Young talent dominated the field in yesterday’s 71st running of the Daytona 200 SportBike race at Daytona International Speedway. In only his third AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike start, 19 year-old Joey Pascarella took home the win aboard the Project 1 Atlanta/March of Dimes Yamaha YZF-R6, after a long fought battle with experienced youngster Cameron Beaubier (Graves Yamaha). Pascarella was able to hold the lead despite having Beaubier and two other riders (Jason DiSalvo of Latus Motors Racing Triumphnand Martin Cardenas of GEICO Suzuki) on his tail at the conclusion of the 57-lap race. Pascarella’s margin of victory was 0.048 over DiSalvo, with Beaubier edging out Martin Cardenas by photo finish.
Pascarella and Beaubier were the only two riders remaining in the lead pack after the second round of pit stops, but Cardenas and then DiSalvo managed to run down the fast teens from several seconds back to make a four-man battle in the final four laps.
Pascarella, who led 41 laps, ran in first as the riders entered the chicane on the final lap. The fast four moved past a lapped rider and made the charge to the stripe for the 57th time, where Pascarella encountered another backmarker.
“I knew I could do it and I had faith in myself,” said Pascarella, who did not test the bike or ride before Wednesday’s practice. “I ran my own race. I thought if I led on the last lap and someone passed me, so be it. I felt most comfortable in the lead. Everyone was there the whole race. It ended up working out. I got a draft on a lapper and I was able to bring it home with a win. I don’t know what we’re doing for the rest of the season, but hopefully the team and I can keep going.”
Runner-up DiSalvo was the one to watch as he charged hard after slowing before the first round of stops. “I thought I had an issue with the motorcycle and I backed off the pace considerably and we lost a good bit of time. We went through our pit stop and got back out there and everything looked okay and we kept going,” said last year’s DAYTONA® 200 winner. “Once I thoroughly chastised myself for making a silly move like that — you ride it until it stops, you don’t think you hear a noise and pull in — I just rode as hard as I could every lap. Every lap of that race was ten tenths, as hard as I could go. It ended up working out right that we were right there in the end. Through all the laps, and all the sliding around and slicing through lapped riders, it was just in the back of my mind that I was riding for Gary (Nixon) and riding for his memory, and for my crew and all the hard work they put in.” DiSalvo had his Triumph Motorcycle decked out with Nixon’s colours, sporting the number nine, in honour of the late Gary Nixon who won the DAYTONA 200 forty-five years ago aboard a Triumph motorcycle.
Young gun Cameron Beaubier also had a good race to hang on for third place. “The race was awesome,” said Beaubier. “I really didn’t get a good draft to the line, but I am happy with third.”
Behind the lead pack, another set of riders participated in an equally ferocious battle. M4 Broaster Chicken Suzuki rider Dane Westby led that pack filled with veterans and young riders, breaking away at the line to close out the top five. Ducshop Racing’s Zemke followed, with Y.E.S. Graves Yamaha’s Tommy Hayden, RoadRace Factory/Red Bull’s Jake Gagne, SGA Racing’s Tommy Aquino in tow. Cory West and the Riders Discount Vesrah Suzuki Team rounded out the top 10.
Canadian Ben Young rode his FOGI Racing Yamaha R6 to a very respectable 20th place finish in his first DAYTONA 200 sportbike race, despite experiencing engine troubles that forced him to his back-up bike earlier in the week. Inside Motorcycles reporter Steve Hoffarth caught up with Ben’s father and team owner Scott Young following the race. According to Scott, “We really felt prepared coming here but it has been non-stop work for the entire team since our Thursday first practice engine failure” Ben also commented on his overall efforts “I felt really strong throughout the race, especially at the end. I am very pleased!”
Fellow Canadian and XR1200 ace Darren James was forced to retire from the DAYTONA 200 after 26 laps following an engine failure. James tweeted “Bike had a misfire on the line. Made it to lap 26 before it went BOOM! No BRAAP today! Thanks to the Ruthless Racing team. We will be back!” An unfortunate turn of events for the west coast rider as prior to the start the team felt that the bike had been improving significantly. According to James’ crew chief “The bike is getting better all of the time. It’s the same bike we ran in the CSBK series last year other than the quick fuel change mechanism.”
Canadian-born Javelin Broderick managed a successful 18th place finish in the first of two Supersport races, but crashed out of the second race and was not able to finish.
According to Blake Young, “Today’s race was a lot better than yesterday’s race, for sure. I knew Josh was going to be good on the banking and out of the chicane. I just didn’t know how good. I knew I had to make it happen on the first five laps and be right on him to see what he was doing exactly out of the chicane that made me him so good onto the banking. I definitely learned and adapted pretty quickly before he could get away.”
Hayes was happy to leave Daytona with a win, a runner-up, pole, and two lap leader points in his pocket, but couldn’t help but feel like he let one get away on this day.