Team M4 Monster Energy Suzuki and Martin Cardenas came within 0.002 seconds of winning the pole position for the 69th running of the legendary Daytona 200 on Thursday night at Daytona International Speedway.
Cardenas teamed up with rival Danny Eslick and the two Daytona SportBike title hopefuls ran in close company, utilizing each other’s draft to post the two quickest times of the qualifying session.
The Colombian clocked a blistering 1:50.087 aboard his GSX-R600 but fell just fractions of a second short of claiming the top spot on the grid and the Rolex that is awarded for winning the pole for the Daytona 200.
Martin continued to push late in an attempt to steal away the pole but suffered a crash in the infield. Fortunately he escaped unharmed and is optimistic about his chances in tomorrow’s 200-miler.
Martin Cardenas Speaks…
"We started the session with used tires and tried to work together because here the draft is very important and without it it’s very difficult to get a good lap time without one," Cardenas said of running together with Eslick. "We got up to speed and came in and put on a new rear tire and we started to go for some fast laps. One of them we got a good time but unfortunately for me mine was just a little bit slower."
"I kept pushing all the way because I really wanted pole position but it wasn’t possible. Unfortunately, I had a small crash at the end of the session but I’m okay. I think the bike is set up really well for tomorrow and the team is working really good," said Cardenas.
John Hopkins suffered through a difficult reintroduction to AMA Pro Road Racing on Thursday in his debut American Superbike race with Team
M4 Monster Energy Suzuki.
Still playing catch-up while learning the short circuit and setting up his GSX-R1000, Hopkins qualified on the third row for the weekend’s doubleheader with the tenth best time at 1:40.495.
‘Hopper’ got a strong start in the day’s 15-lap contest, however, quickly slicing inside the top five but his challenge last less than a lap as mechanical issues put his bid for the win to an early end.
John Hopkins Speaks…
"During qualifying, we basically set up the bike for the infield and spent too much time doing that," Hopkins said. "I got it way too soft and was having to run less than full throttle at times on the banking.
We also gambled and put on a rear shock that we hadn’t even tried before for the race but it seemed to be paying off.
"I tried to make the most of where we were starting — which wasn’t too good in the first place. I made it up to fourth place on the first lap and then I ran wide in one of the corners and (Aaron) Yates got by me. I started doing what I could and was still there in the draft but coming out of the chicane onto the banking, I ran into trouble with the bike and had to pull in," said the former Grand Prix star.
"I’m definitely glad we’ve got another shot at it tomorrow. I wouldn’t have wanted to go away for a month after today’s race. Hopefully we can come back tomorrow, regroup, and make it happen."
Cardenas and Hopkins will both be chasing victory on Friday, with the second half of the week’s Superbike doubleheader taking place in the afternoon and the 57-lap Daytona 200 taking place under the lights on Friday evening.