Thursday, March 6, 2008

Daytona: Day 1

2008 marks the second consecutive year that we've flown out of snow and into the sunshine. Ok, so last year it was a blizzard and we all missed our flights, whereas this year it was snowing just enough to remind you how glad you were to be heading to Daytona.

Right now it's raining here in Daytona and as far as the so-called "weather experts" are saying, there is a good chance it'll be raining at tomorrow night's Supercross event. But what do they know? Just a couple of months ago I watched it snow six inches in a nine-hour period while the forecasters frantically struggled to keep up. They dropped the weather advisory during a period of particularly heavy snow, only to re-issue a winter storm warning during the waning moments of the storm. Bollocks. The Boots-O-Meter is holding steady at a 30% chance of rain.

Either way, rain or shine, the race will go on. That is not the case for Saturday's Daytona 200, which will be postponed until Sunday in the event of rain. Forecasts say it'll be sunny and mild, and that's really got me worried.

Speaking of road races, the AMA Superbike Series kicked off at the Daytona International Speedway as the Superstock and Supersport classes took to the track this afternoon, with the latter turning out one of the best finishes in Daytona history. Ben Bostrom (who earlier had predicted he would win every Supersport race this season) and his Graves Yamaha teammate Josh Herrin battled it out for most of the race, each taking turns drafting the other coming out of the bank and attempting a pass in the home straight. Monster Energy Kawasaki's Roger Lee Hayden was in the mix, even pulling off a very nice double-draft once, before getting caught up in lap traffic and falling a few seconds behind the two front men. Bostrom had the lead at the white flag and immediately everyone's attention turned to Herrin: Would he be able to draft his teammate and snatch the victory?

The last lap seemed to last almost as long as the entire rest of the race itself with the two riders seemingly joined together in a high-speed game of cat and mouse. By the time the riders had exited the last turn, Herrin had positioned himself for a run at the win. But Ben played it perfectly, shifting to the inside of the track and forcing Herrin to adjust. Though the bikes made contact (at near full speed, mind you), both riders managed to maintain control, and Bostrom went on to win by an amazing one hundredth of a second! The Supersport class was home to some of the best road racing last season, and if today's race is any indication, 2008 will be no different.

After the races were over and we had properly cleaned ourselves up, we headed back to the infield, where we were guests of Honda for their annual Honda Riders of America banquet. Both motocross and road racing were represented well there, with Greg White entertaining the crowd and interviewing the riders. (Davi Millsaps, Ben Townley, Ivan Tedesco, Andrew Short and Ben Coisey represented the dirt while Neil Hodgson, Mat Mladin, Jake Zemke, and Josh Hayes represented the road.) As an added bonus, each rider pulled a number out of a basket and gave the person lucky enough to have the matching number a piece of his gear.

After we adjourned from the banquet, we headed about five miles up the road to watch the second night of the AMA Flat Track races. Jake Johnson had won the first night and was poised to become the first person ever to win the "Daytona Double." Jake scored not one, but three holeshots (they restarted the race twice due to crashes) and immediately put himself in a comfortable lead on the way to victory and into the history books. Congrats, Jake.

Finally, on behalf of Racer X and Road Racer X, I'd like to give special thanks to Ducati North America. For the second straight year they've invited us into their "Ducati Island" to set up a booth. They always treat us wonderfully, and we are grateful. If you're in the area or know someone down here for bike week, come by tomorrow, as they have a full day of activities planned. A fashion show, for one, that you won't want to miss. If you're stuck at home, don't worry. I'll be back tomorrow to fill you in. Until then...

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