Ben Bostrom and Josh Herrin gave the Yamaha factory a 1-2 at the 68th Daytona 200 on Friday night.
The event is always a rather odd race, given its length (200 miles/322 km), the requirement for pit stops, the size of the grid (75 starters this year), the spooky-fast high-banked track, the use of a so-called "safety car" ("jumbo shrimp" or "military intelligence," anyone?) and so forth. Still, the 2009 edition had to set some kind of record for oddities.
To start with, for the first time the 200 was run at night, under the lights. There was a new class of bikes, as well. In years past it has varied from modified dirt trackers to unlimited GP bikes to conventional superbikes, and this year it was a new combination called Daytona Sportbike, kind of a mix of the old F-Extreme and the 600 Sportbike classes (a "mix" to the point that there were two bikes with a No. 1 plate in the field, each of 2008’s class winners getting one … shaking my head).
Mostly it was various levels of modified 600s, but there was a Triumph 675, a few Buell 1125s, a couple of Aprilias … an interesting mix that actually worked out pretty well.
Last year’s winner Chaz Davies set the fastest lap of the race on an Aprilia, finishing seventh, while Danny Eslick’s Buell ran at the front during the first session until it started shedding bodywork and the right-side radiator. After an interminable Keystone Cops pit-stop involving zip ties, duct tape, and half the people on pit row including the rider, Eslick finally got going again, only to be eventually disqualified for passing several riders during the safety car sessions.
The safety car was out twice, and proceedings were also interrupted by a red flag. The first safety car period happened when some of the lights in the chicane area failed, apparently in conjunction with an electrical fire. That then led to a red flag when a few riders got caught out following the car through the chicane and in an accordian-like disaster Tommy Aquino got hit from behind and knocked down in the braking area, so everything got halted to clean up the mess.
Then on the restart Kris Turner’s M4 Suzuki crashed and the safety car went back out. There was considerable confusion about who was supposed to be where and several laps were lost following the car around while officials sorted out the mess.
All that led to some controversy at the end of the race when everyone except the AMA officials (including the people running the scoreboard) thought the race had only gone 55 laps instead of the scheduled 57. Officials said that two of the safety car laps should have been counted but didn’t show up on the scoreboard …
It’s a shame all this stuff detracted from the race, which was actually pretty good. The Graves Yamaha R6s were clearly the class of the field, with the M4 Suzukis of Jason DiSalvo and Martin Cardenas in the mix and Eslick’s Buell right there until his problems set in. Toward the end, Jamie Hacking’s ZX-6 Kawasaki looked like a podium finisher as well (he finished fourth behind DiSalvo), while Shawn Higbee got fifth on his Buell 1125R.
Honda was shut out of the top 10, with former 200 winner Jake Zemke the top Red Rider in 11th position.
Up front there were always several fast guys pushing each other so that the race was effectively three sprints divided by pit stops. One fast guy who might have taken the trophy (and really wanted it, after winning last year and then being disqualified for a technical infraction) was Bostrom’s team-mate Josh Hayes, who fell unhurt just four laps from the end.
In an interesting aside, that put him 52nd in the standings, while his wife Melissa Paris finished 21st — in her first-ever Pro race. Very impressive stuff.
Canadian content? Top finisher should have been Chris Peris on one of the factory-supported Erion Hondas, but he ran off the track at least three times and did well to come back from that to finish 24th. That left top Canadian spot to veteran Miguel Duhamel, 16th on the last-minute entry Picotte Racing/Blackfoot Suzuki. He had a pretty impressive pit crew, with past Canadian superbike stars Steve Crevier, Benoit Pilon, and Picotte, helped by current young gun Brett McCormick. Miggy was riding very hard, but the bike was clearly down on power and he had no chance to do better.
Matt McBride was 38th, and Jean-Paul Tache 48th.