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AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike Recap: Daytona International Speedway

NEWS March 21, 2014


AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike Recap: Daytona International Speedway

Photo by Brian J Nelson

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 21, 2014) - A DAYTONA 200 win serves as an important crown jewel in any great racer's resume. When great racing careers are discussed, DAYTONA 200 victories stand out even when compared with other memorable wins. Nicky Hayden's awesome weekend and Kevin Schwantz parlaying a victory into a hot streak of Grand Prix success come to mind. Scott Russell's five victories and resulting nickname stand out, too. Miguel DuHamel winning when his crew had to help him on the bike. Grand Prix stars Kenny Roberts, Giacomo Agostini, and Freddie Spencer also won the race in spectacular fashion.

Now two-time AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike champion Danny Eslick has claimed his share of racing glory by winning the DAYTONA 200. Eslick rode spectacularly all week and did not put a wheel wrong over the 200 miles to take the checkered flag. His signature celebration also showed his personality and put a special stamp on the 73rd DAYTONA 200 that will be hard to forget.

"It's awesome. I've gotten the pole before and my very first 200 I got fourth, so there's been a lot of hard work and a lot of years passed by to get this victory," said Eslick. "It really means a lot. There's been a lot going on at home, losing people close to me. This one is for Tommy Aquino and some good friends from home. So it means a lot. Hats off to the RidersDiscount.com crew and Triumph. It's been what? Since 1971 since they were on pole and (Gary) Nixon was the last one to win it. That's pretty cool right there. The bike was flawless all race."

Eslick is a racer who clearly enjoys life and racing and his animated style on the track showed how fired up he was to win. "I was fist-pumping every lap. I would go by my buddies and give them the thumbs up, slapping the horse and giving her the spurs ... That was a lot of fun. That was literally the shortest 200 of my life." Eslick stopped to climb the fence to high-five and hug fans after the race, then took an extra lap with the checkered flag, dirt-track style.

The last of the middleweight DAYTONA 200 races (AMA Pro announced the AMA Pro American SuperBike class would contest the race next year) was a coveted win. This year's DAYTONA 200 saw 43 riders enter the race, 39 of whom qualified for the $105,000 purse. Eslick won $20,000 in the largest purse of the year.

Riders Discount Racing's Triumph Daytona 675 proved to be a worthy winner underneath Eslick. Triumph hadn't won the race since 1967 and closed out the era with an exclamation point. The three-cylinder bike is technically a different beast from the four-cylinder Japanese machines but this DAYTONA 200 victory proves the mettle of the British brand and the speed and reliability of the Triumph Daytona 675.

With famed tuner Richard Stanboli helping the Riders Discount Racing team, the machine was fantastic. Stanboli earned his hand in a third DAYTONA 200 win, having fielded victors Chaz Davies and Steve Rapp in previous seasons.

Eslick also won pole on Friday, which meant he not only added to his Rolex collection but that he earned valuable points. AMA Pro awarded full championship points for qualifying, which added another dimension to the event of this magnitude. Eslick got a double draft on his fast lap and set an amazing time of 1:49.292.

Jake Gagne finished second on his RoadRace Factory/Red Bull Yamaha, having outlasted everyone but Eslick. Gagne ran in the lead pack the first two stints and survived a slight mistake in the infield to take his best result yet in the DAYTONA 200. While Eslick may have felt the race went quickly, Gagne had a different feel from his 200-mile adventure.

"It was a long one. At the first pit stop, all of these guys were riding amazing," said Gagne. "I was struggling in the infield and it was everything I had just to hang onto the back of the guys. We were having some problems. Luckily, the crew built me a fast bike and I could hang onto the guys on the banking. We were struggling on the infield, though. I saw Dane (Westby) go down in front of me and Garret (Gerloff) go down and something happened to (Jason) DiSalvo. I thought, 'We just have to survive this thing.' The last stint, I knew it was going to be me and Danny. The first lap out, I blew the chicane. I tried to make a run at him but it was just too sketchy. It was awesome to get a podium."

Young rider Jake Lewis was strong in the race, too, finishing third. The Motosport.com/Meen Yamaha pilot has impressed in his short time in the class and now has a Daytona 200 podium to his credit. "There's nothing to be disappointed about, being in victory circle after 200 miles, 57 laps," said Lewis. "That was a really long race. I would have liked to have been holding up that big trophy but Danny was riding great all weekend. I got off to a really great start. The whole pack was at the front at the beginning of the race, but I was just having a few issues and I lost the draft."

The first stint proved to be a draft-fest with multiple riders exchanging the lead each lap. Seven riders were able to cut a series of laps in the 1:50-range as the first set of pit stops began on the end of lap 17 as Garrett Gerloff (Yamaha Extended Service/Monster Energy/Graves/Yamaha) and Dane Westby (Yamalube/Westby Racing) came in first.

Gerloff exited pit lane first but suffered a crash shortly after re-entering. Gerloff got running again, but an extra pit stop meant his chance at a win was essentially over.

After Eslick pitted last of the leaders on the first stint, he came out with Westby fighting for the lead. Jason DiSalvo (Castrol/Triumph/Sportbike Track Time) and Gagne made a four-rider pack at the front, trading positions on the high banks of Daytona, two Triumphs versus two Yamahas with the running order in constant flux.

On lap 38, Westby kicked it down a gear too far into turn one. He tried to ride it out but ended up highsiding out of the race. "I'm just a little sore, and my pride is probably worse," said the Oklahoman. "Our Yamalaube/Westby Racing R6 was the strongest bike out there, I felt. I'm looking forward to going to some other tracks where we'll be even stronger. I'm really confident in the bike and the team, and I wanted to put the shiny Yamalube bike up there. It would have been a good fight with Danny (Eslick). I couldn't shake him, and we were all putting on a good show."

DiSalvo was most unfortunate. The former race winner was a major factor in the proceedings and was in fine shape for the ending act of the race on his Castrol/Triumph/Sportbike Track Time Triumph Daytona 675, but he found himself in the wrong spot trying to avoid Westby. DiSalvo ended up in the dirty part of the racetrack as he tried to find his way through. The stereo crash was worse physically for the New Yorker than it was for Westby, but both riders walked away.

Eslick ran away after the third and final round of stops. He eased away from the field to win by 10.975 seconds. Having scored a perfect 60 points in Florida, he leads Lewis by 18 after one round.

Latus Motors/Castrol/Triumph Racing's Bobby Fong finished fourth, having run in the lead pack early. Fong bested Gerloff, who rebounded to finish fifth despite the crash.

"I wish I hadn't made a mistake," Gerloff said. "My crew worked so hard to give me a fast bike, and I low-sided it on the lap right after my first pit stop. I had some trouble getting it pulled out of the air fence, but it fired up pretty quickly and looked mostly OK. Still, I decided to re-pit to make sure everything was OK. The worst damage was to the fairing. I lost the windscreen, which made things pretty tough out on the banking."

Kyle Wyman finished 6th in the DAYTONA 200 on his Kyle Wyman Racing Yamaha YZF-R6.

The UK's Luke Stapleford finished seventh on his Profile Racing Triumph Daytona 675, an admirable effort. He topped former race winner Jake Zemke on the GEICO Road Racing Honda CBR600RR.

Familiar DAYTONA 200 competitor Bostjan Skubic of Slovenia was ninth on the Inotherm Racing Team Yamaha.

The fight for tenth place was hard-fought, with three riders finishing within two seconds of each other. Former race winner Steve Rapp (D&D Cycles/Castrol/Triumph) topped youngster and class rookie Joe Roberts (M4 Motorcycle Road Racing), and another former winner in Joey Pascarella (BP Racing).

Some notable retirements included Tomas Puerta, who led briefly on his RoadRace Factory/Red Bull Yamaha before he had issues. J.D.Beach (Yamaha Extended Service/Monster Energy/Graves/Yamaha) crashed out. Superbike star Blake Young had pit stop issues on the GN Gonzales Racing machine.

The last of the middleweight DAYTONA 200s will be remembered as the Danny Eslick show, but the decade of racing saw some tremendous drafting battles and tight racing. Although the fans want to see the fire-breathing 1000cc bikes back in the premier American motorcycle race, the middleweight bikes served well in their time.

With a perfect weekend behind him, Eslick will continue his attempt to win a third AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike title in Round 2 at Road America on May 30-June 1. His rivals will try to change his fortunes.

How to Watch

FansChoice.tv will be the official home for live streaming coverage of AMA Pro Road Racing and AMA Pro Flat Track events in 2014. The site will also provide coverage of IMSA's development and single-make series, and NASCAR's touring and weekly series.

About AMA Pro Road Racing

AMA Pro Road Racing is the premier motorcycle road racing series in North America and is universally regarded as one of the most competitive road racing organizations in the world. The series is comprised of four production-based classes: AMA Pro SuperBike, AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike, AMA Pro SuperSport and the AMA Pro Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Series. Learn more about AMA Pro Road Racing at www.amaproracing.com/rr/.

 


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