Barber AMA Daytona Sportbike Preview

AMA Pro Racing

After competing together for over 950 miles over the course of 16 out of 18 races, the top three in this year’s AMA Pro Daytona SportBike Presented by AMSOIL series are only separated by 12 points and it all comes down to this, the final doubleheader race weekend at Barber Motorsports Park, Sept. 24-26.

Reigning Daytona SportBike Champion Danny Eslick is leading the three-way battle for the championship over Josh Herrin and Martin Cardenas.

Eslick, with three wins this year on his GEICO Powersports RMR Suzuki holds a slender 11 point lead over his closest challenger, Team Graves Yamaha rider Josh Herrin.

Herrin has taken five wins and is only one single point ahead of seven-time race winner M4 Monster Energy Suzuki rider Martin Cardenas. With a total of 63 points available this weekend at the AMA Pro Road Racing season finale at the 2.38 14 turn Barber Motorsports Park natural road course in Birmingham, Ala. the matter is far from settled.

The battle between these three riders began way back in March at the high banks of Daytona International Speedway when Eslick made an early statement by taking the pole position and getting a special Rolex watch in the process.

Danny had changed motorcycle brands in the off season and the jury was out as to his outright speed. He quickly put an end to the pit lane talk as he went on to post a series high four pole positions and also three wins in addition to his nine podium finishes.

Danny has raced hard all season and not only is he fast, but he races like every lap is the last lap but he also found the time to win the first three AMA Pro Vance & Hines XR1200 Series races this year too. Danny took a third and an eighth at Barber last year but he wasn’t fighting for the championship so his 2009 form is only worth so much.

Danny’s positive attitude will make him tough to beat this weekend but there are two other riders who feel much the same way or better about their chances for taking this year’s hard fought Daytona SportBike title.

Josh Herrin came on like a freight train last year and at the last race (at New Jersey Motorsports Park), he swept to a pair of wins to take second in the championship and also helped Yamaha to the manufacturer’s championship. This year, Herrin took a very measured approach to the championship and it has paid off.

He opened the season with a well judged victory at the prestigious Daytona 200. He then won at the next round at Auto Club Speedway and he proceeded to lead the points over Eslick until Infineon but regained the points lead after Road America and held the points lead until VIR in late August as Eslick and Cardenas made their charges.

Josh has two pole positions to his credit and he has racked up five race wins overall, also winning at Mid-Ohio, Road America and VIR. A couple of setbacks during the season didn’t slow Josh down, in each case, he would rebound with a strong race and put himself right back in the middle of the championship chase.

At times this year, Herrin looked unbeatable, he and his Team Graves Yamaha in perfect harmony and if he replicates not only this form, but the form he had last year at the season finale when everything was on the line, the championship could end up going to the man who started the season as the title favorite.

There is another rider that felt the 2009 Daytona SportBike championship should have been his, but Martin Cardenas suffered a hand injury at the penultimate race at VIR in 2009 and he wasn’t able to fight for the championship that was eventually taken by Eslick at the final race.

After taking seven wins in 2009, you would be excused for thinking he could come back and do it again in this very competitive class, but that is exactly what Martin has done in 2010. He has again taken seven wins and with two more races yet to be run, he could very well increase that total.

Martin began the year by not scoring any points at Daytona but in his usual form, he then came back to win the next race in California. He then suffered another set back in the second race at Auto Club Speedway but then once again , rebounded to a couple of wins at the next event at Road Atlanta. He won again at Infineon in race one but didn’t finish race two but again he came right back with a win at the second race at Road America.

Two more wins, at Laguna Seca and New Jersey Motorsports Park brought his total to seven. Now usually Martin qualifies quietly a little bit behind the leaders but then comes storming through in the races but as this year has progressed, he is now qualifying on the front row and is right in the thick of things from the word go.

This has proven to be bad news for his competitors since Martin manages his M4 Monster Energy Suzuki and the Dunlop tires extremely well and therefore is always in the middle of every fight for every race win. Showing how much they value his hard work and skills, the M4 Monster Energy Team has re-signed Martin for the 2011 season with an option for 2012.

After the disappointment of 2009, Martin has plenty of reason to want to finish the deal this year and when you look at what he has accomplished in 2010, it is easy to agree. But Martin isn’t taking anything lightly and in the same way he fought his way to a second seven-win season, he will be giving his absolute all again this weekend.

In addition to the riders that have stolen the headlines for the season finale at Barber Motorsports Park, there are a couple of spoilers that have been knocking on the door all year for a victory and in one case, he already has one in the books.

Team Latus Motors Ducati rider Steve Rapp has been as close as you can get to winning a race this year. He has been on the podium numerous times and continually runs right up front, only for some freak incident to take him out of the running.

He will be aiming to get the win he so badly wants for his small but effective Team Latus Motors team and no one will be taking this team for granted this weekend.

Another rider on a Ducati, the DNA Energy Drink Ducati to be exact, is Bobby Fong and he and Rapp were usually right in the middle of the action in this ultra competitive class and Bobby did get his first win at the recent VIR event when he won what was nearly a dead heat over Martin Cardenas.

Fong won’t be racing at Barber this weekend but he has been a major player all year. Three time pole position winner Tommy Aquino on his Team Graves Yamaha is also knocking on the door for a win.

He has led on a number of occasions and could be right in the thick of things this weekend, and possibly could prove an asset to his Team Graves Yamaha teammate Josh Herin.

Vesrah Suzuki rider Cory West and Project 1 Atlanta Yamaha rider Dane Westby have also ran well and as is the norm, they will be part of the ten to twelve bike train that runs up front at every Daytona SportBike race.

Practice and qualifying begins Friday, Sept, 24, and the first of two races will be on Saturday at 2 p.m., the second 21 lap race will be on Sunday, Sept. 26 at 2 p.m.

SPEED TV will cover the action from Barber Motorsports Park at 1 a.m. (Saturday/Sunday night) Sept. 26 and at midnight (Sunday/Monday) Sept. 27.

AMA Daytona Sportbike Standings (after 11 of 12 rounds):

1. Danny Eslick, 356

2. Josh Herrin, 345

3. Martin Cardenas, 344

4. Steve Rapp, 267

5. Cory West, 209

6. Dane Westby, 208

7. Tommy Aquino, 202

8. Bobby Fong, 185

9. Chris Fillmore, 151

10. P.J. Jacobsen, 138