The Daytona 200: Back To Superbikes?
With the combination of the quality of the current AMA American Superbike field and the depletion of the Daytona 200 grid, it seems only a matter of time before somebody with some power brings up the notion of making the 200 a Superbike race again.Although it’s a move that would likely be welcomed with open arms by the road racing community and fans, the powers that be at Daytona like seeing motorcycles in the 200 on the old course – which means having Superbikes using the full banking and not the shorter course they currently run on.And that might be the part of the equation that keeps it from ever happening.”Is it possible? Yeah,” said Jake Zemke, this year’s Superbike winner at Daytona. “Should the Superbike race be the 200? The history of the 200 and the race itself and the nostalgia that goes with it, the race probably should be on Superbikes. Superbikes is the premiere class and that’s what needs to happen. The reason we went to the shorter course for the Superbikes was a safety issue. At the time, we hadn’t gotten the NTech tire, or the new technology tire from Dunlop, which is their standard baseline tire nowadays. But before that tire, the speeds of the bikes with the loads on the tires, were coming to a point where Dunlop needed to catch back up to create a safer tire for us. They were able to do that, but they were also helped out by the Speedway. They did a lot of work to build us an alternate infield section to get us off the banking in one and two. So hat’s off to them as well. They spent a lot of money for one motorcycle race. If we are going to get back on both bankings, I’d have to have faith with the new AMA running things and also Daytona support and Dunlop as well, that we’d go about this in a methodical manner – if that’s their decision to put us back on both bankings. We’d have to be sure that it’s done in a safe manner.”
It would require a lot of testing, Zemke said.”These tires haven’t seen both bankings,” Zemke said. “If that change was going to be made, there has to be multiple tests just like we used to do in the past. Bring them down in August with a couple of guys and whatever changes need to be made, you make them for December and then you bring everybody down in December like they used to and let everyone have a go of it. It’s tough here in Daytona because of the speeds, the banking. There’s nothing like it so it’s a special tire. The only way to find out is to test them. It has to be closely monitored.”Rockstar/Makita Suzuki’s Tommy Hayden is another who believes the 200 needs to be raced on Superbikes, but he’s not sure about the notion of running them on the old track that uses both bankings.”I feel like it’s not going to as easy as just lining Superbikes up, running both bankings and racing,” Hayden said. “I mean, if everyone gets together we can come up with a plan to make it work, I feel like Superbikes need to be the Daytona 200. I don’t know if they need to go on both bankings. Right now I can’t say that that’s the right idea either. I think Superbike needs to be the premier event down here. Obviously, tires are going to have to be tested and there’s going to have to be some kind of mandatory pit stop by so many laps or something. I mean privateers aren’t going to be able to go on the same tire the whole way, like they try to do sometimes. I mean we have to think about a lot of scenarios and work it out. If we can come up with a safe way to do it and everyone works together, I do think, like I said, Superbike should be the premier race down here.”Foremost Ducati’s Larry Pegram is adamant that you can’t run the Superbikes on both bankings.”I think that’s a great idea, but not on both bankings – no way,” Pegram said. “We could do 15 laps and then have a mandatory tire change. And that’s on one banking. There’s no way we can run both bankings. It’s impossible. I overheated a tire today on one banking at 70 degrees. (Editor’s note: Pegram suffered a vibration in his rear tire because it spun on the rim.) What if it’s 85 degrees and they want us to run both of them? You can’t go any harder on the tires or we won’t be able to ride them through the infield. You already think you’re going to fall every lap. To make a tire that would last on both bankings, I don’t know how they could do it where it would be rideable on a Superbike. I think we have a lot of potential here to make a different racetrack – there’s a lot of room in this place.”Superbikes were featured in the 200 on the 3.56-mile road course through 2004, when safety concerns over tire life reached a peak. Daytona International Speedway agreed to eliminate one banking if AMA Pro Racing featured middleweight motorcycles in the 200. The result was that the Formula Xtreme 200 made its debut in 2005 on a 2.95-mile layout that eliminated the West Banking (NASCAR one and two). Superbikes became a support race that ran earlier in the day. Last year the Daytona SportBike made its debut in the inaugural Friday night race, with Superbikes running a day earlier as a support class. This year a second Superbike race was added on Friday.