Champ: Danny Eslick
Bruce Rossmeyer’s Daytona Racing/RMR/GEICO Powersports rider Danny Eslick made history by clinching the 2009 AMA Pro Road Racing Daytona SportBike championship at New Jersey Motorsports Park, his own and Buell Motorcycle Company’s first professional AMA road racing championship.
Coming into the race, the second of the double-header weekend at NJMP, with a 22-point lead over Graves Yamaha’s Josh Herrin, his only remaining title rival, Eslick needed to secure at least a 12th place finish to hold off the fast-charging Herrin. Herrin needed to sweep both weekend races to have a chance at catching Eslick, including today’s thriller that featured a dramatic Lap 1, Turn 1 three-rider incident that forced both Herrin and Eslick to ride off track.
As Herrin worked his way to the front, battling with Erion Honda’s Jake Zemke for the eventual victory, Eslick settled into a comfortable pace inside the top ten and spent much of the race dicing with Attack Kawasaki’s Roger Lee Hayden. The pair traded positions several times and crossed the finish line a mere 0.001-second apart, with Hayden nipping Eslick for sixth place. Eslick’s seventh place finish gave him 387 points on the season, good for a five-point margin over Herrin and the Daytona SportBike championship.
Danny Eslick Speaks…
"I went down into Turn 1, and I’m not sure who it was, [but he] just nailed me," Eslick said. "I saw somebody come flying by me and wasn’t slowing down at all and T-bone Josh pretty good. I thought "Alright!" About the time I said that, I got hit [too] and we both ended up in the dirt. I tried to gather my stuff back up, and a few other guys went off. I knew where I needed to be to seal the deal. Me and Rog had a nice little battle and it made the race go by fairly fast, especially when you’re riding with somebody you can trust and you know won’t do anything crazy."
"Going all the way back to three weeks before Daytona, I didn’t have a ride, so it’s been an amazing season. Just those first couple of wins, we would’ve been happy with that. My crew guys have worked so hard all year long and never gave up. It’s been a long hard fight the whole way and this weekend’s been no different," Eslick said. "We had some tough times here about a month ago [with the death of team sponsor Bruce Rossmeyer], but we made it through."
Eslick celebrated his first AMA championship in style, with a burnout-laced, flag-waving victory lap around the 2.2-mile circuit. Eslick’s Daytona SportBike championship is also the first for an American manufacturer since the AMA split road racing and dirt track racing into separate competition disciplines in the early 1970s.
For Erik Buell, Chairman and Chief Technical Officer of Buell Motorcycle Company and a former privateer AMA racer who founded Buell in 1983 as a racing motorcycle manufacturer, Eslick’s championship is literally the culmination of a lifetime’s dream.
Erik Buell Speaks…
"It’s an amazing moment. It’s been an incredible racing season. I’ve gotten to see the AMA turned around from boring racing to the most exciting racing I’ve seen in years. I’d have been happy to just be part of it, but it’s incredible that we won our class championship. Danny is an incredible rider. I’m so proud to be part of a privateer team that can show what a rider like that can do," Buell said. "It’s very emotional. I appreciate so much all the people over the years who helped us get to where we are. That’s the big perspective I’m looking at, not just this moment."
In other Daytona SportBike season-end results, Eslick’s teammate Michael Barnes finished the final race in 18th position and 15th position overall in the final championship standings with 118 points. Latus Motors Racing’s Taylor Knapp finished 12th today and 11th overall in championship with 178 points. Bartels’ H-D/Buell/Higbee-racing.com’s Shawn Higbee finished 20th in the championship with 70 points.