AMA Pro Racing: Daytona 200 Preview

Daytona Sportbike

Night racing is borderline romantic to some, especially when it occurs at the mecca venue for motorsports, Daytona International Speedway. For the second consecutive year, AMA Pro Racing will get on the throttle of the 2010 season under the lights Friday night with the 69th running of the historic Daytona 200.

The 57-lap race will feature 51 riders from the AMA Pro Daytona SportBike class. From the look of entries, it looks like it’ll be a race between three manufacturers: Yamaha, Suzuki and Ducati. Defending champion Danny Eslick will race the Geico Powersports RMR Suzuki. The other big contender aboard a Suzuki GSX-R 600 is M4 Monster rider Martin Cardenas, who finished third in last year’s championship.

The Team Grave Yamaha will feature Josh Herrin and Tommy Aquino; Herrin finished last year’s championship in second, Aquino eight. Also for Yamaha, MPH Racing, Inc., rider Melissa Paris hopes to beat her 21st place finish last year, which was the best finish a woman ever had in AMA.

Mark Croier, the 2009 SunTrust MotoGT champion, will be contending on his DNA Ducati 848. The other notable Ducati competitor is Steve Rapp aboard the Team Latus Motors Racing Ducati 848; he won the Daytona 200 in 2007.

Buell’s still in the picture with Shawn Higbee riding an almost stock 1125R for privateer James Gang Racing. The sole Honda will be a Heyser Racing/Woodcraft CBR 600RR ridden by Eric Wood; he finished last year’s Daytona 200 in 18th.

Last year’s winner was Ben Bostrom astride a factory Yamaha YZF-R6. After the controversial pace-car lead the field to the first-ever rolling start, Bostrom grabbed the holeshot. He would fight for the lead with his then teammate Josh Hayes and the now defunct Geico Powersports Buell 1125R ridden by Eslick.

Eslick battled for the lead until his 1125R, which remained under heavy scrutiny all year due to its large displacement, started dismantling, the body work having to be taped. On Lap 17, the race was under a yellow flag due to lighting problems, and then a red flag after Tommy Aquino smashed his Yamaha.

The restart was confusing due to the pace car, but soon things were underway and it was a nine-lap affair to the finish. Bostrom and Team M4 Suzuki rider Jason DiSalvo (who has moved to World Supersport) would swap the lead on the straightaway a few times, but Ben would eventually take the win.

The Daytona 200 will air on Saturday at 9 p.m. (EST) on SPEED.