Danny Eslick victorious at Daytona 200
Danny Eslick added to his already-considerable Daytona 200 stature on Saturday, winning the 77th running of the famed motorcycle road race at Daytona International Speedway in dominating fashion on a YZF-R6.
For Eslick, from Tulsa, Oklahoma, it was his fourth Daytona 200 victory, following his successes in 2014, ’15 and ’17. He becomes the third rider to win the Daytona 200 at least four times. Five-time champions Scott Russell (1992, ’94-95, ’97-98) and Miguel Duhamel (1991, ’96, ’99, 2003, ’05) share the all-time record for Daytona 200 victories.
Cory West (Yamaha R6 600) of Eureka Springs, Arkansas finished second in the 57-lap/200-mile race on the 3.51-mile road course, 26.294 seconds behind Eslick. In an emotion-packed effort, Miami Beach rider Robertino Pietri (Suzuki GSX-R600) rounded out the podium via a last-lap pass of Geoff May (Yamaha YZF-R6) to match the third-place finish posted by his father Roberto Pietri in 1982.
“We’ve kind of set our name in the books here at Daytona … we’ve done pretty well,” Eslick said. “The biggest thing is the crew here at DIS; this is the only race [of the season] where we do pit stops.”
Eslick, who averaged 95.834 mph, also credited his crew with their preparation of a spare engine forced into use after the team’s first engine failed during Friday’s qualifying.
“Again, it goes back to the team,” Eslick said. “They busted their butt last night. I don’t know what they did but they found a couple horsepower in that thing and it definitely made my life easier.”
Polesitter Valentin Debise – a native of France now living in Lake Elsinore, California – was leading the race when he crashed entering the course’s “International Horseshoe” turn on Lap 10. Debise was taken to a local hospital where on Saturday afternoon he was undergoing further evaluation. Debise was seeking to become the second French rider to win the Daytona 200. Patrick Pons (1980) is the race’s only French champion.
Second-fastest qualifier and 2016 race champion Michael Barnes, a veteran rider from Boca Raton, Florida, had a strong run until Lap 24, when his Yamaha R6 600 was retired due to mechanical problems. Two years ago, Barnes came out of retirement to become the oldest Daytona 200 champion, at the age of 47. Prior to Saturday, Barnes hinted that this year would be his last appearance in the race.
John Ashmead (Kawasaki ZX-6R) – the 1989 Daytona 200 champion – extended his record for career miles completed in the Daytona 200. Ashmead finished 18th and now totals 4,533 miles.
The Daytona 200, sanctioned by the American Sportbike Racing Association (ASRA) was the final major race of the 77th Bike Week At Daytona; ASRA and Championship Cup Series races on Sunday will be the final competition of the week.