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The Daytona 200: Set-Up, Skill, Endurance and Luck

With the most famous, and most prestigious AMA Superbike race approaching (the race is on March 12), we had the following thoughts.

First of all, the AMA Superbike field is loaded with talent this year. Without mentioning all the “stars”, we have Doug Chandler on a Kawasaki, Miguel Duhamel and Nicky Hayden at Honda, defending champion Mat Mladin at Suzuki, and Troy Bayliss at Ducati. From a talent perspective, any of these riders could win the Dayton 200.

The Daytona 200 is about more than talent, however. It is a gruelling race, perhaps more for the machines than the men. These superbikes are not normally tuned to go 200 miles. It is the only AMA Superbike race requiring pit stops and tire changes. Engine failure has plagued a number of teams over the years, perhaps Ducati more than others.

Tire choice is also critical, and the correct tire choice can change throughout the race as track temperatures and air temperatures change. Daytona is brutal on tires, with most of the teams using a dual-compound tire to cope with the predominately left-turn track dominated by the high-speed banked sections.

So, picking a winner at Daytona is difficult. On the right machine, with the right set-up, utilizing the right tires, any number of riders could win this year. We’re going to pick Doug Chandler of Kawasaki, however, for the following reasons.

First of all, Doug wants to win Daytona bad. He is reaching the end of a great career and he needs a Daytona victory to cap it off. Second, we think the Kawasaki is working extremely well. Chandler has his old, star tuner back, Gary Medley, and Chandler won three of the final four AMA Superbike races last year. Finally, Chandler knows how to manage his tires as well as any AMA Superbike rider. Sure, the twins are inherently easier on tires, but the Kawasaki ZX-7R is, for a four-cylinder, also easy on tires — particularly with smooth, Doug Chandler at the controls.

The Daytona 200 should be an extremely interesting and entertaining race this year. It will also kick-off an extremely interesting and entertaining AMA Superbike season. We’ll comment more about that as the season progresses.