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2012 DAYTONA® 200 Week Recap: AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 22, 2012) – In only his third career AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike start, Joey Pascarella of Vacaville, California and the Project 1 Atlanta/March of Dimes team won the 71st DAYTONA® 200 in a classic race that saw the drama build until the very end of the 57 laps. Pascarella was able to do something that was rather rare on that last lap around Daytona International Speedway’s 3.51-mile traditional motorcycle course – he was able to hold the lead despite having three riders on the tail of his No. 52 Yamaha YZF-R6, each of them ready and willing to draft past the 19-year-old rider.

The three-rider pack that finished just 0.048 seconds behind Pascarella was full of stout competition, led by eventual second-place finisher Jason DiSalvo (No. 9 Latus Motors Racing Triumph Daytona 675). Cameron Beaubier (No. 6 Y.E.S. Graves Motorsports Yamaha YZF-R6) narrowly edged out this year’s pole position winner, Martin Cardenas (No. 36 GEICO Suzuki GSX-R600), at the line to take the final podium spot.

Pascarella, a former AMA Pro Motorcycle-Superstore.com SuperSport West champ, ran at the point alongside Beaubier the entire Daytona SportBike race. He didn’t panic near the end when Cardenas and DiSalvo rejoined the lead pack and was bold in leading onto the final banking on the last lap, a spot where riders often make their move at Daytona. To secure his place in history, Pascarella used a lapped rider for an extra slingshot on the high banks to complete the 71st running of the endurance classic in 1:47:47.579, the fastest DAYTONA 200 to date for the AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike division.

“Actually, in the lead was my most comfortable position. When somebody was in front of me, I just didn’t like it as much as when I was up front,” said Pascarella. “I could run my own pace, do my own thing, and just do whatever, so I just stayed in the lead as long as I could. When somebody passed me, I used the draft to go right back by him and not do anything stupid, and just go for smooth laps.

“It’s a long race so I just rode smart and conservative. I knew towards the end, it would be down to about four of us. I just was going to do my own thing. It ended up just working out. Luckily for that lapper, actually, I got a draft on him. I didn’t even think I was going to catch up to him on the straight. I got a little draft, and just brought her in for the win. I am in shock, really. I’m speechless. I didn’t think we were going to come here and win. I knew in myself I could … I just didn’t, you know, with no testing or anything, but we did it, and I can’t thank the team enough, Project 1 Atlanta, Mach 1 Motorsports, Jon Block Group, and we’re supporting the March of Dimes. It’s a good way to start the season. I don’t know what I’m doing for the rest of the season. Hopefully this can open up some opportunities and some people would want to help the team out, because I’d love to keep working with them. I think we can go on and win some races and maybe even the championship. I know I’ve got the speed and the potential, and I know the team’s got it in them, so hopefully we can keep going. I’d love to keep racing here in America.”

DiSalvo won the DAYTONA® 200 last season in an equally wild race in which the Batavia, NY native was able to utilize an extended red flag period to repair his motorcycle and return to the track for the final laps of the race. This year’s 200 went off without the hitch of red flags, but DiSalvo had an issue before the first pit stop that saw him drop back.

“I thought I had an issue with the motorcycle and I backed off the pace considerably, and we lost a good bit of time,” said DiSalvo. “We went through our pit stop, we got back out there, everything looked okay, and we kept going. Once I thoroughly chastised myself for making a silly move like that — normally it’s one of those things, you ride it until it stops. You don’t think you hear a noise and pull in. I’ve got myself to thank for putting myself in that hole. But once I got back out on the track, I just rode as hard as I could every lap. As you can tell, it kind of took it out of me. Literally every lap of that race was ten tenths — as hard as I could go, through lappers, through guys that were on the same lap as me. At one point I just, I didn’t know what lap it was, I didn’t know if I had any more pit stops to complete … I don’t even think I took tires on the second pit stop, any tires at all. We just fueled it and then got going again, and it ended up just working out that we were right there at the end.”

Typically associated with the No. 40, for the 200 this year DiSalvo competed on the No. 9 Team Latus Motors Racing Triumph Daytona 675, a Gary Nixon tribute machine, and he performed in a way the late Grand National Champion would have admired. “I’m really thankful. Over all of the laps, through all the sliding around and slicing through lapped riders and everything, in the back of my mind I was riding for Gary (Nixon) and riding for his memorial, and also for the crew, for all the hard hours they put in to get us here. I just rode as hard as I could every lap and we were there at the end, so I figured I’d give it a go. I was probably a little over-aggressive in the chicane in the final lap, but I think after the 56 laps preceding that, and everything that had taken place, I wasn’t going to let that slip through my fingers. I thought we were in line to probably take a win.

“I sort of had a drafting strategy planned out, but a lapped rider got up in there. That’s how it goes at Daytona sometimes. Luck isn’t always on your side. But I think, while we may not have been the luckiest team here today, I know we were the best team here. So we’re going to take that and go forward in this championship and just keep fighting hard and keep trying to improve. I can’t wait for the next race.”

Beaubier is one of the most promising newcomers racing in the US, and his first race for the Y.E.S. Graves Motorsports team was a brilliant ride. “Everyone was so close at the beginning, and then after both pit stops, everyone was pretty close,” said the 19 year-old. “DiSalvo caught up to us, and Joey and I were just trying to help each other out on the banking, and just putting in some laps. The race was awesome. DiSalvo and I were battling a little bit in the last chicane, going onto the banking. I kind of got messed up there a little bit and then I didn’t really get a good draft going to the line. I’m really happy with third. I’d just really like to thank my team, Yamaha Extended Service Graves Yamaha, for giving me an awesome bike.”

Former series champion Cardenas and GEICO Suzuki returned to the class with a strong race and showed they will be contenders in 2012. Cardenas closed back in to the lead pack in the closing laps and was in position to make a late-race move. It wasn’t meant to be for the Colombian, but Cardenas was able to finish the race and earn valuable points at the Speedway, which he did not the year he won the championship.

Dane Westby (M4 Broaster Chicken Suzuki) led seven laps of the event and was the last of the leaders to pit during the first series of stops before finishing an excellent fifth. Westby’s bid for the win took damage with a slow pit stop.

Jake Zemke and Ducshop Racing earned sixth place. Last year’s pole sitter will contest the entire season in 2012 after a limited campaign in 2011.

Tommy Hayden began the weekend at home in Kentucky, but the two-time AMA Pro champ was drafted into the Y.E.S. Graves Motorsports team when Garrett Gerloff was injured on Thursday. Hayden, although missing practice time to his rivals, took seventh place.

Jake Gagne (No. 132 RoadRace Factory/Red Bull Yamaha YZF-R6) had never raced the DAYTONA® 200 before but fought with experienced veterans Zemke and Hayden throughout the race. Gagne and his new team finished eighth, and the rising star has grabbed an early lead in the Saddlemen Rookie of the Year award program. The $5,000 year-end award will go to the eligible rookie rider who earns the most points in the GoPro Daytona SportBike rider championship.

Tommy Aquino (No. 827 SGA Racing Yamaha YZF-R6) was ninth and ran with the lead pack early.

Riders Discount Vesrah Suzuki’s Cory West also scored a top ten finish.

West’s Vesrah Suzuki teammate Bostjan Skubic and Pascarella are currently tied in the running for the Sunoco “Go The Distance” Award, a $5,000 year-end award given to the rider that completes the furthest total distance in 2012 AMA Pro Road Racing race-weekend events. Both riders turned a total of 128 laps in official on-track sessions around the 3.51-mile circuit for a total of 449.28 miles completed.

In a month, AMA Pro Road Racing will return to Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia for Round 2 of the 2012 championship and the first of the season’s three Triumph Big Kahuna events, the Big Kahuna Atlanta. The event, scheduled for April 20-22, 2012, is the first return to Road Atlanta for the Series since the 2010 season and marks the return of M1 PowerSports to full-time event promotion at the site of the original Big Kahuna.