Gary Nixon's Spirit Rides to Second in Daytona 200
NEWS March 21, 2012
Photo by Brian J. Nelson
Release Courtesy of Jason DiSalvo:
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 21, 2012) - Celebrating the life of the late Gary Nixon, racer Jason DiSalvo completed the hardest ride of his life while running the number and livery of this sixties superstar, earning second place in the 71st running of the Daytona 200.
Team Latus Motors and Jason DiSalvo dedicated this event to Gary Nixon, sharing their admiration for this racer who passed away seven months ago. DiSalvo’s Triumph Daytona 675R was painted in the blue and white of this two-time winner of Daytona on a Triumph; Nixon earning the coveted prize in 1967 and 1968. But Nixon had a powerful personal relationship with numbers more than colors, and his life-long #9 was for him far more than just a racer’s numerical designation. In respect for that, DiSalvo engaged in revolution, running Nixon’s #9 in place of his own #40.
It was an event of events for DiSalvo and Team Latus Motors Racing at Daytona International Speedway in 2012. The trials and tribulations started out on the sweet side for this defending Daytona 200 winner, immediately putting the unproven Triumph Daytona 675R at the top of both of the first-day’s practice times for the AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike class. In the second practice of the opening day, DiSalvo upped expectations by being the first-and-only rider to break into a 1:49-lap times, setting the bar at 1:49.734.
Again the fastest on the second day in first qualifying, the challenge then reversed, becoming a day of adversity. In the closing minutes of final qualifying, when each tick of the clock defines the course of private experience and public history, a miss-mounted tire forced DiSalvo back on track to search for his fastest times while riding on traction at the far side of its life. The result was third-place on the grid, earned during his time in the morning session.
Race day ran the same way, with DiSalvo’s Triumph revealing an oil leak during the morning warm up, forcing him onto the back-up bike for the race. Despite that, DiSalvo succeeded in posting the third fastest time of the session, barely six-tenths off of the fastest rider of the day.
In the Daytona 200 itself, DiSalvo was quickly into the fray, battling with the elite lead group of six after a slow start that saw him claw his way forward from a group of riders trying not to lose touch with the leaders. Then fate… DiSalvo slowed into the chicane due to a suspect vibration. Well, you know, having had oil on boots can cause a Daytona rider to think about things. From that moment forward, DiSalvo put in the ride of his life, needing to overcome a 26-second deficit with 25 laps to go, by the time the clock had settled out.
Taking off about a second a lap from the leading pair of eventual-winner Joey Pascarilla and third-place finisher Cameron Beaubier, after 23 laps DiSalvo found himself battling for the checkered flag with those two plus Martin Cardenas, who’d arrived from a closer distance back. On the final run to the flag, in the toss-up of drafting in a pack of four, DiSalvo came up just short, in the hardest ride of his storied career.
After the race DiSalvo said, “I’m half disappointed in myself for slowing when there turned out to be no known problem with the bike, but I’m also proud of what we did today in memory of Gary. Maybe finishing second was even more fitting than winning. Maybe the spirit of Gary is all about giving it your all, trying your hardest, and doing your best no matter how difficult the challenge. Maybe second is best because it shows that what we do isn’t a fairytale; it’s real and it’s difficult. I rode harder longer than I ever have in my life. Considering all the scenarios that could have played out, finishing second for Gary is real good. We’ll take that.”
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