2014 AMA Daytona SportBike Preview
It all comes down to the wire for the AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike stars this weekend at New Jersey Motorsports Park. The championship is up for grabs at the Kawasaki Devil’s Showdown, with two races left in what has been a fantastic and unpredictable season in the middleweight class.With five different winners so far this year, the season has seen ups and downs for the class protagonists in 2014. Jake Gagne on the No. 32 RoadRace Factory/Red Bull Yamaha YZF-R6 and Jake Lewis riding the No. 85 MotoSport.com/Meen Yamaha YZF-R6 go into New Jersey with the best chances to win the coveted No. 1 plate and the $25,000 championship bonus.
Gagne has led the points for most of the season. The cool Californian took the lead with a double win in Wisconsin and last year’s runner up has been solid all year. Gagne has done what championship winners need to do in a tight and deep field – make the most of each opportunity to gather points. Except for an unavoidable crash directly in front of him in Alabama, Gagne has finished fourth or better each time out. It’s been a season of smart and fast racing for Gagne.Gagne won the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup championship in Europe but has a chance to win his first AMA Pro Rad Racing title this weekend. Last year, he put up the best fight to Cameron Beaubier as Beaubier dominated the class. Although no one rider has been able to take charge in 2014 like Beaubier did, Gagne has been in the hunt each time out and has done a good job avoiding bad weekends.While Gagne’s year looks smooth on the surface, appearances belie several challenges he and the team have faced this year. In the offseason, the team changed suspension brands. It turned out to be a good move but it made for some uncertainties early on as last year’s date become less relevant. Gagne also had arm pump surgery during the season, too.He leads Lewis by seven points heading into the weekend, a margin that has little room for error. With a five-point difference between first and second, Gagne can’t risk just shadowing Lewis and waiting for the laps to count down.Gagne has stated that he won’t do anything different than normal in New Jersey. For those that follow the Californian closely, this is no surprise.For Lewis, the young Kentuckian has already experienced a fantastic season. He earned his first AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike win in front of the MotoGP crowd at Laguna Seca and backed it up by doing it again in Ohio.The 18 year-old was a contender last year but his hot streak put him squarely in the championship fight this season. Regarded in recent years as one of the up-and-comers, Lewis is clearly up front now. The tall Kentuckian is very aggressive but has gained the experience to let his natural talents shine.Heading into Jersey, he knows the task at hand. If he wins both races, he will be the champ. Lewis himself said he feels like he has “nothing to lose,” so he will go for the victories and forget about the math. In some ways, that approach makes the weekend easier.Third place points man Danny Eslick, pilot of the No. 69 Riders Discount Racing Triumph Daytona 675R, saw his best chance at the title slip away with a bad race in Ohio but the fan favorite is not mathematically out of things yet. He trails Gagne by 32 with 50 points up for grabs.The two-time series champ won the DAYTONA 200 in March and looked to be heating up for a title run with two podiums in a row, but he had bad luck and crashed in fluids from another rider’s bike in the last race. After the red flag, Eslick couldn’t run the pace needed.The dynamic Oklahoman would no doubt like to bookend his year with victories. He can put an exclamation point on his season with two more top-shelf performances.Eslick does have his hands full with the next man in points. J.D. Beach aboard the No. 6 Yamaha Extended Service/Monster Energy/Graves/Yamaha YZF-R6 trails Eslick by just three tallies.For Beach, 2014 has been a nice year but one that has confounded him at the same time. Four times Beach has finished second or third and in other races, like Ohio, he led for a time. But the Kentucky resident still hasn’t grabbed that first class win. Beach has shown plenty of speed during the year but fortune hasn’t favored him late in the races.Still, his first year on the official Yamaha team has seen him not only battle with the field but on occasion outpace teammate Garrett Gerloff on the results sheet.Beach looked to be on a mission to win at Ohio but tire issues slowed his pace as the race went on. No doubt he will be driven to get that first win in the final two races of the year.Dane Westby riding the No. 00 Yamalube/Westby Racing Yamaha YZF-R6 has experienced a great year, winning two races and running up front other times after starting his own team in the offseason. Westby has often been “Mr. Excitement” in 2014, valiantly trying for victory and being in the mix for some of the most memorable moments of the year. He triumphed twice in Alabama but, even in the times he has come up short, Westby gave it his all and made more fans in the process.“The Wolverine” also fell out of the championship battle in Ohio with a crash. He rallied from last to tenth after the red flag, but it hurt him and his smaller team in the standings.Westby still has a shot to win the most class races in 2014, though. Gagne and Lewis all currently have two victories along with Westby.Garrett Gerloff aboard the No. 8 Yamaha Extended Service/Monster Energy/Graves/Yamaha YZF-R6 is sixth in points. The Texan expected more from the year, but misfortune kept him out of the title fight. Crashes at Road America and Barber Motorsports Park hurt not only in the points, but left his physical condition in doubt as well. Gerloff rebounded the best he could and at the least round in Ohio seemed well on the way to putting up the type of performances he desires.Gerloff stormed onto the scene at New Jersey three years ago, so there’s no better spot to show what he can do.Kyle Wyman on his No. 33 Kyle Wyman Racing Yamaha YZF-R6 looks poised to finish in the top ten in points this year. The New Yorker is currently eighth. Despite being more recognized for his AMA Pro Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson class exploits, Wyman has earned his spot with a string of top ten finishes in 2014.Two veterans are in a fight for ninth in the standings. Just two points separate Blake Young, pilot of the No. 79 GN Gonzales Racing Yamaha YZF-R6, and Jake Zemke on the No. 98 GEICO Motorcycle Road Racing Honda CBR600RR.Tomas Puerta aboard the No. 12 RoadRace Factory/Red Bull Yamaha YZF-R6 is poised to be the top class rookie in 2014. The Colombian is 11th in points.A deep class like AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike boasts notable competitors through the field. Riders like Bobby Fong (No. 50 Latus Motors/Castrol/Triumph Daytona 675), Benny Solis (No. 35 Team H35 Yamaha YZF-R6), Bryce Prince (No. 174 Tuned Industries Yamaha YZF-R6), Steve Rapp (No. 15 D&D Cycles/Castrol/ Triumph Daytona 675), and Elena Myers (No. 21 Castrol/Triumph/Apex Manufacturing Triumph Daytona 675) will also look to make their mark this weekend.With 21-lappers set for Saturday and Sunday, the emphasis will be getting up to speed quickly at the 2.2-mile track. Saturday’s contest is set for 3 p.m. local time (noon PT). Sunday’s finale will go green at 2 p.m. (11 a.m. PT).How to WatchFansChoice.tv
is the official home for live streaming coverage of AMA Pro Road Racing and AMA Pro Flat Track events in 2014. The site also provides coverage of IMSA’s development and single-make series, and NASCAR’s touring and weekly series.