Buell, Eslick co-lead Daytona Sportbike (photos)

Bruce Rossmeyer’s Daytona Racing/RMR/GEICO Powersports rider Danny Eslick earned a share AMA Pro Racing Daytona SportBike championship lead with a victory and a third place finish during a tumultuous and emotional double-header weekend for the Oklahoma rider and his team at Heartland Park-Topeka that was marred by the tragic death of team sponsor Bruce Rossmeyer, who was killed in a street motorcycle accident on the way to the Sturgis motorcycle rally on Friday.

Starting from tenth place on the grid, Eslick charged through the field in Saturday’s Race 1 to take the lead from polesitter Jason DiSalvo (Team M4 Suzuki) on lap 8 and was later challenged for the lead by DiSalvo’s teammate, points leader Martin Cardenas. When Cardenas crashed out of the race on lap 18, Eslick cruised to a 1.8-second victory in the 20-lap race.

Danny Eslick Speaks…

"I glanced back and Martin was all over me and that was pretty close to the end," Eslick said. "I did a couple of really good motocross block passes, and I think I was going slow enough I could have put my foot down. It was 100 percent clean, he raced me clean and we never touched once. That’s the race I’ve been looking for all year, to be the points leader and all that. Martin’s a heck of a guy, a great rider and I wish it wouldn’t have ended that way because that would have been a heck of a battle to the checkered flag," Eslick said. "It was really unfortunate about the passing of Bruce Rossmeyer and we dedicate this win to him. He was a great guy and our teammate. The family said ‘go win a championship for us,’ so this is the first step."

Following Saturday’s race, AMA officials determined that Eslick had made an illegal pass under waving yellow for the lead, and he was docked 10 championship points and half his purse winnings for the weekend.

In Sunday’s Race 2, Eslick once again worked his way up to the race lead and engaged in a thrilling run to the checkered flag with eventual winner Cardenas and Graves Yamaha’s Josh Herrin, who charged back up through the field after a mid-race off-track excursion resulting from a near collision with Eslick. Eslick and Cardenas exchanged the lead twice on the final lap, but Herrin’s daring full-lock last-lap pass on Eslick dropped the Buell rider to third.

Danny Eslick Speaks…

"Josh snuck in there the last lap. I was all over [the track]. I hit the ground once. I don’t know how the handlebar didn’t hit the ground. It was everything but on the ground sliding," Eslick said. "Hats off to the Bruce Rossmeyer/RMR Buell team. Again this weekend is for Bruce."

With two rounds left in the season, Eslick is tied atop the Daytona SportBike championship standings with Cardenas at 318 points each. With a pair of second place finishes, Herrin moved up to third in the points with 261.

In Saturday’s 2-hour SunTrust Moto-GT endurance race, the Liberty Waves/Antelope Valley H-D/Buell team of Eric Pinson and Eric Haugo finished fourth in the Moto-GT1 class, dropping to second in the class standings behind Crozier Motorsports 109-104 points. The James Gang/Hoban Brothers Racing team of Paul James and Jeff Johnson finished sixth and moved up to fifth place in the season points.

In other Buell results from the Topeka double-header, Eslick’s teammate Michael Barnes finished 20th and 17th, respectively in Daytona Sportbike, Latus Motor’s Taylor Knapp finished 12th and 8th, Bartels’ H-D-Buell/Higbee-racing.com’s Shawn Higbee finished 39th and 16th, and Blue Springs H-D/Buell/Bison Racing’s Walt Sipp finished 30th and 42nd. In American Superbike weekend results, Higbee finished 14th and 13th and Sipp finished 21st and 18th. All were racing Buell 1125Rs.

The next round of the championship is set for August 14-16 at Virginia International Raceway in Alton, VA.