Brandon Paasch (96) drafted past both Cameron Petersen (45) and Sheridan Morais (113) to win the 80th Daytona 200. Photo by Brian J. Nelson
TOBC Racing’s Brandon Paasch executed his Daytona 200 plan to perfection, loitering around at the back of a four-rider pack until the time was right to pull the trigger on his Triumph Speed Triple RS. As it turns out, the 20-year-old had just the right amount of ammo at his disposal. He exited the chicane in fourth place, went down low on the banking, and started making moves until delivering the final dagger with a double-draft pass on Cameron Petersen and Sheridan Morais at the finish to win his second successive Daytona 200 – this one by just .007 of a second.
Paasch had spent his afternoon lurking at the back of the lead group – no matter how many riders it consisted of. But when it came down to his final pit stop, the only way he was going to be in a position to battle for victory was to take on just fuel and not tires.
The New Jerseyan got in and out of the pits quickly and found himself just behind the duo of SYNTAINICS Racing’s Morais and Squid Hunter’s Josh Hayes, the pair smartly squabbling over second and all the while pulling themselves to the back of Petersen, the South African alone and helpless as he watched his four-second lead evaporate all too quickly. Suddenly, it was a four-rider race to the finish and the man at the back was the man at the front when he needed to be. At the finish.
Paasch beat Attack Performance Yamaha’s Petersen by .007 with Morais third, another .057 behind, with Hayes fourth and .126 of a second from victory.
Fifth place went to Vision Wheel M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Richie Escalante, some 46 seconds behind Paasch, but well clear of four-time Daytona 200 winner Danny Eslick on the second TOBC Racing Triumph.
TSE Racing’s Harry Truelove, who races in the British Superbike Series, was just a tick behind Eslick at the finish and some eight seconds ahead of Vision Wheel M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Geoff May. Disrupt Racing’s Hayden Gillim and Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati NYC’s Josh Herrin rounded out the top 10.
Pole-sitter Herrin was in the lead group when he ran out of fuel on his way to the first pit stop, coasting to pit lane and losing gobs of time in the process; and 2021 MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Jake Gagne, who qualified third-fastest, lasted only a few laps in the 200 before pulling out due to back pain from his crash in the morning warm-up session.
Paasch averaged 113.162 mph in winning the race and he also set the fastest lap of the race, a 1:49.959, en route to snagging his second Rolex watch.
Paasch, who gave Yamaha its 27th victory in the 2021 Daytona 200, brought Triumph its fourth victory in the 200 and the first since Eslick won on a TOBC Triumph in 2014.
The race was red-flagged on the seventh lap when Jose Lloreda crashed exiting the chicane, leaving debris on the racetrack.
Mission King Of The Baggers
It seems that no matter what kind of motorcycle you race at Daytona International Speedway, strategy and timing are so important on the run to the checkered flag.
In Saturday’s Mission King Of The Baggers race two, Ulsterman Jeremy McWilliams made a perfect pass, at the perfect time, to take the victory. The Mission Foods/S&S Cycle Indian Challenger racer has competed on all kinds of motorcycles, and in road races all over the world (including Daytona nearly 20 years ago), and he put his experience and racecraft to good use when he rocketed past Roland Sands Design Indian rider Bobby Fong, who was in the lead on the final lap. With the finish line in sight, McWilliams’ teammate Tyler O’Hara also drafted past Fong to take second place, relegating Fong to third. It was an all-Indian podium in the Harley-Davidson versus Indian Big Twin racing series.
The final event of the day was in Twins Cup, and their second race of the weekend was, once again, action-packed. Fluid on the track caused multiple riders to crash on the opening lap, and the race was red-flagged and restarted with a five-lap sprint to the checkers. Eight riders were at the front and in it to win as the laps wound down. At the checkered flag, Cycle Tech Yamaha rider Hayden Schultz got the win, which was the first of his MotoAmerica career. Veloce Racing Aprilia’s Jody Barry finished second, just .241 of a second behind Schultz, and Italian expatriate Tommaso Marcon, .256 of a second behind Barry, rounded out the podium in third in a wild-card ride for Robem Engineering Aprilia.
Brandon Paasch – Daytona 200 Winner
“Honestly, I wasn’t sure the whole time. There were a few times I did try to draft them, and I couldn’t get past. I was a little bit nervous, and I was like, ‘well, as long as we’re in the fight at the end, there’s nothing you can do about it.’ It’s Daytona. It’s a drafting game and sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn’t. For me, honestly, it was just kind of sit there and wait, wait. We didn’t change the tire at the second pit stop, so I was a little bit nervous about the tire wear. I saw Cam (Petersen) had a pretty big gap, so I was just sitting behind Sheridan (Morais) and Josh (Hayes), and I was just like, ‘I see them closing. I don’t know if we’ve got enough time. I’m going to do what I can do and hopefully I can just draft these two the line.’ Then I see Cam coming closer and closer and closer and I just wait, just wait. Keep saving the tires as much as I can through that last lap. Honestly, when Sheridan and everybody started rolling out of the gap, I was a little bit like, ‘I don’t know where to put myself,’ but I saw Hayes was up high, so I kind of cut below him. I was like, I’m in a prime spot. I’m behind the front two boys. Once they went, I was like, ‘game time’. The Triumph pulls really hard when you go to the gas. So, I knew I was maybe going to have a chance at picking up mile per hour a little bit quicker than them guys. Just perfect. Just like last year.”
“This one is great, to be honest. (Josh) Herrin was on Instagram saying I’m not in his league, and then to come out here and beat him was really good for me. I’m stoked. Having all the Superbike guys out here is great. I know it’s not what they’re used to. They ride the big bikes and they’re really damn good at it. So, for them to jump back on the 600 and have a little fun with me is pretty cool. I feel lucky to be able to share the track with these guys. Hopefully, this summer I can learn a thing or two from Cam (Petersen) and the boys in Superbike.”
Cameron Petersen – Second/Daytona 200
“Yeah. I’m super happy. We came here to win. That was the goal. We did get the motorcycle capable of winning, but for my first Daytona 200 I’m super stoked to be on the podium. It’s got me wanting to come back already. I know I’m going to lose quite a lot of sleep over this one. I’m not going to lie. I think it’s going to take me a week at least to stop thinking about it. Like Shez (Morais) said, it was just so much fun. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun in a race, just battling with guys I’ve always wanted to race against. I’ve actually never gotten to ride against Josh Hayes like that, and even Shez. We’ve raced against each other a couple times but to race again and pass each other like that was pretty cool. Honestly, my team crushed the second pit stop. When I came by and everything settled down after the pit stop, I think I was like four and a half seconds in front. So, they absolutely crushed that second pit stop. They put me in the position to try and maintain that gap and win the race. Unfortunately, the guys behind me just put their heads down and slowly caught me lap by lap by lap. The last three laps it was all about just trying to pick your spot and figuring out where you wanted to be going into that last corner. I could tell coming off the chicane, he (Morais) went to three-quarter throttle, and I went to half throttle. I was just like, ‘there’s no way I’m leading coming out of this thing.’ I thought I timed it to perfection. I really did. I almost started celebrating before I got to the line. Sure enough, here comes Brandon (Paasch) on the outside and took the W. Congrats to these two guys. It was so much fun riding with them. Congrats to them. I hope we come back and do this next year.”
Sheridan Morais – Third/Daytona 200
“I love it. That was the best race of my life. So much fun. So much passing. Ridiculous. I know it’s an endurance race, 57 laps, but it felt like a sprint race. It was really, really cool.”
“The pit stops went well. The first stop for some reason, before the first straightaway, the back was locked up and I went straight on over there. So, I rejoined in 20th-something place and worked myself up to I think 12th before the red flag, and then after that it was smooth sailing. Cam (Petersen) had an amazing pit stop and he came out way in front. So, I just got tangled a little bit up with Josh (Hayes), having a good race. Finally, I got to the front and put my head down. Saw Cam and then we were in for it the last three or four laps.”
Jeremy McWilliams – King Of The Baggers Winner
“I kind of learned how to ride it off Tyler (O’Hara). Give him all the credit for that because he rides it differently than I do. I came along not knowing and riding it a little bit like a sportbike, and that’s not how it works. It just needs to be nursed a little bit differently. It’s got so much torque that you’ve got to change your throttle position and stuff. You’ve got to learn how to do that because it’s got an incredible amount of go off the bottom. So, you can see me spinning up and that’s still me learning. Still not quite there yet. I struggled off six. I’ve been struggling off six the whole way through. I probably haven’t been using the RPM range as well as I should be over the whole weekend. I did have the slightly different aero on. I was short-shifting a little. I didn’t learn how to draft until discussing it with Tyler, really. The drafting was the big thing at the end of the day. Getting across the line, Bobby (Fong) went low, and I stayed high thinking, ‘Should I be down there, or should I be up here?’ I think it was 16 years or 17 years ago, so I kind of forgot how to draft like this. It’s a very unique racetrack. Very special. And it’s very special just to be here and standing on top of the box. That’s not really what I expected. I’d be really happy to just get on the podium. I was a bit disappointed coming up short yesterday. Today made it all up for it. It’s a great team scenario where we can all speak openly and try to help each other.”
Hayden Schultz – Twins Cup Winner
“It’s incredible. I’m not that old, but I’ve been doing this for a while. This has got to be season eight or nine of me racing in MotoAmerica. I haven’t made a full season. To come so close whether it’s in Twins or KTM Cup and not get it, it drives me absolutely crazy. Last year, to get second in the championship and not get a win and see the other guys get wins, just drives you crazy through the off-season. The last couple months, I’ve been working really, really hard. My team has been putting a ton of effort into our program. I felt like we were really prepared for Daytona. So, to have what happened yesterday I was gutted to throw that race away because I know we have the speed to win and to pull off what we did today. So, that made today that much sweeter. If I would have had to drive home knowing that I threw away a grand opportunity to get a win or at least start the season on the podium, that would have been a really difficult few weeks. I’m so excited that we finally got it done. I just want to try to use this momentum to get through the rest of the season and see if we can rack up a few podiums. It’s going to be really tough. This class is absolutely stacked this year. These guys are so fast. I know my work is cut out for me because it’s going to be extremely difficult. I’m going to keep putting in the work and try to keep improving as a rider just to continue to make moments like this happen.”
Brandon Paasch (Triumph)Cameron Petersen (Yamaha)Sheridan Morais (Yamaha)Josh Hayes (Yamaha)Richie Escalante (Suzuki)Danny Eslick (Triumph)Harry Truelove (Yamaha)Geoff May (Suzuki)Hayden Gillim (Suzuki)Josh Herrin (Ducati)