Danny Eslick’s return to the AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike class couldn’t have been more spectacular. The native of Broken Arrow, OK, and a two-time series champ won pole and then outlasted the competition to take the 73rd Daytona 200. Eslick, aboard a Riders Discount Racing Triumph, won Triumph’s first Daytona 200 since 1967 by 10.975 seconds.
“That was a lot of fun. That first stint was pretty incredible. We were knockdown, drag-out like it was a sprint race. Even after the pit stop, me and Dane (Westby) and (Jason) DiSalvo hooked up and that was a lot of fun. The last stint seemed like forever, but that was literally like the shortest 200 miles of my life.”
Eslick’s ride survived a serious challenge along the way, but “Slick” had cleared away by the end. One of the most spectacular riders in the field avoided the pitfalls of 200 miles at Daytona International Speedway. The last few laps were classic Danny histrionics like waving to the crowd, spurring his bike like a horse, and riding wheelies, even while he expanded his lead. Then Eslick topped it off with the longest victory lap ever, one that saw him stop to celebrate with fans in the infield.
“Hats off to the crew. (Crew chief) Richard Stanboli is the guy I worked with like ten years ago in my first year in the AMA. So in a big, roundabout way, this is payback for that first year,” said Eslick. “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. 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.
For Triumph, the British brand capitalized on their last chance to win Daytona for the immediate future with the Daytona 675. Next year, the class returns to the parlance of the SuperBike class. “It’s been what? Since 1971 since they were on pole and (Gary) Nixon was the last one to win it,” said Eslick. “That’s pretty cool right there.”
RoadRace Factory/Red Bull’s Jake Gagne took second, earning his best Daytona result in the process. “To start off on the podium, especially at the Daytona 200… I’m stoked for the whole RoadRace Factory/Red Bull crew. These guys worked so hard in the offseason and to pay them back with a podium is great,” said Gagne. “It was a pretty big pack like we expected, and I just wanted to stay there. I figured once we got to the first pit stop, it would separate a little bit. After the first pit stop, it was like five or six guys. I was definitely struggling in the infield, and it was everything I had all the time just to hang onto the back of these guys. Luckily, the boys built me a fast bike because I could pull with these guys on the banking.”
Jake Lewis was third for Motosport.com Meen Yamaha. “There’s nothing to be disappointed about, being in victory circle after 200 miles, 57 laps,” Lewis said. “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 was the classic Daytona drafting festival, with ten riders breaking away. Garrett Gerloff (Yamaha Extended Service/Monster Energy/Graves/Yamaha) led immediately after the first stop but soon crashed.
Four riders broke away, with Eslick, Yamalube/Westby Racing’s Dane Westby, Castrol/Triumph/SportBike Track Time’s Jason DiSalvo and Gagne battling the entire stint. Just before the second fuel stops on the 38th lap, Westby lost control in the first turn. He was unable to ride it out and he crashed. DiSalvo went wide trying to avoid Westby and fell, too. In an instant, two of the contenders were out.
Gagne had closed to within two seconds with 10 to go, but Eslick got the message and kicked up the pace to run away. The gap went back to six seconds.
Latus Motors Racing’s Bobby Fong earned fourth, 48.659 seconds behind Eslick. Gerloff rebounded from his crash to take fifth. Kyle Wyman finished on the lead lap on his Kyle Wyman Racing Yamaha. British rider Luke Stapleford finished seventh for Profile Racing, ahead of GEICO Motorcycle Racing’s Jake Zemke.
AMA Pro SuperBike
The AMA Pro SuperBike pilots who have managed to claim a race victory in their rookie season belong to an extremely short list.
On Saturday at Daytona International Speedway, Monster Energy/Graves/Yamaha’s Cameron Beaubier not only joined that exclusive company, he did so in his debut weekend as a premier-class contender.
And ‘contender’ may just be the key word, as the ’13 Daytona SportBike champ has gained an early advantage in this year’s SuperBike title fight on the strength of today’s win and yesterday’s podium.
Beaubier successfully applied the lessons learned during Friday’s third-place ride and orchestrated his victory with impressive tactical acumen. Caught up in a three-way dogfight to the checkered flag, the 21-year-old perfectly set up the contest’s decisive strike. He took full advantage of his Yamaha YZF-R1’s superior top-end hit and overhauled Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing teammates Roger Hayden and Martin Cardenas on the race’s final lap to win by a narrow margin.
The Californian stormed to the checkered flag 0.090 seconds ahead of Hayden, who repeated Friday’s runner-up result, while second Yosh pilot Martin Cardenas was just another 0.044 seconds adrift in third.
Beaubier’s stunning performance was in stark contrast to the demoralizing result of his decorated Yamaha teammate, three-time series king Josh Hayes. The Mississippian appeared to have put last year’s disastrous Daytona opener behind him with his Friday win. However, last year’s poor luck returned today, as Hayes was forced to retire with another mechanical issue while fighting for the lead, sitting up as the riders took the stripe to open lap 9 of 15. He was officially credited with 21st and took no points on the day.
Hayes once again finds himself in an early hole in the championship fight. While not nearly as deep as last year’s post-Daytona deficit, this season he faces the added difficulty of a shorter race season and the absence of the bonus points for pole position and laps led he so frequently used to pad his tally in year’s past.
After claiming his breakthrough victory, Beaubier said, “This means everything. I’ve worked really hard to get to where I am. I can’t thank Monster Energy/Graves/Yamaha enough for giving me this opportunity on the R1.
“It was a little bit smoother of a race than yesterday — I didn’t go off the track or anything, which I was happy about. I was a little more consistent. We made a little bit of a spring change — we went stiffer on the rear shock, which was better when the tire was fresh but when it went off I was sliding pretty good. I couldn’t drive off the corners quite as well as everyone else. But I’m really lucky my bike had some steam on these guys — they were riding really well. Now I’m looking forward to going to some road courses.”
Hayden sits just a single point out of first with his pair of second-place runs. His opener marks an excellent start to the year for the Kentuckian, who has traditionally started slow and worked up to speed as the year has taken shape.
Hayden said, “It’s a little disappointing to come so close to winning both races but coming in second. But it’s a good start to the year and that was a fun race, battling at the end. Everybody was kind of swapping around.
“It’s a good start for me — I usually start the season really slow and then by the third or fourth race I get going. So I’m glad to start strong. I can’t thank the whole Yoshimura team enough for this opportunity they gave me. I didn’t know I had a job this year until Christmas Eve so to get two seconds at Daytona… I can’t complain.”
Cardenas successfully rebounded from yesterday’s crash with a close third. The Colombian was in contention throughout the affair but just missed out in the final shuffle at the stripe.
“Today was much better than yesterday,” Cardenas said. “Yesterday I could not ride the bike as I wanted to and had a little crash. But today I bounced back. I was hoping for maybe a little better — first or second — but it wasn’t possible. I didn’t make the best of the last part of the race so third is good enough for today.”
The tussle for fourth was a virtual repeat from Friday with Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing’s Chris Clark, ADR Motorsports/Sic/Motul Fly Racing’s David Anthony and KTM/HMC Racing’s Chris Fillmore running in tight formation.
And, again, it was Clark who came out on top — this time handing Yosh a 2-3-4 result — while Anthony and Fillmore matched yesterday’s respective fifth and sixth.
That trend continued down the order as Cusanelli Motorsports Argentina’s Diego Pierluigi, TOBC Suzuki’s Taylor Knapp, and Team AMSOIL Hero EBR’s Cory West replicated their Friday seventh, eighth, and ninth. In fact, the only change in Saturday’s top-ten order outside of the podium placings was the tenth-position run of GEICO Motorcycle Road Racing Honda’s Chris Ulrich.
Following the completion of this year’s opener, young Beaubier leads the way with 51 points. Hayden is second at 50, followed by Clark (36) and Anthony (32). That leaves Hayes and Cardenas even with Fillmore at 30 and with some work ahead of them.
AMA Pro SuperSport
Corey Alexander churned out another dominating performance in the second AMA Pro SuperSport race of the weekend. Alexander won by 6.884 seconds, but he didn’t actually lead the entire race on the Celtic/HVMC Suzuki from flag-to-flag. After Miles Thornton ran wide on the first lap, Alexander motored away. The New Yorker had a big lead by the time he made it through the chicane the first time.
“Again, hats off to my whole team,” said Alexander. “My bike was just as good as it was yesterday if not a little better… Obviously we’re happy to be on top again.”
All the action was behind Alexander. Numerous riders battled for the podium in epic fashion, with five riders within a second of each other. Wyatt Farris on the second Celtic/HVMC Racing entry earned second, having run a perfect infield section the last time.
Hayden Gillim (TOBC Racing) was able to rebound from a bad start deep in the field to run to the front. Gillim turned the fastest lap of the race (1:52.906) in his charge to the pack trailing Alexander. Gillim made the podium a Suzuki sweep.
Armando Ferrer (RacersPrice.com) topped Macedon, NY’s Cody Wyman (Harv’s H-D) by just 0.001 in that pack.
Dustin Dominguez (Houston Superbikes) battled for the podium but was shuffled back on the tenth and final lap.
Six more riders followed in a second group within a second of each other. J.C. Camacho (House of Paint Designs) and Mark Miller, Jr, (Mar Del Racing) led that bunch to the line.
The 2014 AMA Pro Road Racing season will pick back up on May 30-June 1 with Round 2, the Subway SuperBike Doubleheader at Road America in Elkhart Lake, WI.
Image courtesy AMA Pro Racing/Brian J. Nelson