motorcycle parts, accessories and apparel, including the 1125R superbike and air-cooled XB-series Ulysses, Firebolt, and Lightning. To learn more about Buell motorcycles, or to locate the dealer nearest you, log onto www.buell.com.
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