The rain-fraught AMA Pro Daytona SportBike contest at Miller Motorsports Park’s BigM Weekend was ruled by a five-rider pack of unrelenting ferocity, each taking his turn at the front throughout the 16-lap race. Two riders, however, rose above-one higher than he’s ever been before, the other to a once-familiar height he’s sorely missed in 2011.
Celtic Racing/Fast by Ferracci’s PJ Jacobsen was ascendant in the 34-rider race, the 17-year-old New Yorker launching into the lead off the line and holding off attack after attack while riders diced for position eight-deep. Team Latus Motors Racing’s Jason DiSalvo-who started from pole, and was coming off a three-race win streak-seemed a sure bet for frontrunner status, but he was shuffled back surprisingly early in the race by Josh Herrin (Monster Energy Graves Yamaha), Dane Westby (M4 Suzuki), and Cory West (Vesrah Suzuki).
Behind DiSalvo, a battle raged full-force among the likes of Cameron Beaubier (GP Bike Parts), Tyler Odom (Don Odom Racing), Paul Allison (Triple Crown Industries), Danny Eslick (GEICO Powersports/RMR Suzuki), Joey Pascarella (Run 1 Racing), and more, the quickest laps of the race repeatedly being posted by riders in this second group.
Up front, Westby was the first rider to take the lead from Jacobsen, only to have West sail by both riders while the top seven were blanketed by less than a second. Jacobsen reclaimed the lead with authority just corners later, leaving West and Westby to engage in a frenetic battle for second that Herrin-looking entirely calm and smooth-watched carefully from fourth.
With nine laps to go, Herrin began to make his move, first picking off West to settle into the third-place position. In front, Westby and Jacobsen seemed to trade the lead every other corner, neither willing to let go nor able to make a pass stick for long. Suddenly, it was fourth-place West sliding back into the lead, closing the door so hard on a hopeful attempt by Jacobsen that the latter rider was shuffled back to fourth.
Shortly after, Herrin made a quick outside pass to take second from West and began calculatingly sizing up race-leader Westby, while Westby did everything he could to discourage the Graves rider’s line of thinking. In the meantime, Cameron Beaubier had been carefully maneuvering his way vertically through the field, and with five laps to go, had firmly attached himself to the back of the five-rider front pack, which went tearing up Miller’s long front straight four-deep as the laps clicked down.
Jacobsen, however, had been doing the same at the front of the field, taking third, then second, then first positions from their previous owners in a no-holds-barred fashion that left no doubt about his talent, but some doubt about how much longer his tires would last. With Westby immediately positioning his bike on Jacobsen’s rear wheel, the youngster found himself coming under increasing pressure-to which he responded by putting his head down and doing everything he could to gap the field.
With only three laps left to go, however, that didn’t fit with Herrin’s plans. Giving the Ducati rider zero room, Herrin pushed him faster and faster, the two putting several bike lengths between themselves and the rest of the field. Then, just after the lead pair took the white flag, it happened-tires pushed to the max, Jacobsen’s machine began exhibiting gasp-worthy, high-speed wobbles that told Herrin it was time to pounce. Though Jacobsen valiantly tried to hold the Yamaha rider off, Herrin was by now unstoppable. Slicing through the lap’s final corners, he took his first victory of 2011 by .161 seconds.
Jacobsen was followed across the line by another first-time podium-earner in AMA Pro Daytona SportBike, as Beaubier had craftily dispatched both West and Westby, who finished 4-5 in today’s event. DiSalvo, Eslick, Josh Galster, Allison, and Aquino rounded out the top-ten.
Josh Herrin (Team Graves Yamaha YZF-R6, 1st): “It was getting pretty crazy in the beginning; a lot of guys were passing me on the brakes in Turn 1 just ’cause I didn’t want to push in there too hard … I was just trying to save my tires. I had to shave a couple tenths off to go into the puddles, but I think at the end it really helped us out a lot. The Monster Energy Graves Yamaha was working really well, and I’m really grateful we’re on such good tires-the rains were phenomenal; we haven’t used them since Road America last year and they were perfect. These guys rode a really good race, everybody did, and I’m just glad to be up here. It’s a relief after having such a tough time this year, and I look forward to continuing on with the season with some more-consistent results.”
PJ Jacobsen (Celtic Racing Suzuki GSX-R600, 2nd): “Josh and Cory and Dane got by me, so I just tried to stay with them and sit behind them and see what they could do. There was like seven laps to go, so I figured just sit behind them ’cause it’s going to be a long race still. I tried to break away [at the end] there, but Josh got me on the last lap. I really, really was pushing, but he just got the best of me.”
Cameron Beaubier (Rockwall Yamaha YZF-R6, 3rd) says: “It was crazy. I struggled a little bit on the brakes, couldn’t really pass anyone on the brakes, and I was just watching them swap positions every corner … it was pretty awesome to watch. Toward the end I started to get a little more comfortable on the brakes and started making a couple passes, and it was an awesome race. The front was skating around a lot the whole race, so I had to always make sure I went through a puddle on the straightaway to cool the tires down, but it was a fun race, that’s for sure. It feels great to get on the podium for the first time in SportBike.”