Brandon Paasch and Josh Hayes have won three Daytona 200s between them and are two of the favorites for the 81st running of the race on March 11.
Photo by Brian J. Nelson
Margin of victory is described as the difference between the winner and the loser in a sporting event. The margin of victory in the six MotoAmerica races held at Daytona International Speedway in 2022? A combined .615 of a second. Thus, the average difference between winners and losers in the five races was .102 of a second.
Or, quite literally, the blink of an eye.
Apparently, there are now three certainties in life: Death, taxes, and close finishes at Daytona, especially when it comes to the Daytona 200, which was the closest of the five MotoAmerica races held at the World Center of Racing in 2022.
So how close was Brandon Paasch’s victory over Cameron Petersen a year ago? A very scant .007 of a second after 200 miles of racing. Other forms of motor racing… eat your heart out.
And now it’s time for more with seven MotoAmerica races scheduled for March 9-11 at the World Center of Racing: Mission King Of The Baggers (two races), REV’IT! Twins Cup (two races), Mission Super Hooligan National Championship (two races) and, of course, the granddaddy of them all – the Daytona 200, sponsored in part by Pirelli and Bridgestone.
With 52 riders from 16 countries entered in the 81st running of the Daytona 200, the race is truly back to where it once was as far as international riders choosing to start their racing seasons in Florida.
The list of favorites is plentiful, but it begins as it should with two-time defending Daytona 200 Champion Brandon Paasch and his TOBC Racing Triumph Street Triple RS, the same bike he raced to victory last year. A victory in this year’s 200 would make Paasch the first rider in history to win three Daytona 200s in a row.
To find Paasch’s main competition, you only have to look at last year’s results. The man Paasch beat by .007 of a second is back for a second career Daytona 200 and aiming to use what he learned in his debut to put himself on the top step in Victory Lane. That rider is Attack Performance Yamaha’s Cameron Petersen. If losing by .007 of a second doesn’t make you hungry then you’re in the wrong business.
Petersen will be going it alone in the Attack team with his teammate and two-time MotoAmerica Superbike Champion Jake Gagne opting not to take part in the 200.
Petersen’s fellow South African who now calls Portugal home, Sheridan Morais, was another who likely learned when not to lead the Daytona 200 as he was also passed by Paasch on the run to the finish line and ended up third – just .057 of a second from victory. Morais will again be racing a Yamaha YZF-R6, this time under the R2CL Racing by Penz13 banner.
Four-time AMA Superbike Champion Josh Hayes was fourth in last year’s 200 and just .126 of a second from victory (you read that right – the top four were separated by just .126 of a second) so you know the bitter taste of defeat still lingers with Hayes. Thus, he’s back for more on the same Squid Hunter Racing Yamaha YZF-R6 and searching for his first Daytona 200 victory.
Daytona Fact #1: Although qualifying for the 200 is important, it’s not the be-all and end-all. Case in point: Hayes. A technical infraction during qualifying led to a penalty that resulted in Hayes being gridded dead last and 13 rows behind pole sitter Josh Herrin and his Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati NYC Panigale V2. Yet he was able to fight his way through to the lead pack and end up fourth, again just .126 of a second from victory.
The top four in last year’s race did manage to break away with Vision Wheel M4 ECSTAR Suzuki’s Richie Escalante finishing fifth but a tick over 46 seconds behind Paasch. And Escalante was well clear of sixth-placed Danny Eslick, the four-time winner of the Daytona 200. Eslick, who will be back for another crack at win number five on his TOBC Racing Triumph, beat Harry Truelove to the finish line by just .074 of a second to take the spot.
Daytona Fact #2: Although it doesn’t happen as often as you think, things can go wrong during pit stops, riders crash (even on the opening lap, believe it or not), and motorcycles have mechanical failures. So, although it’s normally the drafting battle that decides the 200, there’s always drama prior to that final run to the flag that thins the herd.
Last year’s pole sitter Herrin should also be ranked among the favorites in what will be his only Supersport appearance of the season. Last year it was a Herrin/team miscue that cost them a shot at the victory when Herrin ran out of gas prior to the first pit stop. He battled on to finish 10th. Herrin will be joined this year in the Warhorse HSBK Racing Ducati NYC squad by Spaniard Xavi Fores, the Spaniard who will represent the team in the battle for the 2023 MotoAmerica Supersport crown. It will mark Fores’ first foray in the Daytona 200, but he’s got plenty of experience and should be up to speed quickly.
Escalante will be joined in this year’s 200 by two teammates on the Vision Wheel M4 ECSTAR Suzuki team – Teagg Hobbs and Tyler Scott, the latter winning his first career Supersport race last year en route to finishing third in the title chase.
Others who could be considered favorites for the race include Celtic/Tytlers Cycle/TSE Racing’s PJ Jacobsen, Disrupt Racing’s Hayden Gillim, and his Disrupt Racing teammate for the 200, veteran Geoff May.
The 52 riders attempting to qualify for the 81st Daytona 200 will do so on six brands of motorcycles: Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Ducati, Triumph and MV Agusta.
Mission King Of The Baggers
Last year’s debut of the Mission King Of The Baggers on the high banks of Daytona International Speedway set the tone for what was an exciting season of Baggers racing with the title chase going down to the very last round.
The rider who emerged with the title was Indian Motorcycle/Progressive/Mission Food’s Tyler O’Hara and it was at Daytona where O’Hara got things rolling with a victory in race one by just .200 of a second over H-D Screamin’ Eagle’s Travis Wyman and by only .235 of a second over Travis’ brother, teammate and defending champion Kyle Wyman.
The other race winner from last year’s pair of races was O’Hara’s teammate Jeremy McWilliams, the 59-year-old Ulsterman taking race two by just .025 of a second over O’Hara with Bobby Fong third and just .160 of a second from victory in what was an Indian sweep of the podium.
With his win and runner-up finish in the two races, O’Hara led the title chase as MotoAmerica left Florida and headed to Road Atlanta for round two, but it would be a fight for the duration of the championship between the Indian and Harley-Davidson factory teams.
Expect more of that in 2023 with the big four factory riders (O’Hara, McWilliams and the Wyman brothers) expected to be at the front in every race that they take part in. But it won’t be just the four of them as Fong, who won a race last year, will be back on his Sac Mile/SDI Racing/Roland Sands Design Indian Challenger. But wait, there’s more.
Others who are capable of winning races at Daytona and beyond are series newcomer Jake Lewis, the former Superbike racer set to make his Mission King Of The Baggers debut on a Team Saddlemen Harley-Davidson and his teammates on the four-rider team – Cory West, Frankie Garcia and Patricia Fernandez.
Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson will feature Hayden Gillim, in his return to the class, and sophomore King Of The Baggers racer James Rispoli.
Lewis isn’t the only Superbike racer who will make his debut on a Bagger in 2023 as popular privateer Max Flinders joins the show on an M3/Revolution Performance Indian Challenger.
REV’IT! Twins Cup
The 2023 MotoAmerica REV’IT! Twins Cup Championship will get rolling with two races set for the Speedway. Last year Blake Davis started his championship-winning season with a victory in race one at Daytona with the N2 Racing/BobbleHeadMoto-backed Virginian topping Teagg Hobbs by a scant .065 of a second.
Davis is back to defend his title on a Biothermal/Blake Davis Racing Yamaha and will also make his debut in the Daytona 200, which means two races for the youngster.
Davis will be joined by 37 other riders who have entered the series opener, including last year’s race-two winner Hayden Schultz. Schultz bested Jody Barry in 2022’s race two by just .241 of a second. Schultz will be back for more on his Cycle Tech Yamaha YZF-R7. Ditto for Barry who will ride an Optimum Performance Motorsports Aprilia RS 660.
Others expected to be at or near the front include Rodio Racing – Powered by Robem Engineering’s Ben Gloddy, his teammate Daytona Gus Rodio, Trackday Winner/Blackmon Racing’s Jackson Blackmon, Team ISO’s Dominic Doyle, Wrench Motorcycles’ Cody Wyman, and Altus Motorsports’ Joseph LiMandri Jr.
Kayla Yaakov, meanwhile, will also make her much-anticipated REV’IT! Twins Cup debut on the MP13 Racing Yamaha YZF-R7. Yaakov comes to Daytona a bit beaten up after a testing crash the weekend prior to the race.
Mission Super Hooligan National Championship
Last year the Mission Super Hooligan National Championship consisted of one race at Daytona International Speedway. This year there will be two.
Like the rest of the races in 2022, the Hooligan race was a thrill-fest with just .077 of a second separating winner Andy DiBrino from Cory West with Tyler O’Hara a shadow third – just .272 of a second behind DiBrino.
Expect double of that in 2023 at the Speedway as 34 riders will attempt to qualify, including DiBrino and his DiBrino Racing KTM 890 Duke R, Team Saddlemen’s West and defending class champion O’Hara on his Indian Motorcycle/Progressive/Mission Foods Indian FTR1200.
Three-time MotoAmerica Superbike race winner Bobby Fong will make his Hooligan debut at Daytona on a Roland Sands Design/Indian-backed FTR1200 and will certainly make his presence felt in the lead pack.
Ditto for Jeremy McWilliams, the Northern Irelander set for a full season of Mission Super Hooligan National Championship competition as O’Hara’s teammate.
West will also have a teammate on Team Saddlemen – his wife, Patricia Fernandez, who finished fifth in last year’s race.
Daytona Pre-Race Notes
Yamaha is the winningest brand by far in the Daytona 200 with 27 trips to the top step in Victory Lane since the first-ever Daytona 200 was held in January of 1937 on the old beach circuit. The winner of that first Daytona 200 was Ed Kretz, who was riding an Indian. Harley-Davidson sits second on the-all time manufacturer win list in the 200 with 16 victories, the last of which was Cal Rayborn’s victory in 1969. The third highest win total goes to Honda with 11 victories in the 200 with Jake Zemke the last rider to win the race on a Honda in 2006.
Brandon Paasch’s second consecutive victory in 2022 was Triumph’s fifth in the Daytona 200.
Paasch set the fastest lap of last year’s Daytona 200 en route to victory with the New Jerseyan lapping at 1:49.959 on the 42nd lap. He was the only rider to crack into the 1:49s and his best race lap was actually quicker than the fastest lap in qualifying set by Josh Herrin at 1:50.088. Paasch started the race from row two after qualifying fourth.
The first Daytona 200 to be run at Daytona International Speedway was in 1961 with Roger Reiman taking victory on his Harley-Davidson.
The Daytona 200 switched to Superbikes in 1985 with Freddie Spencer winning his one and only Daytona 200 on a Honda. Superbikes were featured in the 200 until 2005 when 600cc Formula Xtreme bikes took over. The FX class ran in the 200 until 600cc Daytona SportBikes were used beginning in 2009 with Ben Bostrom’s victory on a Yamaha YZF-R6.
This year’s 200 will mark the beginning of MotoAmerica’s second season of using the FIM’s “Supersport Next Generation” rules, with the class featuring Yamaha’s YZF-R6, Ducati’s Panigale V2, Suzuki’s GSX-R750 and GSX-R600, Kawasaki’s ZX-6R, Triumph’s Speed Triple RS and, new for 2023, MV Agusta’s F3RR.
Yamaha again leads the way in manufacturer representation in the Daytona 200 with 25 of the 52 riders entered on Yamaha YZF-Rs. Kawasaki and Suzuki both have nine bikes entered with Ducati fielding nine of its Panigale V2s. There will be two Triumph Street Triple RSs in the race and the lone MV Agusta.
Three former winners of the Daytona 200 will line up for this year’s race with four-time victor Danny Eslick leading the win list over two-time winner Brandon Paasch and one-time winner Josh Herrin. A victory by Eslick in this year’s race would give him five Daytona 200 wins and that would tie him with Scott “Mr. Daytona” Russell and Miguel Duhamel. Russell, incidentally, will be a spectator at Daytona, camping out with family and friends in the infield.
All five of Russell’s wins (1992, 1994, 1995, 1997 and 1998) in the Daytona 200 came when the class featured Superbikes; Miguel Duhamel won four 200s on Superbikes (’91, ‘96, ’99, 2003) and one on a 600cc Formula Xtreme bike (2005). Eslick’s four wins all came in the 600cc Daytona SportBike/Supersport era.
Four-time AMA Superbike Champion Josh Hayes will again race in the Daytona 200 on a Squid Hunter Yamaha YZF-R6 after finishing a close fourth in the four-ride scrap that went to the finish line last year. Hayes was just .126 of a second from victory. Hayes has never won a 200, though he did cross the finish line first in 2008. Hayes’ Honda CBR600RR, however, didn’t pass its post-race technical inspection and the race instead went to Chaz Davies.
Welshman Davies is the last non-American to win the Daytona 200 with Americans winning 65 of the 80 Daytona 200s.
With America leading the way in victories (65) in the Daytona 200, Canada is second with five wins – all thanks to five-time winner Miguel Duhamel. Australia is third on the list with three wins and, again, it was one rider who won the races – Mat Mladin.
Finland (Jarno Saarinen), Italy (Giacomo Agostini), Venezuela (Johnny Cecotto), France (Patrick Pons), New Zealand (Graeme Crosby) and Great Britain (Chaz Davies) all have one win apiece in the 200 and are the other foreigners to win the race.
Thirty-eight riders have entered the REV’IT! Twins Cup races for Daytona with four manufacturers represented: Yamaha, Aprilia, Suzuki, and Kawasaki.
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