Fans on the Starting Grid
Part of the Daytona Motorsports Group’s plan to rejuvenate AMA racing is to follow NASCAR’s successful strategy of giving fans greater access to the series’ participants. Before the 200 started, fans were allowed out on the track to see for themselves how steep the banking is, and to wander through the riders and bikes as the start of the race approached.
Buell debuts on Front Row
One of the most amazing parts of the weekend was the competitiveness of the Buell 1125R, which Danny Eslick nearly put on pole, less than a tenth of a second behind Ben Bostrom’s race winning Yamaha. In addition to bringing with it a colorful cast of team members, the Buell added a distinctive sound among the smaller, lighter Japanese bikes. Eslick was outstanding, and he fought with seasoned veterans Bostrom and Josh Hayes for the lead until the right side fairing of the Buell came loose just after Eslick had passed the pit entrance, forcing him to complete another lap with the fairing flapping in the wind. Because a radiator was integrally tied to the fairing, the loose piece could not simply be stripped away in a timely fashion, but had to be reattached in the unplanned pit stop. As an AMA official watched, the Buell team tried the old standby of duct tape, then started drilling holes here and there for plastic ties, but still the fairing was clearly not going to stay put. An increasingly frustrated Eslick finally grabbed his own roll of tape and strapped the fairing to the gas tank so he could rejoin the race. But an otherwise admirable performance was for naught as Eslick, who had clawed his way back to thirteenth for the checkered flag, was later disqualified for having passed under the yellow.
As we waited for the officials to clear the unusually crowded grid, Ben Bostrom managed to find some peace and quiet by sitting in front of his bike and staring mystically into the Florida night. His moment of solitude didn’t last long, however. Though most people left him to his thoughts, a team member approached with something more important than taking a quiet moment and it was back to work for the man about to win the 200.
Though I find the start of a motorcycle race one of its most exciting elemtns, I had to admit that the rolling start, with its mix of crowd noise and 75 bikes at full throttle, had an appeal all its own.
A Chance at Redemption
Josh Hayes won the Daytona 200 last year, only to lose the title on a technical disqualification. He never really recovered from that as the 2008 season progressed, so many eyes were on his attempt to retake the title that, as a rider, he had rightfully earned. He stayed at the front and in contention before crashing with only a few laps to go. Had this not happened, we might have seen Graves Yamahas in all three podium positions.
Timing and Scoring Loses Jake Zemke
Jake Zemke wears the Formula Xtreme Number 1 plate on his Erion Honda, and was contending in fifth place when he took his first scheduled pit stop. But after the race’s bizarre series of events that led to multiple safety car laps and a long break in the action, Zemke was identified as having finished twenty-second. His team was able to use the lap charts to prove he was higher, and his position was revised to tenth, though he felt he was higher than that.
Bostrom Prepares to Pit
The row of lights on the fairing indicates either that the rider intends to pit, or that he’s doing the racing equivalent of just driving along with his turn signal on.
To Each His Own
Some teams attached the rider’s drink bottle to the gas can so that man (or woman) and machine can fill up at the same time. Jamie Hacking did a fantastic job of battling the superior Yamahas and Suzukis to bring his Kawasaki home in fourth.
Jason DiSalvo in Contention
I spoke to DiSalvo on the starting grid, discussing among other things the uncharacteristically plain livery he was sporting for the 200. In recent years he has had distinctive leathers showing his number 40 in a unique script font that stands out in a very cool way among the thick, block typefaces most riders seem to prefer. Jason commented that his deal with the M4 Suzuki team was finalized so recently that he hadn’t had time to have his custom leathers made. I expect his personal sense of style will be reflected by Fontana, and hope he’s able to make this happen by then. It just doesn’t seem right to see him out there in generic leathers. In spite of the standard colors, Jason qualified third and brought the Suzuki home in that same position.
Chaz Davies on his Factory Ride
Having shown great ability last season on the fiscally challenged but hard-working Celtic Racing team, Davies rode into Daytona on his new Aprilia RSV, looking and sounding like a million bucks. Last year’s second place in the 200 became a victory when Josh Hayes was disqualified, and this time Davies rode the Aprilia to sixth, continuing to show his talents and that he has a bright future whatever bike he’s given to ride.
This is a long race, let’s take a break…
Much was made about the historic running of the 200 for the first time under Daytona’s lights, which work pretty reliably for NASCAR. But a section of lights started failing at a crucial part of the track, where riders flat out on the oval approached and had to brake for the back chicane. The riders were brought in and formed up in the pit lane before being sent back to their pit boxes for tire warmers as the officials decided what to do. This led to a break in an otherwise exciting race that allowed riders to tidy up a bit.
Bostrom Cleans his Visor
DiSalvo Describes His Suzuki’s Qualities to his Crew
The break went on so long, the fans weren’t the only ones wondering if the dang race would ever start again:
Rumors that the many safety car laps were contrived to allow a Honda to lead the race should be completely ignored.
Mrs. DiSalvo on Pins and Needles
As the riders returned to racing with 10 laps to go, the result was in the hands of Bostrom, Hayes, DiSalvo and Josh Herrin. Most team pit boxes had live TV feeds of the race, and DiSalvo’s wife and the M4 team watched their man take the lead, then give it up. When someone in the front pack crashed, the tension in the Suzuki pit box was high until the crashed rider was identified as Hayes.
In spite of his late crash, Hayes responded to a request for an interview in, of all places, the podium area. As the top three finishers removed their helmets and drank from their sports bottles, Hayes appeared in his scuffed and ruined leathers, looking like he wanted to be just about anywhere other than in the presence of the top three riders. But he gave his interview for Speed TV and quietly disappeared immediately after.
Gatorade Shower with Diet Red Bull Chaser
Chuck Graves enjoys the traditional gift a winning coach receives from his team as the group waits for trophies to be presented to Graves Yamaha riders Bostrom and Herrin, who finished first and second respectively. Apparently thinking that the bucket of Gatorade had rendered Grave not quite wet enough, a bit of Diet Red Bull was added to finish the job, illustrating the type of attention to detail that makes for a winning racing team.
The Official Gas of the Daytona 200, S… something
I’ve never seen a podium procedure that involved as many different hats as this year’s Daytona 200. First came the photos with each rider in his team hat, then photos with each rider wearing a Daytona hat, then a Dunlop hat, then a Sonoco hat… I think there were more hats than that, but as they all ended up scattered on the floor it’s hard to keep them straight. The poor guy in charge had his hands full with tired riders of varying patience. As yet another trio of hats was presented, and the riders had to raise their trophies and smile yet again, it was sometimes difficult to keep track of every detail, such as having the current sponsor’s banner held up in such a way that it would actually be identifiable in photos.
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Racing
As Bostrom rode to victory, he reminded me of his meditative mood as he sat in front of his bike on the starting grid. Perhaps there’s something to visualization after all..