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Battle of the Brands Continues in SportBike, Young Talent Emerges in SuperSport.
Danny Eslick (No. 9 Bruce Rossmeyer’s Daytona Racing/RMR Buell 1125R) took the AMA Pro Daytona SportBike presented by AMSOIL points lead with his third win of the season Sunday in the 20-lap Daytona SportBike final of the Suzuki Superbike Showdown weekend at Road Atlanta.
Eslick took the lead from polesitter Jason DiSalvo (No. 40 Team M4 Suzuki GSX-R600) on Lap 12 and withstood an intense battle with Josh Herrin (No. 8 Team Graves Yamaha YZF-R6) to take his third win in the last four races. Eslick led Herrin across the finish line by .484 of a second while Canadian rider Chris Peris (No. 10 Erion Racing Honda CBR600RR) improved from 14th on the grid to finish third for his first podium finish of the season.
The race came down to a final lap tussle between Eslick and Herrin as some lapped traffic set up a side-by-side battle to the finish. Herrin tucked up behind Eslick on the uphill run out of Turn 1 and the leaders couldn’t have been closer – including some contact – for most of the last lap.
"When we first got in the lappers, I don’t think they knew we were there," said Eslick. "When we were coming around for the white flag, those guys definitely moved out of the way and let us race. I took a peek over and there he (Herrin) was. Out of Turn 10, driving up out of the right-hander, I got a good drive and we were both on the gas. I wasn’t going to let out to not make a little contact, but it was driving out towards him. It was a great race. He tried as hard he could and it was great. It was an awesome race for Bruce Rossmeyer and RMR Buell."
Herrin finished second to match his career-best result in the season-opening Daytona 200 by Honda but nearly came up with the win Sunday.
"I saw that group of lappers on the last lap and I knew he (Eslick) was going to get stuck in the chicane or something, and he did," Herrin said. "He didn’t get a great drive off of (Turn) 7, so I just tried as hard as I could and I got up next to his back tire. I knew I’d been catching him good into (Turn) 10 on the brakes. I got in there pretty good and got by him. When we squared it up to come over the hill, we just had a little contact and I fell off the side of the bike. I wasn’t even going to try and get him in the last corner, because I knew I’d tuck the front or run off trying. The R6 was working great. The Graves Yamaha crew has been working hard all weekend. I couldn’t ask for anything better."
Peris improved three spots on the first lap, quickly joined the lead pack and steered clear of trouble that hit several other top riders.
"I was just trying to get past everybody for the first few laps," said Peris, who swapped third place with the Buell of Taylor Knapp on the final lap. "I was trying to get past everybody where I could actually put my head down and run my own kind of pace. A couple of the guys, I think, chose the soft rear tire and they were all fading with about five laps to go. My bike seemed to hold in there pretty good. The Erion Honda was just working awesome. We made a few changes last night to get the bike to steer a little bit quicker and it all paid off today."
DiSalvo led the opening lap and later Laps 8 through 11 but ultimately finished seventh after his tires faded in the late going. The only other rider to lead the race was Jake Zemke (No. 1x Erion Racing Honda CBR600RR) who passed DiSalvo on Lap 2 but crashed while running up front five laps later.
Zemke wasn’t injured and joined fellow front runners Roger Hayden (No. 95 Monster Energy Attack Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R) and Tommy Aquino (No. 6 Team Graves Yamaha YZF-R6) in walking away after lowside incidents during the race.
Knapp impressed in his first start on the No. 54 Latus Motors Racing Buell 1125R and finished a close fourth behind Peris. Jamie Hacking (No. 88 Monster Energy Attack Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R) continued his string of strong finishes to round out the top five while Chaz Davies (No. 57 Factory Aprilia Millennium Technologies Team Aprilia RSV1000R) also kept his competitive streak of consistent results alive with a solid sixth-place showing.
Eslick now leads the Daytona SportBike championship with 109 points, Hacking is second with 99 markers and Herrin is third in the standings with 96 points.
Saturday’s Race 1 winner Martin Cardenas (No. 36 Team M4 Suzuki GSX-R600) retired after 13 laps with mechanical issues while Dylon Husband (No. 73 Team Pur Sang Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R) recovered from Saturday’s nearly catastrophic crash in Turn 12 to finish 28th Sunday on a stock Kawasaki replacement bike. Husband went off course at full speed when he lost his front brakes and ended up in the Air Fence near the end of Saturday’s Race 1. He was uninjured but his primary race bike was destroyed. He started last in the 40-bike field.
Next up for AMA Pro Daytona SportBike presented by AMSOIL is the Honda Superbike Classic at Barber Motorsports Park, May 1 – 3.
All of the races from the Road Atlanta AMA Pro Suzuki Superbike Showdown will be featured on AMA Pro Primetime on SPEED over the course of the next four episodes. AMA Pro Prime Time airs every Saturday night at 10 p.m. ET (7 p.m. ET) with the next scheduled show set for next Saturday, April 11.
Mercado Breaks Through In SuperSport
Seventeen-year-old Argentinean rider Leandro Mercado (No. 92 Monster Energy Attack Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R) capped a wild race and weekend with a victory in Sunday’s AMA Pro SuperSport presented by Shoei race.
Mercado – who shook off several accidents, early-race rain and a red-flag delay for an oiled track in the SuperSport final – took the lead on Lap 8 and held off polesitter Josh Day (No. 4 Kerker Racing Yamaha YZF-R6) and Joey Pascarella (No. 25 LTD Racing Yamaha YZF-R6). Mercado led Day across the finish line by 2.893 seconds while Pascarella took the SuperSport East points lead with his third-place finish.
"I’m very happy," said Mercado, who also raced alongside teammates Hacking and Roger Hayden in Daytona SportBike at Road Atlanta. "This weekend was a crazy weekend for me. I crashed yesterday twice. Then, in the beginning of the race it was good and it started raining and I crashed, so the red was a little crazy. I was very happy on the second start. It was a fun race. I pushed hard and had to be consistent. I’m very happy. I want to say thanks to my team, Monster Energy Attack Kawasaki, for the great job all weekend. Everybody, my trainer and my family, thanks a lot."
Pascarella, who finished second in the Daytona opener, now leads the SuperSport East Championship with 46 points. Kyle Wyman (No. 33 Harv’s Harley Davidson Yamaha YZF-R6), who led and finished sixth at Road Atlanta, is second with 33 points and Mercado made a big jump to third with the 31 points earned for today’s victory. Day, who like Mercado went off track early in today’s race and took advantage of the red flag restart, is fourth in the standings with 27 points.
"I got a little second chance there," Day said. "I had to work a little bit harder from the back, since I had to start way in the back, but I think I was lucky today to get that second chance again. I made another mistake going into Turn 10a at the beginning and ended up losing the front, but ended up coming out as close as we could to the top. It ended up pretty well."
The red flag was displayed on Lap 4 after heavy oil coated the track after the No. 29 Honda CBR600RR of Frank Gillim went down and the No. 55 Yamaha YZF-R6 of Ryan Conrad caught fire. Neither rider was injured and Pascarella had a front seat for all of the action.
"When I went into there, I really didn’t even know what was going on," Pascarella said. "Almost everybody crashed in front of me. It was just kind of weird. It happened so fast and everybody was just going down everywhere. I didn’t feel the track was slippery, because I slowed down a lot when I saw people going down. I had no problems."
AMA Pro SuperSport presented by Shoei will next race as a part of the Honda Superbike Classic at Barber Motorsports Park, May 1 – 3.