DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Danny Eslick, aboard the No. 1 GEICO Powersports Suzuki for Richie Morris Racing, captured the pole on Thursday night for the 69th Daytona 200 Daytona SportBike AMA Pro Racing event.
Eslick, the defending Daytona SportBike champion, turned a fast lap of 1 minute, 50.085 seconds, 116.092 mph, on Daytona International Speedway’s 3.51-mile road course to edge M4 Monster Energy Suzuki rider Martin Cardenas by two thousandths of a second.
“I thought I had it in my hands (last year) and that one slipped away,” Eslick said. “To get it this year, means a lot. It hasn’t sunk in yet, I don’t think. Maybe tomorrow when I see that Rolex it will be a little different. It’s great. It’s good momentum to get the season started off on the right foot.”
Rounding out the front row will be Team Graves Yamaha riders Tommy Aquino and Josh Herrin.
Other notable qualifying efforts include 2007 Daytona 200 champion Steve Rapp (fifth), Michael Barnes (12th), MPH Racing’s Melissa Paris (28th) and 1989 Daytona 200 champion John Ashmead 38th.
The Daytona 200 will go green under the lights on Friday night at 8 p.m.
Jake Zemke Claims SuperBike Victory In Debut With Michael Jordan Motorsports
DAYTONA BEACH, FL – Jake Zemke, making his debut with owner Michael Jordan, won Thursday’s AMA Pro American SuperBike round and delivered the NBA legend his first AMA Pro SuperBike win as an owner.
In a tight five-bike duel, Zemke, who has ridden for Honda for the majority of his career, took the lead for the final time coming to the white flag as he slipped past Suzuki’s Tommy Hayden.
He was able to distance himself on the final lap of the 15-lap event to claim a .0238 second victory.
“My bike was really fast,” said Zemke, who led six laps. “I’ve been riding on Hondas the last 10 years and been getting beat up by Suzukis for a few of those years. I’m real happy. The bike is obviously competitive.”
Zemke’s first SuperBike win at Daytona was also Suzuki’s seventh straight SuperBike triumph at Daytona.
“I purposely gave Jake a little gap off there because I wanted him to pull me most of the way around there, but I just underestimated his speed,” said Hayden, who took runner-up honors.
Not only was the race Zemke’s first with Michael Jordan Motorsports, but it was also his first with sponsor National Guard.
“It’s great to have all these people rooting for you,” Zemke said. “They’re watching on satellite over in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s really cool when you think about it. There are 360,000 National Guard members serving our country. I’m really proud to be part of that.”
Rounding out the podium was Larry Pegram on a Ducati.
Earlier in the day, SuperSport rider Cameron Beaubier held off pole sitter Joey Pascarella to win the 35-mile SuperSport race.
The 17-year-old Beaubier worked his way around Pascarella as they were coming to the white flag. Pascarella battled back only to be beat at the line by .001 seconds in a photo-finish.
“Me and Joey started battling and it went into the last lap,” said Beaubier. “I had no idea (I won). I thought he won at first just because he was on the inside.”
Jake Gagne rallied to finish third after missing the chicane earlier in the race with J.D. Beach and Tomas Puerta rounding out the top five.
For tickets to all the Daytona 200 Week events, call 1-800-PITSHOP or visit www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com.