Daytona 200 Winner Ben Bostrom
A year ago we told you the AMA had sold its racing operation to Daytona Motorsports Group. Since then, uncertainty and controversy have raged as DMG proposed rules, the public and industry reacted negatively and things kept changing back and forth. Factories scaled back their Superbike racing efforts, and nobody really knew how the premier event at Daytona would pan out.
DMG finally announced new rules and a new format for America’s premier roadrace, the Daytona 200. A list of middleweight Inline-Fours and heavyweight Twins would battle it out in an illuminated night race in the new Daytona SportBike class. A new American Superbike series sponsor, the Army National Guard, helped keep the cash flowing, and over 70 riders were gridded for the historic event.
Qualifying at Thursday’s Superpole put some familiar names at the front of the grid, like Yamaha’s Ben Bostrom and last year’s not-winner Josh Hayes, but the big disparity in engine sizes and types also put Danny Eslick in the second spot on a Buell 1125R only a few weeks after he’d been hired to ride it.
The race was long but exciting — with all the thrills and spills you’d expect. Eslick diced with Team Graves Yamaha riders Bostrom, Herrin and Hayes, using the Buell’s prodigious power and his own flamboyant style to squeeze past the other boys on the banking until he had to pit when part of his fairing came loose (in the end, he was disqualified for passing riders under a yellow warning flag). Hayes suffered another Daytona disappointment when he highsided late in the race after leading for 27 laps. After more crashes and much confusion regarding the safety car and malfunctioning lighting, the race ended with Ben Bostrom in the lead, followed by teammate Herrin, with M4 Suzuki rider Jason DiSalvo in third.
This all happened the evening after last year’s “premier” event, AMA Pro American Superbike. This class also has a list of eligible machines: Buell 1125R, Honda CBR1000RR, Kawasaki ZX-10, Yamaha R1, Suzuki GSX-R1000, Aprilia RSV1000R and the Ducati 1098R, with spec Dunlop tires and Sunoco race fuel. Limited modifications to the engine, bodywork and suspension are allowed. The 15-lap race was won by – surprise! – Rockstar/Makita Suzuki six-time AMA Superbike champ Mat Mladin, but this time he had to really work for it, with Foremost Insurance/Pegram Racing Larry Pegram leading for three laps on his Ducati 1098R.
What about Supersport? Well, this year Pro SuperSport is more of a superstock class designed to give young guns a chance at fame. The field of riders aged 16-21 race the following bikes: Yamaha YZF-R6, Suzuki GSX-R600, Honda CBR600RR, Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R and that good ol’ Buell 1125R with very limited modifications. At Daytona, the 12-lap sprint race was held on Thursday and went well, with Erion Honda’s Tyler Odom packing a trophy in his suitcase.
It was all topped off by a variety of other events, including a round of MotoST endurance racing. A lot going on, but attention from fans may be lacking; the stands looked very empty during the 200. DMG does not provide attendance numbers. Still, I found the racing entertaining and exciting, and it certainly has the potential to hold the attention of race fans this season.