DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 10, 2014) – The DAYTONA 200 at Daytona International Speedway remains the cornerstone of Daytona’s historic Bike Week festivities and will once again feature the stars of AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBike in a grueling 200-mile battle pitting man and machine as they take on the traditional 3.51-mile, 12-turn speedway road course. The 73rd running will provide another chance for one rider to claim victory and stamp their name in the record books alongside some of the biggest names in the history of the sport.
Combining elements of endurance racing, such as the fast-and-furious pit stops, with the all-out pace of sprint racing, the DAYTONA 200 is truly a unique event. This year’s 200-mile race will be an important one historically as it is set to end an era. After a decade of middleweight-class machines contesting America’s most famous motorcycle race, 2015 will see the return of AMA Pro SuperBike to the DAYTONA 200. The AMA Pro GoPro Daytona SportBikes have put on a great show on the High Banks, and the last race of the era will be a final chance for the class competitors to win the race on a middleweight machine.
With 2013 GoPro Daytona SportBike champion Cameron Beaubier graduating to SuperBike in 2014, the class seems more like a wide-open proposition this time around. The race at Daytona International Speedway is an excellent chance for class combatants to stamp their mark on the upcoming season.
One of the favorites to win this year’s DAYTONA 200 is Jake Gagne (No. 32 RoadRace Factory/Red Bull Yamaha YZF-R6). Gagne was the only rider to beat Beaubier last season — at Road America in a thrilling battle — and the Californian finished second in the final standings when the season came to a close at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Gagne returns to the RoadRace Factory/Red Bull team, and a win in Daytona would be a good way to begin his third season with the team.
Beaubier’s teammate last year, Garrett Gerloff (No. 8 Yamaha Extended Service/Monster Energy/Graves/Yamaha YZF-R6) finished strong in 2013 and showed great improvement in battling with Beaubier in the later rounds. Gerloff just missed a few wins last year in what was essentially his rookie season.
JD Beach (No. 6 Yamaha Extended Service/Monster Energy/Graves/Yamaha YZF-R6), another class contender, will join Gerloff in a formidable lineup for the factory-backed Yamaha squad. Beach also finished strong and was signed to replace the graduating Beaubier.
Dane Westby (No. 00 Yamalube/Westby Racing Yamaha YZF-R6) decided to form his own team for 2014 and has put together an impressive program. Westby returns to Yamaha machinery after forays on Suzuki and Honda equipment. The former class number two in the points struggled some in 2013 but looks to return to the race-winning form he had the two previous years. In a class of young talent looking to blaze to the top and older veterans with the guile to get it done, Westby is a “tweener,” a rider with a lot of class experience but one with a sense of aggression.
Jake Zemke and Joe Roberts will race bikes prepped by Team Hammer in 2014. Class veteran Zemke (No. 98 GEICO Motorcycle Road Racing Honda CBR600RR) has experienced victory at Daytona before and has seen plenty of success while riding Hondas in the past. Roberts (No. 2 M4 GEICO Motorcycle Road Racing Honda CBR600RR) won all five races he contested in AMA Pro SuperSport last year. After experiencing success in Europe as well, all eyes are on Roberts to see how he progresses in 2014.
Jake Lewis (No. 85 Motorsport.com/Meen Yamaha YZF-R6) is another young rider with the potential to win the DAYTONA 200. Lewis, from the road racing hotbed of Kentucky, earned nine top-fives in his rookie GoPro Daytona SportBike season. For his second year in the class, he will remain with the same Meen crew that he became familiar with in 2013.
Former two-time class champion Danny Eslick (No. 69 Riders Discount Racing Triumph Daytona 675R) returns to GoPro Daytona SportBike after a few seasons in AMA Pro SuperBike. Eslick has previously won the class crown on Buell and Suzuki machinery and, this time, will attempt the feat on a Triumph. Despite his success in the class, Eslick has seen his share of disappointment at Daytona and has never won the DAYTONA 200. He’ll no doubt be looking to change that this go-around.
This year’s field has its share of former DAYTONA 200 winners. In addition to Zemke, the 2006 race winner, Steve Rapp (No. 15 D&D Cycles/Castrol/Triumph Daytona 675R) will attempt to add another marker to complement his 2007 win. Rapp, the reigning AMA Pro Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson Series champ, has experienced a late-career renaissance, and the versatile veteran is one of the many highlights of the 42-bike field for this year’s DAYTONA 200.
Joey Pascarella (No. 52 BP Racing Yamaha YZF-R6) put on a dominating performance in 2012 to win his DAYTONA 200 in one of the biggest upsets ever. After time on other brands, Pascarella will once again race a Yamaha this season.
Jason DiSalvo (No. 40 Castrol/Triumph/Sportbike Track Time Triumph Daytona 675R) won the race in 2011 and made another charge for a second win in 2012 before coming up just short. DiSalvo is always strong on the 3.51-mile circuit.
DiSalvo’s teammate in 2014 is Elena Myers (No. 21 Castrol/Triumph/Apex Manufacturing Triumph Daytona 675R). Myers and Melissa Paris (No. 13 MPH Racing Honda CBR600RR) have battled for top-finishing female racer in the DAYTONA 200 in recent seasons.
The 73rd running of the DAYTONA 200 will begin Saturday, March 15 at 1:00 p.m. EST.
Photo: AMA Pro Racing/Brian J. Nelson