DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Jake Zemke, riding aboard an all-black unsponsored No. 98 Yamaha, put down the fastest lap in the closing moments of the AMA Pro Daytona SportBike qualifying to capture the pole for Saturday’s 70th Daytona 200 at Daytona International Speedway.
Zemke, riding for Project 1 Atlanta, posted a lap of one minute, 49.775 seconds, 95.103 mph to take the pole for the Daytona 200 as well as the coveted Rolex watch. Jason DiSalvo, riding a Ducati, took second and Suzuki’s Danny Eslick and Kawasaki’s JD Beach rounded out the front row.
“That last lap kind of worked out well,” said Zemke, who won the 2006 Daytona 200. “It really didn’t feel overly special. I really didn’t think I got to a .50 flat. I thought Jason got the pole. I came around the signal area and saw my pit board and it said .49 and (position 1). I thought, ‘No way’ and then there’s the agony of riding around the last cool off lap looking at the board the whole time waiting to see who’s still out there. Luckily, it stuck.”
DiSalvo, who posted a lap of one minute, 50.070 seconds, 94.849 mph, was poised to walk away with the Rolex watch and the pole before Zemke’s fast lap.
“I’ve had Miguel (Duhamel) to do it to me twice,” DiSalvo joked. “It’s not a new experience for me. Maybe we can win the race and I can make (last year’s pole winner) Danny (Eslick) an offer to buy his. It seems like that’s the only way I’m going to get one of those things.”
Like DiSalvo, Zemke has had the pole and Rolex watch snatched from him in the closing moments of Daytona 200 qualifying and was thrilled to finally earn his first Daytona 200 pole.
“It’s pretty nice to get that watch,” Zemke said. “It’s something that I definitely wanted for a long time. It feels good to get it. As good as it is to get the watch, the race is a little bit more important.”
Project 1 Atlanta and Zemke are competing in the Daytona 200 as one of the underdogs. The team does not have any factory support or sponsors and hope that a good effort in the Daytona 200 can translate into more sponsorship to fund the rest of the season.
“I’ll be happy when I get 100 percent out of the bike,” Zemke said. “I still haven’t got it yet. The bike is really good. Those guys have been working non-stop since January to get here today in March. We’re an unsponsored team with no money. We’re pretty happy to be here right now. It’s going to pay off dividends if we can do well in the 200. Hopefully that can bring us sponsorship to get us through the rest of the season.”
Friday afternoon’s SuperBike, XR1200 and SuperSport races: Following Daytona 200 qualifying, National Guard SuperBike, Motorcycle-SuperStore.com SuperSport and Vance & Hines XR1200 Series took center stage with their opening rounds.
In National Guard SuperBike, Blake Young captured the win in a thrilling three-bike duel to the finish. Young nipped his Rockstar Makita Suzuki teammate Tommy Hayden at the start/finish line by a margin of 0.026 seconds with defending SuperBike champion Josh Hayes in third.
Young came out of the chicane along with Hayden chasing down Hayes to the checkered flag. Young wasn’t sure if he was going to have enough time to beat both Hayden and Hayes to the finish.
“I came out of the chicane there on the last lap and I thought to myself that I really lost this thing,” Young said. “I thought Josh was just far enough out for Tommy to get a really good tow and I couldn’t get back around.”
“I think Tommy rode really, really good and I tried to come around and just lost a lot of momentum and took a huge gust of air hitting the front of the bike really slowed me down and I thought I timed it wrong. But it gave way a little bit and I got some distance between us and we ended up winning.”
Hayes, who finished 13th in last year’s opening round of the SuperBike, was pleased to begin his championship defense with a third.
“It was the best race that I could ride,” Hayes said. “I tried to put myself in the right positions. Anytime I had followed those guys down from the chicane, I never was able to pass anybody before start/finish line. So I knew my best chance was, if I could do it just right, was to win it from the front.
“Last year, I’d done just about anything to be in this position. 13th last year turned into a third this year and leading the race quite a bit, I’m pretty happy about that.”
The 10-lap SuperSport race produced an all-Colombian podium with LTD Racing’s Tomas Puerta taking the first AMA Pro victory of his career in dominant fashion, finishing more than seven seconds ahead of the Rata Racing’s Ducati-mounted Stefano Mesa and Puerta’s LTD teammate David Gaviria.
In the first AMA Pro Vance & Hines XR1200 event at Daytona RMR Bruce Rossmeyer Daytona Racing’s Kyle Wyman and Chris Fillmore finished one-two with Latus Motors Racing’s Joe Kopp in third. The top three were by 0.105 second with Rapp just another tenth behind.
Tickets for Saturday’s Daytona 200 is available online at http://www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.