Danny Eslick has clenched the 2011 AMA Pro Daytona SportBike Championship. Eslick -- who adds this year's crown to the class title he earned in 2009 -- dedicated the championship to recently departed race legend Gary Nixon.
The following is an industry press release...
MILLVILLE, NJ (September 3, 2011) - The fast and furious number-crunching that followed today's AMA Pro Daytona SportBike race was nothing compared to the class' on-track action, but at the end of both the ultimate victor was revealed: GEICO Powersports RMR Suzuki's Danny Eslick has clenched the 2011 AMA Pro Daytona SportBike Championship. Eslick -- who adds this year's crown to the class title he earned in 2009 -- dedicated the championship to recently departed race legend Gary Nixon.
"It hasn't set in yet," said Eslick, grinning. "At first I didn't think we were far enough up there to get the job done. When I came in I saw my team looking around, then we looked at an official and they gave me the checkered flag, and then it started kicking in a little bit. It was an awesome race; I don't know how many lead changes -- a bunch, probably more than any other race this year. There were seven or eight of us for a while going back and forth ... it was pretty spectacular. It's nice to get it done with a race to go, and we'll go out and give it a heck of a shot tomorrow, too."
Nearly as happy was Y.E.S./Pat Clark/Graves Yamaha rider Tommy Aquino, who earned his career first AMA Pro victory at New Jersey Motorsports' Thunderbolt Raceway after a hard-fought battle with Dane Westby (M4 Suzuki), Josh Herrin (Monster Energy Graves Yamaha), and Cameron Beaubier (JHR/RidersDiscount.com). While Aquino and Herrin dominated the lead for the first half of the race, with Beaubier making occasional forays to the front, it was Westby -- via his now-infamous late-race magic -- who took over as the contest entered its final laps.
After taking the lead and being quickly usurped several times, Westby grabbed the frontrunner position yet again with three to go and looked destined to hold it as the laps clicked down. When the leaders encountered traffic on the final lap, however, disaster struck: Heading into a corner, Westby tried an outside pass to get around a lapped rider and the contest was quickly over for both leader and lapper, the pair heading straight off into the dirt.
"Those last four or five laps," said Aquino, "I kind of put it in my head that that was the best chance I had [to win a race]. Dane wasn't going to give me an inch and ... I was lining him up for a pass in Turn 6 and was going to go for it no matter what, but before I had a chance, he was gone. I got in the lead from there and tried to just put in a flawless lap. I really didn't know who was behind me, I just focused on Dane at first and then just on getting a clean lap. I thought, 'You're a professional -- do one lap, how hard can it be?' Very hard, if you're wondering. It was a great weekend, and I have to thank the Yamaha Extended Service crew -- this win is for them."
"It was a really exciting race," said runner-up Herrin, despite being disappointed that his hopes for a 2011 championship are now officially over. "As far as the year goes, I've been pretty proud of my year. We had some mechanicals that hurt us, but when I've finished, my worst was a fifth; otherwise we've been on the box the whole time. I wanted to win, definitely, but to do today and get second made me happy. I'm hoping tomorrow we can put it on the box to end the season on top, so I'm looking forward to tomorrow." (Having announced he'll be fielding a Yamaha SuperBike next season, Herrin's looking forward to 2012, as well.)
Behind third-place Beaubier, Cory West (Vesrah Suzuki), Taylor Knapp (Vesrah Suzuki), Eslick, Jason DiSalvo (Latus Motors Racing), PJ Jacobsen (Celtic Racing/Fast by Ferracci), Tyler O'Hara (GP Bike Parts Racing), and Santiago Villa (M4 Suzuki) rounded out the top ten. The final race of the 2011 AMA Pro Daytona SportBike season kicks off tomorrow at 2:15 p.m. ET.